***Woman on the Edge of Time Group Read--spoiler thread

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2011

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***Woman on the Edge of Time Group Read--spoiler thread

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1ronincats
Abr 1, 2011, 8:33pm

This is the April read for the Future Women series.

2Citizenjoyce
Abr 1, 2011, 10:44pm

Just marking the thread. I'm 50 pages in and loving this book.

3Citizenjoyce
Abr 4, 2011, 6:52pm

How's your reading coming? Anyone else ready to talk?

Connie could have had this done. She still would have been alienated, but wouldn't have felt invisible:
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3508204/Vampire-Woman-bit-back-with-ta...

4drneutron
Abr 4, 2011, 8:04pm

Linked to here on the wiki...

5ronincats
Abr 7, 2011, 8:16pm

Just picked up my copy from the library this afternoon. I have one other book to finish, and then will start this.

6Sakerfalcon
Abr 12, 2011, 7:29am

I'm about 150 pages in, and am completely hooked. I'm finding the present-day scenes more compelling than the future parts though.

7markon
Abr 13, 2011, 11:17am

Making a late start on this one - I'm only a couple of chapters in, but am enjoying it so far.

8Citizenjoyce
Abr 20, 2011, 6:00pm

Someone on the science fiction thread asked for an example of a utopia and I posted this - this has spoilers, but it is a spoiler thread:

Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time has a future in which people live in small communities, work hard, love and/or have sex with whomever they choose, develop their talents, conserve the earth, study whatever interests them, govern communally, mother in groups of 3, no one bears children, they are grown with enhanced technology but any mother (male or female) can breastfeed, children are valued, diversity is cherished, food is good and locally grown, mind altering drugs are enjoyed at celebrations. These people are, of course, at war with those to whom technology, capitalism, and standardization are everything.

I guess a question is whether Connie hallucinates this utopia or whether she is really visited by Luciente from the future. Connie's life is so restricted, one can see how she would revel in such hallucinations, but does she have enough educational background to create them?

9Sakerfalcon
Abr 21, 2011, 5:22am

> 8: "but does she have enough educational background to create them?"

This was the best argument I came up with in favour of the visits being real rather than hallucinations. Also, her strong cynicism, even rejection, at least intially, of what she sees.

I appreciated that even though it is ostensibly a utopia, it is not perfect - people still experience jealousy and are not always 100% satisfied with the lifestyle they have chosen. I guess human nature will always come through even in a perfect society.

10Citizenjoyce
Abr 21, 2011, 3:04pm

That's what I most liked about her utopia, it doesn't ignore human nature, it finds a way to nurture the best of it. Since I've been reading about autism this month, I've been wondering how they would handle disabilities. They could prevent genetic disabilities, and their environment is pretty clean, but all the causes of autism aren't known. Also, people could be very disabled due to the war. She says no one wants to take the time to babysit violent people, that's why they're executed after the 2nd event. What about someone with severe cerebral palsy or other brain or bodily damage? I imagine there would b e people who would rotate through a program of caring for them, but it would certainly not be left up to only family members.

11amanda4242
Abr 23, 2011, 11:38pm

I'm about forty pages in and not really impressed yet.

12Sakerfalcon
Abr 26, 2011, 10:03am

>10 Citizenjoyce:: Interesting thoughts about disabilities/autism. I would imagine that the society would be willing to help and embrace those damaged by events that were not the victims' fault, such as war. I guess as they are in the future they would be aware of autism etc and care for such individuals, even if they were violent, on the grounds that such actions are caused by the condition rather than that person's will. I think that the society would value such individuals' right to life and share the burden of care, based upon the picture Piercy gives us. If the person was able to choose life or death though, I imagine that euthanasia is an option.

Something that struck me about Connie's reaction to the utopia was that even given her own and her family members' terrible experiences with medical care and hopsitals, she still seems to think that that is the best system for healthcare, rejecting what she sees in the future as primitive. She is incredulous when observing the rituals surrounding a person's death as they choose how to go, even when she has seen horrible things in her own time. That amazed me!

