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  • Review of Home by Marilynne Robinson

    HomeHome by Marilynne Robinson
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson so much. The review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

    But with Home, I had a different experience. I wasn't compelled through most of the book. At about the three-quarter mark, things started to happen and I felt my interest quicken. But here's a summary of my impressions, and my apologies to those who loved it so much they recommended it to me:

    1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
    2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
    3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
    4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.

    Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.

    In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?

    So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.

    I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:

    "(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.

    "She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."

    God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.

    Like I said, Rorschach.

    And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After reading some of the reviews, I felt a bit off-kilter, as if I'm seeing something that wasn't intended by the author.

    Nevertheless, here's my impression: this story is about a man who, because of his physical limitations, resists closeness with other people, to the point that he marries a woman who seems certain to want the same, arm's length relationship. It's only after she dies that he begins to sense that he was wrong about that. During the grieving process, he comes to realize he's been living an arm's-length life.

    I love stories about people who come out of a fog and change their lives, empowered by the realization that they've been missing something important - that their reasoning was flawed, but it doesn't have to remain that way. And Anne Tyler is such a great wordsmith, anything she writes is wonderful. This book is perhaps a bit too subtle to win the raving applause it deserves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    As I read Lean In, I was intrigued at being able to get inside the head of a dynamic, smart woman who is one generation younger than me, and see the corporate world through her eyes. One of the cultural questions she answered for me was this: why are younger women so averse to the terms "feminist" and "feminism"? Apparently, Sheryl Sandberg and her contemporaries believe(d) the following:

    1. Equality having arrived, there's no need for feminism anymore
    2. Feminists are man-haters who resist makeup and the shaving of one's legs

    Okay, #2 was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, having observed conditions in the real world for a few years now, Sandberg has come to see that the playing field is not and will not be level until more women occupy positions of power in the corporate hierarchy. She doesn't suggest that this is due to any malicious intent on the part of men, but rather it's simply a matter of ignorance.

    To illustrate, she describes having to park far away from her office door when hugely and uncomfortably pregnant. When she designated preferred parking spots to accommodate pregnant workers, no one complained. It was seen as logical. But prior to her taking her place in the C-suite, the issue hadn't been raised.

    Sandberg talks about not slowing down out of consideration for what might happen in the nebulous future. The example she gives, now famous, is of a young woman confiding her fears of not wanting to accept a job with a lot of responsibility due to the impact it might have on her family. The woman was planning ahead - she didn't even have a boyfriend yet.

    With this example, Sandberg makes the point that women, having been highly trained and educated, are waving off promotional opportunities. The jury is still out as to why, but she suggests, and I agree, that part of the reason is this: in corporate America, a woman's decision to go through pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and child-rearing is viewed as a private matter that should not impact her ability to work long hours and irregular schedules, including lengthy and frequent travel as needed. Rightly fearing this may drive her insane, a woman who wants a family may leap off the corporate ladder at a very early stage.

    Sandberg argues that if a young woman stayed on it long enough to secure a more powerful position, she would be able to exert more control over her work life (a perspective the young woman must trust will happen, since at her current low place on the corporate ladder she can only see her lack of power and control.) After a few promotions, she will be able to delegate some of her work to subordinates, afford more help at home, and influence workplace policies that unfairly impact women and families. Who can find fault with this argument?

    Sandberg is honest about her own mistakes, and I found that charming. For example, I was amazed that, for all her intelligence and education, she didn't originally intend to negotiate her starting salary with Facebook. Luckily a nice man (her husband) set her straight, and she made a counter offer to Zuckerberg. Reams of guidance have been written about how this error could have impeded her in later years, both at Facebook and with future employers, yet she didn't know. For other women who have not yet made this horrifying discovery, please read Ask for It by Babcock and Laschever (http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Women-Power...) which in addition to being enlightening and entertaining, offers tons of strategies for preparing yourself to negotiate. And not just for salaries. After reading that book I saved $150 on furniture I was going to buy anyway, by asking one question.

    But back to Lean In.

    I was also surprised that she wasn't well informed about how women can sabotage other women in the workplace, particularly women in power. This is an unfortunate truth with roots in biology, and is brilliantly explained in the amazing book, In the Company of Women by Heim and Murphy (http://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-I...) which I reviewed here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... This also suggests the reasons Sandberg was hit with such a backlash for the well-intentioned Lean In.

