Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I just finished reading a very wicked book indeed called "Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" by Florence King--oh, my, my. It sets its premise in the last sentence of the prologue: "No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street." Well! Who can resist that?

It was hysterically funny--literally, as Florence's grandmother delights in "female trouble," recounting what Florence's father calls "The Ovariad" at family gatherings. But more than any other book, it gave me the picture of how very hard it was to be a woman in 1950's America and how much the culture conspired to keep women in their place. Florence finally gains a measure of independence by writing "true confessions" for magazines, described in Writer's Market as follows:

For the housewife with a high school education. First person stories with sympathetic narrator, emotional impact, and strong reader identification. Stories may be about any subject of interest to the homebound woman: premarital and extramarital sexual temptation, sexual maladjustment in marriage, adultery, problem children, alcoholism, illness, accidents, religious crises, or the loss of a loved one. Upbeat ending essential. Some sadder-but-wiser okay. Narrator may sin but must feel guilty about it; no blithe spirits. No humor; our readers take life seriously.

Florence's first confession is "I Committed Adultery in a Diabetic Coma." Seemed humorous to me. But painful, too, watching Florence struggle to get out of the conundrum of being female without the constriction of constructed femininity, and watching how many women didn't even make the struggle.

No comments: