It was the spinsters who made me.
July 15, 2015 1:55 PM   Subscribe

"Historically, spinsterhood has meant a kind of radical unavailability to straight men, implying either rejection of them or rejection by them or both. This sought or unsought rejection has the potential to be experienced by women as a source of strength. It can mean making the choice not just to set your own terms on the marriage or meat market, but to opt out of the market altogether." [Briallen Hopper for LA Review of Books: On Spinsters.] posted by divined by radio (8 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
A good review of what sounds like a not-very-good book. One tasty bit out of many:
Bolick’s sensuous vision of solitary self-care and self-indulgence recalls the glorious Live Alone and Like It, a classic 1936 self-help guide by Marjorie Hillis that’s listed in Bolick’s bibliography but is never directly cited in her text. But Live Alone is much clearer about its topic than Spinster, and much grittier. Its subject is less sylph-inspired wishes and more, well, living alone. And its brisk, humorous tone is miles away from Bolick’s wistful reveries. Like a true first-wave feminist, Hillis rejects words that define women by their relationship to marriage:
If you are in the habit of thinking of yourself as a widow or a spinster, this, too, is something to get over as speedily as possible. Both words are rapidly becoming extinct — or, at least, being relegated to another period, like bustle and reticule. A woman is now a woman, just as a man is a man, and expected to stand on her own feet, as he (supposedly) stands on his.
posted by languagehat at 2:13 PM on July 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am therefore I am.

I like the pullquote, languagehat.
posted by infini at 2:49 PM on July 15, 2015


and the tag

Yay!
posted by infini at 2:49 PM on July 15, 2015


Chronically unmarried women have long endured the injustice of being set aside, ignored, dismissed, made invisible. This experience of social erasure is at the heart of the drama of many spinster stories. And the irony of Spinster is that, despite its title, it is often curiously committed to ignoring actual spinsters.

This review expresses my reaction to Spinster far more eloquently than I've been able to - it's not a bad book, it's just not a book about spinsters. In fact, the message and the intended audience would be clearer if they had searched the rough draft for 'spinsters' and replaced it with 'rich white women who have boyfriends & lots of leisure time'. If looking at the cover of the book is like looking in a mirror, then the book might be for you.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:30 PM on July 15, 2015


In fact, the message and the intended audience would be clearer if they had searched the rough draft for 'spinsters' and replaced it with 'rich white women who have boyfriends & lots of leisure time'.

Seriously? BAH.
posted by suelac at 4:17 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


A good review of what sounds like a not-very-good book.

Pretty much exactly how I tagged it when I posted it on FB. I loved this:
These five women may not have known much about what it’s like to not become a wife (or about what that would look and feel like!), but their stories allow Bolick to rhapsodize about many of the things she loves the most: magazine writing, interior decorating, New York City. I enjoy all those things too, but I would have enjoyed Spinster a lot more if it had been titled Red-Headed Writers or Dating and Divorce.
posted by kenko at 5:34 PM on July 15, 2015


Some years ago, I found "Live Alone and Like It" in my grandparents' basement; it now has a place of honor on my bookcase. I think it helps a lot that Harris's book is (or at least reads as) a practical guide to living as a modern single (affluent, urban) woman, for a given decade of "modern".

From the reviews, "On Spinsters" appears to promise a survey of the institution as a whole, and then skimps on the delivery. I've often finished a review and decided not to read the book; it's rare that the review itself seems more useful and informative than the book under review.
posted by backstitch at 7:36 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The New Yorker's Daily Shout presents Shannon Reed on "The Spinster Agenda" (may be subject to paywalling... still, such timing)
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:24 PM on July 15, 2015


« Older Capitalism and Racial Identity   |   Compassionate Use, Clinical Trials, and Social... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments