In the Body of the World
I am an Emotional Creature
Insecure at Last
The Good Body
The Vagina Monologues
A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer
The Men Who Killed Me
—titles of books by Eve Ensler
ITCHY BOOK REVIEW: Boston Adventure by Jean Stafford, c. 1944.
It’s a novel about a girl, Sonie. We grow up with her as we read. Sonie is smart and pretty and damaged, she is trying to make her way in the world. The way she is damaged is that her mother is mentally ill– all this taking place back in the early 1900s, when they came right out and called you insane. The lunatic mother drives Sonie’s father away. Not that he is a gem of a guy or anything but he is her father, he tells her stories, kisses and hugs her, keeps her clothed and fed. The father is German, the mother is Russian; they are immigrants who literally met on the boat to Ellis Island. The father finally hits his limit with the crazy mother, he has taken enough, and he leaves. He leaves his wife. He leaves his daughter. You know, goes out for cigarettes and never comes home.
Sonie, trapped in a life of poverty with her crazy mother, takes a job as a waitress at a hotel in the seaside suburb of Boston where she lives. She also works as a maid for a wealthy family whose daughter is in her class at the public school. Sonie is about thirteen when her dad takes off, and until she is eighteen she supports her family with these jobs. The crazy mom has had a second child, a boy, somewhere in there, and this baby turns out to be a nutcase, too. The boy only lives until he is five, when he wanders out in a snowstorm and dies. The crazy mother has killed the boy, effectively, and Sonie finally puts her into a state-run hospital for the insane, a madhouse, as it was once called.
Sonie then moves to Boston to work as a personal assistant, though it wasn’t called that at the time. She lives in a big, fancy house on Beacon Bill with a rich, old, mean, proud, aristocratic, frigid spinster named, of course, Miss Lucy Pride. Sonie has always known Miss Pride, who was a frequent guest at the hotel where Sonie worked as a waitress. Miss Pride is Sonie’s womanly ideal: restrained, self-controlled, autonomous, loveless, cruel. Everything to admire.
Miss Pride has a niece named Hopestill, who is a bad seed. Sonie is a good seed. She’s the best seed. The obstacles she overcomes! We, the readers, are just as brave, pure, glorious, and embattled as Sonie. We follow her everywhere. How we love her. We want her to marry Dr. McCallister, the handsome, young doctor who treats Sonie’s mad mother, and who eventually courts Sonie in a fit of charitable lust. But of course, Dr. McAllister is really in love with Hopestill, the bad seed.
We are given a couple of passionate kisses, and they are good ones. The kind of kisses a woman thinks about for the rest of her life. Sonie has a thing for handicapped men. But she doesn’t love them. Still, this is a step ahead of her crazy mother, who rabidly hates all men. But the mother is out of her mind, of course. Locked away.