A fascinating though fragmented look at the extraordinary life of visionary feminist Merlin Stone (1931-2011).
Perhaps a single point of view is not sufficient to capture the uncompromising life of the feminist author, poet and sculptor. This may be why her life partner, Schneir (Gambling Collectibles: A Sure Winner, 1993), worked with two co-authors—poet, author and teacher Axelrod and longtime women’s studies professor Thomas—to create this collection of writing that celebrates her life and work. This is not an in-depth, critical look at Stone’s work, which includes the seminal When God Was a Woman (1976) and Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood (1984), but rather a sampler that hits the high notes. Schneir’s heartfelt memories of his life with Stone segue into excerpts from her work, some of it previously unpublished, with largely complimentary commentary by Axelrod, Thomas and others. This then blends in with photographs of Stone’s sculptures, letters from adoring fans, a remembrance from Stone’s daughter, and a gallery of portraits and memorabilia, making the narrative read like a scrapbook. Combining scholarly content and personal memories to this extent risks alienating the audience for either, though it accurately conveys the sense that Stone was not easily categorized. There is potential for two volumes here: an expanded memoir that elaborates on Schneir’s day-to-day life with Stone and a more extensive volume with room for critics of Stone’s writings. As is, the single volume does provide personal insights that feminist scholars may be unfamiliar with, as well as a call for newcomers to explore the varied work of this visionary author and artist.
Scholarship or scrapbook? This memoir with a mission suffers from an identity crisis.