Otherness and Feminism with Anita Brookner

I stumbled upon this interview with author Anita Brookner. It’s a haunting interview  particularly these few passages:


In Hotel du Lac you say that you prefer the company of men to that of women. Which brings me to ask you about your relation to feminism.


I prefer the company of men because they teach me things I don’t know.


One might say, to paraphrase Sartre, l’homme c’est l’autre?


Exactly. It is the otherness that fascinates me. As for feminism, I think it is good for women to earn their living and thereby control their own destinies to some extent. They pay a heavy price for independence though. I marvel at the energy of women who combine husbands, children, and a profession. Anyone who thinks she will fulfill herself in that way can’t be realistic. The self-fulfilled woman is far from reality— it is a sort of Shavian fantasy that you can be a complete woman. Besides, a complete woman is probably not a very admirable creature. She is manipulative, uses other people to get her own way, and works within whatever system she is in. The ideal woman, on the other hand, is quite different: She lives according to a set of principles and is somehow very rare and always has been. As for the radical feminism of today, the rejection of the male, I find it absurd. It leads to sterility. They say it is a reasoned alternative, but an alternative to what? To continuity?

Return To Modesty.


“Modesty acknowledged [a woman’s] special vulnerability, and protected it. It made women equal to men as women. Encouraged to act immodestly, a woman exposes her vulnerability and she then becomes, in fact, the weaker sex. A woman can argue that she is exactly the same as a man, she may deny having any special vulnerability, and act accordingly, but I cannot help noticing that she usually ends up exhibiting her feminine nature anyway, only this time in victimhood, not in strength.” Wendy Shalit.

A good read.

The Undertaker’s Wife

Does it

bother you, his

hands I mean, the way they

touch and glide, as they have touched

Bodies, death,  and made it new in his way. Do

You think of it at night? The way he breathes besides

you as if – New life he breathed- In a way. And

When he turns to you for comfort, a touch in a

fallen world, do you wonder what he has

seen? And your skin so pale and smooth

does it chill when hands skilled and

deceptive, working against death’s

effects, pull you towards his

chest? For such a life you

live breaking daily bread

in the bitter sweet

shade of death.

June’s Poet: Robert Frost

Photographic Records 4-59-31 Robert Frost in 1892     This month’s poet is Robert Frost. Last month’s poetess was Louise Glück and while I liked a few of her poems (my favorite was her eight part poem on Moses “Day Without Night”) and really enjoyed reading her thoughts on  poetry  in her introductions, I found her difficult to dig into. There were many poems I just outright disliked (mocked orange comes to mind). In general I was never quite sure where she was going with it all. The poet Robert Hass has called her, “one of the purest and most accomplished lyric poets now writing,” All I have to say to that is, I hope not. Ah, well,  I am being harsh. At least I know her name,  have an idea of her work and if someone mentions her in conversation, I won’t be completely lost. Perhaps I will come back to her in a few years with  a greater appreciation. I am, of course,  more familiar with Robert Frost and have always liked his poetry.  I needed a familiar poet to fall into after Glück.

Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor on the Latin Mass:

“I am one of the laymen who RESIST the congregation yapping out the mass in English & my reason besides neurotic fear of change, anxiety and laziness is that I do not like the raw sound of the human voice in unison unless it is under the discipline of music….

(Letter to “A” (17 October 1959) in Letters of Flannery O’Connor/the Habit of Being at p. 356; Sally Fitzgerald ed. (1979))

I always liked O’Connor.

Louise Glück



The daffodils are in bloom. The tulips now droop. A new month is upon us. This month’s poet is Louise Glück. An American poet who has won all sorts of awards. I haven’t read her poetry yet. However, I do have a few of her books about the house- I have more books than shelves. Join me in another month of study.


The Triumph Of Achilles

In the story of Patroclus
no one survives, not even Achilles
who was nearly a god.
Patroclus resembled him; they wore
the same armor.

Always in these friendships
one serves the other, one is less than the other:
the hierarchy
is always apparant, though the legends
cannot be trusted–
their source is the survivor,
the one who has been abandoned.

What were the Greek ships on fire
compared to this loss?

In his tent, Achilles
grieved with his whole being
and the gods saw
he was a man already dead, a victim
of the part that loved,
the part that was mortal.