Collie Creating
Codex Firestarter

Daughter of "A Temporal Literary Triptych of Women"

by Collie Collier
April 2005 Firestarter column

Last year for April, instead of doing some sort of spoof, I presented three book reviews and titled that Firestarter A Temporal Literary Triptych of Women. It was fun, so I'm doing it again this year -- right down to keeping the subject vaguely oriented on temporal perspectives of women.

This time around, I found I was wading hip-deep in feminist postmodernism -- much to my initial dismay. However, I was fortunate in that two of the stories were written in rather lovely and evocative prose, which made it well worth the effort.

This is not to say I liked every one of the books, but they were all quite interesting. All of them depicted women in varying states of self-awareness, awakening, and independence. All three included examples of postmodern thinking, and (best of all) all three of them made me think.

Why do I label them as postmodern? Here are several definitions of the movement:

  1. A commitment to plurality of perspectives, meanings, methods, values -- everything.
  2. A search for, and appreciation of, double meanings and alternative interpretations -- many of them ironic and unintended.
  3. A critique or distrust of Big Stories meant to explain everything, including grand theories of science and myths in our religions, nations, cultures, and professions that serve to explain why things are the way they are.
  4. An acknowledgment that -- because there is a plurality of perspectives and ways of knowing -- there are also multiple truths.

You'll see all the above in each of the following stories. The first one is part fiction, part factual, starting in 1959 and ending up in modern day. The next is a wild pastiche of time- and dimension-travel, with parts set in the 70's of this world, and parts in two or three other worlds. The final one is in an entirely fictional world of some unknown future place and time. Enjoy!

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

The story of the Price family, following their patriarch as he brings fiery fundamentalism to a Congolese village in 1959

The Female Man
by Joanna Russ

An influential feminist work from 1975 which unfortunately offers hope for women only in a society devoid of men

Les Guérillères
by Monique Wittig

A beautifully imaged prose poem bearing up under excessive hype regarding its postmodern rendition of feminist struggle against male oppression

Reader comments

04.02.05: Don's thoughts

(and my replies)

I'm still in the middle of Papal Sin. Awesome book! Thanks for recommending it. You review so many books. I remember you're a fast reader, but surely you don't read them all cover to cover!

Oh, good, I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying Papal Sin. I thought you might -- I found it an excellent critique, in the thoughtful rather than destructive sense.

Er, if I didn't read all the books completely, how could I possibly review them accurately? ;)

04.02.05: Jonathan's thoughts

(and my replies)

Something about the review of The Female Man and Les Guérillères made me make a connection with a different review someone had made. A journalist had blogged a page-by-page review of Left Behind. (I think they got to about page 60 before giving up in abject horror at the writing. But I digress.) He made a special point about how the Rapture had taken up all these many many people, how all these planes had crashed, all these cars had suddenly had no drivers, all these people and most importantly all these children had disappeared... and there was utterly no reaction from the main characters.

Hell, there was utterly no reaction from the narration, either. Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of people had just disappeared, the airport is in shambles from crashing planes, and all the author makes note of is... traffic is bad. 'Nobody was going anywhere fast.'

Whatthehell? Dude... a sizable fraction of the population just disappeared and the most that the author can say is that traffic was bad on the road out of the airport? (Sadly, nothing in later writing or volumes of the series seems to make it out to be a literary device that the characters -- main, secondary, and ancillary -- simply fail to notice what just happened and focus only on the mundane concerns of such a world-shaking event. They really do all seem to be that dense.)

What makes me bring this up is that you mention a total glossing-over of certain aspects of the culture mentioned in the stories. These are important, key things and people. There's a whole 'nother viewpoint... but the author completely ignores that viewpoint. Does the author not care? Is the author so caught up in themselves that they neglect to present that point of view, or does it simply not occur to them, or, perhaps worse... are they purposely ignoring that POV?

Ignoring (willfully or otherwise) integral perspectives or world-views is a bugaboo of mine, in both fiction and gaming worlds. It's why I can't take seriously the Castle Falkenstein card-based "role" playing game, frex. They postulate a world full of faster-than-light faery riders, huge transcontinental zeppelin travel lines, incredibly efficient magical healing -- but somehow everything turned out exactly the same as it did in our world.

what again?!

Frankly, when I realized they were saying that women had been exactly equal with men throughout most of the 16th through 18th century -- and yet there'd been no noticeable change in gender roles throughout that entire time period -- I was both shocked, and then deeply insulted. Was the author of this silly thing trying to suggest women actually chose to be used, abused, undereducated, under-appreciated, traded, sold, and belittled all through that time period? Or... was he just an idiot?

I desperately hope it's the latter. ;-p