13Citizenjoyce
Abr 26, 2011, 1:47pm

Something that struck me about Connie's reaction to the utopia was that even given her own and her family members' terrible experiences with medical care and hopsitals, she still seems to think that that is the best system for healthcare

That does seem strange, but I see it. People who hate hospitals will still choose to have their baby in one thinking that's the safest way. Also, it could be a way of showing that she's not an unsophisticated dunce, which she is seen to be by everyone outside Lucient's world. A sophisticated woman embraces sophisticated medicine. That's another reason breastfeeding rates fell. Women wanted to do the modern thing, which they thought meant the thing best for their babies. Even those on the outside, lower social classes are effected by medical and corporate hype.

14Sakerfalcon
Abr 27, 2011, 1:12pm

Those are good explanations. I've also thought that her negative reactions (to healthcare specifically, and more generally) could be a form of culture shock - when I lived overseas I went through a phase of rejecting anything that wasn't how I was used to, reluctant to see any good in the things that were new or different. I think I thought that acceptance would ultimately mean losing my identity and becoming assimilated to the foreign place; this may be part of what Connie is feeling.

But the parts of the book that I reacted most strongly to were those in the "present"; it was impossible not to feel rage and frustration when reading of Connie's experiences with the authorities and the society within which she is a victim.

15Citizenjoyce
Abr 27, 2011, 3:20pm

In the past couple of months I read a bit about mental hospitals, and I can't but think the treatment she fictionalizes is based on actual practices in the past. First of all, a quiet patient is a good patient, and Connie did insist on her innocence and sanity. It used to be convenient to get rid of bothersome women by declaring them insane. It's even now convenient to label someone who rocks the boat as insane. The fact that Connie's child was taken from her after one incident - well, Connie was ethnic, and her little girl was so nice and white. That doesn't sound too far fetched. The whole "present" story was so possible, that made it all the more frightening.

16Sakerfalcon
Abr 28, 2011, 4:44am

Yes, I'm sure it was based on truth, thus my more visceral reaction to those sections. I hope that we have progressed since then in our treatment of the mentally ill (whether they are actually ill, or suspected to be), but I fear that there probably are still places where such people get treated like animals or, at best, children.

Re: Connie's child being taken away - Connie *had* pushed her around and broken the girl's wrist, and was frequently drunk or on drugs. But I agree that a white mother might have been given a second chance and not lost her daughter right away. (I do like how Piercy gave Connie so many different sides, that there was ambiguity in her rather than her being a complete angel.)

17Citizenjoyce
Abr 28, 2011, 5:02am

I agree that Piercy made the novel more meaningful by showing Connie's imperfections. She was no "noble savage." She was pretty well destroyed by life and was at last not able to summon up the good, long suffering character women, especially poor women are supposed to be. She harmed her daughter once and spent the rest of her life atoning for that act. She was certainly not a good example for a while there. She did lose herself I think because she had no where to turn for help. She was a loving woman and felt she had no one to love. Of course, she realized too late that she did still have one person to love, her daughter.

Even in Luciente's world, with what we in this world would think of as extreme intolerance to violence, she would have been given a second chance. Of course, in that world with its abundance of social support she never would have got to that state in the first place.

18vapplerlee
Maio 3, 2011, 3:50am

OK. I know I'm late to the party here. (Missed the message about pushing things up by a month).

Anyway, I am enjoying this novel, if 'enjoy' is the right word to use. The long-suffering loneliness sections are sometimes a bit difficult to read because they are truthful!

Somebody mentioned that the scenes from the 'real' world were more compelling than the scenes from the future. So far (at almost 3/4 of the way through), I am getting the same feeling.

Speaking of bridging the fact/fiction boundary, the scenes with Alice hooked up to the radio/electrodes in her head reminded me of the work of Austrailian performance artist Stelarc, who has been experimenting with the obsolescence of the body and cyborg technology in his performance for a long time.

