Monday, August 16, 2004

Carl Djerassi

Started with NO, even though it wasn't the first novel in his series, but it was enough to convince me to find the others and get up to speed. Since I would rather wait for the movie than see it on the news, learning about science breakthroughs in fiction is painless learning (sort of like getting a MA at the University of Hawaii). The title, NO, stands for nitric oxide BTW.

Djerrasi being the hailed as the father of the Pill, the implications of "no" to the whole feminist movement is a sort of undercurrent that isn't really addressed but is unavoidable for those of us who grew up in the 70's. The issues surrounding a woman's right to choose is here given a new dimension in relation to scientific progress in the field of reproduction.

The classical question of "What do women want?" is addressed by Djerassi by giving them what they want, power over their own biology as well as control over the male's ability to perform. Women have been between the proverbial rock and hard place, when it comes to sex. If we are aggressive, giving into our desires the same way men have historically, we risk intimidating the male to the point of erectile dysfunction. If we are passive, we lose the ability to take our own pleasure and must be dependent on the expertise, or lack thereof, of the male, once again feeding into a machismo that has little or no basis in a male's actual ability to please.

Djerassi has wedded his female characters to scientific advances giving birth to a woman of power and a male willing to rely on viagra-type methods to maintain erection; thus not being dependent on a feeling of superiority for gratification.

And yet, as we all know, the largest erogenous zone is the brain, so merely tackling the physical problems does't quite solve everything. In his fictional approach to addressing the problem, Djerassi doesn't let us down. He explores the psychology of role reversal and gives a believable resolution, though perhaps just a bit too romantic for reality. But, hey, that's part of the beauty of fiction. They can all live happily every after, or at least until the final period on the last sentence.

This weekend I started The Bourbaki Gambit, another of this tetrology, again not in sequence. More to come on this one, but suffice for the moment to say I am not disappointed.