Book info

Sex Wars: A Novel Of Gilded Age New York (2006)

Sex Wars: A Novel of Gilded Age New York (2006)
Author
Rating
3.71 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0060789875 (ISBN13: 9780060789879)
languge
English
genre
publisher
william morrow paperbacks
Rate book
Sex Wars: A Novel Of Gilded Age New Y...
Sex Wars: A Novel Of Gilded Age New York (2006)

About book: Sex Wars: A Novel Of Gilded Age New York, Marge Piercy. Piercy's novel explores the formative years of feminism through the intersecting lives of four characters. Three of them -- proto-feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, free love advocate Victoria Woodhull, and moralist Anthony Comstock -- were pivotal players in the gender wars of the late 19th Century. The fourth character, the fictional Freydeh Leibowitz, is a young Russian-Jewish widow searching among the tenements for her lost sister while trying to make a life for herself and Sammy, the street urchin who attaches himself to her. Other historical figures come and go, including Cornelius Vanderbilt, Susan B. Anthony, and Henry Ward Beecher. At all times, Piercy demonstrates command of the era, as her characters find themselves involved in everything from unregulated financial shenanigans to the manufacture and selling of condoms.While Piercy is no F. Scott Fitzgerald as word smith, she paces her story effectively. Her genius lies in making debates over the nuances of 19th Century feminism compelling as fiction, as alive as the rough-and-tumble of tenement life. As a consequence, her characters thrive in the imagination, as does Gilded Age New York as witnessed by them. The fullness of their lives also conquers the light narrative: You're so interested in finding out what they will do next that you don't mind a thin plot. The people and the times are more than enough.The monstrous Comstock, progenitor of the Religious Right, is perhaps the most memorable character -- a twisted fusion of sexual repression and perversion who takes pleasure in the suicides he causes. Even in his case, though, Piercy plays fair: She shows how Comstocks' disastrous childhood left him with a penchant for control and authority combined with a fear and awe of women.Woodhull and Canton receive more sympathetic treatment. As a pair, they stand for a femme ideal of intellectual attainment, free thinking, and liberated sexuality. In constrast lies Comstock's notion of the ideal woman: His quiet, compliant, mildly retarded daughter. Better a little slow than too quick, he tells his wife.Piercy is especially strong on the debates and competing personalities with the feminist movement. She contrasts Stanton's broader vision with Anthony's single-minded dedication to gaining the right to vote, a cause Stanton eventually loses interest in. Who will care about voting when their immediate worry is food for their family, Stanton wonders. We see this perspective embodied in Freydeh, who achieves independence without even thinking about voting and despite running afoul of Comstock.Stanton and Anthony's complex and conflicting responses to Woodhull also illuminate the differing perspectives of the political and personal. Fascinated by Woodhull's spiritualism and personality, the prim Anthony is nonetheless repelled by Woodhull's frank advocacy of women's sexuality, believing it will slow the progress of the movement. Stanton disagrees. How can anyone claim progress for women if obtaining the vote means behaving the way men want them to? Isn't Woodhull in effect living the dream, doing as she wants and encouraging other women to do the same without worrying about what men think about her? Anthony dominates the movement, though, and when Comstock trains his sights on Woodhull, the suffragists who once embraced her turn away.The parallels to today are obvious, and Piercy doesn't try to hide them. Comstock not only stands for the religious right in America, he stands for the Taliban. Some women and some societies may have progressed, Piercy reminds us, but women around the world remain oppressed by poverty, ignorance, and religion. And the forces arrayed against them haven't changed much at all.

Raamatu tegevus toimub 1860ndate aastate New Yorgis, kodusõja järgses Ameerikas, mil naised olid igasuguste õigusteta ning oma abikaasa omandiks. Autor esitab nii naiste õiguste eest seisjate (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony ja Victoria Woodhull) kui vastaste (Anthony Comstock) seisukohad läbi ajalooliselt tuntud inimeste. Iga peatüki jutustaja on erinev isik. Stiili poolest jääb see kuhugi eluloo ja ilukirjanduse vahepeale.Elisabethi ja Susani osad olid natuke igavalt kirjutatud, jääb mulje, et nad olid majanduslikult hästi kindlustatud naised, kes ei teinud muud kui aja täiteks jutustasid. Victoria Woodhulli vanemad olid sulid ja muidusööjad, kes lapsi varakult sissetulekut teenima sundisid. Näiteks töötas Victoria meediumina ja õde lasi end meestel ära võrgutada ning "kaotas" kümneid korda süütust. Isa tormas õigel ajal sisse ja sundis meest vaikimise huvides raha maksma. Meediumite osas oli autoril huvitav tähelepanek, mille ajaloolist täpsust ei oska ma kinnitada, aga ta väidab, et vaimudega ühendust pidavad meediumid olid 19. sajandil äärmiselt populaarsed, kuna enamik inimesi oli oma lähedasi kaotanud, kodusõda oli just lõppenud ning laste surevus jätkuvalt kõrge. Emad ja isad tahtsid teada, et nendel lastel läheb hästi ning meedium suutis seda kinnitust anda.Victoria oli vaba armastuse pooldaja, ta püüdis esimese naisena isegi USA presidendiks kandideerida, aga Comstock lasi ta arreteerida ning pärast seda skandaali ei tahtnud keegi temast enam midagi kuulda. Ta kolis perega Inglismaale ja elas elu lõpuni seal.Anthony Comstock oli kitsarinnaline ja äärmuslik viktoriaanlike arusaamade eest seisja. Ta pidas end Jumala käsilaseks, kelle elueesmärgiks oli maailmas valitsevat kõlblusetust välja juurida. Tema ideaaliks oli ta oma naine, kes oli vaikne, sõnakuulelik, tagasihoidlik ja kokkuhoidlik ning lasi vastuvaidlematult abikaasal kaks korda kuus oma abielukohustusi täita. Comstock arreteeris mitmeid pornograafia ja anatoomia kirjanduse levitajaid, kondoomide müüjaid, abortide tegijaid jne.Nende kahe vahele jäi nö. lihtne inimene, keda eelmiste gruppide püüded küll eluliselt mõjutasid, kuid kellel oma igapäevaelus polnud aega mõelda selle, kas naised peaksid häälehõiguse saama või mitte. Selle grupi esindajaks oli Freydeh, leseks jäänud juudi immigrant (ta on ainuke väljamõeldud tegelane), kes pärast mehe surma sissetuleku saamiseks kondoome tootma hakkas. Kahjuks jääb tema tegevus Comstockile silma, ta arreteeritakse ning selle tulemusena on ta aasta vanglas.Selle raamatu surus kasutatud raamatute müügil mulle pihku üks vanam naisterahvas, kes seda väga kiitis ja lugeda soovitas. Väga heaks raamatuks ma seda ei nimetaks, aga täiesti loetavaks küll. Mitmeid stseene lugedes tekkis mõte, miks küll naised lasevad endaga nii käituda, aga siis tuleb meelde, millal see tegevus toimub ja jääb üle vaid õnnest ohata, et me ajas ja arusaamades edasi liikunud oleme.
1
353
download or read online
Reviews
Cat
This book addresses a fascinating fifty year period and with admirable feminist verve. Following the lives of women from various walks of life but equal commitment to furthering their autonomy and their political and economic goals, Sex Wars features fascinating characters from free love spiritualist and first woman to run for U.S. president Victoria Woodhull to notorious and successful abortionist "Madame Restell," to those founding mothers of the American women's movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Piercy also recognizes what a different world the so-called Gilded Age represented for the working classes and the poor; some of the most poignant material in the book comes out of the life story of an (I think) invented Jewish American immigrant Freydeh who begins a condom manufacturing business. Piercy's central paradox is the fervor of the postbellum years regarding sex and women's independence--some, like Anthony Comstock whose censoring (and censorious) tale she tells with barely disguised disdain, who see the world changing and are determined to put a stop to it, and others, like Woodhull who celebrate women's pleasure in sex and knowledgeable control of their own bodies. A lot of the information Piercy includes here I did not know before, such as Stanton's commitment to publishing against Christian treatments of women as inherently sinful, in spite of the fact that these essays and books met with great outrage. Woodhull is a totally fascinating figure, as much as charlatan as an ideologue, and I'd love to read more about her. Piercy is on to something with her themes--that this was a time when urbanization, prosperity, and the New Woman led to changing social mores that really outraged and alienated many people (Comstock and another traditionalist character, Asher, both of whom PIercy depicts as patriarchs who miss the small-town values of their youth). And her cast of characters is well-chosen, their storylines interweaving in thematically productive ways. (Freydeh the condom maker crosses paths with Comstock, much to her detriment, as does Woodhull, and so three of the central characters, each from a different walk of life, find their public fates and conflicting ideologies entangled.)Unfortunately, this is an incredibly didactic book. Piercy's opinions about women's sexuality and social activism come through loud and clear, and the straightforward narration about these themes never quite seems to fit in the minds of the characters whose reflections are ostensibly being ventriloquized. Also, Piercy clearly fell in love with her research, and when she enters in on a scene description or a biographical anecdote, or even cultural context, I felt as though the narrator were announcing 'We now interrupt our regularly scheduled novel programming for an excursus into a book report on historical facts about this period.' The writing just felt clumsy and awkward, a limitation that made the explicit sex scenes rather uncomfortable--ironic in a book about how important it is to be frank and unashamed about sex.
Paula
This was a captivating work of historical fiction taking place mostly in New York City during the Gilded Age, and focusing on women and their role in late 19th century society. The novel is about one fictional character, a Jewish immigrant woman, whose story is interwoven with those of feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Victoria Woodhall, among others, and the conservative fundamentalist and anti-feminist zealot crusder Anthony Comstock. Great insights the free-thinkers of the time, the suffrage movement, and various attitudes that supported and condemned the important strides that women were making. Marge Piercy is one of my favorite authors and this book is one of her finest.
Lauren Cordes
This book was really amazing. It made me realize we women had NO rights back in the day; we were property of our husbands. If we worked all our money went to our husbands and if you weren't married you were constantly working hard labor making very little money to survive. The book takes place from the 1860's through the early 1900s. I really loved it because it is an historic fictional book almost entirely about how women lived and tried to fight for their rights in New York City. Some of the fascinating characters include: Victoria Woodhull (my personal favorite), Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. I don't want to give anymore about this book away; just read it!!
Review will shown on site after approval.
(Review will shown on site after approval)