Continuing on with the White Plague
Saturday February 26th 2011, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Books
I am still listening to The White Plague by Frank Herbert during my commutes and I noticed something that has been making me cranky for a few hours now. The novel is about a widower who releases a woman-killing plague to avenge his own wife’s death at the hands of the IRA. But, in the midst of millions of women dying, the governments of all the countries around the world searching frantically for a cure, the madman himself watching his plan come to fruition – in spite of all this, Herbert rarely mentions the word “woman.” Or “female” or “girl” or anything even referring to the double-x-chromosomed beings. Every character in the book talks about the plague but never about women. The world is becoming unhinged in typical post-apocalyptic fashion, but no one talks much about the people really suffering in all this: every single female human on the planet.
Seriously, in the audiobook, I maybe hear mention of a woman or of women, say, every hour and fifteen minutes. In other words, on each CD, there’s only one mention of womanhood.
Eventually by about the sixth CD, there is a little more mention of women. You know, stuff about Irish women in the diaspora being sent back to Emerald Isle on coffin ships and the IRA thugs guarding the beaches raping them before they catch the plague and die.
Out of three female characters – two whom were smart scientist types – the two smart ones die. So we’re left with Miss Reluctant Catholic Slut. The same reluctant slut who threw a condom across the room because it was sinful.
And you know what? She’s pregnant now.
This is turning into Children of Men. Ugh. Get her some cows.
Today is a historic day for me. I updated my first Wikipedia page with a citation. Yes, you can read all about it on the page for Norway’s Lofoten Islands, in the wildlife section. My addition is the last sentence there. I am proud of knowing little weird facts like that. I am sure the historical society there has a section devoted to these lone WWII nine penguins.
Someone Will Tell You
Thursday February 17th 2011, 9:15 am
Filed under: Books
Thanks to my friend B and L, who took me to Seattle’s Science Fiction Museum a few years ago, I came out with a small list of not-bad sounding science fiction novels to read. One of them was Frank Herbert’s The White Plague. I recently found its book on tape version, to which I am listening during my commutes.
This 1982 book is about a plague that only kills women. Who wouldn’t be interested in imagining the possible responses? Unfortunately, just as with Children of Men, I have a feeling that the women in Herbert’s novel are on their way to bovinization. Remember when the protagonist of Children of Men first meets the last pregnant woman on Earth? She’s hobnobbing with cows. In a fucking barn.
To prove that Herbert is a sexist bore, here’s some dialogue one of the characters has with a female secretary about the impending doom of womankind (and the secretary herself):
I have important information that the president of the United States should know. If there’s any need for you to know, I’m sure someone will tell you.
So the secretary is about to die and that’s what he tells her? Prick.
A few paragraphs later, this characters shows how much faith he has in womankind’s intellectual abilities as he outlines a plan for salvation:
And, Jim, one of the first things to do is to get as many young women as possible into that Denver hideaway the military is so proud of. Women, got that? And only enough men to run the technical end of a survival plan.
Obviously they intend to breed mindless cows who can’t bother to learn how to operate a “survival plan.”
Was 1982 still so sexist? The book so far paints a very Stepford picture of the world, where Irish wenches worry about losing their virginity before marriage and most women are maternal domestic slaves who pack suitcases for their dick husbands by the time they finish a phone call to the president’s office.
Another 19 hours left of this novel.
Wigs & Wooden Shoes
Thursday February 10th 2011, 10:04 pm
Filed under: History
As part of my preparation for my
triumphant return to France this year, I joined a Goodreads book club on French history, where a fellow French history fan asked if we wanted to start an online discussion about some serious history book. He gave me a few choices and I picked The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History by Robert Darnton. It’s been on my to-read list for a while (since my late 18th century French obsession circa June-September 2006, here, here, here, here and here).
So far, it is serious. By serious, I mean that I am taking notes every few pages. I love it.
The notes I would like to share come from just the second page, in the introduction. These pertain to my favourite growl topic – the annoyance I feel when period dramas mess up the history and make the “cool” people back then, as imagined by pablum-for-brains starlets, all modern and liberal and shit. Yeah, right, they were so open-minded and feminist.
Anyhow, here’s how Darnton tackles anachronism:
It is worth repeating, nonetheless; for nothing is easier than to slip into the comfortable assumption that Europeans thought and felt two centuries ago just as we do today – allowing for the wigs and wooden shoes. We constantly need to be shaken out of a false sense of familiarity with the past, to be administered doses of culture shock.
(Lest you think me a snob, I do not feel like I know it all – I am merely on a never-ending path toward ever more knowledge, tying together lose and disparate ends, just for the fun of it. No one can ever know everything – even the Francis Bacons of the English Renaissance, the best educated men of their day back when knowledge seemed finite, could never know what the Aztecs or Incas knew – I suppose the constant striving for more novelty and understanding is a goal that will bring years of fun. And the striving for knowledge will never end, nor be complete except with dementia and death. It doesn’t mean I am smart. In fact, I am pretty certain I am one of the world’s dumber people.)