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The Purloined Author; or, How To Hide in Plain Sight

James Tiptree, Jr. by Julie Phillips

4 of 5 stars 

More than forty years ago, James Tiptree Jr. wrote some stories that pretty much turned the world of science fiction upside down. Stories about women, and gender, and gender identity, and feminism. He won awards and corresponded with many SFF people, including Joanna Russ and Ursula K. LeGuin. In 1976, after his mother's death, it was revealed that "he" was not a man at all, but rather a woman, Alice Bradley Sheldon. 
 
This is a rich, complex biography of a complex woman. I remember reading somewhere that the author took ten years to write it, and I can well believe it. The amount of research required for this must have been incredible. Julie Phillips had access to all of Alice's journals and letters--she, or he, was quite the letter-writer, an art I think has been sadly lost. The portrait that is painted is that of a troubled, complicated person, possibly manic depressive and obsessed with death, born too early for feminism and never at peace in her own body, who eventually killed her husband and herself. Yet she left behind an incredible legacy of stories that are still turning the field on its head today. (For evidence of this, read a book published just last year, Letters to Tiptree--I reviewed it here--where many of today's top female SFF writers compose missives to Alice B. Sheldon, explaining how she inspired them.)
 
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read. It doesn't read like a novel--it's thorough and methodical, and if you're the kind of reader who wants a swift pace and a sure resolution, you won't find it here. Some might say it's slow and plodding. But I found the book and its subject fascinating. This book won several well-deserved awards, including the 2007 Hugo for Best Related Work.

 
This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/162420.html. Comment either here or there.
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If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want To Be Right)

Why the Right Went Wrong by E.J. Dionne Jr.

4 of 5 stars

This book, it seems to me, is a must-read to explain the 2016 elections and the sorry state of today's Republican Party. As E.J. Dionne states in the introduction, "This book offers a historical view of the American right since the 1960s. Its core contention is that American conservatism and the Republican Party did not suddenly become fiercer and more unyielding simply because of the election of [President] Obama. The condition of today's conservatism is the product of a long march that began with a wrong turn, when first American conservatism and then the Republican Party itself adopted Barry Goldwater's worldview during and after the 1964 campaign." 
 
(Does anybody besides me think that Barry Goldwater would be spinning in his grave over Donald Trump?)
 
Dionne documents this central thesis in exhaustive, well-researched detail. It takes nearly 500 pages to wend his way through more than 50 years of Republican history, showing exactly where they went off the rails and why. He makes the point that, unfortunately, Donald Trump is the logical endpoint of the ever-increasing conservative extremism and insistence on purity, and ends the book with this.
 
"A turn toward moderation and an embrace of those who have been left out--these are the tasks essential to the conservative future.
 
"Conservatives rightly revere those who came before us, but they will not prosper if they continue to yearn for a past they will never be able to call back to life. They may win some elections, but they will not govern effectively on the basis of an ideology rooted in the struggles of a half-century ago." 
 
I despair of this ever happening, and thus the book was, for me, a pretty pessimistic read. But it was an enlightening look into why one of America's two major political parties is currently thrashing itself to bits.

 
  This entry was originally posted at http://redheadedfemme.dreamwidth.org/162048.html. Comment either here or there.
  • Feeling: pessimistic pessimistic
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