Weird Women, Wired Women
Kit Reed is nearly as famous for her highly anthologized 1958 short story “The Wait” as Shirley Jackson is for her archetypal masterpiece “The Lottery.” What the two stories have in common is the ability to create unbearable suspense, while uncovering the horrific in the most banal of situations. All of the stories in WEIRD WOMEN, WIRED WOMEN have these qualities, plus a special focus on issues which resonate for women.
Reed’s stories are radically subversive, whether she is taking on suburban housewife peer pressure in “Cynosure,” examining American cultural attitudes towards women’s weight in “The Food Farm,” exposing the world of beauty pageants in “In Behalf of the Product,” or eavesdropping on the monthly luncheons of the mothers of mass murderers in “Last Fridays.” From cosmetic surgery to in vitro fertilization to mother daughter tensions, no topic of feminist concern goes unscrutinized.
One long story, “Songs of War,” written in 1974, while mirroring Aristophane’s LYSISTRATA, is actually a rather scathing look at the forces that pulled apart the twentieth century women’s movement: the radicals versus the conservatives; the lavender menace; the paranoia about leadership; the questions about male sympathizers; and finally disenchantment, desertion and the apathy of the new generation. Yet while all the stories clearly have a powerful subtext, each one of them can be read for the sheer entertainment value of their slick surfaces. Issues aside, there is a lot of amusement in the story of the seventy-three year old woman who becomes a first time mom in “Mommy Nearest.”