review of Amanda Cross's "The Players Come Again"
2114. "review of Amanda Cross's "The Players Come Again""
- the complete version of my review
- credited to: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
- published on my "Critic" website on September 28, 2022
Amanda Cross's "The Players Come Again"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 24-28, 2022
I often look for writers new to me to read. This search seems most prominent in crime fiction & science fiction but, really, it's across the board in every area. This is the 1st bk I've read by Cross. It's called "A Kate Fansler Mystery" & Cross is advertised on the back cover as the "queen of the American literary whodunit". I don't know what the rest of Cross's work is like but this seemed less like crime fiction, less like a "whodunit" & more like a novel w/ a feminist bone to pick. That, for me, was both its strongest AND its weakest point - strongest b/c that made the work somewhat unique for me as a mystery & weakest b/c the bone being picked was too propagandistic for me & that detracted from my narrative engagement. It begin sw/ a quote from Virginia Woolf:
""The sweetness of this content overflowing runs down the walls of my mind, and liberates understanding. Wander no more, I say; this is the end. The oblong has been set upon the square; the spiral is on top. We have been hauled over the shingle, down to the sea. The players come again."
The Waves" - p -ii
Quoting Woolf is a sort of warning to me of things to come on the propagandistic end of things. When I was in the bkstore business I was very aware of the many volumes of Woolf letters that were available. Woolf was obviously a highly respected writer. I read her "Mrs. Dalloway", "Orlando", & "The Voyage Out". I expected to like "Orlando" the most but remember being disatisfied w/ it.. it seemed to lose narrative force. I enjoyed "The Voyage Out" the most. I still need to read more by her. At least one person has recommended "The Waves" to me as the most experimental of her novels.
Saying "warning" in the above paragraph is a bit too heavy-handed. Woolf, Cross, & 'James Tiptree Jr.' (Alice Sheldon) all committed suicide. I'm more or less always saddened by suicides & sympathetic to them enuf to wish they'd been happier. But another thing that they share in common is that they were all wealthy people who complained about the maltreatment of women, themselves included by implication. From my POV they were, instead, very privileged & enjoyed a lifestyle so spoiled that it's hard for me to feel any sympathy for them. I have far more profound sympathy for working class women in prison who got mandatory life sentences w/o parole than I do for someone who feels that they're not reaping the full benefits of what's, nonetheless, a very entitled class position. That sd, I think Sheldon is a great SF writer. I might feel that Cross is a great writer too after reading more by her.
"Kate bethought herself, laughing, of John le Carré, in whose books she delighted. Now, if one could only get John le Carré's British secret service to do the groundwork for a biography. In five days, they could discover all there was to know about a person's past, present, and likely future: they tapped telephones, undertook interviews on phony excuses, learned all a person's haunts, habits, what and where they drank, ate, made love, hung out, and worked. Of course, the subject of the secret service's remarkable endeavors was alive and in a position to spy for England." - p 15
THAT took me by surprise: 1st: a liking for Le Carrés work, something referred to more than once in the novel; 2nd: an uncritical admiration for the surveillance state.
"Tapping telephones, in the end, might give you information, but it did not give you understanding. Kate smiled. Thanks be for the unpredictabilities of human nature. It was not that the likes of Hoover and the British secret service lacked for answers; what they lacked was the right questions.
"Which a biographer might ask? Which she, Kate Fansler, might ask? Kate had a totally indefensible belief in destiny" - pp 15-16
I'd say it's considerably more than a matter of the "right questions" but, instead, a matter of an inflexible sense of duty to oppressive ideological norms as opposed to a liberatory attitude - or "understanding", as Cross expresses it. Fansler, the detective-professor, has the job or writing a biography, not one of discovering the grounds for prosecution or persecution thru surveillance.
"All of Kate's "cases" had called upon, if not exactly needed, her literary skills honed in the world of academic criticism and scholarship. She attracted those cases which called for her particular talents, or which seemed to. That was why she was not, all other more obvious reasons apart, a private investigator rather than a professor of literature." - p 16
That intrigued me. It also helped prompt me to learn more about the author & the degree to wch Fansler is the author's avatar.
