Reissues an important but overlooked work by a brilliant American feminist.
He's a brash American adventurer; she's an independent, albeit sheltered, sociologist from Herland, a 2000-year-old, all-female society. Not surprisingly, when Vandyck (Van) and Ellador marry, most everything becomes a point of negotiation, if not contention: sexual relations, family obligations and attitudes about race, class and the welfare state. Originally published in 1916, this sequel to Gilman's utopian Herland (1915) was serialized in her monthly magazine, the Forerunner. Ostensibly Van's recollection of the pair's whirlwind, two-year trip through Europe, Asia and the U.S., this fictional vehicle is a thinly veiled platform for Gilman to rail against the evils of her era. Starting with the couple's exploration of WWI European battlefields, Gilman posits Ellador as a nave innocent peering at violence and inequity for the first time. Throughout, various forms of oppression, including poverty, racism and female subjugation, are caught in her incredulous gaze: "I think your prejudice against the black is silly, wicked, andhypocritical." Van, for his part, represents the blithely ignorant American status quo and is a perfect foil for Ellador's wide-eyed realizations. Gilman's politics, progressive by the standards of her day, aren't always correct by ours: her anti-Semitism and nativism are sure to rankle contemporary readers. Nonetheless, the book is a window into the second decade of the 20th century, and despite their persistent heavy-handedness, many of Gilman's observations are prescient and astute. (Aug.)