31 July 2011

Melle Aulitta

"He is a coarse man, but he seemed to mean to be friendly," Melle said. "Coarse" was as harsh a word as she used of anyone. It meant she disliked him very much. But she was uncomfortable with distrust, which did not come naturally to her. By seeing goodwill where there was none, often enough she had created it. The people of the household worked with and for her with willing hearts; the sullenest farmers spoke to her cordially, and tight-mouthed old serf women would confide their sorrows to her as to a sister.

Ursula LeGuin, Gifts, p.91

07 July 2011

Planet Of Exile

The fact remains that in this book, as in most of my other novels, the men do most of the acting, in both senses of the word, and thus tend to occupy the center of the stage. I "didn't care" whether my protagonist was male or female; well, that carefreeness is culpably careless. The men take over.

Why does one let them? Well, it's ever so much easier to write about men doing things, because most books about people doing things are about men, and that is one's literary tradition...and because, as a woman, one probably has not done awfully much in the way of fighting, raping, governing, etc., but has observed that men do these things...and because, as Virginia Woolf pointed out, English prose is unsuited to the description of feminine being and doing, unless one to some extent remakes it from scratch. It is hard to break from tradition; hard to invent; hard to remake one's mother tongue. One drifts along and takes the easy way. Nothing can rouse one to go against the stream, to choose the hard way, but a profoundly stirred, and probably an angry, conscience.

But the conscience must be angry. If it tries to reason itself into anger it produces only guilt, which chokes the springs of creation at their source.

Ursula LeGuin, Introduction to the 1978 Edition of Planet of Exile, pp.ix-x

Feminist Ideology

An ideology is valuable only insofar as it is used to intensify clarity and honesty of thought and feeling, and feminist ideology has been immensely valuable to me in this respect. It has forced me and every thinking woman of this generation to know ourselves better: to separate, often very painfully, what we really think and believe from all the easy "truths" and "facts" we were (subliminally) taught about being male, being female, sex-roles, female physiology and psychology, sexual responsibility, etc. etc. All too often we have found that we had no opinion or belief of our own, but had simply incorporated the dogmas of our society; and so we must discover, invent, make our own truths, our values, ourselves.

LeGuin, p.xi


One thing I seem to have dug up in my work is this: the "person" I tend to write about is often not exactly, or not totally, either a man or a woman. On the superficial level, this means this is little sexual stereotyping--the men aren't lustful and the women aren't gorgeous--and the sex itself is seen as a relationship rather than an act. Sex serves mainly to define gender, and the gender of the person is not exhausted, or even very nearly approached, by the label "man" or "woman." Indeed both sex and gender seem to be used mainly to define the meaning of "person" or of "self." Once, as I began to be awakened, I closed the relationship into one person, an androgyne. But more often it appears conventionally and overtly, as a couple. Both in one: or two making a whole. Yin does not occur without yang, nor yang without yin. Once I was asked what I thought the central, constant theme of my work was, and I said spontaneously, "Marriage."

LeGuin, p.xii

01 July 2011

The Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew had come to life again. They had stopped twittering about Chester's brassie-shot and were thinking of resuming their own game. Even in foursomes where fifty yards is reckoned a good shot somebody must be away, and the man whose turn it was to play was the one who had acquired from his brother-members of the club the nickname of the First Grave-Digger.

A word about this human wen. He was--if there can be said to be grades in such a sub-species--the star performer of the Wrecking Crew. The lunches of fifty-seven years had caused his chest to slip down into the mezzanine floor, but he was still a powerful man, and had in his youth been a hammer-thrower of some repute. He differed from his colleagues--the Man With the Hoe, Old Father Time, and Consul, the Almost Human--in that, while they were content to peck cautiously at the ball, he never spared himself in his efforts to do it a violent injury. Frequently he had cut a blue dot almost in half with his niblick. He was completely muscle-bound, so that he seldom achieved anything beyond a series of chasms in the turf, but he was always trying, and it was his secret belief that, given two or three miracles happening simultaneously, he would one of these days bring off a snifter. Years of disappointment had, however, reduced the flood of hope to a mere trickle, and when he took his brassie now and addressed the ball he had no immediate plans beyond a vague intention of rolling the thing a few yards farther up the hill.

The fact that he had no business to play at all till Chester had holed out did not occur to him; and even if it had occurred he would have dismissed the objection as finicking. Chester, bending over the ball, was nearly two hundred yards away--or the distance of three full brassie-shots. The First Grave-Digger did not hesitate. He whirled up his club as in distant days he had been wont to swing the hammer, and, with the grunt which this performance always wrung from him, brought it down.