    There is so much more to say about Lean In, but let me close with this: I enjoyed learning how this stellar corporate executive struggled, made mistakes, and ultimately learned some strategies that will enable her, her family, and the women (and men) in her corporation to thrive. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's not even pretty, but part of the lesson is to let go of the need for perfection.

    The other message, younger women, is to get as far and as fast as you can before starting your families. Don't opt out just because it looks too hard from where you're sitting now. The view improves with each rung on the ladder.

    View all my reviews

Miley Cyrus: Ink Blot

Miley Cyrus, former Disney child star, turned in a shockingly slutty performance a few days ago at the Video Music Awards on MTV. Talk shows and cable news responded immediately. Some people are calling for censorship. Parents are outraged. Feminists are baffled. Celebrities are laughing.

Anaïs Nin once said, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” That video is like a Rorschach test for America. If you didn’t see it, here’s a glimpse of the talent.

Here’s Miley advancing her career at the recent VMA Awards.

Miley is twenty years old

Here’s another shot for the family album:

Miley 2

On the Today show, Matt Lauer and Star Jones were trying to tell Mika Brzezinski that this is what girls think they have to do to make money and have a high celebrity profile, and that’s the saddest part of the whole thing. Mika, whom I like, was too busy ranting to hear that message, wanting only to have the performance banned or censored – I am not really sure of her point, she was so upset and everybody was yelling. I mean, it’s MTV. What did she expect?

Anderson Cooper posted a smirky essay about how boring Miley’s performance was, in that there was nothing new and she’s banal. Which is true but also kind of scary. What’s a girl singer going to have to do to get attention in the future? Film at the zoo?

Some were angry that nobody’s angry at Robin Thicke, that we’re all a little too quick to criticize Miley and not him. Okay, I’ll start.

What’s with the outfit, Robin? Channeling Beetlejuice?


Some people have expressed compassion for Miley, because she apparently was raised by wolves and doesn’t know any better. I was surprised to find many erotic photos of her on the web, going back a few years. Well, very few; she’s only twenty. But anyway, you’d think she was a porn star, not a little girl who sings.

Some have mentioned there’s a feminist aspect to this. That Miley is a grown woman, and she should be able to do what she wants with her body, even if what she does sets us back a million years. But then if we’re going for equality, I say Robin Thicke should be wearing a g-string instead of assuming the power position while Miley approximates Downward Dog.

In my opinion, which matters only to me, they’re both kind of trashy, but it’s what the public pays to see. I’m trying to think of what to tell my granddaughters. “Yes it’s true that in 2013, Miley Cyrus had a net worth of $150 million. She has yachts, houses, cars, and the very best in health care, but nobody respects her, and she is really a very sad person.”

I don’t want my granddaughters to grow up thinking society only values them for their girly parts, but if they manage to overcome that in this sick culture, it’ll be a miracle of good parenting.

As an Adult American, how do you see this?  What do you think?

Leave a comment


  1. I thought the whole act was just stupid – from Robin Thicke’s ridiculous suit to Miley’s lack of one. Her twerking along with her tongue perpetually suspended from her mouth just made me think ‘huh’? It seems me that we really have ‘blurred lines’ when it comes to appropriate v. inappropriate. THough arguably in the days of Josephine Baker, Las Vegas showgirls, etc – people were probably turned off too. I personally was just as offended to see what she was doing to the teddy bears…;-)

    • Mimi, that’s the question for me, too. Is it appalling just because it’s new-ish to see it in mainstream (as opposed to porno) TV? Are we appalled because we’re not used to it, or because it’s appalling? And does the existence of the second question mean somebody is losing one’s moral compass?

  2. I’m shocked at the way young people have so devalued sex. I hear of 11 year old girls going on dates, and giving boys a BJ instead of a good-night kiss. I just find it so hard to believe. They seem to have no respect for themselves or their bodies, and allow themselves to be used for entertainment purposes. I just can’t understand the whole “friends with benefits” thing. I must be getting super old!

    • Nancy, I hate to say it, but I think it’s what our little girls are taught is normal behavior. Somehow we have to tell them early that it isn’t, regardless of every ad, every TV show, every magazine cover, every Montana judge, and every other bit of cultural influence to the contrary.

