If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Women Writers Identified: Part II

I'm back from some seriously overdue yard work and reviewing a really really bad paper. On with the list:

6. Nikki Giovanni. This is one of my favorite poets. Her poems have been with me since my college days and I also must thank my sister, Jo, for turning me onto her. Her work is accessible, something I enjoy in a poet. I particularly enjoy her Love Poems and Blues for All the Changes. She's had a remarkable life and career and I've been blessed to hear her read and speak twice in my life. She is a phenomenal speaker. Small of stature her spirit carries the room.

7. Anne Carson. Another favorite poet of mine, but very different. She is a harder read. I first stumbled across her (I have no recollection how) by reading Autobiography of Red. It is a novel in verse and is based on a Greek myth (I love myths and myth-making) but brought up-to-date and re-created. Not a great description I know, but trust me it's amazing. Another favorite, The Beauty of the Husband, both an essay and a story told in verse. She also writes brilliant but difficult essays.

8. Virginia Woolf. Still my favorite writer after all these years. I started reading her as an adolescent with Orlando (which was made into a fabulous movie), the story of a young gentleman, who appears to be immortal, travels the world and switches gender halfway through the novel. Of course Mrs. Dalloway followed and that was loved as well. I was even pleasantly surprised to enjoy Michael Cunningham's rendition, The Hours (once I started reading men, of course). But it is To The Lighthouse which remains my favorite. Most people today don't enjoy reading Woolf, but her prose is absolutely stunning and what she did with the novel was true genius. Of course she was also a prolific writer of essays, memoirs, letters and journals, all of which are a joy to read.

9. Grace Paley. I'm not a huge fan of short stories but Grace Paley is a major exception. A poet, a writer of stories and essays and an activist, she was a remarkable woman. Little Disturbances of Man is a wonderful read. I believe I discovered her in college as well (I went to an amazing college - no requirements, no majors, and nothing but funky seminar courses). She died, last year, at age 84 from breast cancer.

10. And the final spot goes to Doris Lessing, last year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. That, by the way, is something. Do you know how many women writers have won the Nobel Prize? Eleven. Yes, only 11 women have won in the 106 years that the award has been in existence. Like many of the other women listed here, Ms. Lessing is a prolific writer who's work covers traditional fiction, science fiction, short stories, autobiography and essays. She is probably best know for her novel, The Golden Notebook, which became a feminist classic. I first got to know her through the Children of Violence series, which chronicles the life of it's heroine, Martha Quest, as she grows up in South Africa, gets married twice, becomes a communist and political activist, a mother, a divorcee and moves to London.

So much for Wordless Wednesdays.


Deb said...

when i logged onto my google reader and saw you had 3 posts, i thought - OMG how long was I sleeping (lol).
thenks for telling us who the 10 were - i think i recognized 1 name: yep, that one: Virginia Woolf. Other thatn that I had never heard of any but I love that you gave us a little synopsis on each. Ever the teacher, eh?

MsPrufrock said...

I feel so illiterate. Thank you for all of this. I have been planning to read more (having slipped out of the habit post-child) and I never know where to start as it's all so overwhelming.

Doris Lessing has gotten a lot of press lately due to her Nobel Prize. She's in her what, 90s (?) and still going strong.

Since you're talking of female writers, what do you think of Margaret Atwood?

Amanda said...

I enjoyed these past several posts. I'm always looking for new authors/books to read. I spend so much of my time staring at my computer/bench that I like to find other things to exercise my mind.

I'm also curious as to what you think of Margaret Atwood.

Brigindo said...

I'm glad this was enjoyable/helpful. It was fun writing about them and thinking of exactly what I liked and how I found them.

Deb - I didn't think of it as teacher-like but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense.

Ms. Prufrock - Nobody reads much in the early years of childrearing. If you noticed I discovered most of these authors in my adolescence/young adulthood. I'm just rediscovering the love of literature now that Boy is grown.

As for Margaret Atwood, it is very funny you both should ask. As I was writing the list I wondered if people might expect her to be included. To be honest I read A Handmaid's Tale and while I liked the plot I didn't like her style of writing. I tried again with Cat's Eye but never got through it. There have been a few others like that--Joyce Carol Oates and Joan Didion (although I read her recent memoir and thought it was amazing) come to mind--that I've just never been able to get into. I guess some writers touch you and other's don't.