Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fear of Flying

From Singles 2009

"What happens when people die?" I asked her.

"They don't really die" she said. "They go back into the earth and after a while they get born again, as grass or maybe even as tomatoes."

I've really taken a detour from Burke. This is the problem with the intersection of me and the Brisbane library. At our local branch they have, I believe, two titles by James Lee Burke. So, on my quest to read the collection in order I need to make timely requests from the greater library system to please deliver a book to Chermside library. In the mean time, I find myself tempted to stray. And, "Fear of Flying" fit exactly into that temptation paradigm. First, it was actually a recorded book - and those don't really count as cheating on Burke. Secondly, recently I read "Tipping the Velvet" - lesbian erotic fiction so I thought it was maybe time to read some heterosexual erotic fiction.
But maybe I already was a hostage. The hostage of my fantasies. The hostage of my fears. The hostage of my false definitions. What did it mean to be a woman, anyway? If it meant being what Randy was or what my mother was, than I didn't want it. If it meant seething resentment and giving lectures of the joys of childbearing, then I didn't want it. Far better to be an intellectual nun than that!

But the intellectual nun was no fun either. She had no juice. And, what were the alternatives? Why didn't someone show me the alternatives?

Except, it really isn't. Despite what it says on the "jacket". Despite the amount of sexual activity and the heavy population of "f" and "c" words. Rather, it is a novel about a woman's search for herself. A search conducted in psychoanalysis, in sexual and romantic relationships, with her family and her lovers, in the revolutionary 1960s. Born to an artistic mother in the 1940's who was frustrated by her "choice" to raise her children rather than pursue her art, Isadora internalized the messages of her mother (you can be yourself or you can be a wife and mother) and "good girl" messages of the 1950's America she grew up in.
"...But there it is: I want everyone to love me".
"You lose," Adrian said.
"I know but my knowing doesn't change anything. Why doesn't my knowing ever change anything?"

The middle of the book dragged a bit for me, possibly because this isn't the best sort of book to be just listening to - action is much better for that. It was a fascinating exploration of that time, of being a woman (then/now), and of psychoanalysis (and of how psychoanalytic theory views women.) It has been years and years and years now since I've had to teach personality theory and so it was fun to be reminded of those "heady" ideas. Someday, I'm thinking, I'll read this again.

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