RIPENING: Selected Work, 1927-1980 by Meridel Le Sueur

RIPENING: Selected Work, 1927-1980

Email this review


Long identified with proletarian writing of the 1920s and '30s, Le Sueur came into new prominence recently at the American Writers' Congress. This timely selection of her work leads off with two stories of late-'20s vintage, the only really high-quality fiction here--""Annunciata"" (a woman pregnant during times of almost scoured poverty) and ""Wind"" (a similar story of female loneliness and fortitude); it concludes with poems written by Le Sueur in her eighties and a section from a recent, fairly turgid (unpublished) novel, Memorial. Lc Sueur's concerns have remained constant--Minnesota, women, Left politics, a continual reworking of the Demeter-Persephone myth--as has her most employed mode, a pseudo-dithyramb of grim birth-death cycle. ""She heard the long steps of her grandmother in the next room, and knew she was buried in the long accretion of her desires and had been thrown forward deep into the flesh by a cursing, striding race, thrust from powerful women and men who were in fear and terror of a flight they had to take, across endless prairies having no myth and no speech. . . ."" What's truly impressive here is LC Sueur's journalism of the '30s: an account of a Minneapolis trucking strike and two pieces on the homeless, destitute women of the deep Depression. ""It's no wonder these girls refuse to marry, refuse to bear children. They are like certain savage tribes who, when they have been conquered, refuse to breed"" (""Women on the Breadlines""). ""We all seem to be sitting within some condition that we cannot get out of. Everyone is bright and ready for living, and then cannot live"" (""Women Are Hungry""). These vivid pieces--enhanced by brilliant use of the second-person--are urban literary corollaries to Dorothea Lange's unsparing yet abundantly piteous Farm Security Administration photos of the same era; if Le Sueur's fiction, her rhapsody and anger, is ultimately thin, her powerful sense of observation and commonality is remarkably preserved in these articles.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1982
Publisher: Feminist Press