Cbr13Bingo – Rep
Conundrum – 5/5 Stars
Because I have read Jan Morris’s only novel (and only fiction)Last Letters from Hav, and its follow-up (often packaged together), Hav of the Myrmidons, I spent some time looking through her biography and bibliography. I knew of this book too, which dwells on her thinking, experiences, and ruminations about sex and gender, particularly her understanding as a child that she was trans (she uses the outmoded term “transsexual” in the book) and the journey that her to eventual transition in the 1960s. This transition came after among other things climbing Everest, fighting in WWII, and getting married to a woman and having children.
I became additionally aware of this book because of a truly atrocious review/essay from an early Nora Ephron. That essay is cruel, snarky, TERFy trash that was both truly shocking in some ways, and perfectly typical in others.
Even if Jan Morris’s thoughts miss the mark (and I am not arguing that they do) according to critics, suggesting that Morris is essentializing gender and sexuality through her transition, it’s important to remember, as Morris points out, there’s not lot of forebears to fall back on. So whatever Morris may or may not get wrong, this is a pioneering work. It’s also deeply humane, beautifully written, and yearning for self-understanding.
CBR13Bingo – They She He
In My Mind’s Eye and Thinking Again – 3/5 Stars
I don’t know if this book ever appeared as a blog or anything like that, but that’s kind of the idea here. Morris writes a diary as she turns 90 or so (about 2017/2018) and this diary becomes a record of a 90 year old who’s lived through so much looking at this new world we’re all experiencing. Because Morris spent much of her career in the US (and world-traveling) she spends a lot of time here thinking about both Brexit in the UK and Trump in the US. And I will warn you, Morris thinks something is deeply wrong in both countries, and like the smartest of us, she recognizes that Brexit and Trump are symptoms of a failure or collapse, not the cause. That said, she’s a little ambivalent on Trump, in part because she thinks that his intractability might cause him to become a stronger leader than he’s expected to be. She’s wrong of course, but that’s just her opinion.
The entries cover all kinds of topics, not only political ones, and her views about the changing world are really fascinating. There are two books here, but I couldn’t possibly review them separately, as they are pretty much just a continuation of the same idea more so.