Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ten more legendary bad girls of literature

One knows, of course, that sequels never play like the original any more than backlash does, but the original Bad Girls of Literature post here last week seems to have had such a positive and widespread response here and elsewhere that I thought I'd post another ten.

Please note that these are in no way the B team. The original post was in response to a 'Ten Bad Boys' article and I was simply riffing off that, writing down names as I happened to think of them. Same with these. Like the first ten, they are names that came to mind readily without having to be thought about. I have, however, been offered a couple of inspired suggestions that chimed with my own taste (Carter, Clift, Wollstonecraft) and I've added them here AS YOU WILL SEE ...  

Simone de Beauvoir

'The body is not a thing, it is a situation: it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project.' 

Angela Carter

'Mother goddesses are just as silly a notion as father gods. If a revival of the myths of these cults gives woman emotional satisfaction, it does so at the price of obscuring the real conditions of life. This is why they were invented in the first place.'

Charmian Clift

'At night, the water slides over your body warm and silky, a mysterious element, unresistant, flowing, yet incredibly buoyant. In the dark you slip through it, unquestionably accepting the night's mood of grace and silence, a little drugged with wine, a little spellbound with the night, your body mysterious and pale and silent in the mysterious water, and at your slowly moving feet and hands streaming trails of phosphorescence, like streaming trails of stars. Still streaming stars you climb the dark ladder to the dark rock, shaking showers of stars from your very fingertips, most marvellously and mysteriously renewed and whole again.'

Sylvia Plath

'And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.'

Dorothy Parker

'There must be courage; there must be no awe. There must be criticism, for humor, to my mind, is encapsulated in criticism. There must be a disciplined eye and a wild mind ... There must be a magnificent disregard of your reader, for if he cannot follow you, there is nothing you can do about it.'

Dorothy Porter

'Brooding from the reflective fastness of middle age, I wonder if some of the most deeply passionate experiences of my life have happened between the covers of a book.'

Jean Rhys

' of those long, romantic novels, six hundred and fifty pages of small print, translated from French or German or Hungarian or something -- because few of the English ones have the exact feeling I mean. And you read one page of it or even one phrase of it, and then you gobble up all the rest and go about in a dream for weeks afterwards, for months afterwards -- perhaps all your life, who knows? -- surrounded by those six hundred and fifty pages, the houses, the streets, the snow, the river, the roses, the girls, the sun, the ladies' dresses and the gentlemen's voices, the old, wicked, hard-hearted women and the old, sad women, the waltz music -- everything. What is not there you put in afterwards, for it is alive, this book, and it grows in your head. "The house I was living in when I read that book," you think, or "This colour reminds me of that book."'

Marguerite Duras

'Before they're plumbers or writers or taxi drivers or unemployed or journalists, before everything else, men are men. Whether heterosexual or homosexual. The only difference is that some of them remind you of it as soon as you meet them, and others wait for a little while.'

 Anaïs Nin

'I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.'

Mary Wollstonecraft


  'Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath.'


Elephant's Child said...

Perhaps Jessica Mitford, Karen Blixen and Martha Gelhorn have a place on one of these lists as well. Though I think it is truly wonderful that we could go on and on and on.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Yes indeed we could. But there is absolutely nothing to stop people making their own lists; these are just personal favourites of mine.

M-H said...

Loved both these posts. Thanks.

Meredith Jones said...

Thank you so much AGAIN.

Ampersand Duck said...

'awesomeness' is only half the word I need.


Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I'm so glad people are enjoying these. They were lots of fun to put together.

Does Mary Wollstonecraft sound exactly, but exactly, like her contemporary Jane Austen in that sentence or what?

Fine said...

What a wonderful group of women. In particular, I love the quote from Angela Carter.

I read Anais Nin's diaries when I was 18 and they absolutely turned my head.

And Dorothy Parker! What a great pleasure she always is to read.

I think the best education in feminism a young woman can have is to read these women.

Rachel Power said...

Man, those women rock!! Thank you for that brilliant post.

Nabakov said...

Must dig up the song I recorded about Angela Carter's "The Infernal Desire Machines Of Dr Hoffman."

As I recall it was quite drall. (Thankee WV for the missing link between "droll" and "thrall")

paul walter said...

You remind me of the life saving debt I owe Arts Humanities and Soc Sci at Uni of Adelaide and their English department, in particular. From first year English, all else later flowed and many questions on life became amenable to consideration.
I nearly didn't do English, not more pro-verbs and ad-nouns and what did they think I did on the off-week of the dole fortnight, after the grog money had ran out?
But for a chance meeting with the course coordinator in an elevator, the sort of roast beef literature Kerryn mentions would have remained out of reach forever.
I put it to the course coordinator, seriously, "Why should I do English".
She fixed upon me a firm stare, "good for the soul?".
It was good enough, in the end.

paul walter said...

Probably gilding the lily, but recalling the time this course coordinator I mentioned was doing a lecture on a movie, "Once Were Warriors". Just behind me, up the back, was a small gaggle of co-ed types, otherwise engaged with the uni mag.
I suddenly found myself reflexively ducking, butterflies fluttered. The coordinator was fixing a death-stare, from all of a hundred feet and seemingly directly at me.
In actual fact, this death stare was not only from an extreme distance, but so deadly accurate as to pass my head by the merest nano.
It was in fact being directed at the people behind me, as I discovered as the this booming, flat, chalk on black board voice penetrated up to inquire of those behind me, that if they could leave On Dit for a moment, could she continue with the presentation, or read the thing some where else.
After a wounded heroinic stare, the culprit and pals flounced from the infernal place, it was a good lecture from that point, but I still get queasy on recall.

Su said...

One from me: Tove Jansson whose late novels and short stories I love to distraction. I literally feel bereft that there are so few in total and so few in translation.

Mainly commenting because I often read here without acknowledging the work and it occurs to me that feminist bloggers deserve more cookies! indeed a whole Cake!

Frances said...

Sad that some died so young.

K said...

Like Fine, I particularly like the Carter quotation, but it's hard to pick favourites from a list like this!

Mostly it's just a good prompt to go back and read them.

Fine said...

Here's an interesting recent story about Angela Carter.

David Irving (no relation) said...

Ah, paul walter, I recall Schmoe (Sylvan Elhay)do exactly the same thing (as your English lecturer) to a bunch of engineers who were disrupting one of his numerical analysis lectures. It was a joy to see, as he's the only person I've ever met who could make engineering students behave.

(Sorry about the potential derail, Dr Cat, but it was a joyful moment.)

Anonymous said...

I didn't know who Charmian Clift was so I looked her up. Among various other works, she wrote a book called "Peel Me A Lotus." Great title!

If you want a _real_ literary bad girl, you can't get much badder than Thea von Harbou, the wife and chief collaborator of Fritz Lang: her work includes the inspirations for Metropolis, M, and "Doctor Mabuse, Der Spieler," all of which she co-wrote. Some pretty dark stuff there.

Then later on of course, she ran off and became a Nazi, and it was all just downhill from there... but still. Metropolis, man. That's heavy.

And since I was talking about great titles, I have to say that "Doctor Mabuse, Der Spieler" is possibly the best title for a crime movie I've ever heard.