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ande
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Because a Fire Was in My Head: Kate Riley

What do you think about Kate and the choices she has made?
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Late-Life-Literacy
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Registered: ‎10-04-2007
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Re: Because a Fire Was in My Head: Kate Riley

It was after I finished this book that I read Julia Sheeres’ review (New York Times, International Herald Tribune). This is first time a book review has made me angry (and Sheeres loved the book, she posted the review on her blog). I found the review sexist and a mischaracterization of Kate Riley. Sex sells, but I have a different take Kate and her men.
Sheeres’ description of Kate as a “Hussy…Lunging from one sensual high to the next.” implies a sexually aggressive woman. It’s Kate’s sexual passivity that I found striking. She is almost always waiting for them (men) to take her. She’s in Vancouver, pregnant by Jan, (to me, normal teenage sexuality -- when parents aren’t paying attention and you have no birth control) exploited by an unscrupulous doctor and tricked into giving up her first born child. ONE WEEK after giving up her child, in a state of Catholic guilt and post-partum depression, set off by the site of a “middy blouse,” she attempts suicide by passively walking into a river. She’s physically rescued by Vancleve, but she wants real salvation; she wants to be desired by the priest who‘s counseling her. Rebounding from the priest’s rejection, she makes one aggressive move; she places Vancleve’s hand on her breast. He becomes the sexual aggressor from then on, and hell - he‘s 70! He should have put the brakes on after the first night, long before she got pregnant. She is faithful till she “wakes up” and realizes what she has done with her life; too passive to ask for a divorce, she takes “afternoon men.” What we are led to believe is hedonistic pleasure, is revealed in her tryst with Don Raimer to be self degradation. Again, it’s her passivity that’s striking.
Ironically, she is faithful for five years to a married man who lies to her. You have to give her credit for not going to his wife and you don’t buy that it’s all about the money -- they both have deep twisted reasons for keeping this affair going -- narcissist in love. Then she finds a “nice and comfy” man, Nelson Burke; he’s a little blah in the sack, and life, but he doesn’t mind her being plump. Just when we think she may have learned something, enter Rudy. Not unlike Don Raimer, we see it coming, why doesn’t she?
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lynnstegner
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Re: Because a Fire Was in My Head: Kate Riley

Late-Life-Lite:

Thank you for joining this conversation and for adding your apercu -- because you're quite right, there is something strangely passive about Kate's relationship to men, even while she does what she can to foment any and all sensual connections. At the center of her overwhelming narcissism is its obverse -- enormous insecurity. It's the narcissism that leads her to one miscalculation after another; she is simply blinded to the schemes and often obvious signals or machinations of the men she seeks. This is why she believes Max's lies, why she manages to miss the fact that Rudy is gay and that Nelson is unsure of his own sexuality; that Raimer is a taker and a user; that Vancleve, despite his age, is the real thing; that the doctor does not once act in her best interests. You mentioned that she seeks salvation in the young priest's love -- exactly. If he loves her, then she is somehow forgiven her sins, she is returned to herself, a self that suddenly has a little value.


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IBIS
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Re: Because a Fire Was in My Head: Kate Riley

I've finally finished BECAUSE A FIRE WAS IN MY HEAD. I met Kate Riley, and traveled a harrowing and confusing journey with her. And I was glad for seatbelts. It was a very bumpy ride.

I could not chomp my way straight through. I had to nibble my way through in many, many small sessions.

Kate's character challenged me... I could bear her company comfortably only for so long---within limited time frames... she reminded me of people whose huge, black insecurities use up all the air in a room. After reading for an hour or so, I felt as if I was suffocating. I would bookmark the spot, and leave her world. There were moments when I felt like shaking her hard by the shoulders, and maybe giving her a couple of good hard slaps.

I returned because Lynn Stegner's great story-telling writing engaged me from the start...Kate was frustrating and maddening; she was not easy to understand... she was full of contradictions: narcisistic and hugely insecure. Shape-shifting -- fat and slender. Pleasure-seeking and physically self-destructive.

I didn't think I'd ever met someone like Kate in real life....And yet.... and yet.... There were glimpses that were familiar... vague recollections of someone like her....
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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lynnstegner
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Registered: ‎09-11-2007
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Re: Because a Fire Was in My Head: Kate Riley

You can't imagine how many people have come up to me (men especially) and told me that they know someone JUST LIKE Kate Riley. She may be uncommon but not unrecognizable.


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