Pretty much an edifying book packaged into a collection of stories of a wholesome country-girl visiting her city-girl friend. Second part, written later, continues the theme with the girls grown up, and the work-is-good general idea tackles also romance, flirtation, marriage and women's independence.
Whether it'll be received as a charming lesson or an eye-rolling inducing morality tale would be up to the reader, I guess. I wavered in times, but I have to admit I like Alcott too much to begrudge her some opinionated pushing.
"I don't know whether it is meant for a saint or a muse, a goddess or a fate; but to me it is only a beautiful woman, bigger, lovelier, and more imposing than any woman I ever saw," answered Fanny, slowly, trying to express the impression the statue made upon her.
We could n't decide what to put in the hands as the most appropriate symbol. What do you say?"
"Give her a sceptre: she would make a fine queen," answered Fanny.
"No, we have had enough of that; women have been called queens a long time, but the kingdom given them is n't worth ruling," answered Rebecca.
"I don't think it is nowadays," said Fanny, with a tired sort of sigh.
"Put a man's hand in hers to help her along, then," said Polly, whose happy fortune it had been to find friends and helpers in father and brothers.
"No; my woman is to stand alone, and help herself," said Rebecca, decidedly.
"She 's to be strong-minded, is she?" and Fanny's lip curled a little as she uttered the misused words.
"Yes, strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and strong-bodied; that is why I made her larger than the miserable, pinched-up woman of our day. Strength and beauty must go together. Don't you think these broad shoulders can bear burdens without breaking down, these hands work well, these eyes see clearly, and these lips do something besides simper and gossip?"
Fanny was silent; but a voice from Bess's corner said, "Put a child in her arms, Becky."
"Not that even, for she is to be something more than a nurse."
"Give her a ballot-box," cried a new voice, and turning round, they saw an odd-looking woman perched on a sofa behind them.
"Thank you for the suggestion, Kate. I 'll put that with the other symbols at her feet; for I 'm going to have needle, pen, palette, and broom somewhere, to suggest the various talents she owns, and the ballot-box will show that she has earned the right to use them.
Ahhh, Alcott! Sometimes, I get to these bits, and I remember encountering her writing as a child, and feeling such a wonder at these peaks into proto-feminism. There are ways to go here, but she was steering well.
"Then, my dear, can't you bear a little ridicule for the sake of a good cause? You said yesterday that you were going to make it a principle of your life, to help up your sex as far and as fast as you could. It did my heart good to hear you say it, for I was sure that in time you would keep your word. But, Polly, a principle that can't bear being laughed at, frowned on, and cold-shouldered, isn't worthy of the name."
"I want to be strong-minded in the real sense of the word, but I don't like to be called so by people who don't understand my meaning; and I shall be if I try to make the girls think soberly about anything sensible or philanthropic. They call me old-fashioned now, and I 'd rather be thought that, though it isn't pleasant, than be set down as a rampant woman's rights reformer," said Polly, in whose memory many laughs, and snubs, and sarcasms still lingered, forgiven but not forgotten.
"This love and thought and care for those weaker, poorer, or worse than ourselves, which we call Christian charity, is a very old fashion, my dear. It began eighteen hundred years ago, and only those who honestly follow the beautiful example set us then, learn how to get genuine happiness out of life. I 'm not a 'rampant woman's rights reformer,'" added Miss Mills, with a smile at Polly's sober face; "but I think that women can do a great deal for each other, if they will only stop fearing what 'people will think,' and take a hearty interest in whatever is going to fit their sisters and themselves to deserve and enjoy the rights God gave them.
There is this good natured, sensible tone to this chapter, where the proto-feminism clashes with the marching of time and the result is some "fair for it's time" result...
Oh, and in the plot I see maybe an early version of what turned out to be May Flowers.
And we always come back to work being good for the soul.
On various fronts. The overarching subject, the sense of hopelessness, helplessness and despair, the long-winded, meandering way the story is told (which is on par with the idea that it is a stream-of-conscience recount), and the purpose way in which this guy's obliviousness is made plain (and cringe-inducing) for the reader (and the teller).
Found it brilliant, at points boring and quite maddening.
Oh, and I leave it with a feeling akin to what Catcher in the Rye left me.
"Master it," Brother Jack said, "but don't overdo it. Don't let it master you. There is nothing to put the people to sleep like dry ideology. The ideal is to strike a medium between ideology and inspiration. Say what the people want to hear, but say it in such a way that they'll do what we wish."
Now there is a cynic
He laughed. "Remember too, that theory always comes after practice. Act first, theorize later; that's also a formula, a devastatingly effective one!"
He looked at me as though he did not see me and I could not tell whether he was laughing at me or with me. I was sure only that he was laughing.
"You'll do all right. Now listen. You are to continue what you started at the eviction. Keep them stirred up. Get them active. Get as many to join as possible. You'll be given guidance by some of the older members, but for the time being you are to see what you can do. You will have freedom of action -- and you will be under strict discipline to the committee."
"I see," I said.
"No, you don't quite see," he said, "but you will. You must not underestimate the discipline, Brother. It makes you answerable to the entire organization for what you do. Don't underestimate the discipline. It is very strict, but within its framework you are to have full freedom to do your work. And your work is very important. Understand?"
Oh, man! No, he doesn't understand AT ALL. Neither what "discipline" implies, nor the true impact and consequences of his eloquence (because he does not realize how it'll be used).
On all this section, I'm finding it infinitely ironic, yet fitting, the fact that being a figurehead speaker is part of what makes him invisible as a person. There is this bit before
"Stephen's problem, like ours, was not actually one of creating the uncreated conscience of his race, but of creating the uncreated features of his face. Our task is that of making ourselves individuals. The conscience of a race is the gift of its individuals who see, evaluate, record . . . We create the race by creating ourselves and then to our great astonishment we will have created something far more important: We will have created a culture. Why waste time creating a conscience for something that doesn't exist? For, you see, blood and skin do not think!"