  3. I completely agree with you, Lynne. Miley was a child star who took a wrong turn. Why?? we ask. Well I think that is complicated. Fortunately my grandchildren don’t watch TV. Does it surprise me that the same scrutiny wasn’t placed on Robin Thicke? Absolutely. It tells me something I already know. That our society still has not evolved to the point that women are viewed equally with men. What really disturbs me is that we are so focused on this event. Why do we keep giving this kind of behavior so much exposure, when we have so many serious problems to worry about in our country. There is talk of going to war, of shutting down our government so that overpaid politicians can get their way, of schools being defunded, etc. etc….. I raised a child in Hollywood. She was never allowed to act anything other than a normal kid. She grew up to be a productive member of society. A person who looks at the events of the other night in the same way that I do. Let’s stop giving them so much press.

    • I know, Laura! To your point about giving them press, you’re right, but that’s yet another conundrum, because if we discuss it we give her what amounts to actual $$$, but if we don’t, we miss an opportunity to examine the direction we’re going as individuals and as a culture. Kudos to you for how you raised your child, BTW. Had to have been tough.

  4. Shelley Charlesworth

     /  August 30, 2013

    I agree with Anderson – it was boring. Not sexy at all – just kind of raunchy and cheesy. And I was actually embarrassed for Miley watching it.

    A few years back Ariel Levy wrote about “Female Chauvinist Pigs”.
    I did not read it but I read some reviews about it. I think the premise is if male chauvinist pigs of the past thought of women as pieces of meat “Female Chauvinist Pigs” of today are doing them one better, making sex objects of other women — and of themselves.
    She talks about how women in their 20’s are ‘imitating the imitators’. She says she thinks many young women today are so caught up in trying to fit the definition of “hotness” that these women themselves have made their bodies objects.

    As a culture we have become one big lap dance club!
    Exhibitionism is not an expression of female power.

    She gives an interesting interviews here:

  5. Shelley, I’m rushing so will watch that enticing video this evening. Thanks for linking to it. I’m sure I’m not going to be the only one watching it.

    I don’t see women like Miley as FCPs as much as I see them as victims of Stockholm Syndrome. And as to the embarrassment? That can only happen if she aspires to a different profession, one in which a woman isn’t a piece of meat. Or matures and gains insight, which is likely.

  6. I agree with you. It is very sad and saddest of all she is throwing her power away for the moment of attention. Yes, she is a poor role model but worst of all it feels to me that this is an expression of deep inner pain.

    • Glenda, what if our desire to see it as “deep inner pain” is more like whistling past the graveyard? It’s very compassionate of you, but imagine a world where your (and my) ethics are alien. It’s as likely to imagine Billy Ray coaching her to “not worry about it” and “use whatcha got, honey” from a very young age, and for her to absorb that message and learn to feel fine, even great, with it. I would like to think the majority of mature, adult, ethical humans think the same way you do, but it’s not that hard to imagine she’s much more comfortable in a very different moral landscape.

  7. Don’t get me started. Is there an UP to the next level from this? What might that possibly be? Sex on the stage?

    My married daughter taped this, and the only reason I saw it was my granddaughter was watching it. My eyes almost popped out of my head and I asked my daughter’s opinion. She felt Miley (or her people) wanted to cause a stir and they did. I came back with but it’s all so ugly and I was informed this is entertainment.

    I didn’t raise her like that and couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m sure the granddaughter (9-1/2) didn’t understand what the fuss was about but I still wish I could have shut off the TV.

    • Oh, man. I feel sorry for your granddaughter. Maybe when you’re alone with her you can talk with her about valuing herself. Yes, I’m a subversive granny. I have asked my 3-year-old granddaughter why, on the Little Einstein episodes, only Leo flies the rocket ship. “How come he always drives?” I asked her one day. She, all innocence, said, “Because he’s a boy.” (Actually, there is another boy, but he’s dark-complected. He never gets to drive either.) After that, I started corrupting her with feminism. We think little cultural influences don’t matter but they do. Fight back.

