Book 58: Spinster
Thursday, January 5, 2017
"It's true that the per capita divorce rate has dropped from its all-time peak in 1981 of about 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people- but even so, today nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. It's amazing, really, how deftly we hold in our collective consciousness this disconnect between what we want marriage to be and how so many marriages actually turn out. Freedom is unbearable. We opt again and again for the sugarcoated confinement of matrimony, a promise that life will work out just the way we want it- without that promise, false as it may be, the institution's many encumbrances might be impossible to bear."
Dates read: June 1-5, 2016
This is probably strange to hear from a newlywed, but sometimes I find myself missing my single life. Not the dating part, that part sucked. I love my husband and he's just the best and I'm the luckiest that we found each other. But the part where I had total control over my own life. Where I did pretty much only what I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to, and slept on the whole bed all by myself whenever I wanted to go to sleep, and could stay up reading until 2 AM without worrying about keeping the person next to me awake. Where I put something down in my apartment and found it exactly where I left it. Where no one else used the last of the toilet paper and forgot to replace the roll. I don't want to go back to it all the time, most of the time, or even frequently. But every once in a while, I miss the complete autonomy of single life.
I'm not alone: my married/coupled up friends cop to the exact same feelings sometimes, no matter how happy their relationships. And it's just that kind of longing for a life lived accountable ultimately to only herself that drove the writing of Kate Bolick's Spinster. Once a neutral term for an unmarried woman, it's come to have pejorative connotations, implying a woman alone past her prime, probably with cats. It's always cats, those old witchy familiars, that seem to accompany jibes about older single women.
Bolick's book takes us through her life as the daughter of an accomplished and driven woman who got started chasing her dreams late because (like many women of her generation) she got married and had children pretty young. As Bolick serial-monogamies her way through her high school, college, and early adulthood, she finds herself drawn to fellow female writers (like Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edith Wharton, who she deems her influencers) who dared to live the way Bolick herself was increasingly intrigued by: alone. She ends her seemingly marriage-bound long term relationship and spends her 30s trying to figure out what she wants out of life. She experiences various employment scenarios within her field as a writer, finds herself in different living situations, and she dates around, exploring how her influencers lived and how their lives relate to her own situations.
First things first: Bolick is an engaging and talented writer. If she weren't, I wouldn't have enjoyed this book even as much as I did. Which wasn't especially much, to be honest, because this kind of personal memoir is just not the kind of thing I enjoy. Going in, I thought it would be personally focused but also take a broader sociological look at the increasingly large number of unmarried women and how that phenomenon is changing our culture at large. But I suppose I'll have to get my hands on a copy of All The Single Ladies for that, because Spinster touches only extremely briefly on anything outside of her life and the lives of her inspirations. Like with many of these kinds of books, I found myself wondering when I finished it why I'm supposed to care, exactly, about the apartments Bolick lives in or her love life or her professional struggles. Her writing was enjoyable enough to keep my attention, but at the end I found myself wondering what was the actual point of anything I'd just read. I realize the irony of this coming from a woman who starts almost every review with a personal tidbit or anecdote. I do actually read several personal blogs, and I think I would have enjoyed reading something like this over a period of time in a format like that, broken down into smaller posts and spaced out a little. But taken all together it's hard not to see it as self-indulgent navel-gazing, no matter how well-written it is. If personal memoirs are a kind of writing you enjoy, this would be a solid pickup for you. If not, though, I didn't think it was good enough to transcend its genre.
Tell me, blog friends...are you coupled or single? Do you ever envy people in the other position?
One year ago, I was reading: Thirst
**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Random House Crown, through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review**
Posted by Gabby at 9:00 AM