Monday, February 20, 2006

The Angel in the House

I use my amazon wishlist as a kind of holding pen for books I don’t want to forget. Some I’ll never buy; some I long for; others I just heard about on NPR and want to remember the name of. When the 2002 collection The Bitch in the House made its appearance at the top of the list, however, my sister recommended that I remove it or at least, move it down a little further to the bottom.

I was indignant. I explained that this was a widely-reviewed collection of new feminist essays about balancing work and family. Furthermore, I went on, its title, while aggressive, was an allusion to Virginia Woolf, who wrote about the necessity of women’s killing “The Angel in the House,” her term—from a Coventry Patmore poem of that name—for the myth of the all-giving, virtuous, Victorian uber-mom.

I took the book off my wish list nonetheless.

I read the book over the weekend. Gobbled all 26 essays, skimming here and there but mostly reading with some care. The cumulative effect was, unsurprisingly, a bit depressing, a bit too much like reading a younger Maureen Dowd. Even with twenty-six contributors, there is a numbing sameness to the selections. Over and over again, I felt like I was reading about how hard it was to share a huge apartment in Brooklyn with a really interesting man who just didn’t do his half of the childcare, even though both of us had novels to write and interesting jobs at high-circulation glossy magazines. Snore.

Some contributions are good. Some gave me a jolt of painful recognition. I may write a bit about those later in the week but for now, I’m in kind of a coma of homogeneity and complaint.

2 comments:

amcorrea said...

Thanks for this, Anne. I'm currently rereading A Doll's House with a small group online and this post reminded me to reread Woolf's "Professions for Women," which was obviously perfect for the occasion!

Anne said...

That's great!