Thursday, December 4, 2008

Colette, The Pure and the Impure

Book club was last night. The Pure and the Impure, which is Colette's pseudo-autobiographical series of character studies focusing on the spectrum of romantic and sexual relationships, was thoroughly enjoyable. The narrator is a detached observer of the societal niches around her (in turn of the century Paris), and she talks aimlessly and critically of the individuals' relationships, generalizes constantly and casually, but in a way that feels genuine and nonjudgmental. On the whole, she admires wholeness (in the sense of sincerity about who you are, moderation) and criticizes excess and roleplaying (whether mindlessly embracing or knee-jerkedly rejecting societal expectations). And because you know she was part of these groups that she is a bit harsh towards, it only comes across as raw and honest instead of uppity and condescending.

But, most of the other people in the group disagreed with me, so you'll have to read it for yourself (it only takes about two hours. But again, while it was the fastest book I've read since John Updike, everyone else seemed to think it was dense and hard to follow...) This is actually a major downfall of this book club - it is made up of only queer, fairly literary girls in their 20s, and that comes with a whole lot of skewed views about feminism, homosexuality, homophobia, misogyny, etc. I don't think they're capable of reading anything, no matter how innoculous, without referencing feminism and the establishment and subconscious homophobia/misogyny. It's alternatingly hilarious and frustrating.