  8. Funny post, sad topic. While Robin channeled Beetlejuice (also funny), Miley was channeling Madonna (who has been doing outrageous stuff for years that we are immune to), Lady Gaga, and unfortunately, a sleezy porn star.
    BTW, I read Dakota Blues and loved it. A poignant and well-written story. I especially loved the interweaving of history and descriptive narrative. Loved Frieda. Wise woman. And taking off in the RV alone. Nice touch. I did that years ago–drove around for two years in my VW bus in-between jobs. I wasn’t happy though and always wanted to do it again under better circumstances–like retirement? Still haven’t talked the H into it.

  9. adriennelacava

     /  August 30, 2013

    The music video culture is about shock value. Celebrity culture is about getting tongues wagging. And you know it’s a slow day for news, when…
    Look how easy it is for media to whip us into frenzy and outrage. That’s a discussion I’d rather be having. All in all, though, I don’t think much has changed in the decades I’ve been alive. In the seventies our nation was going to hell with the hippies.

    • Adrienne, I thought about that too. What must the elders have thought when we got the pill and thought we were liberated, just cuz we could have sex with anything that moved? What a joke on us. And a joke on Miley, liberation-wise. But, of course, Miley’s pranking us, too, because our angst = more cash for her.

  10. Susan

     /  August 30, 2013

    Money is dissolving our country on many levels; look at Wall Street. Has anyone gone to jail yet? Senators are retiring to become lobbyists. By example, increasingly, leaders (are teaching everyone to be for themselves with no depth of thought behind their decisions or fear of consequences). Miley’s performance seemed like – OK- I’ll act like this, because you will pay me tons of money. It wasn’t artistic at all. If the 70’s were the “Me Decade”, then what is this decade going to be called?

    • Good question, Susan. I’d like it to be the Rethinking Everything Decade, wherein we reevaluate the benefit of having chased after the almighty dollar like it was all that mattered, and then many of us lost it anyway. Our jobs went away, our kids can’t find work and have to keep living with us, leading to a return to multi-generational families. Housing tracts turned into ghost towns filled with McMansions nobody wants anymore, even if they can afford them. People are leaving the suburbs, preferring the convenience of cities where they don’t have to rely on cars to get around. Parents are foregoing career ladders in favor of simpler lives where they don’t have to feel guilty for the time it takes to nurture a kid. We’re starting to notice income inequality might actually exist, and consider the implications thereof. Old people are getting tired of being devalued, and thanks to the Internet, are talking about it. Maybe this is the “I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore” Decade. *Sigh* A girl can dream, can’t she?

  11. I guess I don’t see why people care so much. They said the same things about Beyoncé at the Super Bowl. So her costume is racy. So her performance is not in the Hannah Montana realm. She is still a successful performer whose career appears to be on the rise. I say leave her alone and I think our granddaughters will be fine.

    • Rosy, I don’t agree with you but other readers may. It’s probably a question of how much influence you think she has on the kids, or alternatively, how much she serves as a barometer of where we’re going as a culture. I feel unhappy about both aspects, but you’re at peace with it. Thanks for presenting the other side.

  12. Just the latest in a sadly long string of degrading performances by so-called stars, a string which will continue as long as people pay to see them, and society elects to pander to the same instincts as drew crowds to the Roman arena and to public executions.

  13. This is the best analysis of the “performance” that I’ve read, Lynne. I guess Miley Cyrus has definitively shown us that Hannah Montana is dead – not sure why she felt the need to descend to that level to make her point. I could only watch a few minutes of the video because it was so tawdry and vulgar. If it’s all about being more outrageous than the next performer, why not just cut to the chase and perform sex acts onstage? That couldn’t be much more gross than what we’re witnessing.

    And yes, more criticism should be directed toward Robin Thicke, and not just for the VMA performance. His video for “Blurred Lines” is tremendously cringe-inducing and sexist, with its nearly naked women prancing around and being kittenish, like overgrown six-year-olds. Is this all the farther that feminism has gotten us?

    • Thanks, JLee. When I watched that video of Blurred Lines, I saw once again that the women were naked and the men fully dressed. The lyrics of the song are worthy of a pimp luring a new girl. This is what we’re telling our girls: you’re powerful because you have the lust of an animal; you’re powerful because you’re going to hold out for, in the immortal words of Robin Thicke: “something big enough to tear your ass in two.” And Miley’s stellar, shining achievement is to present her backside for that opportunity, reflective of her power, I guess. What a chump. Are the men laughing at us? Another generation of Kool-Aide drinkers.

