Lesbian dot org – Book Reviews

I published these book reviews first on my own blog (before “blogs” were invented) in the late 1990’s, and then I posted them on lesbian.org when it ran as a blog. I’ve gathered them all here on one page for convenience!

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, by Florence King

ConfessionsFailedSouthernLady

The funniest book I’ve read in a long time, and so wonderfully written. Although King’s southerness ala Virginia is somewhat different from my Georgian version, she captures the essence of this much misunderstood and maligned region of the country with remarkable wit and grace.

Her meditations on femininity and the impossibility of the Southern Belle were especially resonant with my experience, and with my own frustrations at this all-important marker of womanhood I feel sometimes cursed to posses to the Nth degree. All sweetness and light, that’s us suthuhn belles, dontchyaknow!

The Liar’s Club, by Mary Karr

LiarsClub

Even better than Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, and that’s sayin’ something! A poignant, fast-moving memoir about Karr’s difficult childhood, which she survived with great humor, energy and grace.

Prozac Highway, by Persimmon Blackbridge

ProzacHighway

An over-forty lesbian performance artist who suffers from depression and finds her escape on the internet. I love it!

This is one of the best accounts I’ve ever read of net addiction and depression, as well as urban dyke life, though you only hear about that in terms of how the narrator doesn’t participate in it. I can soooo relate. Granted, the prose is not particularly lyrical or poetic, like so much depression literature, but she captures the everyday practical realities of depression right on, I think.

Because They Wanted To, stories by Mary Gaitskill

BecauseTheyWantedTo

Set in hip, urban environments, most of these stories deal with lesbian issues in some way or another, though most definitely *not* in any stereotypical Lesbian Literature ways. Common themes in her stories include running away from home as a teenager, panhandling, prostitution, and kinky sex.

In some ways the content was a total surprise to me, because I vastly misjudged the book by its cover. The little picture of Gaitskill on the back suggests that these will be stories about the intimate struggles of the heart, drawn in fine, delicate lines. And I suppose in some ways they are, though the characters relate to their bodies, to their sexuality and to each other in ways that don’t resonate for me.

A friend  praised her ability to characterize the subtle shifts of thought and feeling that can happen in a person even over a short period of time, but I was struck more by how much I couldn’t relate to the metaphors and images she used to do so. “Are there people who really think like this?” I found myself wondering. Of course no two people perceive the world, or the inner workings of the mind, in the same way, and most people probably think in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend, but it’s rare for me to experience such a marked contrast, especially in a writer I like.

Art and Lies and The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson

ThePassion
ArtAndLies
I think Winterson is one of the most talented and engaging writers I’ve yet read, and of the five novels of hers I’ve read, these two are my favorite. Perhaps as a sign of how wonderfully rich and engaging her work is, I find myself utterly unable to come up with a summary of either.

I will say this of Art and Lies: I think I would rather have had the whole book focus on Handel’s perspective rather than only bits and pieces, although the voices of Sappho and Picasso certainly lend the story a lyrical beauty of a different quality.

Silent Words, by Joan Drury

SilentWords

I don’t normally read this kind of “lesbian fiction,” but I was given the book as a gift for help on a web site so I picked it up for a little light reading, and really enjoyed it.

I actually love these glimpses into lesbian lives that are so different from mine, and there’s something refreshing in reading about women who diverge so much from “mainstream womanhood” yet are the norm in the universe of the novel they appear in. The story is about a woman’s journey into her family’s past in order to make sense of some puzzling secrets and features a wonderful character who has redefined her “primary relationships” in a way I can really relate to.