"Carolyn Gold Heilbrun (January 13, 1926 October 9, 2003) was an American academic at Columbia University, the first woman to receive tenure in the English department, and a prolific feminist author of academic studies. In addition, beginning in the 1960s, she published numerous popular mystery novels with a woman protagonist, under the pen name of Amanda Cross." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolyn_Gold_Heilbrun
Cross / Heilbrun's having been "the first woman to receive tenure in the English department" both astonishes me & endears her to me. I don't know when she got her tenure but given that she didn't get her PHD until 1959 I'll speculate that she didn't get tenure until the 1960s. Whatever the case may be I find it truly shameful of academia to've not recognized any woman's teaching talent in the English department before this time. Of course, the discrimination against women participating in higher education wd be a major contributing factor in that. Maybe there were few contenders for such tenure prior to Cross / Heilbrun's time. Such a ridiculous degree of sexism & bigotry seems like an idiocy of the past but it happened in my lifetime. That's truly disgusting.
Fansler's challenge is to write a biography of the wife of a famous male modernist writer, someone felt to've been neglected & overshadowed by her husband's fame.
"I suspect that, as with many declared masterpieces, his novel was ardently read by scholars and skimmed or ignored by those intelligent ones, few enough in every country, who, uninstructed, read books constantly and eagerly. Unlike Virginia Woolf, but like James Joyce or Marcel Proust, he was more of an academic's than a reader's passion. Perhaps he was nearer to Proust than Joyce. Certianly he stood, as I now understand, together with these two and T. S. Eliot, at the center of modernism as it was conceived in academic departments and learned books and articles. Unlike Joyce or Proust, however, his central character was a woman." - p 29
Whew! As a widely read person I find the above to be completely insupportable & sexist - but also more than a bit twisted given the author's actual position as an academic & her protagonist's position as a scholar. Cross essentially criticizes scholars for ardently reading certain bks & separates them from the "intelligent ones" who she claims read other things. I'm NOT an academic, I'm a self-directed reader, & I've read somewhere between 4,000 & 5,000 bks. I've read, as noted above, 3 by Woolf - & just about everything by Joyce. I've had little interest in Proust &, having read a little by Eliot, close to no interest in T. S.. SO where do I fit in her grossly oversimplistic spectrum? I look for originality & complexity in bks & found them more in Joyce's "Ulysses" & "Finnegans Wake" than just about anywhere else. IMO, the reason why so few people read those 2 works of Joyce's is b/c they find them too difficult, most people don't seek out difficulty. I seriously doubt, tho, that Woolf is read that much either - both Woolf & Joyce seem more like examples of Modernist writers chosen by academics than they are people preferred by Cross' very hypothetical avid reader. That reader, it seems to me, is more likely to read Harlan Cobin or some-such.
"In the years between the time when Dorinda and I met and the time when Nellie came, books were the chief source of our fantasies and the major topic of conversation. I remember with particular clarity when we read Elizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart, and both dreamed that a filmmaker would decide to make a movie of that novel and cast one of us as Portia, the adolescent heroine." - p 34
I've never heard of Elizabeth Bowen but thanks to the mention of her in Cross's novel I've decided to buy one of her bks. I asked the great oracle for a recommendation & got "The Heat of the Day" so, tomorrow, I'll get that one (I'd do it now except that today's a "spend nothing" day for me, my 94th this yr). I like the literateness of this bk, it's different from every other mystery I've ever read.
