Thought provoking look into contemporary ‘Inequality’, a depiction of the ideal future, or both?

I approached this novel with a high level of apprehension. The reason was two fold. First, the back of the book describes “… Connie’s struggle to keep the institution’s doctors from forcing a brain control operation … “, basically a lobotomy(ish) type operation. Wonderful. This brought back memories of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) which left me feeling drained after having watched it. Second, the very short science fiction introduction guide has a section referencing this book under state control (Oxford, 88), right next to a reference of Clockwork Orange. Took me awhile to actually give this book a chance, but I’m happily surprised I finally did.

It starts out a little too contemporary for me; as if I were reading a non-fiction or a biography. Woman’s niece runs from her abusive partner to her apartment, and ends up in a ‘mad house’; for a second time we learn later. I had some confusion earlier in the reading, as the author would expose names of characters, only reveal their significance later.

The plot begins to get interesting when the events prior to the first chapter are elaborated on, and Luciente is fully introduced. It is reveled that Connie, the main protagonist, is an “extraordinarily top catcher” (Piercy, 34); a person “whose mind and nervous system are open, receptive to an unusual extent…”. This allows Connie to contact Luciente who is an unusually strong “sender”, someone who is able to send messages from the future; year 2137 to be exact. The next chapters deal with Connie re-adjusting to life in a mental institution as well as her sojourn through 2137 Mattapoisett through Luciente. It was interesting to see how fixated Connie was on determining Luciente’s gender. It makes you – the reader – question if it really matters that Luciente is a woman. This is very telling of how ingrained the notion of gender is in Connie’s mind and how it affects her decisions.

The most blaring themes present in these first chapters are that of gender inequality and social hierarchies. Connie’s emotional instability and current lot in life can be attributed to her harsh upbringing (Piercy, 39). However her upbringing is tied to the circumstances of the society around her, with all its malign aspects. Her mother not giving her enough attention and love as a child, her failed marriages, the loss of Claude, and the abuse of her daughter as a consequence of her grief, can all be traced back to her upbringing; by extension the problems of gender inequality and social hierarchies inherent in society. This brings up the question of whether Connie has agency or control of the course of her life, or if that course is predetermined by and in her beginnings.

The mental institutions Connie is committed to, seem to mirror society as a whole in a number of ways. What struck me as significant was that Connie would describe her time in the asylum as “just surviving”(Piercy, 16). It seems like a microcosm of society as a whole: there is have an authority that sets rules and regulations, social norms one must adhere to, as well as all the ugly aspects of society such as social profiling and gender stereotyping.

I wonder why the future date is chosen as 2137 and not 2203 or even 3493. I suppose the significance is that it is distant enough into the future to believably infer what society might be like, based on what we know of today. Did the author just randomly come up with that number then? 2137 not 2200 which seems a lot more distant, but not 2100 which seems to close? I digress. The world presented in 2137 is largely different from what Connie, and I suspect, the reader would imagine it to be, yet strangely nostalgic and familiar.

The 2137 society is mainly rural, self sustaining, environmentally friendly, egalitarian with a great solidarity and cohesion within the villages. Humans have deemed large urban centers unsustainable. Energy is harnessed from wind and sun. Humans have even learned to communicate and understand animals, leading to a complete dietary change and integration with the natural world. Technology is still prevalent, evidenced by the ‘kenners’ and the databases they are connected too, but it is used judiciously and only for utility.

The most interesting aspect of this society is the dissolution of the institution of gender as we know it in today’s world. There are no stereo types, no roles defined by society, just people. Gender has become just a physiological distinction, as evidenced by the disuse of the pronouns he/she/it for person or animal, and how they treat each other. Male and Female associations have become neutral, and both sexes play equal parts in this society from farming, to the military; we’ve yet to see, who the ‘defense force’ actually defends against. The final form of equality of the sexes mentioned at the end of chapter five was the use of human incubation and birthing machines. This gave both men and women the ability to become ‘mothers’.

These first few chapters present an interesting scenario to discuss gender and societal problems, while presenting us with a believable future to contrast against. I can only hope the novel concludes on a satisfying note.


