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Airless Spaces Paperback – March 1, 1998

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In the century I'm most familiar with, the 20th, the explosion was never-ending, the pieces tinier and tinier. Shulamith Firestone, in her radical insider's tale, informs us repeatedly like lightly pelting rain that all of us are vanishing in a century of institutions that take and take until everyone has gone away and there's no one left to shut the door." Eileen Myles



"This book comes out of a long lonely adventure. A season in hell. The result is a series of devastating observations made entirely without rhetoric. It operates like a parable—deceptively simple and stark, almost imagistic as little pieces fits together with little pieces, pretending to be about small outcast lives when in fact it is an encyclopedia of our age—a harrowing record of what really goes on among us where the wounds of life bring on the invasion of institutions which inflict still more suffering—a stifling atmosphere of isolations where souls are automatically and needlessly lost. This is a prophetic book with enormous consequences since the airless paces multiply now and begin to take over." Kate Millet

About the Author

Shulamith Firestone was a founder of the women s liberation movement and editor of "Notes", a journal of radical feminism. She lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Series: Semiotext(e) / Native Agents
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Semiotext(e) (March 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570270821
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570270826
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.3 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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For those of us, who have (somehow) avoided mental institutions, Ms Firestone is our proxyguide of 'what to avoid'. The amazing thing about her writing, is its clarity within the fog enshrouded material (her one-year confinement in Bellevue). I cannot praise, sufficently, the effort contained within this slim opus. I love Shulamith Firestone!
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Shulamith Firestone has long been important to feminists' understanding of social institutions, injustices, and struggles. Airless Spaces adds to our understanding of an institution and experience we too often refuse to examine: hospitals for the mentally ill and mental illness itself. In a series of stark and riveting short stories, Firestone recounts the lives of those who move in and out of hospitals, rely on government, medical, and other social assistance for their survival, and fail or refuse to eke out lives recognizably "normal." As someone whose mother suffers from and has been hospitalized with bipolar disorder, I read this book as a gift. I am grateful to Shulamith Firestone for helping me to understand the lives led by my mother and those with whom she spends her days. I have a better sense now of the sorrow, humor, madness, desperation, and fantastic with which they contend daily. Too often we imagine the mentally ill as having no lives; Shulamith Firestone provides us with a picture of the difficult but nonetheless _lived_ lives of the mentally ill. This is an important and generous book.
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By A Customer on July 31, 1998
Firestone doesn't waste words in this plain and haunting look at life in and out of mental institutions. It was a quick read -- one afternoon -- that stayed with me for many days. There is very little analysis here, no deep insight into how people become ill or wind up in the hospital; just stark, honest, sometimes brutal observations on their lives during and after they have been there. I haven't been so frightened, for myself and for others walking the fine line of sanity, since reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (a very different yet similarly evocative book) years ago.
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Verified Purchase
GEM

AIRLESS SPACES IS A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES ,EACH ONE EXQUISITE AND HEARTRENDING. THE AUTHOR SHULAMITH FIRESTONE GAVE US THE CLASSIC FEMINIST WORK THE DIALECTIC OF

SEX,IN THE 1970'S. NOW SHE USES HER GENUIS TO REVEAL THE LIVES OF THOSE CAST OUTOF THE MAINSTREAM THROUGH ILLNESS AND HARD LUCK. EACH TALE INTRODUCES US TO AN

INDIVIDUAL STRUGGLING AGAINST THE MOLOCH OF A SYSTEM THAT DEVOURS THOSE WEAKENED BY INHUMANE TREATMENT. I LOVE THIS TINY GEM.
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Shulamith Firestone was a 1960s feminist movement radical who became disenchanted with the politics within the movement. She began suffering from mental illness in the 80s and lived in increasingly paranoid isolation until her death in 2012. And in the course of her later life she spent time in and out of mental hospitals.
Her book, AIRLESS SPACES, is a kind of an autobiographical summary of her life after she became ill and deals with the boredom of life in mental hospitals (how to get along, what to do to get released) and life outside (the difficulties of staying alive on the outside; would it be better to be re-hospitalized?) There are also sections dealing with acquaintances (friends would really be too strong a term) she had met during her hospitalizations as well as a few reminiscences on her past.

It would be inaccurate to categorize Firestone’s writings in this book as short stories, as they are much too short (one is only 2 paragraphs while many are only 2 or 3 pages long) and too underdeveloped to consider them as such. Rather, they are more vignettes – postcards so to speak – showing small pictures, slices of a sad and disturbing life.
Firestone’s writing is eloquent and honest, but there gets to be a sameness to the postcards. How many ways can you describe the proper way to act in a mental ward in two pages? Yet there are more than a few of these snapshots in the book.

I felt AIRLESS SPACES, though it is a short and easily read book, became somewhat repetitious towards the end. I’m glad I read it, but wouldn’t again, and find it hard to rate.
I think four stars mostly because of Firestone’s literary skill and her unstinting honesty.
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