I also enjoy the attempts at gender neutral language (a la Kate Bornstein, a transgendered performance artist). And I appreciate the author's demonstration of what things (such as the brooder) are potentially horrifying about this image of the future to a person from our time. And I am fascinated by the issue she presents about redefining motherhood. Interesting!

I think the book raises a lot of interesting questions about technology, freedom, and gender. I'm looking forward to finishing it!

If anyone is still out there who wants to discuss this book, please keep chiming in!

Otherwise, I'll be looking for The Female Man thread soon!

Vivian

19Sakerfalcon
Maio 3, 2011, 11:01am

>18 vapplerlee:: Hope you continue to enjoy the book. I'll be interested to read your thoughts on the ending - I'm still thinking about it.

I too liked Piercy's reimagined family structure, and Connie's reactions to it. Maybe if she had had "co-parents" to provide support, she would have been able to mother her own child the way she wished.

My edition had a couple of typos early on; it took me a while to realise that the gender neutral pronouns were deliberate and not mistakes!

20Citizenjoyce
Maio 3, 2011, 7:25pm

Good comments on the gender neutral language. I thought it was easy and simple. When I write I sometimes use s/he, but when spoken, that doesn't sound gender neutral. Per for person is just perfect.

21vapplerlee
Maio 4, 2011, 5:12am

My edition also has some typos (insert short kindle-editing rant here), which are a little distracting.

But, yes! I love it when authors experiment with language as a way of demonstrating the invisible power structure embedded in our very speech patterns.

Kate Bornstein uses 'ze' for he or she, as well as 'hir' for her or him. It takes a little getting used to, but it makes sense. 'Per' and 'person' also are logical substitutions.

OK. Back to writing, and then more reading.

V

22vapplerlee
Maio 5, 2011, 4:25am

So maybe it's because this book was written in the 80's, and that is also when a lot of performance artists dealing with gender and sexuality were starting to get going, or maybe it's because I think of things in terms of performance, anyway....

The Gildina character, from the other future that Connie stumbles into, reminds me of the French performance artist Orlan, who is fascinated by iconic images of beauty. Originally she did self portraits, but in the 90's (I think) started using her own body as a template. She has had herself surgically altered to represent different images of beauty. When you take isolated 'beautiful' details of many different faces and put it into one, the result is quite horrifying.

So, Gildina, 're-opped' to have conical breasts, tan skin, tiny feet, etc... reminded me Orlan. I think she has a website, too.

My 2 cents for the day. I'm almost finished!

V

23Sakerfalcon
Maio 5, 2011, 4:36am

That's a good comparison, albeit a scary one. I wish that we were not so close to Gildina's reality, in terms of the quest to create the "perfect" body for ourselves (well, women. Not so much of an issue for men). I saw Gildina as who Dolly would become in the future, trapped in her cycle of dependence on men who support her only so long as she remains a sex object that they desire.

24Citizenjoyce
Maio 5, 2011, 12:26pm

I had never heard of Orlan before. It's frightening and unimaginable that a person would do that to herself under local anesthetic. There are some sacrifices too big for art, I would think.

I like your analysis of the Dolly-Gildina duo, Sakerfalcon. You're so right. Dolly would absolutely Gildinasize herself if she had the opportunity and then willingly be kept in a room with just TV and drugs while waiting to be used by her current owner. That was a very deft creation of Piercy's, don't you think?

25vapplerlee
Editado: Maio 6, 2011, 4:10am

Oh dear. Connie! I had hoped that she would find a way to actually escape.

The ending is interesting! After presenting us with this oppressed woman who we come to sympathize with, in spite of her history of having abused her child, the book ends with a clinical psychiatric analysis. The term 'paranoid schozophrenic' doesn't appear until the very end, which I think is clever on Piercy's part. Although I suppose that if I knew more about medicine, that maybe would have been apparent through the many medicines named throughout the book.

Piercy gets us to root for a child abuser and murderer. She, was, however, at war, wasn't she? So are abominable acts excusable under the rules of war?

