Genre Fiction: Women and Murder
Last Fridays of each Month
March 30 and April 27
The March 30 author will be Shirley Jackson, notorious for writing The Lottery and the gothic The Haunting of Hill House. From 1943 until her death in 1965, she was popular and published by major magazines. Her stories of women’s social unease, inadequacy, and exclusion are the interior dialogues of victims limited by overbearing mothers and local gossips. Jackson also has a wicked wit. Her murderous children belong to the original Grimm’s fairy tales.
For April’s 27th meeting, we will leave Jackson’s domestic and white world of unhappy women, murderous children, and local gossips and return to the American noir setting of social crime by reading Nella Larsen. Unlike the prolific Jackson, Larsen published a few short stories and only two novels between 1920 and 1930. We will read her second novel, Passing. Unlike Jackson’s women, Larsen’s women are not limited because they are over-sensitive; racism denies them the ability to act upon their ambitions. In Passing, two mixed-race women, who had known each other in childhood, meet as married women who have chosen very different lives. Clare’s black working class background denied her the advantages of the black bourgeoisie, but her light skin conceals her African-American background sufficiently so that she is able to marry a wealthy and racist white man. Irene has married a black man, a highly regarded doctor. The tensions that arise from their re-acquaintance end in either a crime, accident, or suicide.
Nella Larsen’s life did not allow her to write much, but much has been written on her and about her in turgid academic prose. In this reading group, let’s look upon Nella Larsen as a woman involved in the writing and the issues of her day. She was an acclaimed modernist who wrote about racism, the major crime of American society.
No one turned away for inability to pay
$10 per single session
Jacqueline Cantwell has explored the depths of crime fiction along with the heights the desperate will often want to throw themselves from. These fictions will lay bare many of the facts of the cold as ice killings and cover-ups present in a modern world where we are expected to behave better—but very often do not. What better night than Fridays in Autumn for murder and mayhem.