The Odyssey. Paradise Lost. What do these works have in common? First and foremost, they are the most famous epic poems of all time. More subtly, they are all three masculine tales authored by men.
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Shelves: poetry , textbook This is an admirable novel in lyric. It is endlessly creative, furiously constructed and showcases a mind, hard at work within the confines of the written word. Not to suggest that the written word is inherently limiting but more often than not, I stop myself and say it is only words. How much can I expect from this? This question was pushed and squeezed throughout my entire reading. I came to conclude that writing is much more than just words, despite it only being comprised of only words.
This is an admirable novel in lyric. Instead, I began to think of words as ideas aided and abetted by images constructed of words. More often than not, I set this book aside to let the images stew in my mind.
There are a total of pages each with its own poem on it. This is all flattering Notley on the merits of her poetry. When I consider this book as a single work and a novel, I am left with mixed feelings. First off, I felt let down by the ending. This could be the nature of an epic tale. I consider the idea that the grandiosity of the epic makes for inevitable let downs. I consider the show Lost, which was massive in scope and characters that any ending despite its uninspired finish would feel anticlimactic.
It would be inevitable that the weight of story-lines, motivations and ambitions would have to leave one restless in the end. All threads lead to her inevitable showdown. When the showdown comes, there is little to throw a fuss about. It lasts only page or so and the nature of their struggle betrays the bombastic creativity that precedes it.
As with any epic, especially those written in lyric, all things operate on two levels of meaning. The tyrant represents the all the sexist things in society. I was hoping that the showdown would also hold a symbolic unraveling of sexist notions.
But the showdown seemed so dashed off, that any kinds of answers to societal problems was unclear and undercut. Another issue I had was with the tip-toeing between prose and poetry and how it effected the exposition. When there is such an emphasis upon figurative meanings there can get to the point where even the basic actions of the main character need to have great significance.
This got somewhat tedious. Or if the character herself should be taken seriously in a realistic sense. I especially recommend it to those interested in feminist literature. I would hope and could easily see this becoming a classic of literature as the progress for feminism moves forward.
I navigated the strobe lit rooms like a disoriented grandmother, spending half my time dazzled by the alien autopsy disco room and the other half crab walking down ramps to avoid slips and rug burns.
This book was a lot like laser tag. In poems I was inside a subway wending through snake innards. I met a hairy-chested mermaid. The speakers genitals detach, reattach and more! Could I played laser tag for the first time this week. Could the animator of Fantastic Planet please rise from the dead and make this into a film? I deduct a star for a critical plot point that I navigated as unwillingly as a carpeted ramp: the speaker is on a hunt for the Tyrant aka the Patriarchy funneled into a single being as well as The Mother from Whom All Women Originate.
Anytime these figures surfaced I knew a Big Moral was around the bend; I felt forced into catechism. I spent my reading sleuthing what that moral might be and whether or not I could get behind it.
I deduct a second star for the Mother of all Mothers. I also fear that this underworld has a womyn-born-womyn only policy that I would strictly oppose. What makes this myth slightly different and perhaps relevant is the female as hero and the man as villain. Alette is on a journey to defeat the tyrant, who represents the repression and submission of women and refers to himself as comprising all reality.
The epic is dripping with metaphors, some more blatant than others, about the evils of The Descent of Alette is a contemporary feminist approach to the traditional monomyth even following the 17 stages as per Joseph Campbell fairly closely.
The epic is dripping with metaphors, some more blatant than others, about the evils of patriarchy and the sin man has committed to nature represented by a headless woman. When reading this, one may get the notion that Notley really hates men. Non-bestial women are rendered as faceless, objectified, static and helpless characters in the world man crafts.
They are trapped perpetually in an underground subway where identities are few and far between--trapped there by the man Alette must conquer. Notley employs striking imagery and a language that absorbs the reader. The epic is rich, complex, and easy to get lost in. For metaphor junkies, it can provide hours of stimulating and thought provoking analysis.
In the subway we see the power dynamic between the men and women of everyday reality. The next realm she enters is that of the caves where issues of sex and gender are questioned. Here Alette loses her sex and subsequently her sense of identity. So ubiquitous is gender that it is a great task for one to have a sense of self beyond it.
Throughout the poem Notley examines this in various ways, questioning the pervasiveness and necessity of gender. In the forest-esque place Alette next enters she meets the headless women, representing at once Mother Nature and the objectification of the female form. In the previous book, gender was questioned, while here it seems to be proliferated as Alette learns the value of her sex.
Though this is also where she learns the value and ability of her own bestiality--the ultimate boon. It is ultimately the natural which succeeds, which defeats the tyrant, and within nature is both a genderlessness and an equality of gender that speaks to the importance of the female as a separate entity as well as a ubiquitous force necessary for life.
Though this is a blatantly feminist epic, the language, imagery, allusions, metaphors, all help to make The Descent of Alette enjoyable to anyone who appreciates literature, regardless of individual ideology. It is rife with potential analysis and deconstruction, yet is also a story that can be enjoyed superficially--merely for what it is.
The Descent of Alette: Feminine Epics as Rebellion
No world is intact No world is intact and no one cares about you. It smells like June in this night so sweet like air. I may have decided that the States are not that tired Or I have thought so. I have thought that. At night the states And the world not that tired of everyone Maybe. Honey, I think that to say is in light. Or whoever.
The Descent of Alette
The Descent of Alette ["I walked into"]