"But the Capehart, which occupied a huge cabinet, had its own special mechanism. Mechanical hands emerged and turned the record. After the record had been played on both sides, the hands flung it to the other end of the cabinet where it landed on a felt-covered slide. Sometimes the Capehart became angry-at the music, at us, at being overworked?-and it would fling the records across the room." - p 40
I'm a sucker for descriptions of unusual recording playback devices. I like to imagine this one playing one of my records: "Usic minus the Square Root of Negative One" ( https://www.ebay.com/itm/323431803478 ), side 1, perhaps, or "Mechanically Repetitive Rerecorded Records RECORD" ( https://www.etsy.com/listing/235891172/tentatively-a-convenience-mechanically ), side 2. I like imagining that instead of getting angry the Capehart wd fall in love w/ the record(s) & caress them in ways it's never been seen to do before. If anyone has a working Capehart that they'd like me to make a movie of let me know.
While this bk was copyrighted in 1990, it's written about an earlier era in the same century, an era of much more limited conventional options for women.
"Eleanor and her sister-in-law Hilda, who married Emile Foxx, came from wildly disparate backgrounds and classes, but they were alike in being denied a chance even to go to college, much less to prepare for a career not emphatically female. So Eleanor had the choice of training to be a nurse, a schoolteacher, or a secretary, and chose the latter because she had had enough of nursing and children as the oldest in her large family. And Hilda, rich, spoiled, indulged as the recipient of all the luxuries the well-off could afford, had only her beauty and sense of adventure, inevitably sexual, to suggest a way of life." - pp 48-49
"But Gabrielle, Emmanuel's wife, intervened. She took over her grandchild, an act of which Emmanuel heartily approved, and so Nellie lived with them for the most part, as did her father in the late thirties once he had tired of Hilda and his role as husband to a still wildly flirtatious woman. (Peggy Guggenheim was reputed to have insisted that her lovers try all the positions pictured on the walls of some building in Pompeii where women were not allowed to enter but into which Peggy Guggenheim had bribed her way. Whether this is true or not, it was Hilda's boast also." - p 53
"Upon Emmanuel Foxx's death, not long after Nellie's departure for the United States, Gabrielle dropped into obscurity. Literary admirers and adorers put up with their wives if they must as part of the price of the noble man's presence. But without the great author, a wife, unless she is literary executor and a tight guarder of the reputation and literary leavings, like the widow of T. S. Eliot, is as unregarded as his merest belongings, more likely, indeed, considered fit only as rummage." - p 54
& here we have one of the most important themes of the bk: a famous writer's wife received no regard except as his appendage - even if she was possibly very important to his writing. No doubt that's been all too true, all too many times - but wdn't it be more generally true to say that the not-famous spouse is.. not famous in contrast to the famous spouse? - regardless of sex? How many of you know who Agatha Christie's husband was? Or Amanda Cross's? Or Charlotte Bronte's? Or George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)'s? Or Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr)'s? Or Shirley Jackson's? Or Ayn Rand's? Surely many of them had supportive husbands. The point is obvious: if one person in a married couple is famous & the other isn't then the other is of little interest to the public in contrast to their famous spouse. &, yet, when I did an online search for "famous women who overshadowed their husbands" I only got results for women artists who were overshadowed by their husbands no matter how I phrased it.
Let's take the example of James Tiptree Jr. Some emphasis has been placed on Tiptree using a man's name, as George Eliot & George Sand did in the 19th century, in order to overcome bias against women writers - &, yet, Tiptree / Sheldon came from a wealthy family w/ an in to the publishing industry thru her mother who was a published safari writer. Tiptree's earliest publishing was w/ of her drawings as a child illustrating one of her mom's bks - how many people have opportunities like that?! There were other women SF writers contemporaneous w/ Tiptree that didn't need to pretend to be men in order to succeed: Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, etc.
For the latter half of Sheldon's life her husband pd the bills while Sheldon devoted her time to writing. She eventually murdered her husband, reputedly as a mercy killing &/or as part of a suicide pact, & then killed herself. Now imagine that situation reversed: a woman works to support her husband's creative endeavors. The husband kills her & then kills himself. Wdn't he be considered by feminists to be an archetype of a male-as-monster? &, yet, I'm a feminist. I think Tiptree / Sheldon's a great writer & I don't consider her a monster.
