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150 the minnesota review (as we can see in looking at the ideology embedded in the division of labor). The struggle for women's liberation and the struggle for socialism are linked, then, but a Marxist feminist analysis has the political task of trying to ensure that socialism does not become vitiated by "the familiar inequities of gender." Barrett's book, as I hope this brief outline has indicated, is thorough and perceptive in its critique of the most recent Marxist and feminist attempts to explain women's oppression. And while Barrett never intended to write a program for a new Marxist feminist analysis, the very breadth and suggestiveness of her survey leaves one hoping such a program might be forthcoming. She seems better prepared — and more sensitive to the problems she would face - than most.LMJRA RICE.SAYRE Ernie Brill, I Looked Over Jordan and Other Stories. Boston: South End Press, 1980. 291 pp. $15 (cloth), $6 (paper). "The class struggle . . . is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist. Nevertheless, it is not in the form of spoils which fall to the victor that the latter make their presence felt in the class struggle. They manifest themselves in this struggle as courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude. They have retroactive force and will constantly call in question every victory, past and present, of the rulers." —Walter Benjamin Ernie Brill's connected group of short stories about hospitals and hospital workers is his first published work of fiction. Brill worked for ten years as a hospital orderly, ward clerk, and industrial claims clerk. His stories are a product of that experience. They present a realistic and convincing account of the situation of one of the more neglected groups of workers in this country — the people who empty bedpans, mop floors, calm fears, carry food trays, and change wounds. By focusing on the necessary but almost anonymous labor of the hospital worker, these stories demythologize the presentation of hospitals in the culture industry as the privileged domain of that paradigmatically American male power symbol, the doctor. Brill's hospital is not an antiseptic playground for superheroes, instead it is a work place for men and women engaged in a dirty and exhausting job. These stories recount their concrete struggles for a better Ufe. Brill, like Benjamin, is aware that the lessons to be learned from such struggles are always in danger of being effaced, forgotten, lost. Consequently, these stories call upon the power of recollection against the social amnesia of the present. Brill's hospital workers display that "courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude" of which Benjamin speaks. Against the pervasive thinghood of the present and the bitter defeats of the past, Brill calls on that "retroactive force" through the power of the writer, perhaps the only power he has, the power of remembrance. The hospital serves as a microcosm of American society: the complex and almost invisible structure of domination, the attempted disavowal of human suffering and of death, the anonymous men and women within the lower strata charged with the task of quietly removing the excreta of the machine. It is not a pretty sight. If cancer is Mailer's master metaphor for American society, then Brill goes him one better — the hospital is both the center for cure and the locus of the disease itself. Within the tension of this contradiction, Brill never loses sight of the irreducible suffering that cannot be overcome. However, he does not lose himself in the labyrinth of an existentialism that no politics can reach. Not all suffering caused by the pseudo-natural constraints of societal domination may be attacked and perhaps reduced. The relentless critique of this economic and political domination is Brill's central concern. "Crazy Hattie Enters the Ice Age" is the first, and one of the finest, stories in the collection . Crazy Hattie is a black hospital orderly in her declining years, worn out from over- 151 reviews work and underpay. She is slowing down and on her way out as her work evaluation makes clear. Hattie's external reaction to her impending obsolescence takes the form of "mad mutterings," which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 150-152
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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