bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Someone posted these lightbulb jokes about white male novelists:

I don't read horror. The closest I come is Shari Tepper's Beauty which is enough to put you off horror altogether. In fact, I don't read books about terrible people and how pointless their lives are-- that would be the entire literary output of the second half of the twentieth century. That leaves me not a lot, you know? Especially if I don't read 'men's fiction' genres.

I gave up on modern literary fiction in general after majoring in English and then encountering Barthleme's Snow White (from a class I was bright enough NOT to take). Boring white guys and their problems. I complained in high school about taking a short fiction class at a college where we had to read Miss Lonelyhearts among other stuff. My mother said, basically, we are all having to read books about middle aged white guys feeling how much their lives suck (or young white guys feeling how much their lives suck) because that's what middle aged white guys writing at that time-- and they were all middle aged white guys-- were thinking about. Basically, it's all just fridge horror. Think of Jude the Obscure. When I finished it, I upset the entire class by saying "Thank goodness. I'd been praying he'd have the guts to off himself for the last six chapters." (It was a spoiler, you see; not everyone else had actually kept up with the assigned reading.)

Now, if I want to deal with terrible things happening, I read non-fiction. I read more non-fiction than you'd think. But for fiction, I'm not all that interested in fiction that goes nowhere except up its own anus. And that covers so much 'adult' 'literary' fiction that it's just not worth it to keep trying. If I hate dark chocolate, and 95% of the wrapped candies are dark chocolate, but it's unclear which ones, why would I buy wrapped candy?
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Steven Pinker just published, in the New Republic, one of those self-congratulatory science pieces with the whining about how people are taught too much humanities and not enough science, with the oh-so-approachable title: "Science Is Not Your Enemy An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians". (Adam Frank, in "The Power Of Science And The Danger Of Scientism" explained, "Thus, scientism is the "science can explain everything," (or, at least, "science explains everything important"), kind of position some folks take in arguments about religion, philosophy, the value of the humanities, etc;" For medievalists, this is the kind of attitude displayed by that dreadful nonsense, A World Lit Only by Fire. In fact, it's the kind of attitude that led the Enlightenment 'historians' to describe a 'middle' or 'dark' ages in which the church persecuted people for not believing the Earth was flat-- though the orreries installed in churches at in the Middle Ages and Renaissance for the calculation of Easter clearly rely on a non-flat Earth.)

Anyway, someone deliciously smacks down Pinker and his scientism:
"In Which Steven Pinker Is A Total Ignoramus Who Should Go Read A Fucking Book And Get Himself Some Fucking Education"

I'm as pleased with scientific progress as the next person but everyone should be thinking about how they are thinking about things-- and asking themselves if they are really using the right tools for the right problem. (Which is what the article Pinker was responding to was saying: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/magazine/103086/scientism-humanities-knowledge-theory-everything-arts-science ) 
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
We learned about this in library school, when hypertext was "Hypercard for the Mac" etc. and we all wanted one, though computerized. Nowadays, we can sorta have this, though we can't annotate it (I find myself printing out all kinds of journal articles because I can't annotate the links!). Something like the Memex, for non-fiction research books, is what I want for electronic/online books!
"As We May Think," Vannevar Bush, The Atlantic 1945.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Recollections of Full Years, by Helen Herron Taft (Mrs. William Howard Taft):
The members of my family, and especially my children, are prone to indulgence in good-natured personalities and they like to make the most of my serious attitude toward my domestic responsibilities, saying that I make them three times as difficult as they need to be by a too positive insistence on my own methods...
p. 347, ch. XVII, "The White House"
bunnyjadwiga: (Bartleby)
Last week I finished reading Transcendental Wife: the life of Abigail May Alcott, by Cynthia H. Barton (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1996).

What I was most struck by was the combination of entitlement and almost co-dependence on Abby's part. She left her parents' home on bad terms with her father and stepfather, and eventually married a penniless educator; she stood by him and raised his children and supported him emotionally and sometimes financially for years. And yet-- she comes across as demanding, critical and whiny. Barton points out how hard it must have been for Abby to take charity from family and friends-- but she didn't just ask for it, she demanded it, perhaps because she couldn't bring herself to do it any other way.

She struggled with her husband's principles, and the financial ruin that brought them to repeatedly, but she stood up for him and believed that she and her children should live in poverty rather than ask him to compromise his principles. She seems to have been almost pathologically devoted to her nuclear family as a cohesive unit, and unable to tolerate outsiders, but she forced herself to endure (crankily and probably being very difficult to live with) con-sociate living arrangements and the taking in of boarding students time after time.

It sounds as if she struggled with what we would label depression, but I'm increasingly confused about what we wouldn't label depression any more. Still, the anger management issues combined with her mistrust of herself, and her own voice, seem to have loomed large in internal family life. By Barton's (and by Bronson Alcott's) standards, she seems to have adopted a somewhat attachment-parenting outlook to raising her girls. She said of her oldest as an infant: "I have no rules save one great one-- to do what she indicates to have done- and she is so reasonable that I find no difficulty." Later on, as Louisa suggested in Good Wives, she seems to have had more trouble, especially as Bronson required a serene house; Bronson took over some childcare over her objections.

Eventually Abby did rebell against being destitute, and took various jobs, including that of an early social worker, in order to feed her family. Sometimes her charity endangered her family (as when they contracted illness from a client), but at least there was money coming in and Abby was living according to her principles, while Bronson lived according to his. It doesn't appear that Bronson was lazy, putting a good deal of physical labor into various self-sufficiency exercises; but philosophy tempted him away and left work for Abby. Eventually, Bronson learned that he could make a living at 'giving conversations' (speechwriting?) and things were more comfortable.

But I agree that Abby's troubles do seem to have to do with struggling to find her own voice and come up with a way of life which accomodated her own needs and principles as well as those of her husband and family. I do think that Louisa very much admired her mother, even if she wasn't the kindly Marmee of Little Women, and I was interested to see what (roseified) elements from Abby's life that Louisa used in Good Wives, such as marrying the kind Professor, keeping a school, Fruitlands/Plumfield, and the struggle over childraising.

I also noticed how reading this volume brought to the forefront of my mind my struggles to live my life without asking other people to compromise their principles, especially when it affects my homelife and workload. Hopefully I am not quite as snippy as Abby was; but I have less to do than she did, and more individual voice.


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