Monday, January 5, 2009

Well-behaved women seldom make history

Some holiday season reading and viewing:

1.) The Portable Dorothy Parker
A Christmas gift from a friend harkens back to the first year in which I knew another. When Heather introduced me to Dorothy Parker, Tori Amos and Sylvia Plath, a bottle of gin never led anywhere bad. Things have changed, but Parker still resonates.

2.) The Wonder Spot, by Melissa Bank
A Christmas gift to myself, thanks to Half Price Books, which has outlets all over the Houston area. The main character has a tendency to never say or do the right thing. I can relate. This novel was so engrossing that I was able to sit next to my boyfriend on the couch for a series of professional sporting events (his parents were watching them and I thought it would be rude to leave the room, yet somehow in my mind it was okay to read silently for three hours), and never get bored or distracted.

3.) Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown
A friend's castoff -- she got her hands on a first edition. This now-classic is an absolute riot for the boundary-pushing single woman of today (who decidedly does not read Cosmo). Some transgressive insights, courtesy of 1962:
"Now we're going to turn off men for a while and talk about your job. (Don't worry, we'll get back to them!) What you do from nine to five has everything to do with men anyhow. A job is one way of getting to them. It also provides the money with which to dress for them and dress up your apartment for them. (More on these later.) Most importantly, a job gives a single woman something to be."
Married women, we learn, already have something to be -- doctor's wife, banker's wife, ganster's wife. On the other hand, "A single woman is known by what she does rather than by whom she belongs to."
I was laughing but, well, I guess the author is right.
We also learn the pros and cons of accepting expensive gifts from married men, how to outfit an apartment so as to be worthy of your friends donning their best furs to visit and that cottage cheese + peaches = dinner if you want to maintain your figure.

4.) Persepolis, film version, directed by Marjane Satrapi
A friend described it as 'heartbreaking' and I can see why -- it's about bougie liberal types whose joie de vive, not to mention family, is nearly destroyed by Iran's Islamic revolution. But to me, the person who thought Hotel Rwanda was uplifting, this film is deeply inspirational. We see one freedom after another being taken from a young woman, who is forced to cover her hair and drop her eyes to pass through streets she charged through, laughing and carrying on, in pants and sneakers as a child. And we see her buy casette tapes on the black market, creep home, and rock out to Iron Maiden in her bedroom, playing air guitar on a badminton racket.
What truely makes the story inspirational, of course, is that we know this young woman grew up to be an internationally acclaimed writer, artist and director -- because of her uncommon family and because she refused to give in to repression.

No comments: