Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Spinster: A Book Review

SPINSTER could also have been titled WHITE GIRL PROBLEMS, ENGLISH MAJOR EDITION. As I read of Kate Bolick's inner turmoil over the dilemma of marriage or singlehood, I wanted to look at the author's photo on the back cover to see if she was in reality a person I know well. But alas, my review copy was provided by the publisher's "Blogging For Books" program and there was no cover available.

Ms. Bolick is another English major with a penchant for writing, a dreamer who wants to live independently in New York City and write full-time. Her memoir is essentially her analysis of other women with the same dream who went before her, and the book contains plenty of the author's research into the lives of such literary lights as Edith Wharton and others known only to English majors.

That some of them ended up destitute and alone provides the author with food for thought, adding to her concerns over the desired lifestyle choice. Must we all pair up for comfort in our old age, or can good friends provide all the emotional support we will need? Are women allowed to be people, as in individual entities, like men?

The history lesson is not quite as interesting as Ms. Bolick's personal experiences, for some reason, but that may be due to the fact that many of her role models lived in a very different era than our own. Then again, the author's rapture about the writing life is not new to me, having heard the same enthusiasms from a friend for years. That could be Leanne, I kept thinking as I read the memoir. The writing workshops, the editing jobs, the freelancing, all with eyes on the ultimate prize.

The author uses the book to justify her life choice, which is to remain unmarried, but still have a great social life, plenty of casual sex, and the financial means to pay rent on an apartment in the most expensive city in the nation. No children to steal away time from literary pursuits. No husband making demands on the writer's time. Is it any surprise that her circle of friends consists of others like herself? They share the same problems that would not trouble single women in banking or finance. The spinster issue that Ms. Bolick addresses is one that she examines through her writer's lens, without venturing beyond the limited territory of her personal experiences.

SPINSTER is a New York publishing industry story that will resonate with all those other English majors like Kate Bolick who flock to the city with the same dream and the same worry about making the wrong choice as the biological clock ticks down. For those of a more practical bent, who would never consider English as a major because you went to college to prepare for a real career, the discussion of White Girl Problems can be surprisingly entertaining. 

And I know just the friend who would love to receive a copy of this book for her birthday. SPINSTER could be Leanne's biography, relocated to the Midwest. Now she can know that she is not alone in her alone-ness.

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