on The Edible Woman and other bits....

Given the mountain of scholarly work out there discussing Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman, I'd have to be ... well, ridiculous to believe "Marian McAlpin reminds me of Peggy Olson" and "I feel like baking a cake now" are serious reflections on this lovely novel.

So, in fear of sounding pretentious or silly, I'm going to keep this pretty light.

Written in 1969, The Edible Woman may well be a blueprint for all the fantastic Atwood symbolism and feminism one expects from her work; she has a way of belittling and magnifying a woman's worries and workings. This work falls in with Cat's Eye or Lady Oracle versus the dystopic Oryx and Crake or The Handmaid's Tale. And so, the "climax" of the novel isn't necessarily anything out of the ordinary -- it just is the point where Marian's so far outside herself, so unable to control herself, that her story becomes both comical and fearsomely edgy.

I have a hard time imagining how this story must have been received in the late 1960s, but that's just because I was born well after its publication, and we all like to think our own times are the most innovative and accepting and modern-thinking.

I also won't presume to isolate what makes The Edible Woman different from Atwood's later works.... but I would argue the use of characters other than Marian to explain what is happening to Marian is very interesting.

For example, one man in her life tells her, "'you're probably representative of modern youth, rebelling against the system; though it isn't considered orthodox to begin with the digestive system.'" (p. 212)

Meanwhile another man, later in the novel, says this about his own wife: "'I think it's harder for any woman who's been to university. She gets the idea she has a mind, her professors pay attention to what she has to say, they treat her like a thinking human being; when she gets married, her core gets invaded.... The centre of her personality, the thing she's built up; her image of herself, if you like....

"'Her feminine role and her core are really in opposition, her feminine role demands passivity from her...'" (p. 261)

In other readings:

There's a fun little brief in this month's issue of The Walrus about a law firm in the States trying to sex up divorce. You'll find it here, if you scroll down to the boxed-in brief called "Splitsville." I haven't a clue why it stood out at me as I was reading, but thought I might share :)

It's finally occurred to me only a truly ridiculous person would pack 22 books -- mostly novels -- along with her to Europe for just one year. Especially when the same person is trying to decide what clothes and shoes and jackets to bring. So, I'm rushing through Beyond the Echo Chamber, highlighting the interesting bits. (For the journos in the crowd, it's a little disappointing so far -- a little more about being "progressive" than embracing social media. But maybe I've not fully grasped the thesis yet. Unsurprisingly, a "working definition" of what it means to be progressive takes about five and a half pages. Academia!)

Not academia!

(h/t Laura and this site)

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