Woman on the Edge of Time

Woman on the Edge of TimeAt last a book I ve been meaning to put on the wish list and that s on one of my group s Reads next month Even better my library has a copy in house Rating 3.3 3.5 starsIf the last two novels I had read before this had been Paul McAuley s The Quiet War and Bruce Sterling s The Caryatids then I may have nudged my rating into the 4 star category but they weren t Instead they were Sylvia Townsend Warner s Lolly Willowes, Mr Fortune s Maggot and Summer Will Show, and Piercy s writing style suffered by comparison IMO, of course.Another strike against the novel was that I wasn t able to get into it for the first 100 pages or so.However It got better The writing, while never on the level Warner seems to reach effortlessly, did improve and there were some scenes that did leap off the page And after Chapter 4, it became easier for me to empathize with Connie and enjoy her trips to the world of 2137.One of my groups is reading the book this month March 2010 so I m going to hold off on athorough and spoiler laden review until later this month, hoping to get some insights and different POVs from the discussion threads Woman on the Edge of Time WOTEOT or Woman is an interesting if not especially well written entry in the utopian dystopian genre It describes a future Earth where hierarchies have disappeared, gender roles are nonexistent, communities live in sustainable harmony with their environments and people realize their potentials Some people commented in the reading thread that it seemed dated in places because it was written in the 70s but I found its interest in the environment, war, out of control technology and social pressures to conform very contemporary The future isn t perfect There s still the specter of a war against the remnants of the earlier machine, exploitative civilization i.e., us the 20th Century But that culture only clings to a few enclaves on Earth and some space stations.We find out about this future through the psychic journeys of Consuelo Connie Ramos, a middle aged Chicana whose life has been stifled by all the problems the future has solved The promise of a better life was quashed when she had to drop out of college after only 2 years, having gotten pregnant by her first husband When another lover, Claud the only decent relationship Connie ever had , dies, she descends into a haze of depression and alcohol, loses her daughter and spends some time in a mental institution When she tries to protect her niece Dolly from her pimp boy friend, Connie winds up in an institution again because she s a threat and prone to violence Just prior to this, Connie had been visited by a vision of Luciente, who turns out to be from 2137 Connie is a prime receiver, and can travel with Luciente to the future, where she has a physical existence and can interact with the people she meets there in a limited way.Meanwhile, as Connie learns about the future, in the present she and her fellow inmates are threatened by a scientist who wants to experiment with brain surgery to cure them.For me, the selections of the novel set in the mental ward were the most affecting Piercy manages to generate a real feeling for the helplessness and despair that its inmates feel as their lives are destroyed by the callous indifference of the staff, mental and physical abuse, and the determination of the doctors to try out their pet theories about mental health The authors uses the future to highlight these cruelties in comparison as well as other issues that resonate today the environment, gender conflict, war, individuals vs community, and others.I would argue that, in the end, the future Connie visits is a hallucination that her mind constructs to give her the tools she needs to finally act against her oppressors The ending is poignantly bleak her rebellion is nothan a passive aggressive attack against her immediate enemies the doctors tormenting her and her friends Connie manages to avoid further brain surgeries but is unable to escape her imprisonment, and ends up institutionalized for life There s a glimmer of hope that her action may have allowed her friend Sybil to escape but the reader is left in the dark about that and there s no certainty that Luciente s future is the real one as she has pointed out earlier that her reality is merely a possibility.I give WOTEOT a qualified recommendation I enjoyed it eventually and found a lot to admire and hope for in Piercy s vision of the future, and I would certainly recommend it to the utopian dystopian reading crowd. The most important thing to know about this book is that it was first published in 1976 This is such a late 1960s early mid 1970s story It s funny because part of it takes place in the mid 70s and part takes place in the 22nd century The 22nd century appears as though imagined in the 1970s So, the future seems dated somehow I suspect I would have thought it was brilliant if I d read it over three decades ago Now, I cringed quite a bit and thought it was unintentionally humorous at times.The story is about a woman in the 1970s who s a mental patient it did remind me a bit of One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest but she can communicate with those in the 22nd century Those in the 22nd century she has the most contact with are still at war but otherwise are living in an almost utopia The author seems to say a lot about an egalitarian society, communal living, sexism and class and racism, much about the