ON LIES, SECRETS, AND SILENCE: Selected Prose 1966-1978 by Adrienne Rich
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ON LIES, SECRETS, AND SILENCE: Selected Prose 1966-1978

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wrestling with the Selected Prose of Adrienne Rich is no mean exercise, but the 20 very different pieces on language and feminism coalesce with her attentive coaching--Foreword, reflective headnotes, expanded footnotes--into a campaign for cultural ""re-vision."" Prefacing an appreciation of Emily Dickinson, she observes that the conventional critic searches ""obsessively for heterosexual romance as the key to a woman artist's life and work""; free of such constraints, Rich finds that the metaphorical ""Owner"" of Dickinson's ""Loaded Gun"" is no man--or (knee-jerkers beware) woman--but Poetry. The business of the essay, significantly, is interpretation, not rhetoric, and like most of the collected others--originally prepared for literary or education forums (1966-78)--it retains its individual secular identity. In the collective context, of course, each also supports Rich's increasingly visceral conviction that male-dominated society, with its venereally-diseased ethics of objectification, quashes the ""life-expanding impulses"" of men and women both. Problematically, however, she argues for ""a politics of asking women's questions,"" for ""defining a feminist consciousness,"" visiting the sins of the ""patriarchy"" on its scions by excluding them from her crusade for radical reorientation. As her perspective changes with time, so does her focus: the feminism that informs her sympathetic identification with Anne Bradstreet or her close reading of Jane Eyre becomes, in effect, the subject of the later entries, and at her most polemical she confuses gynephobia (fear and hatred of women) with Medicaid fraud as the conditioner of unnecessary Caesareans. Language, raw or refined, is the ""material resource"" of ""re-vision"": at the ""bedrock level"" of her thinking--on teaching basic writing to open-admissions students--""release into language"" confers ""power""; in an introduction to the work of Judy Grahn, ""Poetry is. . . a concentration of the power of language."" Rich examines three other modern poets--Anne Sexton, Eleanor Ross Taylor, Natalia Gorovenskaya--as well as the constraints of sexism on education, lesbianism, motherhood (does it force us to ""become obedient to a social order we know is morally bankrupt""?), always with her poet's care for words. ""The journey of my thought. . . is not linear,"" she warns at the outset. And the challenging end is only a beginning.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1979
ISBN: 0393312852
Publisher: Norton