logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Feminism
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-09-24 05:15
Halloween Bingo - American Horror - irony
Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale - Brown Charles Brockden

 

 

This has been on my Kindle for ages and ages, and on my priority list almost as long.

 

Wieland, or the Transformation: An American Tale was published in 1798, one of the first "significant" novels published by an American.  I'm not sure what that "significant" means, though it's certainly noteworthy that Wieland was both popular and influential.

 

One of the attractions for me, however, is that it's written from the point of view of Clara Wieland, the sister of Theodore for whom the novel is ostensibly titled.

 

The story is more or less straightforward -- Theodore and Clara's father had been something of a religious fanatic, who died apparently of divinely-ordained spontaneous combustion in a "temple" he had built on his property in rural Pennsylvania.  Years later, in the grip of similar fanaticism, Theodore murders his wife and their four children as well as a young female companion.  An itinerant "biloquist" -- ventriloquist -- named Carwin confesses to having provided various mysterious voices but denies using his talent to induce Wieland murder his family.  Theodore eventually realizes what he's done and takes his own life.  The end, sort of.

 

The style is awkward, and I can't say this was a fun read.  The novel purports to be a letter Clara is writing to an unnamed friend -- and I thought I wrote long letters?? -- so it's all tell and no show in a decidedly 18th century manner.  But Clara as a character and narrator often has more in common with a kick-ass heroine of the 21st century than with her gothic descendants of the mid-20th century.  Wealth inherited from her father permits her to live independently, and she even makes plans to reveal her affections to their object rather than wait for him to do so first.

 

Unfortunately, before she has a chance to do that, there's a classic "big misunderstanding" and everything goes to hell.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, the more things change and all that.

 

The ventriloquism device didn't work for me.  Regardless how clever the ventriloquist, there is still the matter of distance across which a voice can be "thrown."  Had Carwin's talent been more smoothly woven with the belief/disbelief that Wieland or Clara or her love interest Pleyel had actually heard divine voices, it might have worked better.

 

But that's a criticism coming from two and a quarter centuries of popular fiction later.

 

The novel's focal point, if you will, is the mass murder of Wieland's family.  This event was based on an actual case that occurred in 1781 in New York, in which the father slaughtered his wife and children and claimed God had told him to do it.  What struck me about Wieland, however, was that the murders don't occur until almost two-thirds of the way through the novel -- 62% on my Kindle.  By this  point, Carwin has played his games, Pleyel has learned of and revealed Carwin's sordid history, and Clara's romantic future has been destroyed by the Big Miz.  Her brother's religiosity is a very minor issue; he's been portrayed as devout, yes, but also studious and a good father and husband.  Unlike his own father, Theodore Wieland hasn't (yet) become a nut job, to use  2017 terminology.

 

Up to then, this has been Clara's story, told by Clara -- as told by Charles Brockden Brown, of course.  Then the men screw it all up.

 

Wieland kills his family then testifies in court that yes, of course, he did it because God commanded him to do it.  How could it be wrong if it was God's will?  So the court decides he's the equivalent of insane -- unable to distinguish right from wrong, essentially -- and condemn him to life in prison.

 

Interestingly -- remember, this was published in 1798 -- Clara's maternal uncle is a physician who argues that Wieland's hallucinations are an indication of mental illness, while Clara argues that they weren't hallucinations at all but rather the product of the evil Carwin's machinations. 

 

It all winds down with Carwin's doleful confession to Clara, tempered by his insistence that he wasn't the one to tell Wieland to kill anyone, and then Wieland himself escapes his prison, threatens Clara, suddenly sees the error of his ways (regains his sanity???), and kills himself.

 

There follows a kind of postscript, in which Clara recounts her life after her brother's death, and while she achieves a certain happiness or maybe at least contentment, almost everyone else has a kind of "life's a bitch and then you die" ending.  Still, the whole thing seemed rather remarkable to be told from the woman's point of view until

 

the very last paragraph.  'Cause yep, it's always the victim's fault.

 

I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-tongued deceiver would have been baffled and repelled.

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale (Kindle Locations 3308-3314). Kindle Edition.

 

 (emphasis mine, above)

 

Wieland is one of those books I'm glad I read because of its importance to the literary history of fiction by, for, and about women.  But I can't say I enjoyed it.  Only recommended to those who are truly dedicated.  (It's not scary or creepy or gory or anything else.)

