Spinster’s Beautiful Cover Design Draws More Interest Than Content

spinsterSpinster’s Beautiful Cover Design Draws More Interest Than Content

a book review by

Erica Tuggle

If we were judging Spinster by its book cover, this one would be a home run. The attractive, young looking woman on the front, proclaiming spinster-hood seems like a battle cry feminists can rally behind. Not to mention that this design is coupled with the well-written book blurb within the inside flap of the book, promising us insight into why over 100 million women (and growing) are electing to forgo marriage in favor of more freedom; ignoring the choice set before all females from the earliest playtime imaginings, who to marry and when?

With such a high bar to clear, a bar of such intrigue, it was highly disappointing to find that this book missed the mark. Spinster promised to include Kate Bolick’s story of electing to remain single and embrace all the opportunities it affords, but in actuality, the book leans heavily on the memoir aspect and lightly on pertinent interesting information.

Bolick, 45, (pictured on the cover, and looking all of about 28) details her life thus far through her relationships with men referred to in an alphabet soup of single letters, and also through her “awakeners”: Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton. The factoids about the women who influenced Bolick’s decision to remain unattached are interesting, but not penetrating. Bolick’s own story of relationship interactions reads like a polished and fussy journal entry of hindsight revelations. I was desperately seeking interesting reasons why women would choose to buck tradition and go their own way, but Bolick’s window is small and extends no further than Victorian era ladies and her own privileged upbringing and opportunities.

Bolick failed to get an emotional or intellectual response from me with Spinster. The only moment I found myself wanting to hear her story was when she related her last days with her mother with the reader. Perhaps, like Bolick opines of other literary works, Spinster is akin to some books find you when you need them, and I’m not the demographic she was searching for. At least I can offer kudos to her for her choice in “spinsterhood” and for sharing her story.

I received a copy of “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own” through the site Blogging for Books.

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Being a Good Scientist Prized Over Differentiation of Sexes in “Headstrong”

Headstrong

Headstrong 52 Women Who Changed Science–and the World 

by Rachel Swaby

The pivotal line of this book is delivered by Hertha Ayrton, who was a scientist, an author, a close friend of Marie Curie, and the inventor of a fan that dispersed noxious gas away from soldiers. She is quoted as saying: “Personally I do not agree with sex being brought into science at all. The idea of ‘women and science’ is entirely irrelevant. Either a woman is a good scientist or she is not; in any case she should be given opportunities, and her work should be studied from the scientific, not the sex, point of view.”

This is the standard of measure of all the women in the book Headstrong by Rachel Swaby. In this work, Swaby covers the lives and contributions of 52 women in varying branches of science including invention, physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and more. Why 52? Swaby reasons that there are 52 weeks in a year, and so in reading this book you can learn about a different female scientist each week.

Each selection is just a snapshot of their life and their lasting impact to human progress and innovation. Some of these portraits are only two pages long; the longest is only about 5 pages. Although each segment is brief, the value of having so many different contributions by women compiled together effectively drives home the point of the impact women have made to the umbrella of science area which they fall under and upon the larger world.

The work is fact-filled, interesting, full of trivia, and delivers strong evidence of the value of female scientists without harping on or getting lost in hot-button issues like male dominance in science and exclusion of women in the field. The book deals in facts, and these include the struggles women had to go to in obtaining education and standing in their passions within fields where they were the glaring minority.

My favorite profiles included those of Gerty Radnitz Cori, a Biochemistry scientist responsible for our understanding of glycogen; Virginia Apgar, who developed a test to establish newborn health standards; Marry Anning, a pioneer in paleontology and fossil discovery;  Tilly Edinger, a Jewish woman who encountered Nazi targeting in establishing paleoneurology; Rachel Carson, the voice behind environmental awareness and author of “Silent Spring”; Rosalind Franklin, whom developed a structure of DNA that was “borrowed” by Watson and Crick; Hedy Lamarr, an well-known actress who also worked in tandem to invent a system for coded radio waves to aid torpedo navigation during war-time; and household name Florence Nightingale, responsible among many other contributions for her statistics work and suggestions for improved hospital conditions like better lighting and quiet time for recuperation that are still being pursued today.

Headstrong was enlightening and kept my interest. I see this being a valuable tool for students in researching these scientists, and grasping the timeline of scientific discovery more fully through human interest stories such as these. For me, this would be a recommended reading for college freshman or AP high-schoolers. The work is well-researched and written, and with such a variety of topics of interest that spurred me to want to know more about each of these women.

