Friday, July 11, 2008


Someone told me recently that she rarely reads in the summer because she's outdoor doing summery things. I don't read quite as much in summer as in winter, but I must read. Always. I would shrivel up and die without books.

I never got a chance to post about Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. It was such an interesting book, but now it's been so long I don't think I can properly discuss it. It was fascinating and well-written. Very well-written. (I tend to shy away from non-fiction because I don't seem to have as much luck picking out well-written books amongst those.) I never took a women's studies class, but if I were to ever teach one, this would be the curriculum. Reading this made me examine closely my own views on gender. It was interesting to realize that my views are not especially conventional. However, I would never call myself a "feminist." I dislike the word and most of what it implies. Evidently I care more about aesthetics than equality and justice. Is that wrong? I think that much of feminism is reactionary. Our culture dictates what is feminine and what is masculine. I've noticed that in every culture, men take the most prized qualities for themselves and leave women the lesser. For example, in our modern, western culture, logic and reason are prized. So is making money. So men are the logical and reasonable ones who make the money, and women are the intuitive, emotional ones who don't. But what if intuition and emotion were prized above logic and reason? So then women would be the more powerful, right? Somehow I think not. Men would take on those more desirable qualities. I don't know if I'm explaining this well, but I don't believe that it should necessarily be counted as "progress" to encourage women to be more masculine according to the dictates of our culture. I'm not sure how meaningful that is in the eternal scheme of things.

I do not have very conventional views about gender. I read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and laughed. It so did not apply to me. I have always embraced my masculine side. I do realize that most people in my church, for example, have vastly more conventional views than I do, but it doesn't bother me. Those views are based more on conservative culture than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I had the opportunity to read A Severe Mercy again, less than a year after reading it the first time. It was one of our book group picks. I think this is one of my favorite books ever. J read it and loved it, too. This is a book about an unbelievably exquisite pagan love. It's a conversion story. And it's a story about the triumph of love over death. I'm going to read it every year. Here is a passage I shared in our gospel doctrine class on Sunday:

How strange that we cannot love time. It spoils our loveliest moment. Nothing quite comes up to expectations because of it. We alone: animals, so far as we can see, are unaware of time, untroubled. Time is their natural environment. Why do we sense that it is not ours?... Then, if we complain of time and take such joy in the seemingly timeless moment, what does that suggest? It suggests that we have not always been or will not always be purely temporal creatures. It suggests that we were created for eternity.

I've been rereading some chapters from the biography of Neal A. Maxwell, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until his death in 2004. He was a highly quotable and prolific writer. Our C. S. Lewis. The chapters I'm looking at are specifically about his writing. The chapters are not completely laudatory, which is so refreshing. I learned that Maxwell was a G.K. Chesterton addict, sometimes to the detriment of his own writing style. I was fascinated to read in this biography written while Maxwell was still alive, his friends and peers express some distaste for his early writings. How telling that he had friends who knew they could be so honest, and this in an authorized biography.

I've read a couple of children's books recently that I liked very much. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull and Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. Fablehaven is about a brother and sister who go to stay with their grandparents, only to find that they are the keepers of a preserve for mythical creatures. Great idea and very well-executed. This book has a lot of humor in it (so welcome in fantasy), and I loved the relationship between the siblings. Shadow Spinner is a fleshing out of the story of Sharazad of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights fame.


Anonymous said...

I loved Thatchers Goodwives and Midwives Tale. I have seen lots of bumper stickers around town with her latest book title.

Michelle said...

I'm interested in your dislike of the term "feminist." What does it imply to you?

Calandria said...

First, I dislike the word because it sounds bad aesthetically. I simply do not like the sound of that word. Maybe it has too much baggage, I don't know. Second, it means too much. It implies anything and everything. People have taken that word and stretched it out like an old sweater to the point that it has no shape or style to it. When I said I don't like "most of what it implies," I suppose I was thinking of the negative implications. The reactionary. The man-hating and bitterness. It is a very loaded term.