 

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-09-22 10:09
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd — A Story about Mothers, Sisters, and Slaves!
The Invention of Wings: A Novel - Sue Monk Kidd

 

 

Fifteen years before Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was wholly influenced by American Slavery As It Is, a pamphlet written by Sarah, Angelina, and Angelina’s husband, Theodore Weld, and published in 1839, the Grimké sisters were out crusading not only for the immediate emancipation of slaves, but for racial equality, an idea that was radical even among abolitionists. 

That is the kind of women this book is based on!

 

The first book that I read by Sue Monk Kidd was The Secret Life of Bees. It didn’t mince words when it came to the cruelties that slavery brought. While I loved the candor, what touched me, even more, is that the author didn’t mention those incidents in a salacious way. She included them in the story as the reality of that time. The focus remained on the characters who evolved as real people do.

 

This book wasn’t different in that regard either! Like always, I will try to review the story with quotes from the book. As I mention each quote, I will include the context it is taken from and what it signified to me.

 

7.jpg

Another thing that I have always loved about Ms. Kidd’s novels is that she weaves humor into her stories. With the subject being as grim as slavery, it should be difficult to make the reader laugh. The best part is that the humor doesn’t detract or mock the theme of the story. It simply makes it possible to go on reading and with what is happening in it, this is a good thing.

 

The Sisters

 

This particular quote is taken from a scene where one of the Grimké sisters is receiving a suitor in her drawing room. The fear of carnality had been put into her very recently by a man of God in the very words that she mentions here! What’s funny is that it is the fact that the man smells of soap that is making her think carnal thoughts (or at least, what she thinks are carnal thoughts).

 

1.jpg

This is how we are introduced to one of the main characters from this book, Handful. Born a slave, she was mouthy as heck and tough as nails. I loved right from the start, which was probably what the author intended. It is mentioned in the Author’s Notes (given at the end of the book) that while there is evidence of Handful having existed, she didn’t survive long enough to play an important role in the life of the Grimké sisters. I am glad that the author thought otherwise.

 

8.jpg

More of Handful’s golden words for you. This is her pretending to be brave while she was about to be punished severely enough that it left her with a maimed foot.

 

9.jpg

This is her description of the legalese that she had to muddle her way through before she could find out if she was being sold after her master’s death or retained for her services!

 

3.jpg

A few pages later, we are introduced to the other main character, Sarah Grimké.While Handful mouthed off to people, Sarah had trouble getting out a whole sentence without stuttering. She had the same iron backbone though that Handful did, which soon became evident when she tried to emancipate Handful at the age of 11!

 

5

This is how Sarah was indoctrinated to what was really happening around her. She was just a little girl then but the incident remained with her all her life. It was a defining moment in the life of her character. Consider the following quote to see how she arrived at the root of the problem of slavery. This is an excerpt from one of her letters to Nina, her sister and another important character in the book. She raised Nina like a mother on revolutionary ideas like equality and it paid off. Nina gave her strength and achieved things that even Sarah thought meant going too far.

 

12

She changed her faith and left the safety of her house later in life, so she could be the kickass feminist that we know her to be. This is one of my favorite moments from the book. While it might come across as caustically feminazi, it wasn’t so in the book. That being said, I could see the point the men were trying to make. By taking up both the causes of slavery and feminism, the Grimké sisters caused their followers to split into two groups. However, the point lies in the fact that they even had to raise their voices for either cause.

13

 

The Mothers

4.jpg

Sarah’s mother is one of the important characters in the book. She terrorized her slaves and refused to relent even when she was close to death. I think this quote defines both hers and her husband’s characters perfectly.

 

6.jpg

This is how we meet Handful’s mother, Charlotte. She shaped Sarah’s and Handful’s lives by being who she was. Even though she couldn’t do anything openly, she figured small ways to show her rebellion. She continued to do so, knowing the punishment would be too severe and there’d be hell to pay if she got caught! I think this quote would fit almost anyone who is living under an oppressive regime. Don’t you?

 

The Slaves

 

10.jpg

Handful is much smarter than people gave her credit for. Sarah, whom she said these words to, used to think that being a woman was keeping her from making a difference. Handful knew otherwise. When the story begins, we think that Sarah would be the one protecting Handful but this quote and the next one shows us how the roles are reversed.