  14. Personally, I like Madonna and Lady Gaga. They have guts and above all they do have talent and a voice to keep them going when their bodies start to creak. They are business women and have chosen their career path.

    On the other hand, I haven’t followed Miley’s career, but apparently, she wants to change her child star image. Ok fine, but I didn’t see any talent. I saw a desperate little girl trying to make it in a tough industry. It doesn’t take talent to poke around with a foam finger, twerk, and wave your tongue around. I think I could do that! You’re 20 now, Miley, what else you got?

    The thing is – women like Madonna, and Lady Gaga are known for putting on a raunchy show and if Miley is trying to follow in their footsteps, she needs to sit down with a one of their managers.

    Robin Thicke and the other raunchy guys – well yeah, they get away with singing dirty words because America is still okay with that double-standard, apparently, but that’s another discussion.

    Also, the mothers who are screaming should be asking themselves why they let their kids stay up past 9PM on a school night to watch a ‘used to be’ child star. It’s MTV, folks, not the Disney Channel!

    Madonna may be raunchy, but most of us still remember her “Like a Virgin” performance 20+ years ago and she’s still a household name today, good or bad.

    If Miley has what it takes, she should go for it, but she needs to show some talent and brains.

    Thanks for letting me vent, Lynne. 🙂

    • Vonnie, I was laughing and agreeing with everything you said. Esp. the “what else ya got, girlie?” Because half the population has a vagina. She’s a tool and doesn’t even know it. Unfortunately, she’s a fabulously rich tool. Dammit.

  15. Glory Be

     /  August 30, 2013

    May all who care about their daughters (and sons) care about sexist outrageous acts performed for money and sheer exploitation.

    It’s called “critical thinking,” people. What has happened to intelligence in America?

    • You’re seeing it here, Glory. We’re all using our grey matter, trying to parse it out. As I pointed out, this Miley situation has many sides to it. Some have asked why we’re even talking about it, but I think we need to do that critical thinking you’re wishing for. We’re weighing all the angles, and in the majority of opinions, coming out on the side of your first sentence. So here’s to the endless analysis of celebrities and what they have to do with anything. Because they are a reflection of us. Thanks for your comment. Stop by again.

  16. Sue Shoemaker

     /  August 30, 2013

    Must be Miley didn’t get to see the “Ashton Kutcher video” regarding what is really sexy.

    • GOOD point, Sue! I missed it!! You win the prize for this weeks most insightful comment! Awesome.

    • adriennelacava

       /  August 31, 2013

      I agree, Sue; fabulous point: there are good messages getting through, too. And Glory, yes, I think if we teach our children to think critically, their generation will bring solutions and goodness to the world. But they’re still going to find their own means of expression.

  17. Lynne, it was sickening addition in our continued race to the bottom. Shameless.

  18. Jo Ann

     /  August 31, 2013

    I worry about our youth, Miley included. She’s getting poor counsel from the people closest to her. That tape will follow her forever! Audiences will move on and she will regret what she did, especially when her career plummets and all she has left to do are raunchy acts. I hope someone talks some sense into her.

    As for the rest of us, as parents and grandparents, we need to learn more about what is happening to our youth and step forward to teach them a better way to live… a way to walk away from horrific behavior. Miley showed us all how depraved she (and many others are) when It comes to self respect.

    Did you know there are 127 STDs… some are not treatable? Did you know suicide among our young is on the rise? Did you know young male teens think it’s alright to rough up their girl friends?

    Miley, matter-of-factly laid it on the line. Check the facts on teen behavior with your local law enforcement, mental health and community health departments. The statistics are as shocking as Miley’s behavior. We may not be able to save the whole world but we certainly can open the eyes of the youth in our lives as to what true love really is.

    • Jo Ann, it makes me wonder why things are so much more dire for the kids these days, as your comment seems to indicate. Is it that the pace of life has accelerated, or that with the Internet they’re overloaded with complex messages? Or that girls feel like they’re only as good as the last BJ they administered? And that boys feel they are the thinking half of civilization, because girls are just animals to tame (per the lyrics of Robin Thicke’s song, to which they were, uh, “dancing”?) What a jungle for them, poor things. And the old people spend their time trying to emulate the young. 😦

  19. I think that those who fought for gender equity, to remove our limitation as sexual toys and second class citizens, must be shaking their heads in dismay. But we are products of a culture that worships youth, materialism and physical beauty. I am not sure what we can do as a society to stop this decline, but we can still present a positive role model as individuals. You are doing just that Lynne and your granddaughter is fortunate to have you to look up to.