 

Nicholson, Jack, Louise Fletcher, MilosĚŚ Forman, Jack Nitzsche, Michael Douglas, Saul Zaentz, and Ken Kesey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Burbank, Calif: Warner Home Video, 1997, ©1975.

Piercy, Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time. New York: Knopf, 1976. Print.

Seed, David. Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

That escalated quickly, fasure.

Judging by the title of the book, I was expecting a lighthearted story of a time travelling woman. Boy was I in for a surprise. In just the first two or three pages we get references to drug use, prostitution, rape, domestic violence and abortion.

Woman on the Edge of Time (WOTEOT from now on) is very different from other works we have explored in class so far in many ways. Consuelo/Connie differs a lot from the usual science fiction protagonist. She is a poor, old (in her own eyes), fat, short, dark Mexican woman. What we know about her so far is that she has suffered a lot at the hands of the men in her life: her father, ex-husbands, lovers, to the point where she sees in her niece’s pimp, Geraldo, all those abusive men (34). Her mother’s attitude while she was growing up didn’t help, preferring her sons over her daughter (38). Luciente tells her she is a “catcher” and an exceptionally good one at that, while Connie herself admits to being strongly “receptive” and able to discern information from just looking at people, such as knowing her ex Eddie was cheating on her and that Dolly was preggo after her vacation. This leads me to think that she will end up being a “THE ONE” figure at some point.

The future presented in WOTEOT is also very different from what you would usually expect in a science fiction narrative. Little importance is given to technology; it’s more about every member of the society doing their part, working together in order to advance. In some ways it seems more realistic than the other versions of the future we have explored in class, it actually resembles some of the proposals seen in the Urban Landscapes exhibit at MOMA. Also worth noting is that gender roles are not clearly defined in this future, Luciente speaks about comothers, although it’s not clear if people are raised by two or more females, or if the biological father is considered a “mother” also, making both parents comothers. We’ll have to keep on reading for that one.

Something I found interesting about the story so far was the discontinuous narrative style, especially the first two chapters. After reading them both I realized the order of chapters 1 and 2 could be inverted and not alter the story in any way. Also worth noting is the use of Spanish words and phrases interspersed throughout the text. Being bilingual, I find that extra layer of information relevant, although I’m not sure if I would find it rather distracting and pointless if it were in another language I didn’t understand.

One thing that I dislike about the book is that it goes into too much unnecessary exposition. Every single detail in Connie’s background, past and present, is relayed to the reader. Also, the author uses a whole paragraph to say something that could have been expressed in a sentence, making the overall experience a somewhat tedious read in some parts.

From what I’ve read so far, I can tell that this story is more about human drama rather than man vs. machine and authentic vs. artificial we’ve been dealing with so far.

Crazy Lady or Time Traveler ?

After reading Woman On The Edge of Time, like my peers the first chapter was hard to read and for me, it was not that it was boring it was just the fact the chapter starts with Dolly bleeding because she got beaten by her lover/ pimp Geraldo. Just because she was pregnant with his baby, that really pissed me off. I won’t get into why but the start of the book had me mad so i’m going to just  skip to next part. So Connie is a hispanic female that is struggling to survive the everyday life. Connie is single and has lost her daughter after breaking her  wrist against the door when connie was hungover one night. So basically when we meet Connie she has reached the bottom of her life so far she lost the two things she loved the most Claud the Man she loved and died in prison due to testing the prison was performing and her daughter due to not being able to understand english well and for giving her a beating. We also meet a strange man that is actually a woman that time travels mentally but can be seem to be real to everyone. WHAT???? how can you travel through time mentally but not really be in the past yet be in the past physically to the person in the past? hopefully we will understand a little more on how their time travel works throughout the book. it will either be that or we find out connie is crazy and she never made it out of the madhouse the first time and has been imagining everything after one of her electro shock therapy sessions. Also on page 8 the last paragraph first line ” she lay tied with straps to a bed, staring up at a bare bulb, shot up with meds….she was trapped in her old chicago flat in a fire.” at this point I thought that everything that comes after is just her life flashing before her eyes and she does not really have good memories so she goes out and imagens Luciente as a guide to a better world. a world that i found every similar to the urban planning idea  of Frank LLoyd Wright.frank lloyd wright urban planinghere is an image of his idea, every family gets an acre to themselves. Just as everyone in Luciente time has their very one space to live in and they live out in the open with the animals. compared to the other passages we have read this one is a bit weird but as you can see it has made my mind race with different ideas of what could be going on and reminded me of Frank LLoyd Wrights urban Planning idea from 1932. After visiting that future i cant wait to continue reading now to see if any of my ideas will come true or at least the explanation to what is really going on.

