A novel that Baby Boomers made famous. I betcha, I betcha...Brown, Rita Mae. Rubyfruit Jungle. 1973. New York: Bantam, 1977. Summary
: Adopted daughter of an impoverished, conservative Pennsylvania family that relocates to Florida, Molly Bolt is a independent-minded, intelligent young person who soon discovers that she is attracted to women. Estranged from her family, determined to make her own way, and refusing to be tied down to any one man OR woman, she forges a path for herself through high school, college in Gainsville, and part-time film school/full-time employment--only to discover that a glass ceiling will prevent her from advancing in the film industry. Comments
: Why is lesbian fiction so preoccupied with headstrong, working-class tomboys? The novel struck me as a kind of Bastard Out of Carolina
lite...but then, it's is quite a bit earlier, so maybe Rita Mae Brown's the one who started it all. To be honest, I've never been much of a fan of memoirs or semi-autobiographical novels, and gay/lesbian literature literally overflows with the stuff BECAUSE it helps to both legitimize and homogenize the subculture (or the "homosexual experience," if we must be strictly PC).
Still, I wish Brown could've kept some of the inevitable excesses of self-representation (read: self-idealization) in check. Molly is the victimized intellectual and only female character in the novel who doesn't sell out in some way or another...and everything thinks she's irresistibly gorgeous to boot! Moreover, she believes monogamy and marriage are inherently retrogressive, which as far as I'm concerned is mere dated, hippie-era bullshit, not progressive, liberal politics. Meanwhile, despite her desire to make her own way to the top, she loses all respect from me for all the borderline date-raping that she indulges in. I thought her simultaneous fling with Polina AND Polina's underaged daughter was especially reprehensible.
Nonetheless, the novel is an entertaining, easy read with at least a little to recommend for it, even if, like me, you read it somewhat oppositionally. Some of the antics of Molly and her friends are hilarious--I loved the bit about how they brought in onions so that they could cry along with their classics teacher. What a great idea! Wish I'd had the opportunity to try something like that. But, overall, this novel struck me as terribly overrated, a classic not for its literary merit per se but for the way it so stridently reinforces the alleged moral superiority of its out lesbian readership. Notes
: mass market paperback, 38th printing Rating
- Though it is rightly required reading for anyone interested in GBLT fiction, don't expect it to be love at first sight unless you already agree with the author's worldview.