Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Reading 13

Beth Nugent, "At the End of My Life," City of Boys: Stories

Elizabeth is a teenage girl who is just beginning to recognize boys. She has a neurotypically divergent brother, Glen. He does things like catches butterflies out of midair and squashes them, play with dead rabbits, etc. Elizabeth mostly excuses his behavior to peers at school and to her parents. One day, her parents want her to drive Glen to a special school where she can drop him off for the first time and ease his discomfort. She's not interested in doing this, but when she makes a boyfriend, she begins to see Glen's odd behavior as interfering with her potential romance. So despite her love for her brother, she takes the trip. Perhaps I'm too stupid but I don't know the title's relevance to the story.

Ted Hughes, "55 Eltisley," Birthday Letters: Poems

Ted recalls his and Sylvia's home in New England. The upshot of the poem is "I was happy there; you weren't." Ted pined away on these poems for years and years after his wife's death, and then the whole set wasn't released until 1996. Given how much contempt he has for the great Sylvia Plath, I wish these poems had never seen the light of day. I wish I weren't reading them now.

Silvia Federici, "Origins and Development of Sexual Work in the Untied States and Britain," Patriarchy of the Wage

This essay was far too summary, moving too quickly through the developments it was meant to track and muddling different periods. On the positive side of the ledger, though, we can distinguish three phases in which the broad social role of women related to the economy at large, from the industrial era onward. In the early period of the Industrial Revolution, before the advent of heavy industry, government officials and business entrepreneurs didn't give too much of a hoot about regulating family relations or women's lives, provided there was a continuous labor supply. But by the end of the nineteenth century, when stronger (male) workers were needed for the workplace, laws and regulations were developed to regulate how the home ought to be conducted and what a woman could and couldn't do. No surprise that while prostitution was tolerated before, now it came to be viewed as a nuisance to good family life. In the twentieth century, with the rise of the Ford assembly line model, better wages, the promise of suburban life, we begin to see more governmental and social encouragement for women to enjoy the domestic role, and when they didn't enjoy it, it was viewed as an aberration. Despite the muddle, Federici has done a fair job of showing the material conditions that constantly changed the role of family dynamics and of women. Now that the book overall is finished, I can honestly say I learned some things. That counts for something.

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