Waking up with Claire Messud’s “The Woman Upstairs” (2013)

16 May 2013

15701217After agonizing a while about yesterday’s angry/ desperate post on a guerrilla response to rape culture, I opened up a new novel last night.

After reading the first five pages of Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, I want to kiss her on the lips. Here’s how it begins on p. 1:

How angry am I? You don’t want to know. Nobody wants to know about that.

I’m a good girl, I’m a nice girl, I’m a straight-A, strait-laced, good daughter, good career girl, and I never stole anybody’s boyfriend and I never ran out on a girlfriend, and I put up with my parents’ shit and my brother’s shit, and I’m not a girl anyhow, I’m over forty fucking years old, and I’m good at my job and I’m great with kids and I held my mother’s hand when she died, after four years of holding her hand while she was dying, and I speak to my father ever day on the telephone –every day, mind you, and what kind of weather do you have on your side of the river, because here it’s pretty gray and a bit muggy too? It was supposed to say “Great Artist” on my tombstone, but if I died right now it would say “such a good teacher/ daughter/ friend” instead; and what I really want to shout, and want in big letters on that grave, too, is FUCK YOU ALL.

Don’t all women feel the same? The only difference is how much we know we feel it, how in touch we are with our fury. We’re all furies, except the ones who are too damned foolish.

And with that, I’m now 5 pages in and feel as if I have a new best friend who’s also a Betty Friedan version of those visionary doomsayers of days of old, who looks a little disheveled perhaps but then lapses into otherworldly trances like Sybill Trelawney in Harry Potter and scares the shit out of you. Just wait till you read (on pp. 4-5) what she means by The Woman Upstairs (and those of us whose first thought was Madwoman in the Attic are on the right track).

This is going to be scary and awesome, like having to run through a house on fire. I feel like I’m being tugged by the hand by my new unfiltered visionary friend, and I might have to dedicate the afternoon to her.

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6 Responses to “Waking up with Claire Messud’s “The Woman Upstairs” (2013)”

  1. Servetus Says:

    Interesting. The author was interviewed on Fresh Air last week some time and it was interesting (both Messud’s temperament, which came across as extremely phlegmatic) and the focus of the interview on the theme of “how do you make space for yourself?”

  2. Frances Clarke Says:

    oh man. why is this $17 on kindle. i’m thinking of buying it anyway. i felt the need for something like this after i read your awesome post yesterday

    • Didion Says:

      I know, esp when the actual book only costs about $15 on Amazon. Honestly.

      • Servetus Says:

        The ebook costing more than the physical book is something I see more and more often and I continue to wonder why. I wonder if it’s because they need to sell physical books still so they lower the price to make them more attractive (b/c of shipping, and the wait for them?)

  3. Hattie Says:

    Darn. I hate being overcharged for books on my Kindle.


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