Monday, June 21, 2010

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

As you might know, there's a new translation of Simone de Beauvoir's classic feminist text, The Second Sex, out in hardcover. I don't have a copy yet and I don't think the library does either, but I spent awhile at Orca skimming through it a few weeks ago and if they didn't have a cat that was making me sneeze I would probably have read a lot more in one sitting.

I'm tempted to get it this week because the next reading in The Feminist Theory Reader (FTR) is the introduction to The Second Sex and it would be cool to compare the translations here. I'm not sure how different it will be, but I'm excited to re-read it.

A few years back I was involved in a feminist theory book club. We tried to take a "break" over the summer and a few of us (ok two, hi Marissa) agreed to read The Second Sex. I should have known better. Out of all the book clubs I've started, most of them fall apart over the summer or when we tried to read classic, long books. Other examples: Moby Dick, Ulysses and what were we talking about, oh yeah The Second Sex!

So anyhow, I had to read a lot of it in school -early 1991- along with a packet of queer theory articles, post-structuralist feminist theory and a bunch of books by radical WOC. I remember getting 50 pages of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble handed out as a xerox and losing my mind! But really, The Second Sex, despite its flaws and limitations, really inspired me at the time. I had taken a lot of philosophy from male teachers who were open-minded, inclusive and knowledgeable but it was reading De Beauvoir and not Foucault (though I am a fan) that really got my mind thinking critically in ways that applied to my own life and helped me navigate my way out of the very male-dominated world I was living in at 21...I could relate to a lot of her personal conflicts and the way she explained the world was truly illuminating to me. She articulated things I had felt for so long, that I had no words for (I stopped talking an hour ago) and she was so precise and funny and smart. I think of her writing a lot and often return to her work.

Still, as hugely influential as it was on me, I'm not sure if I've ever read The Second Sex cover-to-cover...I've read The Ethics of Ambiguity, The Mandarins, She Came to Stay, The Prime of Life, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, Woman Destroyed and I don't know what all else by Simone de Beauvoir, not to mention several biographies, literary history, late 20th century feminist critique etc.

In the past few months I re-read the ending of Prime of Life and started reading Force of Circumstance. I'm currently in the middle of A Very Easy Death and re-read the introduction to The Second Sex in FTR yesterday.

So maybe it's time to try again, seeing as how Simone de Beauvoir is haunting my brain right now and this book is there, sitting at Orca Books, just a few blocks away?

Or maybe it's because today is the longest day of the year and I think I can read every book and play guitar every day and write and exercise and go to work and still have time to listen to all the records I need to review? Not to mention, making dinner, doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom and clearing a space to write in my room?

Well, I won't make any promises, but I did just find this:

Maybe if I just take it if I'm not already moving slow enough...well I guess I'll just read and keep track of it here and you'll have to wait and see what happens dot dot dot style.

P.S. Joaquin just reminded me that today is not only Summer Solstice, but it is Jean Paul Sartre's birthday. You might know him as Simone de Beauvoir's boyfriend/life-partner/comrade. Ha.

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