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This is painful. I've always found it uncomfortably intense, I'm remembering, to approach either Andrea Dworkin's work or the public record of her self, her person.

Last week, through [ profile] francita, I saw a link to an article about Andrea Dworkin in The Observer in London. Very disturbed by it, I wrote a letter to the editor.

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[ profile] fattest wrote a beautiful post about Andrea Dworkin that I keep quoting in comments, for instance to say, "fattest can get to the tender, pulsing heart of difficult moments, people, bodies of work in such a radiant way. Moves me a lot."

[ profile] slit wrote something great, too.
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Andrea Dworkin had "her stomach stapled." *

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The Seattle-Post Intelligence finally showed up on Google with the first U.S. mainstream media obituary of her that I've seen.

This sentence moved me very much:

She was working on a book with the working title "Writing America: How Novelists Invented and Gendered a Nation," when she died, Stoltenberg said.

Novels. She was back there.
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According to a women's studies listserv I read, Andrea Dworkin has died. Edit via [ profile] crazycrone, here is an obituary in the Guardian.

Thinking about her raises a dense set of memories, associations, ideas, arguments, explanations and apologies in me. If I started trying to describe coming out as a lesbian feminist as part of the Feminist Alliance/Lesbian Caucus in Boulder, Colorado in the early eighties, there is too much to say about radicalism, slouching towards sexuality, terrible beauty, identity, privilege, censorship, shouting chants in the street at night for the very first time, and all. I can't do it now, but she was in the air.

I only ever actually read one of her books, The New Woman's Broken Heart.* It was short stories, fiction, published by a small feminist press, Frog In The Well. It was a very short book, one of the most slender volumes of fiction I've ever held. It was not a polemic. I remember that it touched me, made me cry, made my life seem more possible. I thought the writing was beautiful.

I just found something she wrote in 1980, when she was proposing to give a reading from this book. It's from a website of old newsletters from the New York Women's literary salon:

I began writing before I was a teenager. My first writings were poetry and fiction. I don't write poetry any more, but I have not stopped writing fiction, which is my first and greatest love both as a writer and as a reader.

Fiction, when it's good, insists on a complexity, empathy and generosity in ways that other forms do not. A writer can't both follow a first, greatest love deeper and deeper into fiction and also be a polemicist.** [ profile] purejuice sometimes posts a quotation that I can't quite remember about staying true to the spirit of the visions of youth. I like that, think it's true, and cling with a lot of stubborness and impractical persistence to fiction, which is also a great love of mine. I love poetry that way, too. Refinement and expansions of those early loves, along with rough edges, openness, uncertainty, and the habits of respect for other visions: I think that these things accumulate importance, as well, which becomes more visible over the years. Kindness matters, too.

It has, it's been more than twenty years -- and I may be getting it completely wrong -- but I remember one of Andrea's stories about people called androgynes, whose fingers and noses and the skin of their cheeks and knees, whose every part developed an exquisite, erotic sensitivity to everything in the whole world. It sounds awkward now, like too much and not enough (I'm definitely leaving out a lot), but when I first read it, it sounded exquisite to me. A blessing, at her death, on Andrea Dworkin's first, great love as a writer and a reader, and on all bold, honorable, risky, entertaining explorations of that form.

*Prompted mostly by felicks' post, I've remembered that I also read Woman Hating, and it did, it changed me.

**I just looked up polemics and see that one of its definitions is "the branch of theology dealing with ecclesiastical disputation and controversy." No wonder that thinking about Andrea Dworkin and her work also makes me think of the Calvinist minister I'm writing about, Jonathan Edwards.

Editing to add this further information from the Women's Studies list about the sad news of Andrea Dworkin's death. )


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May 2009



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