I would highly-recommend this read to those who love science, history, feminism, and generally just a good read.

#4StarRead

Interested? Buy it from Random House

More info on this author at: Rachel Swaby

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Try and Keep Up

This gaggle of moms are sitting at a table beside me, taking up half the coffee shop, and literally shrieking at one another as they plan some kind of children’s birthday party-festival of faith-carnival extravaganza. It sounds cool ladies, it really does, but if you are going to shout about it to everyone in here, then you might as well make us all part of the party planning team. Little Alex is going to have a great time…if you guys don’t plan to death his every move, STRICT TO ITENERARY, about making play-doh crafts and snacktime.

Also, these women all look the same. Is that not terrifying to anyone else besides me? I’m almost worried this gang of moms is going to band together and take over the world…oh wait, they already have. That was quick. When women age and hit that middle-aged number (especially if children are in the mix) many of them look indestinguishable from one another. Short and stocky, short unkempt hair (probably still damp), no make-up, corrective eyeglasses, sneakers, hoodie. The irony of this is that men in the same age bracket and circumstances look better than they ever have. The testosterone must have mellowed out at middle age for men and honed their features so that acne is finally at bay, their hair begins to salt and pepper pleasantly, and they look damn good in tweed. Middle aged women, in comparison, are hardly ever attractive to anyone. I’m not even trying to be a jerk when I say that. I mean, I’m heading towards that hurdle and I’m looking for any way possible to avoid cutting all my hair and perming it, donning floral print, and eating at Captain D’s, which is how I see middle age and later years women tackling the aging process. I don’t understand it AND I fear it. That’s an awful combo.

I want to go into aging as a classy and refined older lady. Not to say I don’t love the grandmotherly types that are so very endearing. It’s just a thing that seems very dependent one way or another on the presence of children in a woman’s life. And of course, it’s my mission in life to fight these arbitrary odd things that are “just because they are.” I don’t think I’m expressing myself well here, but maybe this is the point I’m trying to tackle…I think women are striving towards a very specific idea of beauty. Big boobs, full lips, make up, boots (apparently so, because EVERY woman I see is wearing them), dyed hair, thin body, etc. is the standard I imagine. But what I see is that women reach towards this idea of how they are supposed to look, they instead have just created an army of clones. Perhaps this is a straight girl perspective as well, but I look at guys and they all look so different and full of quirk and character flaws that make them quite the writing material fodder. And well…women just bore me. It’s all…blonde, brunette, red head. And I feel terrible in saying that! Because I’m the first one to say that we shouldn’t judge a woman by her looks. But, if women are all striving to look like one idealized version of beauty as opposed to looking like themselves, then I think this is what we get.

Transitioning from that, I’m going to share my idea of what I look like and who I am. Notice, I say MY IDEA as opposed to HOW I ACTUALLY look. There’s a fine difference there,but it’s worth noting because I exist mainly in my own head and my ideas of how I am percieved by myself and others could be totally different from what others get when they take me in. On good days, I percieve myself as a very casually dressed, simple and common-featured, young woman in her 20’s. I’m kind of one to blend into the background, but that’s a choice I’ve made in the way I dress and act. I don’t want to be approached by strangers for the most part, and I don’t want to be oggled for my body features. I do have more than average bust line, I’m in a shape that could qualify as fairly good, I wash my hair, and I wear very little coverup and mascara (that’s it). I’m usually wearing Converse, a band t-shirt, and a cardigan on my off days. When I work, I wear black on black.

Black on the outside. 
And black on the inside too.
Oops wrote a Haiku. 

Anyways…the point is, most days I’m not really trying too hard to look like anyone other than me and the comfortable, easy going person, I imagine myself to be. My daily focus is not on making my hair lay flat or finding the best way to accentuate my eyes. It’s about learning about the world I’m in, meeting someone who shows me something new, and understanding this person I see in the mirror everyday and who she is and where she is going. I think the college grad/girl next door look works for me for the most part. People do seem to frequently eyeball me, I do get shout outs on my “honey” status, and many times peole ask if they know me because my face seems familiar. Hopefully that last one isn’t indication of my clone-in-progress status. 

