Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Vida": The Novel as Testimony and History

Last night, I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner, but she wasn't feeling well, so she cancelled.  I went on home, and then wondered what to do with this window of free time.  My spouse was busy wrestling with Blackboard to get his midterm exam posted for his Philosophy class, so we wouldn't be spending quality time together.  I had been staring at a computer all day, so I didn't feel like working on writing projects.

I didn't want to waste the night watching T.V.  I thought about going to the library to get a book, but I didn't feel like making that trek.  I looked at my bookshelves and thought back across the past few weeks--what had I planned on reading?

I wanted to read The Things They Carried, but I don't own a copy.  I remembered that as I watched the recent documentary on the war in Vietnam, I had thought about rereading Marge Piercy's Vida, a great book about anti-war activists who take the path of violence and must deal with the consequences.

And so I spent a quiet evening revisiting that book--what a treat to return to a book that's every bit as good as I remember it.  The characters are perfectly drawn:  compelling despite being deeply flawed.  The plot grabs me each time I read it, even though I know what's going to happen.  The book offers an important testimony of how the war in Vietnam shaped activism that would carry us through to today. Last night I picked up this book after I heard about Trump's possible decisions about North Korea and Iran--different parts of Asia, but a mindset that may be similar to LBJ's.

It's also an interesting exploration of women's choices and women's sexuality--that aspect, too, is important testimony.  After days of hearing about the sexual harassment/violence charges emerging against Harvey Weinstein, this book feels still relevant in a sad, sad way.

In the future, when people wonder how we got to where we are, will they turn to novels?  I imagine they will first turn to documentaries and then explore from there.  I hope that these feminist novels aren't lost to the ages.

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