"I well remember when, many years later, Queenie Leavis, the wife of that most terrifying and influential critic of his time, F. R. Leavis, admitted in an interview years after his death that she had done all the research for his famous books and written the greater part of them." - p 65
I've never heard of Queenie or F. R.. I do note that F. R. wasn't available to defend himself or give an alternative story. Strangely?, in my life, I've also noted that it's quite common for women to lie & for them to be malevolent. Funny how that never seems to enter into feminist mythstory such as the above. The woman is depicted as an unimpeachable source while the man's reputation is besmirched w/o any apparent conscience or qualification about the slander displayed.
"When I finally saw her, when Gabrielle opened the door and stood aside for me to enter, she claimed my attention with a sudden pungency no one, not even Nellie when she arrived in America, not even Dorinda, when I first saw her, had equaled." - p 67
The story that Kate Fansler is to unearth for her commissioned biography is slowly revealed thru the testimony of the people who'd met her subject while she was still alive.
"I had said the right thing. Later I would wonder if those words forced from her were indeed her words, or, like the words of masochistic women in pornographic novels, men's fantasies, really, women saying what men wanted them to say, pretending to feel what men wanted them to feel." - p 73
Ah, more mythstory - not even necessarily feminist. Men are depicted as forcing the narrative of male-female relations in a self-serving direction. From my own experience, masochists, male or female, aren't people I want to be around - the same goes for sadists. Fantasies of masochism in women in my life have originated w/ them. One woman told me I'd be a good "dungeon master", another told me I'd be a good "pimp". Others have wanted to be tied up, others have wanted me to play a role in their rape fantasies, one woman wanted to be strangled during sex. None of these fantasies were mine, none of them were things that I wanted any part of - so why depict such crap as originating w/ men? It seems to me that they originate w/ women AND men. Personally, I'd rather be lovers w/ a woman who's a talented musician, someone I can collaborate w/, someone who enjoys sex for the physical orgasmic pleasure of it - these people who only seem to enjoy sex if there's some sort of dominance dynamic to it are highly unappealing to me - that means that I don't want to dominate their narrative & I don't want them to dominate mine.
Anne has visited Gabrielle where Gabrielle gifts her all her writings - wch may or may not demonstrate the extent of her importance to the writings of her famous husband.
""Take the papers. All of them. I've written it out for the landlady, I wrote it before, I had only to put in your name last night. Don't leave without the papers." She pointed to a sack near her chair; I could see that she had begun packing the papers into it, probably last night. She had overdone it and collapsed." - p 75
The complaints about women's plight continue:
"Gabrielle died some years later. I have continued to pay the rent on the vault in the London bank. I was able to return to my old job in the publishing firm; I was too good to let go, and women could be paid so little then, and given so much responsibility and so little recognition, that the publishers would have been foolish not to take me back." - p 78
One might think, from reading passages like this, that women workers were all slaves & that men were all riding high - but the character's working for a publisher - how hard cd that really be?! In 1978 I was working as a hard-wood floor finisher, <that was hard work>, I started off at $2 an hr, less than the minimum wage of the time. It was not too uncommon for me to work 12 hr days, w/ a minimum of 3 additional unpd hrs travel time, w/ a 10 minute lunch break & no other breaks. It seems that the author likes to ignore, say, coal miners, an all male profession, in favor of focusing exclusively on the ways women have been exploited. To me, it's not men that's the problem, it's capitalism, it's humanity. If you want to take a hard cold look at exploitation, look at the horrifying González sisters in Mexico.
HOWEVER, to be fair, the author has the literary detective married to a supportive husband who loves her & who has his own substantial life apart from her.
"Russell Baker had, he reported, once announced to his wife: "I'm going upstairs to invent the story of my life," Kate echoed him to Reed: "I'm going to invent the story of Gabrielle's life. But, like a good biographer, I shall search for the evidence to substantiate my interpretations."
""Like a good detective, too," Reed had answered. "You never fail to astonish me; it's the reason I married you, in case you didn't know. You're the only person I know well who continues to surprise me. Most people confine themselves to adequarely fulfilling one's ample expectations."" - p 82
Now who's the writer having the characters say what they want them to say in order to have them fulfill an idealized gender role?
"here Hansford assumed the pose of Judith as a statue-"remarkable after her stormy activities of renunciation, and announced that Emmanuel Foxx never wrote Ariadne, or at least that he didn't write all of it. 'Any woman could tell you that,'" - p 91
Now, Emmanuel Foxx is an imaginary character, as is Gabrielle, so in this fictional world that cd be quite true - but it seems that the author's intention is to imply that this is the case w/ many works attributed to men. There may be cases where that's true, I don't know of any, personally, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. However, if that's true then, to me, it's equally likely to be true that there are instances where a woman gets credit for something that a man actually did.
Here's an example from my own life: In 1988, my girlfriend & I went to Scotland for a festival that a friend of mine organized. I was the one invited to participate in the festival b/c I'm a neoist & so was the organizer. I'm also a moviemaker & a performer so I had work to present as part of the festival. Laura was none of those things. I made a movie & a bk to document this trip. B/c Laura was my traveling companion I included her as substantially as seemed appropriate.
The bk is entitled "Yet Another Slow-Burning Feast of a Few Months' Mischief in the U.K., Maybe (A Partially Epistolary Account of Non-Non & Non-Participation, Maybe)". I conceived of, edited, laid-out, & published the bk. I credited it as being: "FROM: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & Laura Adele Trussell". This was my 2nd published bk, the 3rd that I'd written at that time. Laura has no other bks. The inside front cover is a picture of Laura. The next 24pp are ones that I either wrote or ones that I collaged using relevant things from the trip. The next page was provided by Laura. The following 5pp are from me. The next page is from Laura. The next 33pp are from me. The following page is a letter written by both Laura & myself. The next page is from the festival, the last page is from Laura. It's fairly obvious in most instances wch pages originated from wch person since each of us have our names on the pages.
A minimum of 62pp are from me, a maximum of 5pp are from Laura. - &, yet, on WorldCat, the catalog of works available in libraries, this work is listed under "Laura Adele Trussell" & NOT under "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" as is the movie that I made of the trip. The movie, at least, is listed under my name too - but not the bk. Now why is that? 1st, & most obviously, the name "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" is difficult for people to accept as a name - therefore, when a more 'normal' name is offered, that name is more likely to be chosen. 2nd, let's face it, there's bound to be some sexism at play. This, however, is not Laura's doing - she's not responsible for this miscrediting, whoever the librarian was that made the catalog entry is - & that librarian cd very well be a man (or not).
If one wants to look for an example of a woman being exploited by her lover in the annals of "High Modernism" need one look any further than Alice B. Toklas being exploited by Gertrude Stein?
"Janet Malcolm's focus in Two Lives is on the writing of biography, especially the biography of a couple - here, the ebullient Gertrude Stein and her ugly, much exploited lover, Alice B. Toklas - and, behind that, the construction of identity itself"
"In the early 1930s, Stein wrote The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas as a way of praising her own genius"
"the little evidence she had suggested that Dorinda was likelier to be cooperative on impulse rather than on deeper thought or, worse, consulation with her husband, Husbands have a way of counseling caution; Kate did not yet know that this particular husband was caution personified." - pp 102-103
Sometimes it seems like this bk is just one sexist stereotype after another w/ the ostensible plot being just the skeleton to hang them on. In the personal world of my observation, I don't find husbands to be any more 'cautious' than wives. Given that marriages, in general, are, IMO, conservative, I think that there's a general tendency in them for one spouse or the other or both to stress caution if caution is what's needed to keep the married unit from the threat of outside influence.
