emma_in_dream: (shakespeare)
My resolutions for 2011 were to:

* run a challenge to read and discuss a nineteenth century novel each month - Done. Will certainly continue next year, perhaps refining my focus. I started on 19th century books, and moved on to 19th century books by women. I’m thinking maybe 19th century science fiction and fantasy by women.

* continue with the 50 books by authors of colour challenge and finish the Queerbooks challenge. Done and done.

* make more home made gifts - Huh, not really, but yes if I count the various paintings I gave to folks.

* to eat in a healthy way - No!!!!

* participating in the Unplug Your Kids challenge regularly. We did a few challenges and then she stopped posting. But luckily I have found a few other great sites with challenges - http://tinkerlab.com/ and http://www.kidscraftweekly.com/ and http://abh21.wordpress.com/

So not too shabby and I think I’ll continue next year.

However, my more important resolutions are as about the rhythm of our daily life. Every day we will aim to:

* eat enough.

* sleep enough.

* do something active.

* go outside.

* do Ruby's physio.

* do Pearl's OT.

That pretty much fills in every day from here til... well forever.
emma_in_dream: (Bronte)
I have finished the Queerlit50 challenge in record time: http://community.livejournal.com/queerlit50/

Now back to the 50books_poc challenge: http://community.livejournal.com/50books_poc/

I found it much easier to do the Queerlit challenge. Concerned that this indicates some inner bias.
emma_in_dream: (shakespeare)
# 50 - Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt (Eds), Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in England, 1748-1914 (1997)

This collection of short stories and excerpts of longer works traces the elusive history of gay literature in English. Most of the works are by gay authors and were either privately circulated or were oblique parts of published stories which could be read codedly by the knowledgeable.

It’s a really solid collection. The only work I did not enjoy was John Francis Cohen’s ‘The Priest and the Acolyte’. I can see that this belongs in the anthology for historical reasons - it was the story which Oscar Wilde was believed to have written (but didn’t) which added so greatly to his notoriety. But it’s not actually a work of gay literature - it’s just child pornography about a priest and an altar boy. OK, no children were harmed in the making of it as it is purely fictional - but it is vile, vile, vile. I think including it was a reasonable decision so as to grasp the zeitgeist of the 1890s but it really is horrible.
emma_in_dream: (methos)
# 49 Cecilia Tan (Ed), Of Princes and Beauties: Adult Erotic Faerie Tales (1995)

A slender volume, a collection of erotic short stories based on fairy tales. It includes het and gay short stories and a single, amusing poem.
emma_in_dream: (Invented in Russia)
Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates, c 387 BCE

Plato had this wonderful image of all people having a matching half of the human whole who they were always searching for. Only he says there were three types of people originally created - one male, one female, and one androgynous.  Each of these "originals" was split in half to begin the human race. 

This means the male split is looking for anther male, the female split looks for another female and the androgynous male looks for his counterpart female.
But this isn’t that book. These dialogues are about Socrates’ last days and his debates about the nature of life and death, beauty, honour and immortality.
On the other hand, Plato also has one of his protagonists, Phaedo, note in passing that Socrates petted his head, as was his custom. It is the kind of detail that makes the ancient Greeks seem so very far away. What does this mean? Obviously it was a gesture of affection, but does it mean they were lovers? Or is it the kind of gesture that men made to other men in a world where women were considered to be a sort of animal?
emma_in_dream: (shakespeare)
Joanna Russ, What are we fighting for? Sex, race, class, and the future of feminism (1998)

This is one of my favourite overviews of social justice struggles. After two chapters which could perhaps be skipped - on the role of feminism in the academy and in literary criticism* - she goes through feminism, separatism, lesbianism, class, race, issues for feminists of colour, disability, and winds up by talking about how patriarchy hurts men.

Russ is very accessible, talks about feminism in daily life. Her big focus is on intersectionality and recognising that we can’t fix one issue only (say, white women’s position) but need to look at the broader connections of discrimination in our society.

It’s a great overview of all the issues. The style is a bit clunky as Russ tends to just list quotes by other writers. On the other hand, this is very helpful in signalling where to go for further reading. (I intend to try to find some of the feminists of colour she mentions for my next 50 books by writers of colour challenge).

