I've been excited to read Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own ever since I came across Kate Bolick's "All the Single Ladies" in The Atlantic. I assigned the article to a group of my introductory composition students this fall and many of the boys in my class were none to happy to hear that men are actually falling behind women in the work force and education. They were certain that Bolick's careful research and artful use of statistics were part of some devious feminist conspiracy meant to undermine the gender that should rightly be on top: men.
It's not fair! my boys said. How dare women try to make men feel bad about themselves by pulling ahead! This, they wrote, was exactly what the GOP was talking about when they said there'd been a collapse of the American family system. It was a direct undermining of all of the traditional morals and values our society had been built on since the time of the constitution!
But I teach at a large university in the South, so I digress.
Overall, I found Spinster a pleasure. The nonfiction book is a mix of memoir, journalism, and historical research/biography, with Bolick spending a fair amount of time exploring the lives of the women she considers "her great awakeners:" Maeve Brennan, Neith Boyce, Eda St. Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. We learn about Bolick's personal struggles with dating, her mother's death, and her career alongside the stories of her great awakeners, though at times I longed for a more confessional or emotional tone (something Bolick admits to intentionally resisting in her writing). By the end of the book, the word "spinster" has been successfully reclaimed as something to long for and celebrate. Much like her article "All the Single Ladies," Bolick flips the idea of marriage on its head, showing how remaining single has not only been conducive to her career but also integral to the person she has become.
Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman was originally published in 1969 but reads like a novel that could have been put out today. It also attacks the idea of marriage and the metaphorical disintegration/absorption of women by their husbands. Marian begins to slowly lose control of her body (reflected in Atwood's switch from 1st to 3rd person narration) when she agrees to marry Peter, her longterm boyfriend. She finds that she can longer eat: first meat and other substances that resemble animals, and then fruits, vegetables, and even cake. There are subplots with her roommate Ainsley (who tricks one of Marian's philandering friends into getting her pregnant) and Duncan, an English graduate student who seems to mysteriously pop into and out of Marian's life at all the right moments. Marian's literal inability to eat reads fabulist to me. This was definitely a great read!