Friday, February 20, 2009
Posted by Liane Gentry Skye
I'd never advise an author to write to trend unless that trend lends well to her personal skills and talents. With that said, I think all of us are wondering how these harsh economic times are going to change the books that readers are willing to buy. It is here that I must confess. I'm a history geek.
I firmly believe that in order for a culture to know where it's going, it need only look into its past. So natch, being a writer who wants to sell more books, I'm reading a lot about the period that most reflects the world climate du jour--the Great Depression.
Specifically, I'm interested in what women writers were creating during the same era that brought us such greats as Steinbeck, and Hemingway. The saddest part of my search is that much of that literature created by female authors was wiped into obscurity by the McCarthy era.
Many of the themes of the day deal dealt with women redefining the role of femininity, marriage and motherhood, much like the women's fiction of modern times. For this reason, I tend to to believe women's fiction is a genre that promises to take off in a big way. But in the process of wanting to know what my foremothers were writing during hard economic times, I found a bonus. I discovered a "new" gotta have every word she ever wrote author and I want to share an excerpt from her work because it taught me that the mood of women during any given period in history cannot be accurately reflected in literature penned by men.
Meet Meridel Le Sueur. (1900-1996). A prolific author, Meridel's body of work spanned genres. She delved into poetry, novels, and short stories. Many of Maridel's stories were set during the Depression era, and she viewed men as the primary victims of the Depression. Meridel's work, imo, suggests that motherhood and the work of raising those who might change the world is eternal, and independent from the activities of men. A recurring theme in her work connected motherhood and revolution. The excerpt below particulary captured my interest:
"The pears are all gone from the tree, but I imagine them hanging there, ripe curves within the many scimitar leaves, and within them the many pears of the coming seasons. I feel like a pear. I hang secret within the curling leaves just like the pear would be hanging on its tree.
It seems possible to me that perhaps all people at sometime feel this, round and full. You can tell by looking at most people that the world remains a stone to them and a closed door. I'm afraid that it will become like that to me again. Perhaps after this child is born, then everything will harden and become small ad mean again as it was before. Perhaps I would have a hard time even remembering this time at all and it wouldn't seem wonderful. That is why I would like to write it down.
How can it be explained? Suddenly many movements are going on within me, many things are happening. There is an almost unbearable sense of sprouting, of bursting encasements,of moving kernels, expanding flesh.Perhaps it is such an activity that makes a field come alive with millions of sprouting shoots of corn or wheat. Perhaps it is something like that that makes a new world. (Anunciation)
Maridel grasped in her writing the revolutionary contribution of women to world change. As with times in Maridel's era, our world is changing. The literature of the women of our era will no doubt be colored by the mood of the day. Whether the changes in what women write and readers read takes the form of sweeping escapism or a return to home and hearth remains to be seen.
End of geek fest. :)