environment quite a bit about computers It s a cautionary tale and must have seemed quite impressive back in 1976.I loved the language imagined 150 or so years into the future, how English evolved, done in a way that makes use of the vernacular of the 1960s and the 1970s it s adapted from that time It doesn t work that well in 2010 but it was splendidly constructed, and I enjoyed revisiting the time of three and a half decades ago.It took me about 50 pages to start enjoying the book but then I had times when it was difficult to put down I did really want to read this I got first one moldy library copy then another identical edition that was also just as moldy, but I m glad that I read it I can t say too much about it so I don t give anything away, but I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying, but I think that the author was very deliberate about how she ended it.I wasn t sure whether to give it 3 or 4 stars I opted to give it 4 because the story was told in such a creative way. Connie Ramos, A Woman In Her Mid Thirties, Has Been Declared Insane But Connie Is Overwhelmingly Sane, Merely Tuned To The Future, And Able To Communicate With The YearAs Her Doctors Persuade Her To Agree To An Operation, Connie Struggles To Force Herself To Listen To The Future And Its Lessons For Today Hands down one of my all time favorite books I m certain some of that has to do with the point in my life during which I read it, however it shall always remain an ultimate favorite The issues the Ms Piercy so deftly addresses are both the main focus of the story and completely secondary, almost an after thought I never got the feeling of being preached at, yet so many important, and delicate, subjects were addressed throughout this novel Mental illness, racism, gender equality or rather inequality , socio economic injustices all these andare deftly covered in this touching story of a woman struggling to make her way in a world where she starts with multiple strikes against her simply by the color of her skin and the fact that she was born female rather than male.This story switches between a present day world in which we live with all the messes that actually exist in the real world and a utopian future that is on the brink of destruction fom the very same dangers that got us to the mess we are currently in This novel presents some interesting ideas of how we could live, versus how we are living, raising the question of if we are living or simply struggling to continue to exist.While this book may sound like a very heavy, possibly dry read, it is anything but Once you pick it up you will be hard pressed to set it down until you have finished it This is a definite not to be missed read TL DR I see where others may appreciate the work, but the stuff I have listed in my spoiler section killed it for me.I want to like this book It s one of those rare science fiction books that contains many great ideas in action, and it represents segments of the population that rarely get a say in the genre After reading a lot of science fiction that panders to white people, I felt like this was a great change of pace I was primed to enjoy it, to hear new perspectives on distant horizons.With that in mind, I hope that you can understand my reluctance in writing a review that says that I did not could not even finish the book.Before I give my reasons why, let me say that I can understand why this book would appeal to so many people Again, it represents undervalued voices in science fiction, giving life to something other than other than English other than white, brilliant scientists other than intelligent men other than swooning, intelligent white women other than perfect black women Clarke s The Songs of Distant Earth does a good job of putting a few of these in Since Woman on the Edge of Time features a strong Latina woman who dips frequently into Spanish, has family problems that crush her life, and finds herself in a literally disadvantaged, voiceless position, I felt like I was going to get to see new vistas Those vistas certainly offer the appeal that I can see other people appreciating.But they simply do not appeal to me I will tell you why, but first I have to say in big bold letters HERE BE SPOILERS.I ll just list the reasons I couldn t finish the book Maybe others will come along and argue and tell me to keep going, that it gets better Maybe other potential readers will think, I could soldier through that Maybe someone will find some use from my experience I ll rate my spoilers from MILD they won t spoil the plot too much to BIG they are kind of critical MILD The novel lacks a clear plot I know, I know, some will say, The plot is but my counter is rather simple The novel did not contain a significant conflict in the first 175 pages about how much I read Connie, the main character, is put into a psyche ward She is pulled into the future She is not going to be rescued That s it. What is the conflict here that I am supposed to stick around as a reader to find out Effective narration is conflict, withholding resolution, and then the payoff of multiple strands coming together to resolve it i.e King Lear This has none of those characteristics MILD Tied to the last point, I can add this The entire novel seems to be an excuse for the author to put together a utopia that a na ve woman from the 20th century can explore The future stuff has NO weight in the narrative Consuela goes to visit She comes back, seemingly unchanged and uncritical of what happened to her She goes back when she gets lonely BIG If the payoff is supposed to be whether or not Connie is insane and simply dreaming these encounters, I don t care enough to stick around and find out. Again, some readers may find reading about a utopia fun I would too if there were a plot to keep me going along with it If the future scenes were supposed to prime Connie to save humanity because there was some fatal flaw the future folk must reveal, then I would care If there wasdoubt about whether or not these episodes were taking place in her own head, then I would care because at least I have a sense of the coming tragedy Instead, all we get as readers are funerals, naming rituals, economy lessons, government lessons, story telling, banquets, bicycling, androgynous characters with identical personalities, drugs, breast feeding, and lessons on future mental health facilities hint they don t have prisoners None of this makes me want to stick around as a reader because I just don t care enough to read about characters I can t invest in and who keep simply railroading the only character I DO care about from place to place without giving her anything to do I resented the future folk, in other words I wanted Connie to tell meabout herself and to react I wanted her to do something Rather than this tour ride, I d instead enjoy an account of utopia at least a catalog of its characteristics it ishonest BIG The main character doesn t have critical thinking skills Ever She is told that she is a catcher and a thrower What Does That Mean Seriously If I were pulled into a future where I were a holographic projection, and if I were told this information, my first questions would be about those roles What do they mean What are their limits How do I use them Instead, Consuela doesn t care Her attitude is simply, I ve been pulled into the future Great I ll wander around with this androgynous person and complain about how the future isn t like the past She never stops to ask why she has been contacted maybe once but she doesn t push the issue She doesn t seek to find out what happened to the big cities, though they are mentioned She makes an assumption that the big one has dropped but never confirms it outright.I needthan this to stick it out with an author Again, I can appreciate what others see, but this isn t for me I will add onething This novel reminded me a great deal of The Dispossessed by Le Guin This may also have primed me to not like it, as I felt like I was rereading her work to some degree though Le Guin had a plot to guide the action. The book tells the story of a hispanic woman, Connie, who has the ability to communicate with a group of people from the future The story cuts back and forth between her 1970 s life in a mental institution which has nothing to do with her ability to talk to people in the future and the future community.I thought this book spoke well to three broad topics What it meant to be a mental patient in the 70 s What the future could be like if we continue to pollute our planet and our bodies with synthetic, harmful chemicals What the future could be like if we wereintuned to natureThis book is in equal measure a criticism of Piercy s times and a hopeful ision of what our society could be Personally, I would love to live in a society where culture is not tied to race, where food is grown locally, where people discuss their problems person to person until they are resolved, and where people learn their entire lives long Some have criticized the book for being dated, but I don t think so at all The language was poetic and evocative The characters have remained with me, and each one reminds me of someone I know.I have recommended this book to many of my friends so that we can discuss the implications of Piercy s vision of the future. This is one of those situations where I had it in my head that I had to read this my freshman year in college, but because I have a shitty memory, I couldn t actually remember any details so I figured it would be good to re read it now Except I don t think I ever actually read this book We may not even read this in school at all Maybe we read something else by Marge Piercy.So it s good I took the time to read this now Just in case I never actually did before.The story begins with 30 something year old Connie Ramos living in NY The reader is under the impression early on that she s had some mental health issues in the past, but when we first meet her, she is living on her own Her niece visits, and that s where the real trouble begins Through a short sequence of events that escalated quickly, Connie was again confined to a psychiatric hospital against her will.But it s not entirely a story of her time in a psychiatric hospital, though that alone is pretty fascinating and equally horrifying The other part of the story is that Connie is able to communicate with the year 2137 She meets Luciente, a woman from this future time, who takes Connie in spirit, anyway to 2137 so she can see their utopic society Connie s time, to Luciente, is a part of history, a reminder of the way things used to be When things were really pretty shitty.As tends to happen in utopic society stories, the utopia portion is pretty holier than thou and preachy I understand why that happens in books like these, but it s irritating to read anyway Connie herself is difficult to embrace as a character because while these things are happening to her she s still pretty resistant to the idea that Luciente s society in Mattapoisett is all that much better Considering she just got beat up by her niece s boyfriend and tossed in a hospital against her will, you would think she would be excited to witness the way a society could be when a lot of those issues are obsolete.At the same time, some of what Luciente had to say was ahead of its time considering the publication date of the mid 70s Besides, I confess I am afraid to eat here It s not true, is it, the horror stories in our histories That your food was full of poisonous chemicals, nitrites, hormone residues, DDT, hydrocarbons, sodium benzoate that you ate food saturated with preservatives p54 What the fuck would Luciente say about 2016 The shit in our food is worse now than it was when Piercy originally wrote this book.Overall the story is better than a lot of utopians I have read I ve mentioned that there s some preachiness here, but I would say it s less abrasive than other novels trying to do similar things I was interested in Mattapoisett and their society, especially their use of non gendered pronouns Things that matter so much to so many people still today just don t matter to those in Mattapoisett in 2137, and I have to admit that was refreshing to read about now.NINO Nonsense In, Nonsense Out It means your theory is no better than your practice, or your body than your nutrition Your encyclopedia only produces the information or misinformation fed it p66 I want to tattoo NINO on everyone s bodies, especially these days when people share things through social media with no concept of whether or not the information is accurate or not It s all one sided drivel, everyone has an agenda, no one truly wants to know all sides of the story NINO.In Connie s regular life, she has a battle of the doctors and nurses at the hospital during a time there were few rules or regulations about how patients should be treated in psychiatric hospitals Things were done to Connie that were difficult for a strong stomached reader as myself to read, and onthan one occasion I couldn t help but think about that other hospital novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest written in 1962 Not much had improved, apparently in the 10 years before Piercy wrote her novel.In addition to the treatment of patients with mental illnesses or perceived mental illnesses , Piercy covers a lot of other ground such as the previously mentioned environmental ecological concerns She touched on racism, perceptions of stereotypes, gender in both timelines, etc Again, strangely, very little has truly changed since 1976 in the treatments of these issues I can t say things have gotten worse, but it s in our worlds withprevalence due to the fact that everyone has a camera, and social media the blessing and the curse helps move along the stories much quicker than they moved in 1976.The point is we can all learn something from Piercy s novel It s a good read, butimportantly, there are important topics being discussed in this book I m glad to have taken the time to re read or read for the first time, if that is in fact the case now My heart broke for Connie, as frustrating as she was No one is perfect, and I don t expect my fictional characters to be perfect either I wanted her to understand what she was capable of and understand the gift she was receiving to be able to see that changes could be made, instead of scoffing at any of it But I do believe Connie grew into that understanding as the story moved along, and that s what I really ask for.Highly recommended to anyone who likes time travel novels And then share with me your thoughts on whether or not you think Connie did indeed travel through time Fasure. I m ambivalent about this book The best way to describe my reservation with Woman on the Edge of Time is that I was never comfortable suspending my disbelief I tried to make myself willing to go where Marge Piercy was taking me but never quite got there Although the book steadily improved from its chaotic but very dull beginning, it never involved me in the way I require to get much satisfaction from reading In the end, I was reading the book to finish it instead of because I was eager to find out what happened next I was not invested in the fate of Connie or Luciente Piercy s utopia is intriguing and creative and therein lies the problem Woman on the Edge of Time is a good example of how one can take a concept in this case, a utopian society and overdo the trope to the point where it distracts from the story one is trying to tell Through the unique interaction of present well, the 1970s with a possible future, Piercy weaves a story of power and revolution Her protagonist is one of the powerless, the poor, the oppressed Society is against her Her only hope lies in her ability to envision something potentially better.There s a difference between having a detailed portrayal of a utopia and an effective one My new gold standard is probably The Dispossessed The key requirement is that the description of utopia itself doesn t get in the way of storytelling, and I m not convinced that requirement is met here Authors often take license with the imagined future, especially when it is compared with their present Alone, any of the various concepts that Piercy injects into the future conflict between the ecologically aware and the technology crazed sides of society, reproduction via bottle babies, a sort of non hierarchical representative by lottery democracy, the natural evolution of language