Saturday, August 4, 2007

Rebecca Walker and Katie Roiphe Revisited


I've moved on from Wendy Shalit's Girls Gone Mild to Katie Roiphe's Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910-1939, which I'm considering, along with Rebecca Walker's latest, Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood after a Lifetime of Ambivalance, for another piece I'm writing. Both these books received some virulent public thrashing, but I have to say, I read Walker's from cover to cover yesterday without stopping. I've always found her style compelling, and the writing here is crisp. Could my interest in her subject matter have anything to do with the fact that I'm newly fulltime obsessed by pregnant women? Natch. (Marco is, too, as last night at dinner al fresco he commented to me, "There must be a boom. Every other woman seems pregnant on the Upper West Side." And it's entirely true. It's not just the maternity fashion everyone seems to be wearing. At least, I don't think it is. Or is it? But I digress.)

As for Roiphe's new book, I've only read the intro so far, but I find it gripping. Michelle Green (who thrashed the book for the New York Times) thought Roiphe failed in making a case for the relevance of "musty dramas" of these Bloomsburys today. Au contraire. Roiphe (pictured above) does an excellent job, in the intro at least, of describing these women, and their consorting men, as "determined to live differently, to import the ideas of political progress into their most personal relations." And she smartly highlights the ways aspects of their myriad personal, political negotiations are still with us. Tina Bennett thought so too. In a June 24 New York Times review, Bennett wrote,
The way the alpha women of Bloomsbury wrestled with their need for love while producing work of the highest quality should be an inspiration to a modern generation of women who, we keep being told, are more and more inclined to give up the struggle and abandon their aspirations.

Not sure I agree with that entire sentiment cough cough, but I do think Roiphe frames her portraits in a topical and newsworthy way. Has anyone out there read the book yet? Would be eager to hear what folks think.

(I'll be eager to hear reactions to my review of GGM over at The American Prospect - stay tuned!)

12 comments:

Veronica said...

I actually liked walker's book. I reviewed it and interviewed her over at Chicago Parent. :)

Deborah Siegel said...

Cool - and thanks for letting us know, Veronica! Here's Veronica's review of Baby Love:

http://chicagoparent.com/cs/blogs/thread/archive/2007/03/28/baby-love-book-review.aspx

-DS

blue milk said...

I really enjoyed Walker's book too and reviewed it on my site. I find it fascinating to read memoirs from feminists talking about their experiences of motherhood - a journey that challenges the very notions of yourself as a feminist (and confirms your feminism), or at least in my experience. I didn't relate to all of Walker's journey, which is no surprise given how personal her memoir was but I certainly related to many parts of it.

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