I have just read three books, coincidentally one after the other, for which the title of this post is both relevant and interesting. They were , in order –
Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach (2007)
Sayaka Murata, Earthlings (2018)
Melanie Rehak, Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her (2020)
I meant, the order in which I read (listened to ) them, but it seems also to be the order in which they were written.
On Chesil Beach is the least interesting of the three. McEwan clodhoppers his way through a typical 1950s marriage/wedding night in which the bride discovers at the last moment that she would rather not have sex, but soldiers on anyway, and the equally inexperienced groom is excited by his wife’s amateur fumblings into premature ejaculation.
McEwan appears to arrive at the conclusion that the husband’s anger at this outcome is justified, and that the subsequent failure of their marriage is of no consequence. I have read other McEwans, but remember none of them, except that they all left me with a sour taste in my mouth, and am not inclined at this stage to read another.
Earthlings I own and failed to enjoy first time round, put off, I think, by the grotesque ending. I’m not sure what made me pick up the audiobook at the library – probably the fact that any work of Literature must stand out in the great swamp of general fiction in which suburban libraries seem to specialise – but I am now a fan of the book and of Sayaka Murata, who is of course the author also of Convenience Store Woman.
The protagonist of Earthlings is Natsuki, who does it once, aged 11, with her cousin Yuu, which causes such a fuss in her wider family that she never does again. In her 30s, wishing to at least seem to be fitting in, she advertises for a like-minded man and so obtains Tomoya, whom she subsequently marries.
Nancy Drew is a slightly different case, in that although she is 16, and later 18, in all the many Nancy Drew books, her originators keep her in a pre-sexual state to maintain the faith with her largely 10-13 year old readership.
That is all I wish to say about my heading.
Well, nearly all. I should add that Natsuki’s disinclination as an adult to engage in sex also stems from her being molested by a cram-school teacher, and being disbelieved by her mother. In fact, her union with her friend and cousin Yuu, whom she only sees at her grandmother’s house in the mountains each summer, stems from her wish to lie with someone of her own choosing before she is forced to lie with her teacher.
Natsuki is able to free herself from the teacher and this ties in with the ending. But the central thesis of Earthlings is that society is a Baby Factory; that ‘earthlings’ are all components in the machinery of the Factory; that free will can only be exercised by refusing to take part, by becoming ‘aliens’.
Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is routinely read as the amusing reactions of a woman ‘on the spectrum’ to having to find a productive a niche in society. But I think now that Murata is trying to say that it is not rational to ‘find a productive niche’. That society is so antithetical to a freely lived life that it is ridiculous to live within it (Convenience Store Woman); and that we should attempt to live outside it (Earthlings). And I don’t think she means just Japanese society, though it is tempting for Westerners to think so.
If I had a paper copy of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her I would have been bound to write a proper review. Though I should say at the beginning that Nancy Drew was created by a man, Edward Stratemeyer, a writer of children’s adventure stories who turned to creating series and employing other writers to fill them out. The ‘women’ of the title are his daughter, Harriet Adams, who took over her father’s syndicate on his death; and Mildred Wirt who actually wrote the original Nancy Drew stories from synopses provided by Stratemeyer.
Nancy Drew went on for 50 odd years, and may still be going on for all I know, and the story of her creation and the rival claimants to be her sole originator is fascinating in itself. But Melanie Rehak frames her story within the idea of the Independent Woman in American (YA) literature. She claims, rightly probably, that every American girl’s original independent heroine is Jo Marsh (Little Women); then goes on to discuss the importance of Nancy Drew as a role model for career-minded girls within the framework of a discussion of first and second wave Feminism. Did I make that sound too dry? I hope not. This is an excellent, listenable work.
Actual Journal stuff: I purchased my new trailer a week or so ago, but have been too busy to go and pick it up. I spent the last week up north doing wide loads with one of Dragan’s trailers. The great bonus of oversize work is stopping when the sun goes down. Sadly, on my very first night out, I found my laptop had failed. Battery probably, or maybe the charger. At least I caught up with some reading.
Melinda Leigh (F, USA), What I’ve Done (2018) – Crime
Christos Tsiolkas (M, Aus/Vic), 7 1/2 (2021)
Phillipa Gregory (F, Eng), Tidelands (2019) – Hist.Fic/Romance
Ann Pratchett (F, USA), Bel Canto (2001) – Thriller (I was barracking for the kidnappers)
Lisa Gardner (F, USA), One Step Too Far (2022) – Crime Thriller
Laura Lipman (F, USA), And When She Was Good (2012) – Crime
Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton (F, USA), Curious Minds (2016) – Crime
Kerry Greenwod (F, Aus/Vic), Murder and Mendelssohn (2013)
Ian McEwan (M, Eng), On Chesil Beach (2007) – Hist.Fic/anti-Romance
Sayaka Murata (F, Jap), Earthlings (2018)
Melanie Rehak (F, USA), Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her (2020) – NF
Larry McMurtry (M, USA), Sin Killer (2005) – Hist.Fic., Western, Farce
Aaron Fa’Aoso with Michelle Scott Tucker (Aus), So Far, So Good (2022) – Memoir
Drusilla Modjeska (F, Aus/NSW), The Mountain (2012)
Ernestine Hill (F, Aus/Tas), The Great Australian Loneliness (1937) – NF
AWWC Aug. 2022
|Wed 03||Elizabeth Lhuede||G.M.M. A Novelist at Home|
|Fri 05||Stories FTA||Netta Walker, The Old, Old Story|
|Wed 10||Michelle Scott Tucker||Patricia Wrightson and appropriation|
|Fri 12||Stories FTA||Daisy Bates, Aboriginal Stellar Myths|
|Wed 17||Bill Holloway||Ada Cambridge, Thirty Years in Australia|
|Fri 19||Stories FTA||Ada Cambridge, The Fourth Home (extract)|
|Wed 31||Whispering Gums||Eliza Hamilton Dunlop|