I’m going to try an experiment and write really short reviews, say just a couple hundred words or so, and try to review more of the books I read and post more often. One thing that keeps me from posting, sometimes, is that I don’t have, or don’t want to take, the time to write long reviews, so I don’t write any at all. Perhaps removing that pressure will encourage me to post more.
I’ve had my eye on Eve Ensler’s memoir In the Body of the World at my library for a while, and something, I’m not sure what, made me pick it up last time I was there. Flipping through it at home, some of the language caught my eye, so I gave it a go, and read the first half in one sitting. I found that first half riveting. Then sitting down to read the second half didn’t go quite as well, and I’m not sure if the book changed, or if my mood changed.
The book is an account of Ensler’s (author most famously of The Vagina Monologues) struggles with cancer, although she tells also about her work for women’s rights around the world and especially in Africa. It’s a book about suffering, both her own suffering and that of the women she works with, and it’s also a book about alienation from one’s body (her body) and from the earth. She connects her own experiences to larger world events: her years of feeling disconnected from her body to our larger societal disconnect from environmental damage. In a way, it seems absurd to make the leap from one’s personal circumstances to what is happening on a global scale, but Ensler makes it meaningful and, in places, moving.
The writing in this book is, at its best, urgent and passionate. At its worst, it feels florid and overwrought. Perhaps that’s what went wrong with my reading of the second half. The entire book is very emotionally raw, and the book won’t work for you if that isn’t your thing. But it has a lot to say about living comfortably in one’s own body and how suffering shapes and changes you, and it mourns eloquently for the abuses brought on women throughout the world.