Time Travel in Reverse

Wow that is a harsh and brutal start to this book especially on how Geraldo wanted to take care of the baby so that it will not be born and dolly wanting yo have that child. I mean trying to have an abortion is one thing but having it with an unlicensed doctor is really something. But it must have been a harsh life that they have gone through, but i believe they are relating this to what probably has gone through in the past here in New York City. There were a lot of drug dealing and gang activity back in the days, especially like between the 80s and 90s. But wow this was really brutal on what they did to Dolores i guess it was an act on desperation that she did this on getting pregnant so that she can stop doing this prostitution.

After that being sent to a mental hospital so the geraldo will cover up on what he did is just really horrible. Especially for connie, if i understand correctly to the story, she was the one that they made her look like if she was the crazy one with getting her all dirty and horrible, and when she got there, nobody will listen to her about what has actually happened. Its just horrible, but at those two chapters i wanted to know when was the fiction was going to happen, i mean yea they said that the year was 2137 but yea they said there were skyscrapers and all of this but i guess the time traveling took place until chapter 3, where she goes with luciente to the future but instead of having these tall buildings and skyscrapers its like a downgrade.

They described the area in having like small house like structures and also small domes and they are using technology like solar power and all these energy efficient methods. I see it like a combination of a past like view but mixed with futuristic technology. Which kinda makes me say this ” something that goes up sooner or later most come down” for this it sounds better in spanish but it sounds weird in english but i will still put it in here in spanish ” todo lo que sube, algĂşn dia tiene que bajar”

Best intro evar!!!

Well this title for this post is probably misleading. While it was not the best it was cringe worthy. Why not begin a story with domestic violence, prostitution and back ally doctors. In a weird way my interest was peaked. Not because of the events that transpired but mostly was curious where the author was planning on taking this.

Let me preface this by saying i only read the first 2 chapters. Mostly because its spring break and this is not the best book to be reading. The author goes into great detail in explaining the scenes. She does so to the point where she quickly jumps to something else I cant seem to follow what is happening. I’ms forced to flip back and forth between pages to check is I missed something and come to realized that with the over detailed events my mind just grew bored and skimmed certain scenes. One scene in particular is when the back ally doctor comes in with the great pimp Gerardo.

Oh man do I have a lot to say about this bunch. My same feelings about the movie blade runner are coming into play here. Sometimes I grow tired of seeing the same cliche of people. The overzealous pimp that wants to control his “product” (that’s probably the most pg-13 way i could have put that) with flashy rings and the god awful fur coat. Not wanting to have a child with who began as his girl forced to become his prostitute. That being said this actually made me think. This book was written in the late 70’s while now its a cliche that is tad overplayed but back then. Would this have been something revolutionary and new. While someone can write an entire essay on depictions of certain story elements throughout history, its still something to think about.

The doctor on the other hand is just meh. Its your typical back ally doctor just trying to make a quick buck. That being said it does not dis value his nastiness in trying to do this. Its still a valid representation of both of them but its still bothersome to see this. Mostly because its mostly used to demonize men every single time.

The biggest shocker came on page 44 where Luciente was reveled to be a time traveler from the future. When reading the back cover i was expecting Connie to be able to pear into the future like tomorrow land where the pin transports you to that world (a movie I’m super excited to watch). Reading chapter 2 I was beginning to have my doubts to what extent this book was going to go into the science fiction genre. While I aim to completely caught up come the next blog post, I’m hoping the story begins to get more interesting that just a fucked up person living in a fucked up world (Excuse my french).

This is some crazy ish right here!!