I’m behind on my NaNoWriMo word count and so I’m going to keep going…new topic, but semi-related. Sweet and Sour. It’s not just a popular Chinese dish, it’s real life. As Karen O says, “I’ve got a man that makes me want to kill.” It’s an obvious point, but it seems to bear repeating. People are rarely ever “good” or “bad” fully or plain and simple. The boy who has braided his fingers into my occipital lobe is alternatively a charmer and a fiend on any given day, and he tends to volley from one to another just for the fun of it. As much as it makes me grit my teeth sometimes, I think that this humanness of imperfection and unpredictability is what I like best about him (even when I hate it). 

Sure, you shouldn’t be in a relationship where the status quo is that the man is going to do whatever he feels like and the lady just has to forgive him for every time he pushes her to the back burner. But also, I’m saying, it’s not neccessarily a bad thing if he tells you something honest and it rubs your fur the wrong way. As long as he’s just not constantly stroking against the fur. Enough with the fur references. 

Sidenote story: The blog I wrote the other day on feminism gave me the gumption to tell another guy sorta-friend off for being a twit. This guy’s not bad looking…actually has a Patrick Stump type look going for him, but he only ever calls me when he wants to “snuggle.” And so I told him that he was only ever in contact with me when he wanted this snuggle time and I wasn’t interested in that being my role. He got offended and didn’t talk to me…for two days. Then he talked to me about rock climbing and told me to hit him up the next time I decided to go. The subtle lesson to take from this is stick up for yourself and people will treat you as you demand to be treated. Patrick’s double is no longer just talking to me when he wants a physical connection. He’s talking to me about other things with hopes for the physical still in the background. I think that’s progress. And in this dating age, we have to celebrate all the little victories. 

The words are very slow in coming today and I can’t seem to fully flush out an idea. You know what that means. It’s time for another vignette. 

Nostalgia: Holidon’t

If I open my mouth, it’s all going to stream out like confetti. A blast of fluttering multi-colored decorous paper bursting out won’t be pleasant. But perhaps the crack my face takes when you fill up a room is. You’ve got presence that presents itself subtly as you silent move in…and then you’re gone. I keep stuffing my face with decietful unfulfilling mish-mash, but I’m filled only with shuttering stock footage of you walking away.

That shirt is terrible. Paisly labels, really? Like something a lifelong ten-pin king would be buried in. Your hair style is so second grade. That patchy beard you’re growing is barbarous and lackadaisical. But I’m so attracted to how your lips move to get out of the way of your teeth. I’m in deep when I stare at how happily your eyes seem to dart all about their walled-in confines. You look your best when you’re not trying to not try. Put your headphones on and disappear into a lesser harsh white-light reality. 

Christmas is coming. Make it stop. Forgo holiday cheer for cheap wine and empty tissue paper packets. Santa’s on his way. He’s leaving me thin plastic and smelling salts. Can’t cure me. 

(two for the price of one today…here’s another)

Nostalgia: Communications at the Heart of the Battlefield

Getting through these glittery months is going to take all the rock salt I’ve stored in my gut and your unpredictable penchant for bizarre to keep my brain intact. Festive yule, bitches, because “Happy Holidays” is a copout they’ve managed to program me to via series of electrical shocks and wrist slaps. You’re right, dear. It is terrifying how much I trust you to let me down as gently as a body slam on a major organ can be. 

If my musical dog and pony show doesn’t inscrease…sales, maybe I can sing it over the cup I rattle as a street act. But nay, you won’t let me stoop to the gutters. Instead, you remind me how science covets my body and will give me bread, butter, AND cheese for their use and loan. Science is kinder than the public eye anyway. Too much to hope I’d shuffle off the mortal coil before going through the festivities of “Discovery Friday,” and “gift wrapping Kawanza.” 

I’m green, kelly green, and more beautiful than a decorated tree aflame. You are gray, and gore-gous, like cold stone I slap all my expectations upon before the knife falls upon them. Please, baby, keep disappointing me, while intoning in monotone, “Do a backflip.” Your brand of awkward, intelligent, maleficence, rubs my fur so very wrong that it almost starts to turn back the other way. 

 

 

Yeah. I do that sometimes. At least, the good part about exposing this experimental, vague, and quite possibly terrible poetry attempts is that I get closer to my word count goal. Woot woot! Happy Friday to all and to all a Happy Friday. Thought for the road…If a guy ever but the song “Something” on a mix tape for me, I think I’d just go ahead and melt right into the floor.

 

-Anna R. Kotopple