Reading for Persistent Resistors


Before I get into anything else, may I take a moment to congratulate a friend on finding THE best thing for a left-leaning queen to wear on the Womens' March in NYC:

Even though I am not a Cher fan, this makes me smile a lot.  Thank you, Thom.

On the book front, I have been dipping into a few feminist volumes of late.  By far the prettiest must be "Literary Witches".

The illustrations are enchanting - my especial favourites are Agatha Christie with her tea-table set with poison and a noose, Anais Nin writing her diary whilst floating amid mermaid-selves, and Alejandra Pizarnik alone amid dead birds and paper dolls.

Then there is the writing : "When she brushes the carpet, Emily (Bronte) imagines she is smoothing the moors for Heathcliff's perfect feet.  He'll come in, Emily dreams, like the wind she walks against - muscular gusts, clenched hands snarling under her coats".  Isn't that a perfect blend of her torrid imagination and the drabness of Haworth daily life?

Less successful, for me, is "100 Nasty Women of History"

I can cope with the four-letter words and the tone, which is clearly aimed at non-historians - in fact, full marks for reaching out to spread the word of feminist icons old and new.  Even better is the massive range of women included here, ignoring the obvious Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart et al in favour of Ching Shih, Nana Asma'u, Lotfia Elnadi, Irena Sendler and Coccinelle.

What disappoints me is the lack of detail, although one assumes this is necessary if one hundred lives are to fit in one volume. The reduction of the entire ancient Egyptian civilisation, for instance, to "those great lovers of cats and triangles" in Hatshepsut's story which is given less than two pages all told.  Or the one-and-a-half pages in which Khutulun wrestles her admirers on the understanding that "should the suitor win, then YOLO, they'd get married" - who wouldn't want to know more about this Mongol princess.  I suppose the idea is to pique interest, and on those terms it does work.  

In other words, mixed feelings on this one - but overall worth the investment if only to discover new stories to pursue elsewhere.

Since I only began reading last night, I can't give a definitive overview of this one yet:

But, oh boy, it seems like something to sink the teeth into.  If I may quote one of the reviews from the back cover: "Ages before the most qualified presidential candidate in history was called a 'nasty woman', women were long vilified for their power, intelligence and prowess - except they were called witches.  To understand the current misogynistic political climate...look no further" (Alex Berg)  

Discussing not just archetypal goddesses and witch trials, but reproductive rights, pornography, and the image of the witch in various media, I suspect this one will end up with many notes scrawled in the margins.

So there you have it, this month's Bizarrium inspiration : one piece of intellectual eye-candy, one superficial yet worthwhile breeze through history, and one challenging volume of gender studies.

Do you have anything to recommend?  I'm always happy to have an excuse to visit the bookshop....



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