This novel started off on a real bang, lots of drama and action taking place within the first pages of the novel. A hispanic lady named Connie or Consuelo (which funny in Spanish means comfort) and her niece Dolly who has been assaulted and beaten, are caught up in dangerous ordeal with Dolly’s pimp named Geraldo coming to do some more harm. I think Jonathan had mentioned it in his post, this is some straight up gritty New York City stuff in here, especially with the backdrop of El Barrio. I think of gritty 1970’s movies like Fort Apache: The Bronx when I read this first chapter. Then Geraldo has a crooked “doctor” coming in to abort possibly his own baby that he’s had with Dolly to keep her being able to be a prostitute.

Then things turn worse when Connie gets committed to a mental institution which is Bellevue Hospital (which I know as a notorious past for having some bad things happening in that hospital). The scene of her strapped helplessly in the institution was heartbreaking, really some of the saddest things I’ve ever read. Connie had to lay there in her own filth, and soon she finds out that her niece betrayed her, saying Connie had assaulted her instead of Geraldo. All Connie can think about now is getting out. All she looks forward to is escaping this god forsaken place.

Funny thing is, when I was reading this, it took me a while to say “wait a minute, what does this have to do with science fiction?” It felt like I was reading a cross between a Junot Diaz novel and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Especially when later on in chapt. 4 she describes the patients that got the horrible electroconvulsive therapy. The way she describes what it does to the person took me right to the scene with Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest. “One morning there would be no breakfast for you, and then you would know…Then they would send voltage smashing through your brain and knock your body into convulsions…your scorched taste of death with parts of your memory forever burned out.” (pg. 73) Really scary depressing stuff.

But then the sci-fi elements slowly starts creeping in when chapter 2 hits and we are introduced to Luciente, We’re led to believe this is a man (who turns out to be a woman, so I’m gonna refer to him as her to avoid confusion on my part!!) who is somewhat crazy and talks to Connie in what appears to be a dream like state. Immediately you can tell something is different when Luciente is introduced. The way she talks is so different than the spanish slang used by the rest of the characters, and she talks about herself as being a sender, Connie being a catcher, living in a different time, etc. Things start to get really weird when Luciente appears in the psychiatric hospital and not only reveals herself as a strongly built woman, but transports her into a different dimension in time. The revelation of Luciente being a woman gives her a sudden form of comfort. Apparently, this is a future that has people living as if they were back in time. There was an emphasis on nature, everything was clean, no sign of busy streets or high skyscrapers. This new form of living is so foreign to Connie, and Connie’s way of life is equally as confusing to the futuristic people.

All in all, I can only give my impressions of the book so far. I can’t give any concrete analysis cause I don’t know what the hell is gonna take place in this book. It really isn’t like anything I’ve read before. It mixes themes and concepts that exist within urban minority life, elements of the human mind, and some elements of science fiction. Interested to see where this goes in the future.

That one time that kid from the future came over

Woah, is all I have to say…followed by the subsequent paragraphs.

Theres a lot of things that i want to say about this novel as its being understood by me. First off id like to say that i personally am excited because, ITS A TIME TRAVEL STORY!! I personally love time travel, and as soon as Luciente told Connie he was from 2137(p.44), I was like “whatttttt”, totally not expecting that, which made my nose instantly in this book, and secondly, clarified the contents of the first chapter, just like Chris mentioned, since technically everything is happening backwards, and forwards simultaneously, because time travel, and how Piercy decided to structure her writing (genius). Its a kind of trip really, for we have, as the reader, experienced what happened in the first chapter, kinda slow and dragged out, just to give you a sense of the surroundings type thing, never any mention of whats going on or anything. Then chapter 2 onward was like woahh, this is really happening, we see everything that happened before she was commited, even though, technically it never happened to begin with, because time travel. I really could go on a whole tangent about this, but i wont because that would take FOREVER, but i wouldnt mind discussing it in class. Its an interesting book especially the characters, how right off the bat were thrust into their lives. Connie is someone that i can relate to as a human. Not that ive been in this situation before, because lets face it, if i was, i would take advantage of that however which way i could, but i digress. Connie is someone who has and is experiencing psychological distress, something that is both common and uncommon, common in that everyone deals with something mental from time to time, uncommon in that we deal with it, instead we sweep it under the floor.

