Book #35 was "Two Serious Ladies" by Jane Bowles. I found about this book by reading an article about gay authors' favorite books of all times. Several, both men and women, liked this one. It's the only novel Bowles ever wrote, and she's better known for her plays. The title is like the book, both in earnest and in jest. The two "ladies" in question are Christina Goering and Frieda Copperfield, who both are trying to discover themselves in different but absurd ways. Goering is an heiress who moves out of her mansion into a desolate shack on an island, allows her house to be inhabited by gold-digging hangers-on, and finds herself going home with a series of disreputable men. Meanwhile, Copperfield goes to Panama with her husband, only to abandon him in order to take up with a teenage prostitute and the middle-aged proprietoress of a run-down hotel. For being published in 1943, it's quite frank about bodies and sexuality, though any explicit sexual activity takes place "off stage." It does, however, mention bathing in the sea in the nude, dripping pubic hair, and prostitution without much censorship. The book is oddly compelling and amusing, though I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it at times. I do think Bowles and her husband
were interesting characters in their own right, and now I'm curious about her plays.
Book #36 was "Herland
" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I'd read her novella, "The Yellow Wallpaper" in college English class, and I was curious about her novel about a feminist utopia. My husband listened to it as an audiobook (free via librivox.org) and said he liked it, so I gave it a try. I found it to be quite readable, though it does have the feel of a parable at times, rather than a traditional novel, and I'm sure she did mean it to have a didactic purpose. Published in 1915, the novel starts when three explorers hear a tale about a country of all women. They make an expedition there, assuming that either the rumors are untrue, or if they are, that a country of women would be easily conquered. The men instead get captured and spend a year learning a whole new Herland culture. I liked the book better when it showed interactions between the characters rather than the sometimes lengthy expositions about Herland history and culture, and the whole "Women would run the world better" theme got pounded in a little obviously at times. Overall, I did like it and would recommend it as a highly entertaining feminsit parable.( Collapse )