    • Yes, Pat, she has the benefit of many family members who will help her grow up happy, loved, and highly-functioning, but is that enough to overcome a misogynist culture?

  20. She seems to me to be very moderate in talent. It’s hard to believe she was ever the icon teen star of so many young girls. I think she might feel she has to rival Lady G in her outrageousness, in order to continue her musical career. Without the glam and the slutty stuff, she’s pretty ordinary.

  21. A friend of mine shared a great picture on Facebook showing Miley on one side and a breast-feeding mother on the other and explaining how each is handled in our society. It’s really worth looking at http://ow.ly/osKao

  22. I felt the same as you: what will young women have to do next to get attention? I mean, this was the same old, same old. Raunchy sex. My son can’t believe Miley doesn’t even have one person who cared enough about her to say, please don’t do this.

  23. Once again we see the real power of celebrities and the messages they send. Here’s Miley sending the message that a woman is a piece of meat and all the associated harm that does, and in the post before this one, there were Ashton and Jay Z sending a very positive message. Talk about the two extremes of the spectrum. Personally, I’m still dismayed at the power of celebrity in our society.

    • Yes, Martin, but celebrity just means they have a bigger megaphone. We have a lot of celebrity CEOs and politicians, too. Cross fingers they use their status for the good. Thanks for noting the positive contribution of Jay Z and Ashton.


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  • Lynne Spreen

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  • Review of Private Life by Jane Smiley

    Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Maybe this book is better than my capacity to appreciate. I don't tend toward writing that is obscure, or dense (or makes me feel dense). However, sometimes it's better to roll along with the storytelling and let the deeper meaning work its way up from subconscious to conscious.

    The ending of this book is extremely powerful. Margaret, due to the traumatic incident that happened when she was five, lived in a fog her entire life, married to a wacko genius, and not waking up until she was in her sixties and everything/everyone is sad and tired. Yet she seems to catch fire, fueled by bitterness, in the very last 3 sentences of the epilogue. It was a long time to wait for the enlightenment.

    I gave the book 3 stars because there's too much backstory too soon, making it hard for me to develop an interest. Once there, I felt frustrated at the repetitious nature of Margaret's obtuseness, even though she's a bright woman, and her deferring to Andrew, even though this is what people - women especially - do.

    It went on for her whole life! That she was living in a cloud due to, I believe, the trauma of the childhood incident, and that she was ill served by those around her, didn't make it any easier to like this story. I know Smiley is a master writer, and I feel like a goof not giving her a better rating, but this is my honest reaction.

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  • Review of Up At The Villa by Somerset Maugham

    Up at the VillaUp at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Very much enjoyed this short book, which I read in one night. The settings are lush, dialogue snappy, and the characters realistic and strong. The plot and writing are compelling. I enjoyed it because a theme might be, "people are not what they appear to be." A character acts one way and you think, okay, he's good and upstanding. And maybe he IS, but the "why" of it is enlightening. Maugham is a respected author for a reason. What talent! A very good story.

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  • Review of Benediction by Kent Haruf

    BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook (www.Facebook.com/midlife.fiction) and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

    Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. Each one resonated. I felt again what it was like to be a lost little girl, a lonely divorcee, a misunderstood introspective, a grieving wife, a person who is coping with serious illness. I longed for the small-town atmosphere described here (the Fourth of July fireworks over the high school football field is a stellar short story all by itself.)

    Although the central character is dying, the book is not negative. Far from it - Benediction reflects on the everyday goodness (and tawdriness) of people. His characters are beset by the normal difficulties of life yet buoyed by simple beauties and kindnesses.

    Yet, nothing in Haruf's writing is overly dramatic or in the least saccharine. In fact, that's one of the aspects of Benediction I enjoyed the most: being surprised by tears on the completion of a plainly-written paragraph, phrase or description.

    I couldn't stop reading excerpts to my husband, since he also loves beautifully crafted writing. This book put me in mind of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. If I could describe it in one word, it would be "elegiac."

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