It makes me think of Medea. Is the murder of her children and her husband's fiancee her only option? Is Connie's choice to murder the doctors her only option? Connie is a lot like the character of Medea. Medea is an outsider, an immigrant, like Connie. Jason enlisted her help in killing members of her own family for his quest. Then he dumps her for a younger bride after they're back in Greece and Medea is recast, not as a queen, but as a 'dangerous' barbarian foreigner. At a first glance, it is hard not to see Medea as crazy - she starts off angry at the beginning of the play and escalates quickly. I think that Piercy does a good job at demonstrating how our society can push people who are not in power for numerous reasons to do 'crazy' things. (Euripides does, too)

Medea also comes from a family of witches, a theme that is certainly developed in Woman on the Edge of Time through her friendship with Sybil (another ancient Greek reference there), her ability to time travel, and her choice of poison as murder weapon.

I could go on! There are a lot of great ideas presented in this book in the form as well as in the content. I just wish I could give Connie a couple of dragons to ride away on.

V

26Sakerfalcon
Maio 6, 2011, 10:53am

I'm still trying to decide how I feel about the ending - about Connie's actions. Are we supposed to approve of them? Is violence acceptable when the cause seems just and/or no other options seem available? (The questions also raised by Medea, as noted above). But also, is this the action that Connie was told would decide the future course of our world? And if so, has it led to Luciente's utopia or one of the nightmare futures (the war scenes or Gildina)?

Or, is Piercy really saying it was all a hallucination by choosing to end with the analysis and diagnosis?

I do like when books don't wrap up neatly and leave you wondering, but this is maybe a bit too messy, given the depth of the issues raised. And I too hoped that somehow Connie would find freedom. But as a permanent life with Luciente et al had been ruled out early on, I couldn't see any way to end it happily and stay true to the original tone of the novel.

27Citizenjoyce
Maio 6, 2011, 2:41pm

I think Connie did just what the people in Luciente's society hoped she would. The doctors were headed toward the Gildina society and killing a few doctors in modern times was preferable to the wars against the society they spawned. The doctors had absolutely no qualms about killing their patients, and I think removing a selfhood to leave a functioning zombie is tantamount to killing. I rather object to describing Connie as a child abuser. She did neglect her child and abuse her once under very trying circumstances. To me a one time aberration does not make a person an abuser. She did become a killer, though. There's no doubt she deserves that label whatever the circumstances.

28Sakerfalcon
Maio 7, 2011, 6:41am

I just wasn't sure whether Connie's actions were enough to deter the authorities from similar experiments in future, thus my doubt over whether or not it was THE event referenced by Luciente. Unless it spawned similar events in other hospitals. But I think you're right and we are meant to see it as a victory, albeit a Pyrrhic one for Connie herself. (I'm pretty sure that's the term I mean - she has won, but at the price of her personal destruction.)

I would be hesitant to describe Connie as a child abuser on the basis of what we are told of her in the novel. It would be like calling someone a drug addict because they tried it once or twice, perhaps. But of course, society does just that. There's a whole other discussion about child welfare and parental rights ... There are so many issues in this book - I noticed one LT reviewer felt that it tried to do too much and thus didn't do any one thing well. I can see why per (!) thought that, but disagree about not doing it well.

29Citizenjoyce
Maio 9, 2011, 1:42am

She does bite off a big mouthful of social commentary, but I think she manages to show how the different parts of misogyny and poverty fit together and how capitalism and the patriarchy work to oppress. I can certainly see that the story could be to preachy for some, but it think it's well done.

30vapplerlee
Maio 9, 2011, 3:20am

I am glad that I read the book! I think that the Woman on the Edge of Time is an example of what can happen when an author attempts to deal with just one social issue - all of the others come tumbling along with it. Our society is, among many things, a complicated puzzle of disenfranchisement. Piercy does give us a lot to think about.

I wonder if she actually killed the doctors in the hospital or not. Towards the end of the book, the inner logic of Connie's hallucinations was starting to unravel, expressed by Luciente's not remembering Connie joining them at the war front. But perhaps Connie jumped further into the future? Or is that an indicator that the reader should doubt all of Connie's experiences? Is the trip to her brother's house and the murder of 4 people another hallucination? Was she ever released the first time around?

