I Don’t Know How She Does It: 8/9/07

I Don't Know How She Does It The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother
A Novel by Allison Pearson

After an energetic discussion about Pearson’s novel, most of us agreed with B’s suggestion that a more accurate title title would be “She Can’t Do It.”  JS and HF did attest to the large doses of truth in the book.  However, none of us thinks that a person can reasonably expect to succeed at being at the top of a high-stakes cut-throat business AND be a hands-on parent AND a loving and attentive spouse.

We did talk about whether feminism implies that women should be able to do all of these things at once. This writer firmly believes that whatever feminism may be, men have never been able to do all of these things simultaneously and successfully, and the principle of equality dictates that women can’t either. Having limited time, energy and talent (being human) means making choices about how to spend them.

For this night’s discussion, we were lucky to have 3 men and 5 women, including 3 retired working mothers, 1 working mother, 1 stay-at-home father, and 3 single people with no children.

CD enjoyed the characters and the humor; MG was frustrated by the stressful situations, but enjoyed the black humor; JS called this “a book of truth — I lived it.”

B called it a tragic story; HF found it funny and true, with Kate Reddy’s childhood experiences explaining a great deal about her drive; L was struck by Kate Reddy’s greedy whining and lamented the too-tidy conventional ending.

GC did not enjoy the humor; DS knows the life of a working mother first hand, and her response was to say to Kate: “get over yourself.”

We talked about the difference between choosing to be a working mother and having to be a working mother just to survive. What are our expectations about the level of comfort and convenience we must have?

CD saw many stereotypes in the book, particularly the male characters, who were all dependent on women to function properly.

An excellent book for discussion, whether or not you admire the story.

Allison Pearson – An Interview with the author at BookBrowse.com Allison Pearson
Daily Mail Pearson’s Daily Mail columns
“Behind the Book” at Anchor Books
Pearson tells the story of how she came to write the book.
Book cover - UK version  
Related titles… The Nanny Diaries

Bridget Jones’s Diary
The Bitch in the House: 26 women tell the truth about sex, solitude, work, motherhood, and marriagePerfect Madness: Motherhood in the age of anxiety

Great Short Works of Mark Twain: Thursday, July 12, 2007

Great Short Works: Twain I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55.
Mark Twain, a Biography

We had a small group this time, but as always, a mix of reactions. A couple of us were delighted with the merciless “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.” CD plans to use part of this rant in his writing class. Then we wondered what all the fuss over the “Jumping Frog” was about, and CL pointed out the fun of reading it “Clawed back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil” after a translation into very bad French.

Some marveled at the vividness of “Old Times on the Mississippi,” with its wry description of the dreams of young boys, the lesson of the Pilot’s Association, and a poignant portrait of a young man slowly mastering what seems to be an impossibly large and changing body of knowledge. GC found this section to be tedious and discouraging, with so much detail about the river. We wondered why the most dense and lengthy piece was placed first. MG suggested it was because of its significance as the story of Twain’s name and identity, and as a breakthrough series in the 1875 Atlantic Monthly.

We laughed at Twain’s disfigured little conscience in “The Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut” and groaned in sympathetic agony with “The Story of a Speech.” Not everyone made it through to the end of the “Mysterious Stranger,” but we’re told it has a mind-boggling twist at the end.

As often happens, even those of us who aren’t real fans come away glad to have had a chance to read and reflect on some writing we can really sink our teeth into.

Mark Twain in His Times:Full of images and information
“Written and Directed by Stephen Railton, Department of English, University of Virginia”
Twain reading www.TwainQuotes.com:A Directory of Mark Twain’s maxims, quotations, and various opinions
by Barbara Schmidt
The Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT:A required trip for all Twain fans The Hartford House
Scrapbook PBS – Mark Twain: A Film Directed by Ken Burns