 

11

I can’t wait to try out another Sue Monk Kidd book after having read and loved this one. Have you read it? How did you like it?

 

Image

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com< on September 22, 2017.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-09-16 00:07
Self-deprecation at its best
One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays - Scaachi Koul

I first heard about Scaachi Koul's One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter several months ago on BookTube (I will continue to sing its praises) and added it to my TRL as I felt the need to read more Canadian authors. This book is a collection of essays about Scaachi's life growing up as a child of Indian immigrants in Canada. There's a focus on body positivity, feminism, and the endemic racism she and other people of color face in that country. She discusses her family and how she is the direct product of two disparate parenting philosophies. (Each chapter begins with an email conversation between herself and her father. He's quite possibly the funniest man on planet earth.) She's deeply afraid of going outside of her comfort zone and yet she's in a relationship with a man who seems to do nothing but push her to do just that. (I thought I had travel anxiety until I read about her experiences flying.) It's a look into a family as different and yet somehow the same as mine or yours. There's always going to be some neuroses in any family. It's about self-discovery, self-love, and ultimately self-acceptance. It was a lot of fun but judging from the fact that I had to refresh my memory by looking up the blurb it isn't the most memorable book I've had the pleasure of reading this year. So I'm gonna give it a 6/10. 

 

A/N: I really need to start making detailed notes about the books I've read immediately after reading them because my backlog of book reviews is getting more and more lengthy. Stay tuned for a special post on Tuesday by the way. ;-)

 

Source: Amazon

 

What's Up Next: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Mezrich

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-08-30 11:37
Wringo Ink. Short Story for the Genre “Starts with a Phrase”: Not. A. Story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once upon a time, sharks flew across the sky.

 

Or so one would think if one hadn’t been living in that era.

 

It was an age where people thought they had the right to punish people in God’s stead.

 

It was a time when it was okay to turn the sacred ground of universities into abattoirs.

 

It was just one of the moments in a string of moments when masks slipped off faces. With the carapace removed, you could see the hideousness underneath. The beings that had been masquerading around as animals were found to be much much worse. They might have been playacting to be civilized animals but the reality was abhorrently bad. When the masks were gone, we realized the torturers had been human.

 

Only the most unfortunate were alive at this instant in history. Could there be any doubt about their luckless nature if one looked at their accursed existence?

 

It was an epoch when nests were raided and the nestlings would never be safe. A false sense of optimism and security lay on the world like a thick heavy blanket. It seduced the birds to keep breeding, thinking their cygnets would be the only ones to be blessed. They never were; their fates had been anointed with humanity. There was no way those nestlings would remain unaffected.

 

It was a phase in human history when the Painbearers were taught their place. Untouched but still sullied, they plodded on. The chinks grew larger and each time, they glued the pieces back with hopelessness. Freedom was an illusion and the idea that they would ever be anything but the bearers of pain, a mirage.

 

It was an interval that had stopped being an interval a long time ago. It was like a pox-ridden Cronos but who refused to die.

 

In short, it was everyday o’clock.

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on August 30, 2017.

 
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-08-26 19:33
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids - Meghan Daum,Meghan Daum,Meghan Daum

A little on the fence about this one. Some of the essays were fairly interesting, and the matter in general resonates with me anyway. However, I found the whole too similalr in terms of backgrounds (white, middle-class, not much variety here), and too often, when reading between the lines, most of the writers involved were of the 'I didn't have kids/didn't think about it when I had the chance, and now I'm glad of it'—not exactly 'I made a conscious decision not to have any children when I was 20' or 'I've always known I didn't want any.'

Although this may make me look shallow or callous, I don't care. I do relate much more to the few who openly made that very decision or at least 'knew'. I am the same kind of person who will start a relationship by immediately bringing the matter of 'just so that you know, I don't want kids and I won't change my mind'—because, let's face it, I'm nearing 40 and I'm not going to waste my time (nor my prospective partner's) with building a relationship based on the false assumption/delusion that 'they'll change their minds.' To quote Tim Kreider's essay in the book, 'people have a bottomless capacity to delude themselves that their partners will eventually change' (in other words: never assume they will).

So: interesting, but could've done with more diversity.
Hm. I should probably write an essay of my own about that someday. Never tried it, but it'd be an interesting exercise at the very least.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?