Russ’ point here is that feminism as a political movement has been sidetracked into discussions of psychology in which the problem is individual. But using academia as an example does not work terribly well unless you care passionately about what is taught in English departments in the USA. She does not tie these chapters to broader society in the way she does in other chapters.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Cecilia Tan (Ed), Sexcrime: An Anthology of Subversive Erotica (2000)

I was thinking, as I read it, that some of the short stories read like sf/f with sex and others read like erotica with sf/f. When I got to the end I saw that Circlet Press specialises in works of fantasy and sf which contain too much erotica to be published by most genre publishers (www.circlet.com).

BTW: I met Cecilia Tan at WorldCon in 2009 and she rocks. And would make a great Swancon guest - I throw that idea out there.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Colin Cruise (Ed), Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites (2005)

Solomon is one of my favourite painters. I love the lushness of Pre-Raphaelite art but I get sick, after a while, of looking at pictures of languid women painted by men.* Solomon painted pictures of languid men in the classic Pre-Raphaelite way - all with long necks, sad faces, piles of hair. (Seriously, Google some of the images).

Solomon was regarded as a very promising artist (the word genius was used in a lot of reviews) when he was caught soliciting in a public toilet in 1873. He was fined, eventually imprisoned on a similar charge, cast out of all good society, went into exile, came back and wound up an alcoholic in the poor house.

His art was recognised as having a queer sensibility at the time. Wilde lamented the loss of his Solomons when his goods were sold during his bankruptcy; others write of having prints on their walls at Oxford which had to come down when parents visited.

This book came out of an exhibition in Birmingham (a Pre-Raphaelite centre of art collection) in 2005. I was so excited when I read the review of the exhibition that I ordered it straight from the gallery, the first comprehensive book on his art I had found. It has a massive collection of his paintings, and images of other Pre-Raphaelite works for comparative purposes.

* Though, in point of fact, there were women in the broader Pre-Raphaelite school. See: http://faculty.pittstate.edu/~knichols/flaming.html
emma_in_dream: (Default)
My resolutions for 2010 were to:

* run a challenge to read and discuss a nineteenth century novel each month - Mostly done. I could not make my way through *Wives and Daughters* but otherwise I did it. Will certainly continue next year.

* continue with the 50 books by authors of colour challenge - I finished the challenge and started the Queerbooks challenge which I find noticeably easier. I can just read off my shelves, which is quite revealing as to my priorities and biases I think. I plan to go back to the 50 books by authors of colour challenge next year.

* make more home made gifts - I did indeed. Also, I have abandoned buying wrapping paper and I am either recycling old paper or making little bags to put things in.

* to eat in a healthy way - an improvement over 2009 in 2010. Will continue in 2010.

* participating in the Unplug Your Kids challenge regularly, though maybe not weekly. This is a challenge online:http://unplugyourkids.com/unplugged-project/

Completely failed to do even one but we will have another go this year. Might be easier now Pearl is older and I am not currently working.

And, as a bonus, in 2010 I managed to have a baby! Not to be repeated in 2011....
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Jean Cocteau: Erotic Drawings (1999), ed Annie Guederas

This is a collection of his line drawings, all of gay sex. The preface says, somewhat pretentiously, that the subject doesn’t matter, it’s the line that is important. And yet, when I look at how much Cocteau conveys with very simple line drawings, I agree. The subject matter is a cliche but his clarity of line is amazing.

It’s a lovely collection, except that it isn’t properly catalogued. The pictures are lumped together thematically rather than chronologically. No information is given on dimensions or materials or even the date of composition, so you are left guessing as to whether his work changed over time. Some of the later works (?) seem to be made with texta on scraps of paper. Did he do what Picasso did and make gifts for friends at cafes? I don’t know because the editor hasn’t bothered to tell me.

Nor does the editor provide much background information on Cocteau. She assumes we know of his work, including his biographical writing *Le Livre Blanc* (1927). Apparently he drew illustrations in the margins of his copy (31 in the first edition, 500 in the second, both by subscription only as the material was racy). But are the illustrations in this collection? I don’t know because the editor doesn’t tell me.

In short, good art in an unsatisfactory edition.

Edited to say: It suddenly occurs to me that the intended audience might be people who want to look at porny pictures. In which case, well edited. For people who want to know about the art, not so much.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
# 42 Joanna Russ, To Write Like a Woman (1995), # 43 Joanna Russ, The Country You Have Never Seen (2007)

Both of these are collections of essays written in the 1970s and 1980s by Joanna Russ, but *To Write Like a Woman* is a much stronger collection. Definitely go for that one over *A Country You Have Never Seen*.

