feminist reading list

Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys (1938), Notebooks by Danielle Collobert (1956-1978), The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963), Veronica by Mary Gaitskill (2005), The Colony by Jillian Weise (2010)

Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys (1938), Notebooks by Danielle Collobert (1956-1978), The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963), Veronica by Mary Gaitskill (2005), The Colony by Jillian Weise (2010)

I just finished reading Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys. The whole time I was reading it I couldn’t help but think of another book I read recently, Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill. Both books have protagonists, Sasha and Alison, respectively, who won’t conform to what society expects from women who fit their description. They are deeply unhappy to a point of numbness which infuses the books with an almost irritating sense of ennui. The women float between their current live in which they feel numb, over-it, self-destructive; and memories of their past, a time in which they had all they were supposed to want, yet none of it ever made them happy. They’ve been used/abused by men but it didn’t break them, because they never truly let the men in, they never cared, they always sort of floated over their own lives watching from a distance. Never buying into what the people they were surrounded by did. No matter how they try, they can’t fit themselves into the happy roles they are meant to fill. They can’t get close, really close to anyone, but it’s not that they try and fail (though they do), it’s that this closeness doesn’t fit them, it is not what they want, it is what they feel they should want, what they have to want if the are ever going to have any financial security as a woman, if they are ever to be accepted by society. Does that sound like The Bell Jar? Yeah. You know what sounds a lot like The Bell Jar? A book about erasure of your body as a woman, about burying yourself in the dark of a crawlspace as the only way to hide from what it is you are supposed to be: Danielle Collobert’s Notebooks. And, all these books made me think of a contemporary take on the woman you can’t pin down, the one you can’t draw a picture of because she doesn’t make sense, because between the slope of her spine and the lash of her tongue is a chasm you’ll get lost in, a mind you can’t make into a shape that fits behind her pretty face: The Colony.

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