Well, so much for me charging through the last fifth of the Penguin Moderns box set… I haven’t actually read any since July (where does the time go???) so I figured it was time to take a look at the next two – and an interesting, though disparate, pairing they are! 😀

Penguin Modern 41 – The Problem That Has No Name

If you’re a feminist of a certain age, the name of Betty Friedan will be very familiar. Although I’m a bit later than the generation she was writing for, when I first encountered what was called Women’s Lib Friedan was still a reference point. A pioneering American feminist, her book “The Feminine Mystique” (1963) was a groundbreaking work which attempted to identify the problems faced by those 1950s housewives who were told they had it all, but felt that they didn’t…

Here, two selections from “Mystique” are featured – the title essay and “The Passionate Journey”, and they still read as rousing rallying cries for woman who are still being short-changed by the patriarchal societies which continue to exist all around the world. “Problem…” is stirring stuff; particularly in America of that era, women were told that with a husband, children, home and all mod cons they had all they could ever want and should be grateful. This was part of the post-war return to traditional ways, following the advances into the workplace made during WW2. Well, we know how well being restricted to house and home went for women – I mean, just look at Plath and Sexton…

Betty Friedan (c. Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons)

The second essay looks at the lies and disinformation spread to discredit feminists and suffragettes from the early days on, warping and distorting their aims – again, not much has changed, has it?

It is a strangely unquestioned perversion of history that the passion and fire of the feminist movement came from man-hating, embittered, sex-starved spinsters, from castrating, unsexed non-women who burned with such envy for the male organ that they wanted to take it away from all men, or destroy them, demanding rights only because they lacked the power to love as women. Mary Wollstonecraft, Angelina Grimm Kay, Ernestine Rose, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Julia Ward Halle, Margaret Sanger all loved, were loved, and married…

Friedan’s trenchant writing still makes inspiring reading, but I found myself a bit saddened that her thoughts still seemed so relevant. When it comes to the feminist cause, it often seems it’s one step forward, two steps back… 😦

Penguin Modern 42 – The Dialogue of Two Snails by Federico Garcia Lorca

This was a book I’d hoped to get to during Spanish Lit Month, but alas I failed. Better late than never, then… Anyway, the great Spanish poet Lorca probably needs no introduction, and this Modern brings together what the blurb describes as “A representative sampling of (his) poetry, dialogues and short prose”. The translator is Tyler Fisher, and apparently some of the works appear here in English for the first time which is rather lovely.

So much for living.
All for what?
The path is flat and dreary,
and there is not love enough.

What to say about Lorca which hasn’t been said before? His work is lyrical, sometimes quirky, often dark and really does stick in the mind and the heart. The prose is particularly lovely, and I’m not sure I was aware before that Lorca had written anything other than poetry.

Statue of Lorca in Madrid (Lourdes Cardenal, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons)

A sharp emotion, like an elegy for the things that have never been – good things and bad, large things and small – invades the landscapes of my eyes, which are almost hidden behind a pair of violet-tinted glasses. A bitter emotion that compels me to walk towards this quivering garden on the highest prairies of the air.

Of the poems, there are beautiful words and phrases, romantic verses about people and nature, and “They Felled The Trees” is a particularly stunning lyric. Lorca’s sketches are dotted through the book, and as I read it I couldn’t help but lament his early death… A particularly lovely inclusion in the Moderns series.


So – a *really* different pairing of authors here, with little in common, perhaps. Nevertheless, both of these little volumes were great reads in their own individual ways and so I am impelled forward to read the next two in the seires – hopefully before too long!!