That said, I do think that Connie was fighting a war. No matter what her actions in the past, she was unjustly committed to the psychiatric ward and struggles to regain what little power she had in the first place throughout the book, by any means possible. Her body had already been violated by an unnecessary hysterectomy. But in the end, it wasn't only her body that she was fighting for, it was her sense of self.

The issue of our society's reliance on technology is fascinating, especially since the book was written in 1976 (not the 80's, I don't know why I thought that in an earlier post). And that even in the utopic future in which people are fighting machines, there is still a heavy use of technology in what appear to be iphones.

I'll be interested to read more of Piercy's books, to see where she has gone with her own understanding of American culture through the literature that she has created.

31Citizenjoyce
Maio 10, 2011, 3:39am

an example of what can happen when an author attempts to deal with just one social issue - all of the others come tumbling along with it. Our society is, among many things, a complicated puzzle of disenfranchisement. Piercy does give us a lot to think about.

Very well said, vapplerlee. I always love a book by an author who can see the tangled connections and unravel them enough to let the reader see too.

I've read several other things by Marge Piercy, the first was another more clearly science fiction He, She, It about society and humanity. I also have Three Women and Braided Lives and recently bought Gone to Soldiers, Summer People, Sex Wars, and a play she wrote with her husband Ira Wood The Last White Class. Once I got started looking I couldn't stop. She also a poet, as if social commentary in prose isn't enough.

32Sakerfalcon
Maio 10, 2011, 7:43am

I too have He she and it, but have yet to read it. I did look at the first chapter though, and saw that it involves a woman losing custody of her child (following divorce) . . . I will be very interested to see where she goes from here, and what kind of society is created this time. For now, I've just begun The female man and am looking forward to following that discussion.

33vapplerlee
Jun 1, 2011, 8:49pm

I need to keep Piercy on the list! A friend of mine who teaches poetry pointed out that she is also a poet. So, I'm glad to have discovered another interesting author to explore.

I'm now back to my library, so I can at least try to jump in on another group read. I really enjoyed this one!

See you soon,

V

34Citizenjoyce
Editado: Jun 1, 2011, 9:10pm

Speaking of Marge Piercy's poetry, I recently read some of hers and her husband's (Ira Wood) also. Here's one that shows just how much of a sacrifice Connie made:

End of Days
by Marge Piercy

Almost always with cats, the end
comes creeping over the two of you—
she stops eating, his back legs
no longer support him, she leans
to your hand and purrs but cannot
rise—sometimes a whimper of pain
although they are stoic. They see
death clearly though hooded eyes.

Then there is the long weepy
trip to the vet, the carrier no
longer necessary, the last time
in your lap. The injection is quick.
Simply they stop breathing
in your arms. You bring them
home to bury in the flower garden,
planting a bush over a deep grave.

That is how I would like to cease,
held in a lover's arms and quickly
fading to black like an old-fashioned
movie embrace. I hate the white
silent scream of hospitals, the whine
of pain like air-conditioning's hum.
I want to click the off switch.
And if I can no longer choose

I want someone who loves me
there, not a doctor with forty patients
and his morality to keep me sort
of, kind of alive or sort of undead.
Why are we more rational and kinder
to our pets than to ourselves or our
parents? Death is not the worst
thing; denying it can be.

"End of Days" by Marge Piercy, from The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems, 1980 - 2010. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

35vapplerlee
Jun 1, 2011, 9:22pm

That is a great way to continue this discussion. And put Connie's final choice into relief.

And now I want to snuggle my kitties, despite the muggy east coastishness of the evening.

Thanks, Citizenjoyce

36Sakerfalcon
Jun 2, 2011, 5:11am

This is an argument used by the pro-euthanasia lobby - we put suffering animals out of their misery, but people have to suffer until the bitter end. Piercy's poem expresses it beautifully.