Thats relatable, if i had a nickle for all the times id tried to hide and cover up my problems instead of dealing with it head on, id have like two bucks and change. And thats clever, because she claims that she doesnt need help, and that shes been commited and institutionalized before, and thats all fine and dandy, yet we dont really see any of that, all we see is her pain, something that people deal with, under the surface. Albeit the pain was inflicted by another (Scumbag Geraldo, which is something else i could go on a tangent about) she still seems to be suffering from the pain dealt to her by her life. Her past experinces still haunt her, and thats something that we all at some point deal with,and yet she refuses to be in this place, mainly because back then places like that didnt care about you just getting through their workday but thats something else entirely. Its hard for people to cope with the past, when thir future looks like what the past ended up being. Its scary to feel and be alone, to have everything you held near and dear vanish into the endless void of pain and suffering, it really is, Connie however has endured and put up with all the Bull in part to the fact that she is a survivor. The major characteristic that make Connie a relatable character, is that shes a Latino women living in the slums of New York City, well slums for its time, now that area is coming up rather well but whatever. Anyway, as a Latino male in NYC now, its not that difficult, theres struggle but not so much that i have a break down every know and then. To be honest i live rather comfortably for this era; that being said i know what its like to live in that time through the stories my grandparents and my parents told me as they grew with the city. It was hard and it was cut throat living. Everyone looking out for themselves, my grandparents had no idea what they were doing when they arrived here, they had dreams and aspirations, but the hard truth of the matter is that unless you have money or get a break you’re most likely to stay in that social state until times change.Just like Connie, she was a little girl who had big dreams and wanted to make a better life for herself (p.38) but because of bad luck, or the universe having bigger plans for her with the introduction of Luciente, those plans crumbled. Yet, and this is my belief, she survived because of where she came from, maybe its just me being proud of my Latino roots, but i believe we are a people of survivors. Connie put up with all her hardships and still carried on, so too did my grandparents, and my parents, and now we live pretty dam good, because of resiliance, something i feel is lacking in todays society, but thats just me. But it looks as if time are changing for Connie, and hopefully things get better for her.

Now in regards to her mental state, shes a woman thats fell on hard times (P.17-18), ive witnessed the turmoil and depression that follows a mother on the verge of losing their child, yet i cant begin to imagine the type of pain that takes over when that child is stripped out of a mothers arms. She has every right to feel how she feels, for being unjustly condemned to live the life she lives. Yet she keeps on, weak she may be but determined to do something about it, or at least she dreams of that, because as i mentioned earlier, unless a miracle happens youre most likely gonna stay where you are, ESPECIALLY during that time she lived in. From what i understand about my neighborhoods history, i live in what used to be a pretty horrible ghetto, prostitutes, drugs, all types of shit like that, the whole nine yards; yet my family has stayed here and survived and outlived that part of this neighborhoods history, becuase the times changed, regardless if that change was only like 10 years ago, they changed nonetheless. So i have some sort of grasp as to the living conditions that Connie had to endure, which was enough to put strain on anyone, let alone an already damaged person. But i hope, as im sure most of you do, that things turn around for Connie.

And i cant wait to talk about this with you guys in class.

“Every soul needs a little sweetness”

Wow these four chapters were very intense, we see some a brutal lifestyle that follows Connie and the people around her especially Dolly who we met right away and  who has to deal with her pimp Geraldo. The first chapter focuses on this one scene at Connie house when Dolly ends up after getting beaten by Gerald and she goes there to hide and rest but soon Geraldo arrives with a “doctor” and tries to butcher the baby away. Intense first chapter, afterwards we learn some more about these few character we meet and how they met along the way like Dolly & Geraldo history and what happened to them for them to end up as a pimp and prostitute situation. We learn more about Connie and how she surfer for others people problems in a way. She’s a older lady who deals with these younger crowd like Geraldo being a hustler kind of character pushing Dolly and her daughter etc.

Then in chapter Three theres a real twist when Connie slowly ends up in a Mental Hospital from the sort of confusing betrayal between Connie and Angelina. Then we meet Sybil who become a close friend and we get a some more background information on Luciente, who a confusing character to me. I will have to re read these chapter again to  reestablish my information but so far this is what I manage to get.

Men are baadddd, M’kay/ There is a gross lack of Brad Pitt.

