What a great concept piece especially since I work in the mental health profession and love this genre which got turned on it's back with the dystopian present. I look around the rooms and streets and stores, work, home and libraries and there is no one left to talk to because everyone is distracted by the augmented reality of their iPhones and the million other distractions that take us away from the ugly reality that skating on the thin ice of modern life can be almost unbearable at times. I hate to criticize but I have a real long queue of books which I might have to pause entirely for a year if all goes well, so I would appreciate a hint of concision and editing. And I found Consuela to be cloying, argumentative and whiny with the future world or delusions whichever it was.
I read Woman on the Edge of Time immediately after finishing Parable of the Sower and I am following a reading list of recommendations of an anarchist friend of mine. She teaches a class about utopias and distopias and how they influence our collective imagination for a better world. Although, Woman on the Edge of Time contrasts the life of a psychiatric patient with life in a utopian future, Marge Piercy makes the overwhelming struggles of Connie the psychiatric patient much more engaging than her visits to a left-wing progressive's dream future.
Connie Camacho Ramos was forcefully and unjustly admitted to a mental institution and throughout the book she was able to mentally visit a utopian world called Mattapoisett. Mattapoisett is a place I would love to live, gender and sexuality is very fluid, children have school out in the field- learning through experience, everyone is extremely conscientious of their actions on the environment, just about everything is communally owned, decisions are made through consensus based discussion, work is divided so each person plays a variety of roles, and human relationships are cherished. It reminded me of how my co-op friends and I might imagine a perfect world.
(Piercy's vision, which I would love to live in, also got me to consider how someone from the opposite political viewpoint might imagine a utopia. And I assume it would involve biblical idealogies coming to life. So their world would have angels, maybe a messianic benevolent ruler, the souls of departed people would come back from the dead, and there would be a lot of conformity.)
As much as I loved the world Piercy created I did not find the narrative of Connie in this world to be very compelling. Most of the time Connie was in Mattapoisett it consisted of Luciente, her guide from the future, explaining how her community works. There was very little narrative except for that of exploring and explaining.
On the other hand, Connie's struggle to be released from the mental hospital was riveting. Piercy did an excellent job demonstrating how little power Connie had and that her only strategy for release was to play-along. Also the experimental treatment introduced towards the end of the book was not only creepy but was a very salient metaphor.
I excuse some of the bland writing in Woman at the Edge of Time because it was science fiction. Despite that it did allow me to envision a world I would love to be in and remind me our minds can be very liberating.
This book is on my all-time great books to read and reread list. When I was in college, an anthro professor said when she finished it she was so sad that there wasn't a society like the one in the book to live in. I agree tremendously! Well worth your time...
Seems like a good read :)
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