*A Country You Have Never Seen* has:

* Reviews of books written in the late 1960s and 1970s. They are mostly of historical interest. It is fascinating, for instance, to read of Anne McCaffrey as a newcomer.

* Letters to the editor which are interesting. But you only get half the conversation. You don't have the articles she was responding to.

* Articles on feminism and science fiction. But the ones in *To Write Like a Woman* are far, far stronger.

Indeed, *To Write Like a Woman* has some great essays, especially those that explore the idea that women as a class have different experiences and so produce a different sort of literature. (An idea which can of course be extrapolated to consider race, class and sexuality).
emma_in_dream: (Default)
# 41 - Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1984)

I love this work for its subversive overview of literature. Russ talks about why women's writing doesn't make the canon of 'great' literature, about why the idea of a canon is ridiculous. The book bristles with anecdotes and glimpses of lost women writers.

And it's a snappy, funny read, which is unusual in the area of literary criticism (with the exception of Marxist Terry Eagleton).

But the racism! Oh dear, the racism! Russ gets to the end of her book and then, in the Afterword, realises she has left out black people so she adds a series of quotes from black writers compiled at the last minute (and not actually about the experience of writing).

I am conflicted here. On one hand, kudos to her for realising (albeit belatedly) that she had overlooked a massive group of writers. On the other, couldn't she have done more? It's really the very definition of tokenism. But on my third hand, she does do a waaaaay better job of incorporating race in her later work - *What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism* (1997) - so maybe that is where we should turn.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
# 40 Maureen T Reddy, Martha Roth, Amy Sheldon (Eds), Mother Journeys: Feminists Write About Mothering (1994)

'Feminist mothering involves coming up against social expectations for how to be a mother that lack appropriateness, truth, or even meaning for women. Each woman is left with the potentially creative task of resisting and transforming the socially dominant ideas of motherhood in order to fashion her own truth of the experience.'

This collection includes two lesbian writers who talk about their experiences as mothers. Sarah Bruckner writes about the process of adopting her two children while keeping the reality that she lived in a committed lesbian relationship away from the social workers. The horror of this blows my mind. Judy Remington writes about having adolescents and grown children, a more happy essay.

I found the small presence of lesbian mothers in this collection a refreshing change as usually writing about motherhood is all about the presumption tat there is a man in the background.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
# 39 - James Gardiner, A Class Apart: The Private Pictures of Montague Glover (1992)

Montague Glover was born in the late 1890s and fought in World War One. He took photographs of men he slept with - starting with soldiers and moving on to men he met in the 20s and 30s. In the 1930s he met Ralph Hall, a working class man who became his live in chauffeur and partner for fifty years.

By chance, the records of their lives survive. This book shows Monty's photos of his friends, an excerpt from his diary in the first world war, and letters Ralph wrote to him in the second world war.

This is a really sweet collection. My favourites are Ralph's letters, which have erratic spelling but obviously come from the heart. 19 December 1942: 'This is a XMASxxxxxGIFT from your one and only darling. You dont know how much I miss you Monty. I love you darling so think good of me sweethart.'

I also adore the photos of Ralph, almost all of him clothed and leading his everyday life. There is only one nude in the entire collection. Mostly what you get to see is the very handsome Ralph gradually aging, culminating in a portrait of him in a 1970s lounge room with a ridiculously massive proto-stereo.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
# 38 - Brenna and Vicki Harding, Going to Fair Day (2002)

I’m sneaking this one in though the author is not gay. The text was written by the six year old daughter of the illustrator (who is a lesbian).

Going to Fair Day is part of the Learn to Include series, an Australian non-profit that publishes inclusive books: http://www.hotkey.net.au/~learn_to_include/

My daughter (who is two and a half) loves this book. She calls it the castle book as the little girl in it jumps in a bouncy castle with her friend Jed from school. This exemplifies what I like most about this book - that the queer families are so normalised. My daughter focuses on the bouncy castle, not on the information that Jed is at the fair day with his two Dads.

Likewise, on the first page she does not focus on the text ‘I have two Mums’. She likes that page because it shows the little girl squirting sun screen on her nose.

The text is simple enough that I read it all to her; it could be read independently by a child of six or seven I would think. The illustrations are neat, particularly the small greedy dog which recurs in the background nibbling on people’s food. And, as a bonus, it’s Australian so the little girl gets two Mums instead of two Moms, which is a nice change.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
# 37 - Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeffrey D Smith, Debbie Notkin (Eds), The James Tiptree Award Anthology, vol I (2005)

The James Tiptree Award Anthology showcases writing that explores or expands gender. In the midst of writing about gender, the authors often contemplate sexuality. And some of the authors are gay, like Geoffrey Ryman who wrote 'Birth Days' which considers a future in which the gay gene is discovered and gay men can have babies.
emma_in_dream: (uhura)
# 36 - Lawrence Schimel and Carol Queen, Switch Hitters (1996)

Lesbians write gay male erotica and gay men write lesbian erotica. It's a mixed bag: some of the short stories have plausible characters and interesting plots. Others have nothing but sex.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader (1925)

I was lucky enough to get a book voucher as a baby shower gift and I spent it on me, me, me. Having reread my collections of Woolf essays I thought it would behoove me to read her *Common Reader* which, after all, contained the essays she thought were the best and most cohesive.

And she was right. It really is a very good collection. Astute, amusing, insightful though not her feminist best.

Mary Renault, The Last of the Wine (1956)

My favourite Renault of all time, this is the story of Alexias, a young Athenian of good family who comes of age at the end of the Peloponnesian wars. He narrates the story of his love for Lysis and his studies with Sokrates. The well developed relationship between Lysis and Alexias is one of my favourite parts of the novel.

The other aspect I really like is the way Renault conveys the terrible feeling of living at the dying days of an empire or way of life. The only other novel I can think of that does it so well is, cough, Margaret Mitchell’s *Gone with the Wind*. Only *The Last of the Wine* does it without the racism and the apologies for the Klan. It is incredibly moving to see the slow decay of their whole way of life, their whole society, brought on by the hubris and over-extension in war.
emma_in_dream: (Bronte)
Back in the 90s I read a list of the authors most frequently referenced in academic papers in the humanities. Lenin and Marx headed the list - a hang over from the compulsory Marxist historicism in the Eastern bloc. Virginia Woolf was the highest ranked woman, possibly the only woman from memory.

A large part of those references would have been to *A Room of One's Own* which basically outlines a whole program of feminist research for future historians and literary critics, a program enthusiastically taken up in recent years.

It is definitely my favourite Woolf. It combines close literary analysis (the section on *Jane Eyre* is outstanding) with an overview of literary and social history, and outlines what we don't know about women and literature. And it is all written in such an incredibly amusing way - deftly, often stingingly, funny.
emma_in_dream: (avon)
#30 - Tanya Huff, The Fire’s Stone (1990)

This is one of Tanya Huff’s earlier works, and you can see this from the clunkiness of the action scenes. It’s high fantasy so there are a lot of sword and sorcery scenes - so that’s a shame.

I do like it a lot, though. Because it has a canonical bisexual pairing which is rare and partly because I like the ridiculously over-the-top heroism of the characters.

#31 - Terry Wolverton, Insurgent Muse: Life and Art at the Woman’s Building (2002)

Terry Wolverton’s biography is fascinating. She was involved with the Woman’s Building in LA in the 1970s to 1980s. This was the place where the American west coast feminist art movement coalesced.

Wolverton is a writer and a performance artist and she worked as an administrator and fund-raiser at the Woman’s Building in the 70s and 80s. The book provides a really interesting insight into the lesbian art scene in the 1970s, the feminist art movement, the history of women’s art and separatist art, and also Wolverton’s personal creativity.

What I find most interesting is the tension throughout the book in the vision of the Woman’s Building. It was intentionally an outsider organisation, showcasing feminist art. But this vision always made it difficult for it to survive as a long-term proposition (and indeed it folded in the 1980s with the Reagan era move to prudery and funding cuts).

#32 - L Timmel Duchamp and Eileen Gunn, The Wiscon Chronicles: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution and the Future (Vol 2), 2008

This is a miscellany arising from Wiscon 31 (2007) - the feminist sf convention.

As is apparently customary for Wiscon, there was a very focussed online row following the convention - in 2007 about race and revolution.* The pieces include a partial transcript of a panel on race and revolution which sparked the debate, reflective pieces on the panel, pieces written in the immediate aftermath and pieces written some time later.

There are also a range of other papers, including prognostications by authors on the issues likely to be pressing for feminists at Wiscon ten years in the future.

The key word for me was ‘range’. The collection has male and female authors, gay and straight, and a lot of non-WASP authors. I really enjoyed reading a collection where the effort had been made to ensure diversity.

* In 2010 the row has begun before the convention. See: http://community.livejournal.com/wiscon/


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