I read three books in January. One I loved, one I hated, and one changed my life a bit. Let’s start off with the book I hated: The Witches of Eastwick.This is one of the most poorly written, misogynistic, and stereotypical books depicting women I have ever read. That’s right- ever. Bonus: It was blurbed by Margaret Atwood and other literary luminaries as being a masterpiece and ahead of its time. Really? It was written in 1984. Here are the problems I had with the book, and you tell me if it is in-line with something ahead of its time for the mid-1980s
The witches, Sukie, Alex, and Jane, were so poorly written that I had a very difficult time telling them apart, even when they were in conversation with each other on the phone. They are all artists; writer, musician, sculptor. They are all divorced. They all have children whom they loath. They are jealous of other women and each other and they gossip about constantly. Here is how we are supposed to tell them apart – they have different hair colors and one thinks she is fat.
These three women, who have magical powers (that are never explained) use those magical powers to…wait for it….no actually – what would YOU use magical powers for? Especially if you are a single mother of multiple children in a falling down house? (Yes, all of their houses are in serious disrepair. I’m assuming because NO MAN). Would you, I don’t know – manifest money or success or a clean house even? Ha! Not these women! They use their powers to get out of awkward social situations, hurt/kill women they don’t like, and most often – to seduce mediocre married men in their town. Seriously, they aren’t even seducing hot married men. One is actually Joe the plumber and is described as balding, hairy, and slightly overweight. Also? He has six children. What a catch!
Blah blah, a demonic/type dude comes to town, they have orgies – because obviously – OH! I forgot to mention, did you know that women have hard nipples and think about them ALL THE TIME? Well, John Updike reminds us of this truth about every two pages. Anyhow, demonic man comes to town, he marries another women, witches get mad, kill her, and demon dude skips town with dead wife’s brother.
Guess how this book ends? With the women growing apart, and each manifesting a nice, unmarried, mediocre man who marries her and whisks her away.
Apparently this book is supposed to be a commentary on effects of Puritanical values on women, which I get. However, the depiction of women is SO off base and off putting it rendered the book nearly unreadable. Updike is so grossly incompetent in his understanding and description of women that it’s hard to justify this as anything but a male-gaze, mansplaining novel of what women really want which is – to have sex with mediocre married men. Two thumbs down.
BUT! It’s not a total loss! Because the movie, which came out in 1987 and starred Michelle Pfieffer, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Jack Nicholson, is FANTASTIC. It fixed everything that was wrong with the book. The women are distinct and different. They manifest the demon dude – Jack Nicholson who is the embodiment of what each of them want. Instead of harming an innocent women, in the end they kill HIM as he has been manipulating and harming them. Oh also? They love their kids. AND? Instead of marrying random dudes and never seeing each other again, they move into a huge mansion TOGETHER with no dudes. See how that works? Highly recommend it if you want a fun, 80’s woman-power movie.
Book reviews to be continued tomorrow!