Friday, September 20, 2013

What is Karen M. Dunak reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Karen M. Dunak, author of As Long as We Both Shall Love.

Her entry begins:
When anyone would gossip or speculate about the romantic lives of other couples, my grandfather used to say “Other people’s marriages are a foreign country.” And he would complete his thought by adding “And I don’t speak the language.” Earlier in the summer, I was reading a back issue of a magazine in my doctor’s office and stumbled upon an article that quoted L. P. Hartley’s famous opening sentence of The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Reminding me of my grandfather’s words, the passage inspired me to order and read Hartley’s book.

Both considerations of “foreign countries” suggest that there are things that are unknowable in the world, and more specifically, there are things unknowable about the lives and motivations of others. As a historian, I study and aim to understand the past while attempting to withhold judgment and appreciate the differences I find there. But my investigations are of a past from which I am at least somewhat separate. Hartley’s book, wrapped up as it is in memory, gives consideration to a man’s relationship to his personal past. Views of events and experiences, he suggests, evolve as they are...[read on]
About As Long as We Both Shall Love, from the publisher:
When Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011, hundreds of millions of viewers watched the Alexander McQueen-clad bride and uniformed groom exchange vows before the Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey. The wedding followed a familiar formula: ritual, vows, reception, and a white gown for the bride. Commonly known as a white wedding, the formula is firmly ensconced in popular culture, with movies like Father of the Bride or Bride Wars, shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezillas, and live broadcast royal or reality-TV weddings garnering millions of viewers each year.

Despite being condemned by some critics as “cookie-cutter” or conformist, the wedding has in fact progressively allowed for social, cultural, and political challenges to understandings of sex, gender, marriage, and citizenship, thereby providing an ideal site for historical inquiry. As Long as We Both Shall Love establishes that the evolution of the American white wedding emerges from our nation’s proclivity towards privacy and the individual, as well as the increasingly egalitarian relationships between men and women in the decades following World War II. Blending cultural analysis of film, fiction, advertising, and prescriptive literature with personal views expressed in letters, diaries, essays, and oral histories, author Karen M. Dunak engages ways in which the modern wedding emblemizes a diverse and consumerist culture and aims to reveal an ongoing debate about the power of peer culture, media, and the marketplace in America. Rather than celebrating wedding traditions as they “used to be” and critiquing contemporary celebrations for their lavish leanings, this text provides a nuanced history of the American wedding and its celebrants.
Learn more about As Long as We Both Shall Love at the New York University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: As Long as We Both Shall Love.

Writers Read: Karen M. Dunak.

--Marshal Zeringue