Friday, September 9, 2011

Sad Story of the DNF

I've been doing so well this year that it was bound to happen.  Previously in 2011, I've struggled with two books both of which I managed to get through, but finally I'm agreeing to throw in the towel.  I've gotten really good at knowing my taste and even broadening my reading interest but I couldn't find any reason to stay with The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

There was a powerful feminist element that had the subtlety of a freight train.  This did not bother me.  The story is of the fall of Troy primarily through the eyes of Kassandra.  As I crested the two-hundred page mark in this six-hundred page monster I began to feel she was trying to make up for many male writers complete disregard for women as men in The Firebrand are not only completely useless but also anything but desirable.  The delivery of this message is pretty heavy-handed to the point that I thought she was being as bigoted as the male writers that may have driven her to write the story as she did in the first place.

In the beginning of the book Kassandra's older sister Polyxena, was subject to many eye rolling comments because she liked 'pretty things' and indulged in gossip about city boys who sought her affections.  I felt like Bradley was making fun of my sister.  I like my sister.  I made up my mind to put the book down, when Andromache, Hector's promised bride, was first introduced.  She is summarily chided and chastised for wanting to be married, to have a husband.  Yet her character is so confused (read: Bradley didn't know what she wanted to do with her) that I couldn't even sympathize with her.  She has lived her life in a city ruled by a Queen where, not surprisingly men are completely useless, a nuisance, a pest at best.  The following is a bit from a conversation with Kassandra:    

     "What should she do with a husband?  Two or three times since my father died, she has taken a consort for a season and sent him away when she was tired of him.  That is what is right for a Queen to do if she has desire for a man--at least in our city."
     "And yet you are willing to marry my brother and be subject to him as our women are subject to their men?" 
     "I think I shall enjoy it," Andromache said with a giggle..." Page 128

So she can stand up for how things are done in her city and appreciate her mothers place of power, defend her entire culture and yet longs to give it up for what she sees as possibly being fun... Yeah, some real strong principles there...  Perhaps she is ironed out and made to make sense further in but I'll never know.  

All this harsh and bitter treatment towards men makes me want to write a book where men have a stronger place of power, and women are only after thoughts.  A book where negative attributes of women will be put in strong relief when contrast with the earthshaking power of a character like Conan.  Oh wait a minute... That's right...

I can't say any thing definitive as I didn't finish the book, but if there is a problem with a women's place in literature (which I confess ignorance as to whether or not there is) I certainly do not think Bradley is any part of a solution.  Ultimately, none of the issues stated were the reason I put this book down.  I love the story of the fall of Troy; it's heroes and heroines, but Bradley's storytelling couldn't hold my interest.  I'd make a recommendation, but the author is male and by this point I'd just feel dirty doing so.  


Anonymous said...

And now you understand exactly why many of us old-fogy feminists stopped reading Bradley.--marion

Chad Hull said...

So should I take Mist of Avalon to my used bookstore to trade in as well? Any thoughts?

Marion said...

Almomst everyone I know who read Mists of Avalon liked it. It is better than Firebrand. I thought Bradley was kind of a hack before I read it and it didn't change my opinion. You will have the same problem; "matriarchal women good; christian men bad," etc.