He really has no definition of personal identity and gets absorbed into being little more than a voice flavoring other people's ideologies.
Damn. This guy does not only traipse through interesting times being a naive youth, he's got a cursed luck too... and there come the valves
Some pages later:
"The machine will produce the results of a prefrontal lobotomy without the negative effects of the knife,"
Christ. It's shock therapy.
"Why not castration, doctor?"
"Then why don't you try more current?"
"You suggest it?"
"I do, why not?"
"But isn't there a danger . . . ?" the voice trailed off.
"Look, he's dancing," someone called.
An oily face looked in. "They really do have rhythm, don't they? Get hot, boy! Get hot!" it said with a laugh.
They were tightly sealed. I had read that letters were sometimes steamed open, but I had no steam. I gave it up, I really didn't need to know their contents and it would not be honorable or safe to tamper with Dr. Bledsoe. I knew already that they concerned me and were addressed to some of the most important men in the whole country. That was enough.
*whimpers* Such an oblivious boy
12 classics from my TBR
Most years I manage to read a dozen or so of some form of classic, but just to keep on track and maybe try to stay within of what's ALREADY THERE in my TBR
Eugenie Grandet, by Honerè de Balzac (1/22)
Other Countries, Other Languages
I've noticed I'm reading a lot of works originally written in English (somewhere around a 9 in 10 at least). A bit because England and USA have a long and healthy publishing history, with a lot of classics and pop-culture exponents to their soils. Some, because English is an easy common ground language-wise, and forums like these tend to exchange in it, either opinions or recommendations. A good deal because the market is flooded with them.
But I want more perspectives, different styles and backgrounds.
So I'll start shooting for 20 or so from my TBR and we'll see (availability might be an issue)
25 female authors
These are four loosely connected but independent short stories set at the start of Yeowe's independence from Werel, after 30 years of revolutionary war. They are the stories of people as different as they can possibly come, coming to terms. With loss, with cultural differences, with a place in society, with the past. They are all also big on starting anew. And, of course, feminism. The right to freedom, to a voice, to vote, to an education, to not be raped. These are all discussed and are an important part of the book, given the planet's recent upheaval and it's heavy history of slavery and male-dominated environment.
I found it bittersweet and lovely, and ended up with a huge bunch of quotes saved and a lump in my throat that I know not what to do with. There is so much wrong with this planet, so much hurt, and yet... it is so hopeful. I guess forgiveness is a kind of hope. Another chance. Much like love; another thing that permeates the book and is ever-present in every story.
I have closed it, as so many stories close, with a joining of two people. What is one man’s and one woman’s love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the great revolutions of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens. If you lose the key, the door may never be unlocked. It is in our bodies that we lose or begin our freedom, in our bodies that we accept or end our slavery. So I wrote this book for my friend, with whom I have lived and will die free.
“I was sick to leave my books, and I’ve thought about them, missing them, as if they were my family. But I think maybe I’m a fool to feel that way.”
“Why a fool?” he asked. He had a foreign accent, but he had the Yeowan lilt already, and his voice was beautiful, low and warm.
I tried to explain everything at once: “Well, they mean so much to me because I was illiterate when I came to the City, and it was the books that gave me freedom, gave me the world—the worlds— But now, here, I see how the net, the holos, the neareals mean so much more to people, giving them the present time. Maybe it’s just clinging to the past to cling to books. Yeowans have to go towards the future. And we’ll never change people’s minds just with words.”
He listened intently, as he had done at the meeting, and then answered slowly, “But words are an essential way of thinking. And books keep the words true. . . . I didn’t read till I was an adult, either.”
“I knew how, but I didn’t. I lived in a village. It’s cities that have to have books,” he said, quite decisively, as if he had thought about this matter. “If they don’t, we keep on starting over every generation. It’s a waste. You have to save the words.”
“Talk goes by,” I said, “and all the words and images in the net go by, and anybody can change them. But books are there. They last. They are the body of history, Mr. Yehedarhed says.”
These speak to the book-lover soul in me
Under the Bosses, I ran this hospital. Now a man runs it. Our men are the owners now. And we’re what we always were. Property. I don’t think that’s what we fought the long war for. Do you, Mr. Envoy? I think what we have is a new liberation to make. We have to finish the job.”
After a long silence, Havzhiva asked softly, “Are you organised?”
“Oh, yes. Oh, yes! Just like the old days. We can organize in the dark!” She laughed a little. “But I don’t think we can win freedom for ourselves alone by ourselves alone. There has to be a change. The men think they have to be bosses. They have to stop thinking that. Well, one thing we have learned in my lifetime, you don’t change a mind with a gun. You kill the boss and you become the boss. We must change that mind. The old slave mind, boss mind. We have got to change it, Mr. Envoy. With your help. The Ekumen’s help.”
“I’m here to be a link between your people and the Ekumen. But I’ll need time,” he said. “I need to learn.”
“All the time in the world. We know we can’t turn the boss mind around in a day or a year. This is a matter of education.” She said the word as a sacred word. “It will take a long time.
Like always, Le Guin being brilliant, passionate and compassionate at the same time. The context makes this dialogue so damn poignant.
Had an interesting time listening to this in audio format. I mean, I was sketching and coloring like demon-possessed by the last third in.
Characterization-wise, creepy dolls are creepy (though it's a nice zig-zagging there), cool old ladies are awesome, and the friendship aspects were beautiful.
That arm-bursting scene! My God *shudder*
(couple of examples)