Book Review: The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood (1969)

Monday, March 17th, 2014

A Perfectly Atwoodian Anti-Romance

five out of five stars

Ever since her engagement to Peter Wollander, Marian McAlpin has been unable to eat. Not for lack of desire, mind you; rather, her body simply refuses to ingest certain foods under threat of regurgitation. It started with the meats: beef (cows), pork (pigs), poultry (chickens), lambs, and finally seafood (fishes and oysters). Next came eggs, then fruits and vegetables, until even toast and OJ are off-limits. The nearer the date of her wedding, the more ferocious the rebellion brewing in her belly.

By all accounts, her soon-to-be husband is a fine specimen: handsome, educated, well-dressed with impeccable manners, a real up-and-coming lawyer. Any woman should be thrilled with such a catch. So why does Marian find herself drawn to Duncan, a sullen and self-absorbed grad student who professes not to care for her – almost as vociferously as she claims her own disinterest in him?

The Edible Woman is a sort of anti-romance, written in Atwood’s distinctive style. (There’s no shortage of dry humor here.) It’s obvious that Marian and Peter are ill-matched from the start; and when the two become engaged (during an especially alarming fight/flight), their relationship continues to unravel. For Marian, anyway; her fiance couldn’t be more content with the retro arrangement. (The Edible Woman was originally published in 1969, and it shows in the archaic attitudes towards gender roles and marriage. Attitudes that persist today: for example, did you know that 50% of Americans think it should be illegal for a woman to keep her last name after marriage? I guess lesbians are just supposed to swap last names then?)

(More below the fold…)

Just your random grumpy feminazi holiday rant.

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

This FSMas marks the third holiday season since the Mr. and I eloped in June of ’06. As time grinds on, it’s become obvious that some relatives – mostly the older and more conservative of the bunch, but not always – are a-ok with foisting their values on me, vis-à-vis the way(s) in which they choose to address me. Inevitably, we receive more than a few x-mas cards made out to “Shane and Kelly Brady” or – more odiously – “Mr. and Mrs. Brady.” This despite me never having changed my last name upon marrying Mr. Brady – and being extremely vocal about my choice: he and I have separate address labels, with different last names; when we send out joint mail, particularly those FSMas cards, we always sign them with both our surnames; and, for fuck’s sake, I’m the weird hippie librul veg*n feminist heathen in the family – so of course “Mrs.” isn’t gonna fly with me, ya? And yet, certain relatives still insist on referring to me as – blecht! – Mrs. Brady.

And it’s not just on the joint x-mas cards – the worst offenders of the bunch will address birthday cards and other pieces of mail meant specifically for me to “Mrs. Brady” or “Kelly Brady.” You can’t even pretend to use the “timesaver” excuse there, nosiree – it’s only two extra letters, people.

Perhaps most tellingly, the reverse never occurs. I have a few random, extended family relatives who have never met the Mr., and aren’t even sure of his last name. Even so, they are cautious not to commit the egregious faux pas of referring to a man by his wife’s last name – because that would simply be rude and emasculating. Heaven’s no, can’t have that! Mail from these folks arrives addressed to “Kelly Garbato and Shane,” rather than “Mrs. and Mr. Garbato” or “Kelly and Shane Garbato.”

So I wonder, maybe I should start a little experiment wherein I address all my mail to the women – using their maiden names, of course – and their husbands: “Ms. and Mr. Garbato.” (An obvious stumbling block is that there is no male equivalent of “Mrs.”; men are simply men, Misters, no matter their marital status. But, you know, work with me here.) Addressing women, men and couples with no regard for how they wish to represent themselves to the world. Addressing the menses as though they’re just nameless, faceless, unimportant appendages or pieces of property; things without purposes or identities apart from their wives or their children.

How do y’all think that might go over, huh? But, what’s the big deal? It’s “just a name,” right?

Naturally, my lil’ sis is excluded from the above rant; I know she purposefully calls me “Mrs. Brady” just to get a rise outta the hackles on my hairy feminist calves. That’s what little sisters do, no?

By the way, sis, remember when your turtle Henry bit you on the chin and, dangling there, refused to let go, despite your comical levels of hysteria? Good times.