Review by: Moira Richards

5/01/02

 

The publisher Spinsters Ink spins yarns about the lives of real, ordinary, complex women, about the kind of women who are usually ignored by publishers because they live on the periphery of mainstream culture -- "fat women, Jewish women, lesbians, old women, poor women, rural women, women examining classism, women of color, women with disabilities, women who are writing books that help make the best in our lives more possible." If you are such a writer, check out Spinsters Ink's submission guidelines on their website; if you are such a reader, go there (after you finish looking at this site) to see their catalogue and to read excerpts from some of the novels that they publish.

One of these novels by Cass Dalglish is titled Nin and it features:

A college professor and feminist poet, with a quest to find out more about her mother.
A mystic nun.
A feminist writer from the fourteenth century who was burned at the stake.
A personal buddy of Joan de Arc.

These four women band together in Nin to question and to rebut some of the obnoxious things that respected men, like Socrates ("Do you know any human activity in which the male sex does not surpass the female?") and Thomas Aquinas ("Women are misbegotten males"), have written for centuries about women-- theories and ideas that have been taken seriously and presented as universal truths about women, despite the fact that women themselves were never consulted, read, published, nor given chance to reply. As one character says, "The aesthetic issue masks the issue of patriarchal political power that undergirds every relationship, literary or philosophical, between women and men" (66).

Nin is a fictional work grounded in some very interesting and thorough research into feminist literary theory and the work of long-forgotten women writers, research into ancient Sumerian culture from "back when God was a woman," and where the god of writing in particular, was female. There are some dozen pages of references to further reading should your attention be captured by some of Dalglish's interests.

This book is not a heavy theoretical text, although I may have given that impression. It has a slightly eccentric cast that seems to muddle along in a manner reminiscent of those in Alice's Wonderland. Men and women from various centuries (past and present) meet, disappear, chat, and exchange email messages with each other in a hot debate over the worth of women. Nin is not a book that is easily pigeon-holed, nor one that I can sum up in a few paragraphs; it is best to say that it is great intellectual fun, often very comical, and enormously enjoyable, especially if you love to see patriarchy subverted and have an appreciation for innovative writing.

ISBN: 1883523397

Published by Spinsters Ink http://spinsters-ink.com/


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