First off I want to say I wanted to use like a bunch of titles for this post. I thought about the lyrics to the Smallville theme because you know, SAVE ME, DON’T CARE HOW YOU DO IT!!!! And a bunch of other stuff, but let me get to the post. I feel like I need a moderator while I write this, like boy was this book just terrible (so far), and I don’t want a MOMA repeat. So, the book begins with things happening, women getting beaten, and absolutely no positive male characters. Here is where one of my other titles kicks in. I really wanted to make a Orange is the New Black reference. This is very common troupe in feminist writing. For some odd reason feminist writers feel that the only way to write a strong female character is by writing male characters in a very poor, mustache curling, villainous way. Do they not see the irony in this? You want to prove how strong women are yet the only way you can do this is by writing males with paper thin personalities? Okay feminist writers, makes sense.

Poor feminist logic aside, the other thing that makes the book unbearable is all the exposition and repetition. In the first chapter Piercy is constantly reminding the reader how much Geraldo screwed over Consuelo, like Christ, I get it, GERALDO IS EVILLLLL!!!!! Piercy really wants to emphasize how a man has destroyed this woman both physically and mentally. Even though Dolly’s naivety and idiocy plays a huge roll in why Connie is currently stuck in a mental institution, Piercy focuses on writing in a way that puts the blame on Geraldo and Connie’s brother Lewis. And that second chapter was just so pointless. I understadn it is meant to give us a bit of a background on connie, but that could have been accomplished in a few pages. Chapter 2 ends up consisting of Piercy going into an unnecessary amount of detail over every little thing, with the worst part being that it ends where chapter 1 pretty much begins. There was no point in making this the second chapter. This should be swapped with chapter one. I assume this was some sort of attempt to make the character interesting before elaborating on their past as some texts do, but the chapter doesn’t make Connie an interesting enough character to warrant wanting to know more about her. Even Orange is the New black was able to do that well (even if it was the only thing they did right).

Overall, this book is awful, at least for now it is. It might get better as it seems that the first four chapters are just exposition, but from what I’ve read in reviews the books has some really interesting themes. I’m just going to hope the book gets better as you get deeper into it, but based on Connie’s character I really do not have high hopes. Lastly if your curious about the mentioning Brad Pitt in my post, please, PLEASE, go watch 12 Monkeys, it is a great Sci-fi film, in which the main character also spends quite a bit of time in a mental institution through out the film.

The One About The Woman

So much drama. So much.

To start with, I hate time travel, because it really confuses the hell out of me, it’s been overused to death, but seeing how this book is way before all that, I’ll try my best.

In the first chapter, the introduction of the characters is a little unorthodox; we get a shot of one person then almost immediately a shot of another without much description of said characters. Then after that, we go through some weird time loop that sends us back an hour or two before the abusive scene we come across in the beginning. A sort-of keystone that made me conclude that this was happening was the “ballpoint pen” she picked up on the subway car (she mentioned it in chapter one before the abuse scene).

Throughout the first chapter through a little more than half of the second, we don’t get the sense that this is really a science fiction novel. But then, as we get introduced to Luciete, a mysterious figure in which we first meet in Connie’s dreams, the science begins to tie in with the fiction. And as we read on, we begin to realize or form a conclusion using the bits and pieces acquired about Luciete, that she is a time traveler (and also because she tells Connie) from the year 2137.

For a future, unlike we see in most science fiction, it’s probably not what we were expecting to visualize. When Connie gets pulled into 2137 with Luciete, there are no skyscrapers, no ships, nothing what we expected of a year far out of reach than where we are today. What we really changed through the eons was the society; the people.

From what I can gather during the third chapter when Connie goes with Luciete to her time, Government is virtually nonexistent and there is no registry of people. When born, a name (no last name, just one name) is given to you, and in time, whenever, that person is allowed to change his or her name freely at the cost of people forgetting who you are. That being said, having an individual  almost isn’t possible, because it seems that everybody is connected to each other by some means; a sort of hive mind without a “queen” or governing body or individual.

To add, we get a sense that the future totally differs from that of the past (Connie’s present). In Connie’s present time, there is a huge line between male and female while this kind of utopian future of Luciete’s completely erases that line.

I apologize if this was short, this is all that really clicked into my head. I’m sorry to say that it was a really slow four chapters.