and dialect are interesting and a fine basis for a utopia Together, they re overwhelming Piercy s utopia is too crowded.In contrast, Connie s present is far too simple a world We re supposed to sympathize with Connie s misfortunes, feel shocked at what the doctors at her asylum are doing when it comes to running experiments on patients The explanations that the doctors offer Connie when she protests that she doesn t belong in a mental hospital are always curt, snide it s all very one sided Connie s brother, father, and niece are all very unhelpful It is almost enough to make the sceptic in me wonder if Connie is in factfar gone than she believes, and the whole time travel part of the book is a delusion I m forced to conclude that s not the case, for Piercy never explores this avenue explicitly, except for one particular scene that doesn t confirm the delusion hypothesis Connie s visits to the future are for the benefit of inspiring her to alter her present.I am of two minds on this book Ben the Philosopher appreciates what Piercy is trying to do, considers her utopia and Connie s plight, and contemplates the power struggles and social conflict philosophy underpinning this book Yet Ben the Reader professes no emotion, no feeling stirred by the story A book may have the most profound themes ever imagined, but if they don t move me, I cannot in good conscience commend the book Still, I can say of Woman on the Edge of Time that it strives for greatness, and only in failing does it find mediocrity Better to strive and fail than just aim low, and for that I can recognize a sincere effort if not a satisfactory one. Disclaimer The fact that I have to throw another time travel novel into my abandoned book locker may prompt me to be evenharsh in my comments than I should I want to travel back in time to stop Marge Piercy from publishing this novel There would be plenty of enjoyable things to see and do in 1976 New York experience the Bicentennial celebrations, watch the Cincinnati Reds sweep the Yankees in the World Series, check out Blondie perform at CBGB but erasing this novel from history would be my duty Woman on the Edge of Time is the adventure of Connie Ramos, an unemployed widow who lives in a tenement somewhere in the Lower East Side Connie is visited by her pregnant niece, who s been beaten by the pimp whose child she s carrying The pimp breaks into Connie s apartment with a back alley doctor to finish the job When Connie breaks the pimp s nose with a bottle, she s beaten unconscious.The pimp carts Connie off to Bellevue, where she s been interned once before after spiraling into alcoholic malaise over the death of her second husband and breaking her daughter s arm Administered Thorazine and carted before uncaring social workers, Connie is unable to get anyone in the system to listen to her If things weren t bad enough, Connie may be receiving visits by a traveler from the year 2137.I m sticking pins in this novel all over again just summarizing the oppressively downtrodden and plodding story That s not entirely Piercy s fault I was just in no mood to follow where she wanted to lead me.I hated Connie Ramos, one of the most insufferable protagonists in science fiction I would ve gotten behind this character if she wanted something, to reunite with her daughter, perhaps, working three jobs to save enough money to move out of El Barrio and make that reunion possible, maybe I know it s hard out there with Gerald Ford in the White House, but sitting around watching TV and letting your fool niece mix you up in her troubles didn t endear any sympathy from me I wanted her institutionalized, honestly, where three square meals a day, socializing with nuts and being kept safe from pimps seems like an improvement on her current situation.I hated the time traveler Who goes back in time and appears before a mentally unstable woman one hallucination away from being committed Oh yeah, that s a sound plan I m open to the possibility that Connie is hallucinating the visitor altogether, which would be an evendepressing journey for me to continue on.I can see where Piercy is going with this novel, charting the mental frailties of a woman ostracized by society due to her gender, her ethnicity, her social class I stuck with it through 88 pages, but Connie is such a course, miserable crank, her past behavior deplorable and her visitor so oblivious to the misery it s causing, that I just didn t want to continue with the book. There were times when I was so frustrated with the main character She was driving me crazy She was walking through an entirely different world and assuming everything was the same I realized why this was bothering me I was wanting and expecting her to reactlike a science fiction reader And many science fiction characters Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

Marge Piercy born March 31, 1936 is an American poet, novelist, and social activist She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Gone to Soldiers, a sweeping historical novel set during World War II.Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, to a family deeply affected by the Great Depression She was the first in her family to attend college, studying at the University of Michigan Winning a

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  • Paperback
  • 376 pages
  • Woman on the Edge of Time
  • Marge Piercy
  • English
  • 07 January 2017
  • 9780449210826

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