The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Suggestion Saturday is making it's triumphant return to the blog after a two week break. For those new readers who are just joining the blog, Suggestion Saturday is when I read a book that has been suggested by one of my readers. So if you have a suggestion for an upcoming Suggestion Saturday please leave it in the comments section - and please keep in mind that I'm incredibly shallow, so don't throw anything too deep and meaningful at me. Today's book was suggested by

Today's book, "The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader is an anthology of fiction by one of America's most important feminist writers. Probably best known as the author of "The Yellow Wallpaper," in which a woman is driven mad by chauvinist psychiatry, Gilman wrote numerous other short stories and novels reflecting her radical socialist and feminist view of turn-of-the-century America. Collected here by the noted Gilman scholar Ann J. Lane are eighteen stories and fragments, including a selection from Herland, Gilman's novel of a feminist utopia."

I'm not generally a fan of short stories, for the most part because I like getting totally lost in a story and staying there for awhile, and with short stories I feel like I'm just starting to become fully immersed in it at the very point where the story is ending. But, I've been trying to expand my literary horizons all year, and so I'm glad I had the chance to read a book of short stories. I've now tried science fiction (and hated it), courtroom novels (and enjoyed them more than I expected), and now short stories.

I enjoyed some of the stories in today's book, and then there were a few that I found a little bit dull. If I hadn't been reading this book for the blog I would have skipped over a few of the stories. But I guess that's the advantage of reading a book of short stories, if one of the stories isn't that great you can just skip over it and hope the next one will be better. My favorite story in the book was The Girl in the Pink Hat, although I did spend the whole story feeling bitter that I'm not living in a time period where people where hats. I love the kind of hats people wear in old movies from the 30s and 40s, but then I love pretty much everything about old movies; the hats; the clothes; the hair; the music; the country houses in Vermont; the way the women wear aprons even when they're doing things like laundry or bathing the baby. I really wish I would have thought of that apron-while-bathing-the-baby thing back in my Mary Poppins days. I love aprons and will use any excuse to wear one. I also expect everyone around me to indulge me in my little apron routine, which consists of me acting like I'm a sitcom Mom from the 50s while wearing one. Sometimes I even say really corny things like, "Don't forget to use a napkin. After all, a clean face is a happy face." And, to make the problem even worse, I actually expect those around me to find that amusing. . . no matter how many times I've already done that.

Since the dear reader who suggested this book in the first place did so because the book contained the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, I feel compelled to discuss that book. Call me shallow - and I'm sure you will, or at very least you'll be thinking it - but all I could think of while reading about a woman having a breakdown due to the very bad advice that she rest and do nothing (okay, so that's really bad paraphrasing, but good enough) was that a problem such as that would have never happened in the age of TV. There's no way a lack of activity could be truly be called a problem when you could pass that time watching Dallas, followed by an episode of One Life to Live, and then perhaps there might be time to squeeze in a quick episode of The Brady Bunch. Or maybe that's just me. But even without the TV I'm not really sure how people manage to get bored and go stir crazy since I never get bored, not even when I'm stuck in a really long line somewhere and I don't have a book with me. My family is always acting like my lack of boredom is the weirdest thing in the world - but I think it makes perfect sense, would you ever get bored if you were stuck in my head? How can a person who is amused by an apron, by the soap in the hotel bathroom being shaped like a flower, or by an inkless pen, ever possibly get bored?