Here is how I see Learning to Drive. Under the pressure of events, I was brought face to face with many ways in which the personal and the political were opposing forces in my life. The values that I held, and the way I lived, didn't really fit together. Most of the essays explore that split in one way or another: the feminist who doesn't know how to drive and hasn't a clue what's going on in her relationship. The rationalist who finds herself googling her ex on the internet; the believer in female solidarity who is horrified when she takes a good look at some of the qualities she actually has in common with other women. But this split is not just in me. My father ("Good-Bye, Lenin"), was a Stalinist communist--and also a lawyer who revered the Bill of Rights. My mother ("Mrs. Razzmatazz"), was a working wife who was trapped in 1950s ideals of femininity. The Marxist study group I belonged to ("In the Study Group") understood society but not itself. And the split is in society too: new motherhood ("Beautiful Screamer"), which was for me such a joyful and intense experience, ought to put you at the hot center of life, but instead it plunks you in mommy purdah with a head full of guilt. Our official ideology is optimism and progress ("End Of") but who really believes it any more?
I didn't write the book to be controversial, but that seems to be its fate. I suppose that shows there's some bite still left in the old slogan that the personal is political. Read on.
Pollitt on TPMCafe's Book Club This Week
The TPMCafe crowd reads Learning to Drive, and Pollitt begins the conversation. From her welcome post: