Oberlin Blogs

Ladies of Literature (Plus David Sedaris)

September 20, 2015

Emma Davey ’18

Every time I have a seasonal break, I vow to myself that I will read more. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Although I don't read as much as I used to, which would be impossible because little Emma generally always had her nose in a book, I think it's so important to at least carve a little time out of your life to read. High school pretty much killed all desire for free reading because I was generally so swamped with work that by the time I was done all I wanted to do was watch Netflix. I wouldn't necessarily say that my workload is easier in college, but at least I have only four classes to do work for, and that work can often be interesting, like reading about the ways the patriarchy affects us all or what exactly is environmental racism. Anyways, I made an unofficial vow to myself to not only read more this summer, but to read only books by women. I did slip and read some David Sedaris, but otherwise I fulfilled my mission. I'm trying to keep this up as long as possible. I just finished rereading The Bell Jar yesterday, and I'm very excited to start Mindy Kaling's new book because, let's face it, her first one was a gift. So here goes my list, in no particular order.

Girl in a Band - Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon is definitely one of the coolest people alive. She's done a lot - music, art, fashion, acting, but what she's most well-known for is being a member of Sonic Youth, a band that I've been a casual fan of for a while now. So I was pretty jazzed to see that she had written a memoir and picked up a copy soon after it came out. I read it in a day, partially because it was really good and partially because what else was I gonna do on an eight-hour plane ride? I learned a lot about the New York art scene in the 80s, the indie rock scene in the 90s, and I learned some dirt about both Courtney Love and Thurston Moore. Did you know Thurston Moore cheated on Kim Gordon? Aren't you just so disappointed? That coupled with the numerous celebrity break-ups this year (Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton! Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner! A quick Google search if you're really interested!) is almost too much for my little heart to handle. Also, recently Oberlin was in a bit of a tizzy because Thurston Moore just played a show in Oberlin AND WE ALL MISSED IT. Glad I didn't see him, cause I definitely got some choice words for him...just kidding, I have terrible confrontational skills. Anyways, if you like Sonic Youth or girls in bands, check out this book. Now please enjoy my favorite Sonic Youth song, which is a cover, but my fave regardless.

"Don't you remember you told me you love me baby?" - Kim Gordon to Thurston Moore, probably

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I picked up a copy of this at an English language bookstore in Aix-en-Provence because it was really cheap and the back cover said this about it: "This horrifying, semi-autobiographical feminist story of imprisonment and madness scandalized nineteenth-century society." How could that be bad? It did not disappoint. It tells the story of a woman who moves into an old mansion with her husband in order to rest and recuperate from a "temporary nervous depression." She becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room, and kind of starts to go crazy. The copy I had also came with two additional short stories, both of which I enjoyed as well. To her credit, Charlotte Perkins Gilman had some cool things to say about feminism in her own personal life (some not so great things to say about race, unfortunately), and she definitely seems like an author who never really got the credit she deserved. A quick and creepy read.

Fun Home - Alison Bechdel

There's a reason Fun Home got so much acclaim when it first came out - it's just that good. Save for the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World saga, my experience with graphic novels is pretty limited. Alison Bechdel is a super cool Oberlin alum, whom the Bechdel test is named after. I was curious about this book once the Broadway musical got so much acclaim, and so my mother bought me a copy. The book is autobiographical, mostly detailing Bechdel's complicated relationship with her father, from her childhood up to his death while she was at college. It was a very poignant read and definitely made me feel feelings. Also, some of the book takes place in Oberlin, and it was fun identifying various places in town and on campus.

Naked - David Sedaris

I'm not breaking any new ground here when I say David Sedaris is probably the funniest writer alive. I broke my vow to read only female authors, but since I'm seeing him when he stops in Cleveland in October, I figured it was time to brush up on Mr. Sedaris and his wacky adventures. I don't think he has ever published a story that hasn't at least made me laugh internally. Any of his books are good, and if you haven't read one, I highly suggest you go pick one up.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson

My mom gave me this book after I read Donna Tartt's The Secret History (which if you haven't read, GET ON THAT ASAP). If you went to high school in America, you've read Shirley Jackson before (The Lottery, anyone?) The book centers on the mysterious Blackwood family. They live a secluded life in a small New England town, pretty much refusing contact with everyone except the family. It's creepy as heck and the protagonist, Mary Katherine, is hilarious (at least hilarious if you have a dark sense of humor). She hates everyone who's not her sister and is not afraid to let them know. Like she'll be sitting at dinner with guests and she'll just randomly listing deadly plants and you'll be like "Dang girl, calm down and have a freaking bread roll or something!" It was a pretty quick read and so, so worth it.

Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion

I figured it was high time I read some Joan Didion, seeing as she's so well respected in the world of books. And let me just tell you - she is not pulling any punches with this one. Much like Mary Katherine Blackwood, the heroine of this book, Maria Wyeth, isn't exactly the most likable person. But really, she's the most likable of anyone you're gonna come across in this book. There's not really much of a plot. It pretty much just depicts Maria as she roams throughout Los Angeles engaging in self-destructive behavior. I wouldn't call this a tough read, but it's pretty bleak. I enjoyed it a lot, though.

Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel - Meg Cabot

Just when you think I'm so cool and hip with my high-brow novel choices, I go and throw you for a loop. Honestly, I'm probably the biggest Princess Diaries fan around. It might just have been the thing to spark my feminist awakening (that with the numerous issues of New Moon my mother plied me with). I remember seeing the movie in theaters and being disappointed at the end of the makeover scene because I didn't see why all of a sudden her life gets so much better now that she has straight hair. But that's beside the point. I can extensively quote many scenes in the movie. I have eaten pizza with M&Ms on it (surprisingly good). Whenever I'm in a fancier than normal setting, I try to remember all the etiquette lessons Julie Andrews taught. I have read the entire series numerous times. It is great. I highly recommend it. Even though the series supposedly wrapped up a few years ago, Meg Cabot decided to bless us with another tale in the adventures of Princess Mia. Was it as good as the rest of the series? Eh. I've always related to Mia, seeing as we're both naturally frizzy-haired, shy individuals who'd much rather watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer than have to partake in social interaction. It was kind of strange to see her as a successful adult-person instead of a teenager struggling with teenager stuff. Also, Cabot's writing style is cute when dealing with youth but when the characters are all older, it was a little bit grating. Regardless, if you're a fan of the series, I'd suggest you check it out.

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