Thursday, July 25, 2013

Are We All the Woman Upstairs?

Yesterday's post talked about reading Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings.  It's fabulous in its analysis of gender and class.  Several of the characters are artists, and a group of them met at a summer camp for artsy kids, so the book also explores the role of the arts, both in the lives of teenagers, and as grown ups.

Yesterday morning, I also started the latest novel by Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs.  So far, it's dovetailing nicely with the Wolitzer book.  Messud also explores the role of art in people's lives, especially women.  She's also doing some interesting analysis into the role of families, and I'm intrigued to see where this is going.

Lionel Shriver's latest, Big Brother, is also on my list.  I suspect that it will make an interesting counterpoint to Wolitzer and Messud.

Messud's novel also dissects the role of rage in modern women.  The first person narrator, whom I suspect is highly unreliable, argues that all modern women are angry, and that if we don't admit it, we're in a state of deep denial.  Is she right?

Messud also references madwomen in the attic, who are different than the ordinary women upstairs.  I'm only about 70 pages into the book, so I don't understand all the edges of her metaphor, but I like what she's doing with it so far. 

I must admit that it's a bit disconcerting to read these books about women at midlife and their realizations of all they are unlikely to accomplish.   All of the characters in the 2 books handle this realization differently.  For some, it leads to a rich appreciation of what they have.  For others, it leads to a last-ditch effort to accomplish grandness.  For others, well, I suspect the road ahead contains a lot of rage.

How delightful to have time to read.  How wonderful to have such good books.

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