The Female Man

Joanna Russ

Hello, blog! I stopped feeding you as regularly as usual. Sorry about that. I will try to keep you nourished on book reviews.

Is there a technical term for the rhetorical device whereby an author addresses the work she is writing? Joanna Russ does this in the final pages of The Female Man and I think it’s one of the novel’s few weak points. Apart from that it’s as good as the short story which served as its nucleus, “When It Changed”: an entertaining and spirited exploration of feminist possibilities. I kind of miss the original version of Whileaway, Russ’ female-only utopia, which in the short story was a space colony.

There’s a strange asymmetry between “When It Changed” and another story about a monogendered planet, Cordwainer Smith’s “The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal”. Whileaway is a rough-and-tumble utopia, whereas Smith’s male-only Arachosia is a feverishly camp nightmare, to be destroyed as soon as possible. But then Smith was really weird: a pioneer furry when it came to human-on-anthropomorphic-animal passion, not so keen on man-love.

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