Ripples Without Patience

13 January 2003

Well, Timprov's sleep schedule is pretty much opposite mine, so I had a quiet day by myself most of yesterday. I finished reading Everday Life in the Viking Age (which had segregated religious/ethical beliefs/practices into one chapter, separate from the rest of the everyday life...huh?) and read Ripples from Iceland. Oh my land, was that book depressing.

It's easy for me to forget how limited many women's lives were in the middle of the 20th century. My Gran (great-grandmother -- morfar's mor) was a flapper and a career woman, working in the family printing business most of the time. As my mom puts it, she was an office grandma, not a cookie-baking grandma. (Office grandmas have all kinds of fun office supplies for kids to play with, so that's not at all pejorative.) And my own grandma was really active in politics (did a bunch of stuff at state and local levels--I'm not sure what-all, now), and while she didn't have the background to have a "power" job, neither did her brothers. It wasn't about her being a girl that way.

So, sure, I know, intellectually, that there were lots of limitations on what American women were allowed to be/do, but I just don't see a lot of them in my own family. Then I read Ripples from Iceland, written by a young American woman who had married an Icelandic man and moved to Iceland. The book was written in the very early Sixties and was comparing Icelandic women's lives at the time to American women's lives as the author saw them. It was a comparison of cages. And it wasn't even a comparison of extreme cages -- it wasn't like one was clearly superior to another.

And yet -- her description of American female life in the Fifties and Sixties just didn't sound like anything I had heard of, and I began to wonder if it wasn't like the time I did my Depression-era project (when I was 9-10). I interviewed my family members who had been alive during the Great Depression. Two of the aunties I interviewed were very close in age and had grown up in the same family, but their focus was entirely different: one talked about all the hard work, and the other talked about how they made their own fun. And we talked about it at the time, about how much difference it makes to have a good attitude!

Then, gradually, as we learned a little more and a little more about them, we wondered if it wasn't about attitude at all, but about one sister genuinely having more work to do than the other.

So I don't know about this Ripples from Iceland book. I don't know whether it's a matter of this woman having fewer possibilities or only seeing fewer. But it was jarring to me, certainly, and depressing.

It's very different writing a book in pseudo-Iceland than writing a book in historical Finland. I know that I could make a lot more stuff up about Finland than I'm willing to do, because nobody knows anything about Finland at all. But a country that isn't even really Iceland? As long as I have a good reason for it, I can ignore whatever seems inconvenient. It's much easier, although I'm trying not to gratuitously ignore too many things.

There are a few that make me waffle -- I had guessed that Soldrun (the main character) would be about 15, because that would be the youngest age that people would really buy her wielding the kind of political power she has to use at the end. But Everyday Life in the Viking Age claimed that boys came of age at 12, not 16 as I had stipulated. (It said nothing about girls. One of the hazards of reading an older book.) I don't want to slight younger folks who genuinely were considered adults in that society, but I also don't think a modern audience would buy a 13-year-old non-inherited king. Hmm.

And why doesn't anybody tell me about the horse names? I asked nicely. I really did.

I got my Ideomancer payment this morning, and I went to Amazon intending to buy Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, because I read a couple of chapters of it for free yesterday, and I don't think I need something to keep me at the computer more. I already sit here enough. But I found that the book was due to be released on December 31, 1969. Oh reeeeeally. So Timprov and I poked around and found this:

Evidently I'm writing the classics of late 1969 as well. And so are a few of the people on Timprov's wish list, though not all of them. It's very strange. Silly Amazon.

I read the newish Analog last night, because I had too much of an embarrassment of riches to be able to choose among the books, and a periodical is an easy answer for what to read next. Then I still felt waffley, so I went back to Paul Fussell's Thank God for the Atom Bomb, an essay collection borrowed from David. I started it before we left, because essay collections are good like that, if you know you're going to be in the middle of a book and don't want to travel with half a book to read. (This is an issue for me, considering how many books I read over three weeks. A wasted half-book is horrible packing for me.) So I'll probably finish that this morning, and I'll finish the chapter I was typing and the section I was editing -- can you believe I'm not done typing yet? It's not that I haven't been doing it, either. Uff da mai. There's just a lot of stuff there. I had nearly half a book to type, essentially, and if you're not going to screw up your back entirely, that evidently takes awhile.

Well, because I am Queen Patience this morning, I'll order the Doctorow with the other bit of Amazon money I have coming, and I'm getting a few other things this way. Right then.

I watched "Bringing Up Baby" yesterday morning. It had a few lines I really loved, but in general, well, Cary Grant is no Spencer Tracy, is what it is. And the dynamic between Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant was totally different, and very much more annoying. Still a better movie than most. But it made me cranky, made me want to go get one with Spencer Tracy in it. (Which I didn't do, of course, because there's enough on my list already. But I may soon.) I also discovered that people who watch "Bringing Up Baby" early on a Sunday afternoon are considered by those who sell ads to be fat, single drunks with ugly-colored hair and bad teeth. I swear, every ad was for weight loss, alcoholism treatment, dating service, hair dye (explicitly advertised to get you dates), or dentistry. The undercurrent in all of them was, "We know you loathe yourself! Buy our product/service!" And it was fairly explicit that way. Weird.

As I noted, I'm not exactly filled with patience this morning, so I'm going to go get other things done, efficiently and according to the list. I hope.

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