"["]Shall I tell you something awful? I read recently about a number of women, all gifted, if not geniuses they were remarkably talented, who took up with young men in their old age. And I learned something from that. I've begun collecting these women, I've got four so far. It isn't just that old men are still sexy and old women are not, as I always thought. It's that old men have power. And when old women have it, they become sexy too. Sexy is just another word for clout once you're past forty."" - p 112
I'm sure that for what I call the "Psychological Fucks" clout = sexy before 40. But why is it that biological denialism is so prevalent? Once women go into menopause they're no longer likely to produce children & they're much less inclined to be sexually motivated. Many women will admit this. Men continue to be able to impregnate indefinitely. Certainly this contributes to the 'sexiness' of older men vs the sexuality or lack thereof in older women. A high premium is put on sexiness in our society so it's no wonder that people still want to be considered sexy even after their biological drives have actually lessened - hence the denialism of biology.
Still, despite her well-nigh endless dreary sexism, Cross is capable of depicting her protagonist, Kate Fansler, & her husband as having a friendly non-competitive relationship.
""Correct, oh you dear man who listens. I never thought about what an unusual man you are in that respect until Dorinda mentioned it, indirectly, of course."
""I am an unusual man in every respect, as I thought you knew."
""Not least of all in putting up with me." They both laughed, having had a version of this conversation many times before." - p 114
Still, another sexist implication: men who listen are rare, not people who listen - hence women are excluded from that negative generality. Waddya thinks, folks? Do women listen more than men? Not in my experience. In my experience, most people, of whatever sex, have extremely limited attn spans. PERIOD.
At least she has her literary detective display a sense of self-deprecating humor. That ameliorates the almost constant sexism a bit. But, of course, the stereotype of the oppressive male is back in short order - wch isn't to say that such men don't exist, there're plenty of them - but there's also an ominpresence of the dictatorial matriarch that's completely overlooked in Cross's highly biased worldview.
""Gabrielle kindly took me for short walks in Paris; our absence was hardly noticed, certainly not be anyone but Emmanuel who would suddenly want something, discover she wasn't there, and insist she must be found at once. I think she was a kind of talisman for him, something he felt lost without. Everyone would come rushing to search us out-we were always sitting in a café not far off-and Gabrielle would have to go back,["]" - p 119
Oh, gee, these helpless men, what wd they do w/o the women that they enslave? Aside from do things like build bridges & houses & otherwise physically create the infrastructure that both men & women live in but that women rarely have anything to do w/ the construction of.
"She had, however, long ago become convinced that the dead had a right to their privacy, that consequently Gabrielle's relationship to Emmanuel Foxx did not permit the betrayal of her personal papers. She had therefore burned all her letters from Gabrielle and all the other letters from Gabrielle she had been able to acquire. So she could not produce any letters for Kate's or anyone else's use" - p 128
I find that to be an interesting detail, I wonder if in this day & age such a belief in privacy is as common as it might've once been.
So far, the detective hasn't really been doing much detection.
""Wholly inaccurate," Kate said with more emphasis than seemed warranted. "Sorry to be so downright about it, but I'm not really a detective and certainly not a private investigator. For one thing, they get paid."
""But you have solved crimes; even murder, no?"
"Kate noticed that Nellie, perfect in so many languages, occasionally permitted herself a foreign intonation. "Not exactly," Kate said. "That is, yes, but with reservations."
""Reservations?" Nellie was clearly puzzled.
""A joke," Kate said. "Woody Allen's. His response when he was asked if he was Jewish."" - p 134
Ahh.. some refreshing humor.
"["]I don't want the story of Gabrielle's life, or Emile's either, to come out. They were sad lives, and I don't think there's much point in writing about them. I mean, I don't think you'll be missing out on much by not doing the biography."
