Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Favourite Genre

Currently I am really feeling Fin de siècle sexy social climber novels, the kind of tale that focuses on young women facing social disadvantage who turn on the charm and scramble up (and sometimes back down) the hierarchy of late nineteenth century fortunes.

Edith Wharton´s "The House of Mirth" is the funniest, Theodore Dreiser´s "Sister Carrie" is the saddest, Emile Zola´s "Nana" is the filthiest. All three are fascinating, and give a intriguing look at unattached women trying to strike for independence, personhood and financial stability in the pre-emancipation West. They talk about the economies of sexuality, the hypocrisy of heternormative society, the overwhelming drive that is desire, and the impossibility of being everything one is required to be in an industrial, consumer focused, sexist and sexphobic, puritanical, duplicitous landscape.

All three are by turns tragic, amusing, raucous and sardonic, and figure into a long lineage of novels that explore a women´s place in the world in very graphic terms, a lineage that runs on into novels like "Breakfast at Tiffanys" and "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Else." If you are any kind of feminist they are essential reading, and if you´re any kind of mentally functioning humanoid you should chuck out your summer beach bonk buster and get stuck into the great tarts, villains, aristocrats, and social climbers of these works because really you are missing out.

You better work, nineteenth century naturalistic novels.

No comments: