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Wake Up America Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

I'm still way behind on my 99 Novels, which is no one's fault but my own. I really enjoyed both Portnoy's Complaint and A Single Man (two different books about the body, I guess you could say) but I'm still not sure what to say about either of them. So I'll give it another week and either come up with something or let it go.

What I'm Reading Now

I ran out of books to read on the plane back home, so I bought Hidden Figures at the airport bookstore and promptly fell asleep - through no fault of Margot Lee Shetterly or the women of West Computing; I was just tired. I think it's pretty good so far, and Shetterly does a good job of making the 1940s engineering problems readable for the non-engineer, though I might still be having a little trouble with them because my brains are mush.

I've started reading Generation of Vipers by Philip Wylie - next in a long line of books I bought a long time ago and haven't gotten around to yet. Generation of Vipers was a background figure in feminist cultural criticism back in the 90s (when I was reading a lot of stuff from the 70s and 80s) because Wylie reportedly blames mothers for everything.

The perception that Generation of Vipers is all about blaming mothers is inaccurate so far; there's been some name-checking of "moms" and culturally expected attitudes toward motherhood, plus a dash here and there of contempt for "mustached females at Columbia" whose infant experiments came to unimaginative conclusions - but Vipers has a lot of fish to fry. It's a Wake Up Call for America, some of it perceptive, some petulant (with or without justification for the petulance). I don't want to be dismissive of Wake Up, America! writing; there's never been any shortage of fruit on that tree, low-hanging or otherwise. Wylie's antidotes to complacency are 1) a scientific approach to the individual soul, leading to 2) a healthy respect for Jungian archetypes, so it's bound to be a mixed bag for today's reader.

It's interesting to note that in 1941, when this book was first written, organized religion was sufficiently on the wane in the US for Wylie to write it off as a cultural influence; in this new edition from 1955, he admits that he couldn't have predicted the resurgence of religion in the next ten years via the anti-Communist movement. He doesn't footnote his remarks on the barbarity of mixed-use zoning, though; maybe in 1955 he still thought the burbs were an improvement.

What I Plan to Read Next

No idea! Probably something in the Mount TBR category. I'm still half-asleep. Blame the weather if you're feeling charitable.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
bearshorty
Jul. 19th, 2017 05:11 pm (UTC)

I'm reading Hidden Figures right now too. And while I like the content and learning about airplane testing and early NASA and the women, her writing style is irritating me and driving me nuts. Most likely because I was trained as a historian and the author is not one. Too much eye rolling turns of phrase and too much worship of people involved - all these perfect people. Just overdoing it. I do want to see the movie.

evelyn_b
Jul. 19th, 2017 05:40 pm (UTC)
Hah, I was going to complain that getting married in a short non-white outfit in 1944 was not an example of "bucking convention," but I decided against it, since I am enjoying the book on the whole. That's the only thing that's really stood out to me -- not being trained as a historian myself.

The writing style is not amazing, but far from the worst I've encountered in a popular history book, and I haven't noticed anyone being too perfect - but I guess it's early days yet. I think some of what you're seeing is probably informed by the fact that Shetterly is writing about her neighbors and family friends, people who are clearly not perfect but about whose imperfections she feels she has to maintain a respectful vagueness. That's probably (almost definitely) a flaw, but I find it understandable - so far, anyway.

The movie was very well done, I thought - maybe you'll like it better, since it mostly doesn't have a prose style. I didn't get the impression that it worshiped anyone, unless you count portraying John Glenn as the most adorable human being ever to walk the earth (and the moon).
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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