"not much, Kate thought, just the whole basis on which I've planned my life for the next five years or so. Well, did that really matter? Damn it, Gabrielle mattered. She remained this enigma in the center of this great phenomenon of high modernism. Surely she had a right to be heard. And how did Nellie know she might not have wanted her story to be told?" - p 145
Let's return to the example of Alice B. Toklas & Gertrude Stein:
"the topmost peak of High Modernism, Stein kept a series of private notebooks which, later, as the second world war loomed, she sent to Yale's Beinecke Library for safe keeping. They are an intimate record of her thoughts and imaginings, among them not only ideas for her work, especially the massive and unreadable The Making of Americans, but assessments of her friends, and her 'friends'. Not long after her death in 1946, the notebooks were studied by a clever, assiduous American doctoral researcher, Leon Katz, who decided to fill in as many of the gaps as he could by going through the text with Toklas. 'From November 1952 to February 1953,' Malcolm writes, 'eight hours a day, four days a week, Toklas received Katz in her sitting room and pored over the notes with him, "line by line word by word".' The subjects of these lines and words, often unflatteringly depicted, inevitably included Toklas herself. In exchange for a promise from Katz that he would not publish his research, she became indiscreet.
"To this day, Katz has kept his word, though he was arguably released from it by Toklas's death as long ago as 1967 and has not lacked offers from publishers."
"Only Eleanor had received Kate in her home. For all Kate really knew, the other three might live in spaceships circling the globe. Anything, Kate was beginning to think, was possible with those three." - p 150
I, on the other hand, found the women that Fansler is interviewing to try to get information about Gabrielle from to be basically unremarkable - even by the bland mediocre standards of the average sheltered academic.
&, then, of course, we get back to the oppressive male: even w/in the context of the novel there's no proof offerred of this, it's just sexist stereotyping.
""You can't imagine even for a moment that Emmanuel Foxx the great creator could have borne her writing anything at any time. He was the writer, she was his muse, at least at best; his minion, really, not to say his servant. She kept all her writing secret, all tucked away. I don't know when she began writing; no one does. It's possible that she wrote the greater part of it all after Foxx's death, when she was alone in Paris." - p 154
& while we're at it, might as well take a shot at fathers, eh?
""Nellie seemed more obviously a relation," Kate said. "Yet you and Nellie were as closely related as the other two. It all seems to go to prove how little difference fathers make."" - p 159
Weeellll, mothers do do the breast-feeding - that's a pretty formative experience. But what do you say, readers? Were you raised by one or the other of your parents & wd you've rather had them both there? My parents got separated when I was 9 & divorced when I was 10. My father never pd alimony or child support nor did he seem to care much whether he saw the kids very often even when my parents were still together. As such, yeah, he didn't matter too much - but, of course, he did matter as far as his dna contribution went. So my father was an uncaring neglectful sort & my mother took care of the business of making sure we had a home & food & clothes. She was also a narrow-minded insufferable dictator. It wd've been good to've had my father around to try to ameliorate her self-appointed role as queen.
But let's learn some more about men, shall we?
"["]And you know that Theseus forgot to hoist the white sail when he neared home, and his father, thinking his son dead, killed himself. My analysis is," Dorinda concluded, sipping her sherry, "that Theseus had this unconscious wish to kill his father: all men's unconscious wishes have to do with killing and triumphing" - p 167
Well, wait, if Theseus's father thought that his son was dead, given that "all men's unconscious wishes have to do with killing and triumphing", shdn't he have rejoiced that his son was kaput? Oddly, Fansler misses her husband - maybe he's on drugs that subdue his natural primary urges to kill her.
"Kate crawled to Anne's side of the floor and looked. She read a page, and then picked up other pages from other piles, moving, amazed, from one pile to the other, reading pages from all of them. Suddenly she found herself wishing Reed could be there now, lounging in one of his pushed-back chairs with his long legs stretched out, sharing her excitement and delight. But there was only Anne." - p 184
""Start with Campbell," Kate said, handing the book to her with the sentences marked off. "First is a quotation from Martin Nilsson about the Minoan religion. The second and third are Campbell himself; all of these points, however, are from Evans and the substance, if not these exact words, would have been known to Foxx, who chose not to notice them, and to Gabrielle, who (and this is my point) did notice them:"" - pp 189-190
""The culture, as many have noted, was apparently of a matriarchal type. The grace and elegance of the ladies in their beautifully flounced skirts, generous decolleté, pretty coiffures, and gay bandeaux, mixing freely with the men, in the courts, in the bull ring-lovely, vivid, and vivacious, gesticulating, chattering, even donning masculine athletic belts to go somersaulting dangerously over the horns and backs of bulls-represent a civilized refinement that has not been often equalled since." - p 190
As an anarchist, I find there to be no good reason whatsoever why a dominance by any particular group of people, whether distinguished by sex (patriarchy, matriarchy) or money or whatever, wd rule in any way that wdn't ultimate involve the subjugation of part of the population to some sort of unwanted servitude. Certainly many patriarchical cultures have included the "elegance of the ladies in their beautifully flounced skirts" etc. The main thing that might typically be missing wd be "somersaulting dangerously over the horns and backs of bulls", something that I seriously doubt has been common in any society. "The Players Come Again" just drags on & on w/ sexist myth meant to glorify women & to demean men. The problem, from my POV, is humanity wch I find degrading itself over & over again.
