Wednesday, September 12, 2012


1974, 1990 Touchstone edition
Kate Millett
Bought new for $12.95
Paperback in good condition

I generally don't like stream-of-consciousness narratives that jump, or fly, around in time and space.  And this is, no question, a difficult read, particularly where Millett discusses violence and anger, her own and that of the people she loves.  (And of strangers.)  But I recommend sticking with it because it is rewarding.  Not counting the flashbacks, this is mostly set in the year after Sexual Politics made her famous.  She went a little crazy, with the attention and the criticism, not just from Time and other mainstream media, but from her Catholic mother and from her friends in Women's Lib and Gay Lib.  This is a more personal book, and she feels compelled to tell her own truth, yet scared to risk hurting people again, hurting herself.  In her introduction, she speaks of how her generation, her circle, hoped to lead new lives, but got caught in old traps.  Her beloved but-married-for-the-Visa husband Fumio and mystical Claire, the two of her lovers who come off best in the book, "didn't want to 'transcend' monogamy."

Millett addresses the danger of "stars" in Women's Lib, which was supposed to be about all women.  From the Left, she's told she should've published anonymously, to avoid an ego trip, even though Sex Pol was her work.  And the Right and Middle treat her like a freak.  Meanwhile, she herself is star-struck when she meets Doris Lessing, who comes off better in this book than in her own fiction.  (But then, Lessing comes off better in her own nonfiction than her fiction.)  Millett was friends with Yoko Ono, and there's a funny scene where Yoko explains to John that Kate speaks a tough kind of Japanese, "men's Japanese."

As you can guess from the condition, I haven't read this book often, maybe only once before.  It's sort of draining.  By the end, although there is still ugliness in the world, in ourselves, Millett has earned the moments of joyous love-making, of flying and losing a kite while sailing, of having a nervous breakdown prevented by the kindness of a "chivalrous" male stranger.  She's not a man-hater, despite how Time and others painted her.  She loves humanity, even though it's as hard as caring for her friends' brain-damaged and violent four-year-old.  As hard as loving yourself, warts and all.

As hard as loving this book?  Well, sometimes it's enough to settle for like.

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