Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Everything Changed?

Gail Collins' When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present received a rave review by Francine Prose in Sunday's NY Times Book Review: 'When Everything Changed'

I ordered it immediately and I've now read about half of it. So far, I'm very disappointed because I feel as if I read every word of it 40 years ago or more -- above is a photo of my dusty attic bookshelf with so many of the sources of her material. I even recognize a number of her little vignette stories. Below is another photo of two very well known and extreme examples of books by individuals she mentions in the book.

If Collins had something new to say -- something witty and fun to read like her New York Times columns -- the sense of nothing new wouldn't be so bad. Usually when she comments on current events, she's discussing something that I read in the paper that week, not a lifetime ago, and she manages not to seem redundant. Unfortunately, I hardly recognize the Gail Collins that I thought I knew.

Maybe it isn't fair to expect her to say something new. I remember too much to be surprised by the retelling of the terrible stories of oppression of women that she covers in the first 200 pages. If I hadn't read it all before, I'd be quite interested. Actually, I remember the reading but also even remember some events such as the one above (clipped from a campus newspaper). Evelyn (in hooded coat) and I (leaning over her) were looking over literature and buttons. But is it too much to ask Collins to apply her witty and penetrating skills that she uses in her columns?

I will try to read the second half of the book and hope it gets better.

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