"Her Crete was a civilization that feared the violence and brutality of foreign men. Crete was a matriarchy in the sense that the priests and the queen were women; but its men flourished as well: they were neither slaves nor concubines nor housekeepers nor mere objects of affection or desire. Their life was full on Crete, athletic, artistic, gentle, and vibrant. Gabrielle was careful to demonstrate that maleness was not confirmed by violence, certainly not by violence against women or those weaker than themselves. By the beginning of Gabrielle's novel, the civilization on Crete knew that other nations, and particularly Greece, honored male brutality and cruelty, and sent its men to find their rewards for war in rape and carnage and destruction of other lands." - p 203
& here is where I finally find myself more on the same page as the author's. At least there's an acknowledgment that maleness is not "confirmed" by violence. Also, how cd I argue against any statement that humans, usually men, regularly wreak havok thru war & other forms of systematized violence? Where I differ is in thinking that ANYONE who seeks out & finds power, either politically or religiously (to refer back to the passage above), is inevitably the scum that rises to the top. There is nothing good about a Queen, there is nothing good about a King. A religion run by women is still a system of mind-control predicated on 'higher authorities' represented by the power-hungry on Earth.
""Look here, as you may have noticed, being a feminist or at least suggesting that patriarchy is not the most divinely perfect scheme ever devised hardly leaves me unassaulted and unridiculed even in these more or less feminist times.["]" - pp 207-208
I'm a feminist.. but I'm a man - that's likely to make me be considered a '2nd class feminist', a feminist allowed to be one by women but easily rejected as such. It seems possible to me that my review will be taken as being offensive - but a part of what I'm questioning here, aside from just calling it as I see it, is whether feminism is really a school of thought that centers around a reverance for matriarchy & a heavy use of sexist generalizations about men. For me, feminism is something that holds its own against the sexism of patriarchy, something I whole-heartedly endorse - but I don't endorse systems of thought where one notion of supremacy is fought against w/ a different system of supremacy. A revolution that puts new scum in power to replace the old scum is NOT one I want to dance to.
""I do think, dear Simon, that you, that is to say your publishing house, will do wonderfully well with this novel. My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that it will alter everyone's view of high modernism, it will bring gender to the foreground of what had previously been a rather reactionary and male literary period, and it will get a great deal of attention indeed."" - pp 215-216
What's one of the strangest, & most objectionable, things about the author's literary history is the way that, to her, high modernism originated exclusively from men: Joyce, Proust, & Eliot. Why doesn't she include Stein & Woolf?! I really don't get it. They were both very famous & Stein seems arguably as modernist, if not more so, than any of the others. Wikipedia lists 33 modernist women writers ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_modernist_women_writers ). Okay, that's me looking it up in 2022. I still have "The World Book Encyclopedia" (1958) that I used as a child so I looked up "Modernist" & got only "Modernism" wch redirected me w/ "See Church of England". James Joyce has a 3 paragraph entry, Gertrude Stein gets FOUR paragraphs.
In the end, I can't really recommend this bk.. & I can't dismiss it either. I'll probably read something else by Cross - but if it's as sexist as this one I doubt that I'll give her a 3rd try.
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