Sunday, October 30, 2005

Toni Bentley Watch

Toni who? You know, the woman who wrote the book about finding transcendence through anal sex--about how she entered paradise through her exit or some such. Called The Surrender. Oh, right! Right. She's got a piece in The New York Times Book Review today on a collection of women's letters from the Revolutionary War to the present. Why do you care? Yes, good question. Well, this is the second book that she's reviewed for them in the last couple of months, and I suppose I'm a little worried that they're turning her into some Daphne Merkin type who now gets exclusive rights to the opining on anything related to women and literature because she confessed before God and the chattering classes that she likes to do something very naughty in bed. Her first offense was a front-cover review of Vindication, a really lovely, lively biography of Mary Wollstonecraft; in the review's opening lines she made some reference to women being great dramatizers--when, you know, maybe that's just you. I like to think that Wollstonecraft, who spent her life writing and living in opposition to women trading on their sexual charms--and writing and living in opposition to any specious generalizing about who women are--would be rolling in her grave to think that some self-dramatizing former ballerina had the honor of reviewing her biography. (Oh, said a former dancer friend of mine, a ballerina would write a book about that.) Makes a lady think that the only way she's going to get byline action is by putting her exquisite perversities on display like so many pieces of delicate, slippery, unsubstantial underthings.

Which brings me to the Maureen Dowd showcase in the magazine. So we don't like it when men take us up on our half-hearted offers to go dutch and Botox is setting the movement back about thirty years? You don't say. Those towering and castrating-looking red pumps Dowd wears in the accompanying picture sure are fascinating, though. I did like the line about how she longed for the style and wit of the 30s while growing up in the Eros-mad sixties. That I'd like to read about. And if you would too, you should look up a book called Fast-Talking Dames by Princeton lit professor Maria DiBattista. In which DiBattista discusses why the rapid-fire, razor-sharp dialogue engaged in by screwball heroines of the 30s makes for a shining (equal) moment in American sexual relations. That then got obliterated by the John Wayne type.