- Series: Bluestreak
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (March 17, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807062995
- ISBN-13: 978-0807062999
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Female Man (Bluestreak) 1st Edition
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As hard and mean and fine as Flannery O'Connor. . . . I wish that everyone would read Joanna Russ' books. -Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
"Joanna Russ offers a gallery of some of the most interesting female protagonists in current fiction, women who are rarely victims and sometimes even victors, but always engaged sharply and perceptively with their fate." -Marge Piercy
"A stunning book, a work to be read with great respect. It's also screamingly funny." -Elizabeth Lynn, San Francisco Review of Books
"A work of frightening power, but it is also a work of great fictional subtlety. . . . It should appeal to all intelligent people who look for exciting ideation, crackling dialogue, provocative fictional games-playing in their reading." -Douglas Barbour, Toronto Star
About the Author
Nebula and Hugo Award winner Joanna Russ is the author of The Adventures of Alyx, Extra(Ordinary) People, and To Write Like a Woman, among many other books.
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Top Customer Reviews
I will now explain my reasons for giving the book four stars.
Russ's inventiveness in this novel was cutting edge when it came out, and it's still a challenge to keep the character shifts straight. Given the idea of "probability travel" instead of "time travel," as Jael later explains, we find we may not have to keep them straight; there's even the possibility that all the major characters occupy a common psychological core as well as a common physical self. The interweaving and colliding of their stories keeps readers on their toes. The science fiction ideas propounded here have found their way into TV and movie sf, as well as many later stories and books. Despite that fact, in most of the futures and parallel worlds and matrices offered in/by the mass media, women are still portrayed from a 1960s "male-gaze" perspective, the occasional "tough" women of Battlestar Galactica and Alien notwithstanding. We can account for this in part by the fact that the little boys in charge of big companies haven't grown up and aren't likely to any time soon. (Just consider all the "alien" women on TV and in the movies who wear high heels, a hold-over of the Western imitation of the Chinese fetish of foot-binding. No intelligent beings would insist on such a practice.)
As I reflected on the book, I thought of three others: The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois, where he speaks of the "double consciousness" that people of color feel in white-dominant societies like the US; The Disappearance by Philip Wylie, in which he posits two parallel worlds of men only and women only; and Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin, in which she considers the social practices of an assortment of different and not-so-different peoples one or more planes removed from us. The last work echoes for me Russ's theory of probability travel. The first work I found reflected in part 7, chapter 2, pages 137-140 in my copy. The second book came out in the late 1950s, I believe, and Russ may have read it or been aware of it.
I suppose the parts of TFM that I didn't enjoy were the occasional screeds, such as on pages 140-141. (Which is why I gave it four stars, not five.) It's not that anything Russ said then wasn't justified; all her points are pretty much still justified, as witness many TV sitcoms, but especially ELR, which I mentioned above. Yet I cannot help thinking how much more effective it is to dramatize such points, as Russ effectively does throughout the book. Consider, for example, the exchange between Jael and the Manlander, culminating in Jael telling him to open his eyes (page 181). Speaking as a (white) male, I don't have any problem with Jael's actions there or even elsewhere, though I prefer Janet's approach, even when she has to deal with the old woman up in the wilderness.
One other reviewer mentioned the absence of any direct discussion of race or class, both of which are important. (But see the bottom of page 161 re: race.) I suspect that including race and class would have doubled or tripled the size of the book. To see race, class, and gender treated in an sf context, see Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring and her later novel Midnight Robber; Andrea Hairston's Mindscape is another well-rounded look at all these attitudes; much of Octavia E. Butler's work, too, deals with all three, though not always explicitly. (Sometimes we do have to make the effort and "read between the lines.")
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