P.G. Wodehouse, "Chester Forgets Himself," in The Heart Of A Goof, p.90

"...as women and as Native people..."

Even in the recesses of our psyches we find traces of the male definition of our very beings; it seems an insurmountable task to begin our own myth-making from which to establish role models to guide us out of historical convolution and de-evolution....

....as women and as Native people, we must reconstruct our history with what is left unsaid and not what has been recorded by those who have imposed their authority on us.

Ana Castillo, Massacre Of The Dreamers, p.119, p.111

Male Control

Male control of women manifests itself in many ways and to varying degrees in any given society. My point here is that the issue lies in an archaic system of patrimonial culture, not in "good" or "bad" forms of male protection, "good" or "bad" providers, that is, "good" or "bad" machismo.

Castillo, p.75


Mil colores luce la muerte en el cementerio de Chichicastenango. Quizá los colores celebran, en las tumbas florecidas, el fin de la pesadilla terrestre: este mal sueño de mandones y mandados que la muerte acaba cuando de un manotazo nos desnuda y nos iguala.

Pero en el cementerio no hay lápidas de 1982, ni de 1983, cuando fue el tiempo de la gran matazón en las comunidades indígenas de Guatemala. El ejército arrojó esos cuerpos a la mar, o a las bocas de los volcanes, o los quemó en quién sabe qué fosas.

Los alegres colores de las tumbas de Chichicastenango saludan a la muerte, la Igualadora, que con igual cortesía trata al mendigo y al rey. Pero en el cementerio no están los que murieron por querer que así también fuera la vida.

Eduardo Galeano, Bocas del Tiempo, p.308


Death shines in thousands of colors in the cemetery of Chichicastenango. Perhaps the colors celebrate, on the flower-bedecked tombs, the end of the earthly nightmare: this bad dream of bosses and minions that death stops when, with a powerful slap, she strips and levels us.

But in the cemetery there are no tombstones from 1982, nor from 1983, which was the time of the great massacre of indigenous communities in Guatemala. The army tossed those bodies into the sea, or into the mouths of volcanoes, or burned them in who knows what mass graves.

The happy colors of the tombs of Chichicastenango salute death, the Equalizer, who treats the beggar and the king with equal courtesy. But in the cemetery those who died for wanting life to do likewise are not there.

Eduardo Galeano, Voices of Time, p.308]

"Our Caribbean Civilization"

Since the age of Columbus, the ends of European materialist cultures have not served well the deeply private emotional requirements of the modern but still fragile human animal. The suffocating preoccupation with the acquisition of fame and fortune has directed untold numbers of helpless unreflective unfortunates to search down the wrong streets for psychic sustenance, resulting in a rabid competition of the lost between the unhappy failures and the unhappy successes, the former comparing its troubled insides to the latter's well-varnished outsides.

One sure measure of a society's relative health is its suicide rate. If a society produces large numbers of people who destroy themselves, that society cannot be described as successful under any reasonable definition of the term. Well-adjusted people, people who culturally know, ever so unobtrusively, how to simply be don't kill themselves.

Norway, a nation--as I have indicated previously--of some apparent envy, has, according to the World Health Organization, a suicide rate of 18.2 for males and 6.7 for females per 100,000 people. The United States has a slightly higher rate for males (18.6) and a somewhat lower rate for females (4.4). St. Kitts has a suicide rate for both males and females of zero. The same is true for St. Kitts' English-speaking neighbors of Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Perhaps there is indeed something special about what Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent, calls "Our Caribbean Civilization." To put a converse face on the point: Does Donald Rumsfeld look happy to you? Squint if you have doubts.

Randall Robinson, Quitting America: The Departure Of A Black Man From His Native Land, pp.25-26

The Capitol Rotunda

I thought, then, what a fitting metaphor the Capitol Rotunda was for America's racial sorrows. In the magnificence of its boast, in the tragedy of its truth, in the effrontery of its deceit.

This was the house of Liberty, and it had been built by slaves. Their backs had ached under its massive stones. Their lungs had clogged with its mortar dust. Their bodies had wilted under its heavy load-bearing timbers. They had been paid only in the coin of pain. Slavery lay across American history like a monstrous cleaving sword, but the Capitol of the United States steadfastly refused to divulge its complicity, or even slavery's very occurrence. It gave full lie to its own gold-spun half-truth. It shrank from the simplest honesty. It mocked the shining eyes of the innocent. It kept from us all--black, brown, white--the chance to begin again as co-owners of a national democratic idea. It blinded us all to our past and, with the same stroke, to any common future.

Randall Robinson, The Debt: What America Owes To Blacks, pp.6-7