Jane (Vance) Rule Robin Skelton - Essay

Robin Skelton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Lesbian Images] is a sensible, witty, well-written book which provides us with new perspectives upon the lives and works of a number of women writers…. The biographical details, many of which are here given for the first time, are presented without sensationalism, and with a fine balance of sympathy and objectivity. The book's major weakness is the final chapter on "Recent Nonfiction," for here Ms Rule does not give herself enough space to deal with the complexity and fury of recent writings on lesbianism, and while her comments are, as always, shrewd, they appear occasionally to be less objective than those she makes in other chapters, and the book ends upon a somewhat hortatory note. It is, perhaps, more difficult for the non-partisan reader to accept writing that is, in her own words, "extravagant, self-critical, self-mocking, self-aggrandizing" as being also "honest and terrible and awesome" than Ms Rule thinks. Such a reader may be inclined to feel that hysterical writing is bad writing, however significant sociologically and psychologically the presentation of that hysteria may be. This is a difficulty that faces any writer who tackles a subject in which aesthetic and sociological criteria become entangled with each other. On the whole, however, there is no doubt that this is an important book, and the most reasonable, balanced, and civilized contribution to the study of lesbianism in twentieth-century literature that we have yet had.

Robin Skelton, in a review of "Lesbian Images," in The Malahat Review (© The Malahat Review, 1975), No. 36, October, 1975; p. 143.