The Limits of Vision - Robert Irwin
The narrator of this short novel is very intellectual and very well-read. I can't help relating to that (although I'm not familiar with some of the topics discussed, particularly semiotics). Her head is full of interesting ideas, drawing from anthropology, art history, evolutionary theory, the memoirs of explorers and generals, and much much more; and integrating them into her own unique perspective. She has a great ability with words, a rich vocabulary, and an overflowing imagination; in particular, she has an ability to find rich visual patterns and put them into words.

The tragedy, unfortunately, is that these abilities serve an existence dominated by enormous anxiety. Dirt and decay are an overwhelming obsession -- one that is by no means unknown in psychiatric annals, but here put into very personal terms. As always, the emotions (fear and disgust) are universal, their interpretation is up to each person, shaped by cultural background and life experiences.

It is an essentially gendered anxiety. She has placed herself in a role she wholeheartedly believes in, that of HOUSEWIFE, and firmly identifies it as female. She has ideas of heroes, and I couldn't help noticing that every one of them is male. She does conceive of herself as fighting a battle; perhaps that's why she insists, to her coffee circle companions, that she wants to talk about housework. She cannot be male, she cannot participate in any activity she's read about, she wants to carve out a unique type of heroism. Or am I totally off track?

But when she experiences sexual attraction, it is not Levi-Strauss or Foucault that come to mind, but From Here to Eternity! Inevitably, however, sex brings her back to ideas of dirt and fungus, and back to detailed (though not expert) discussions of fungal reproduction. (The bathtub scene with Leonardo of Vinci is a tour-de-force, in my opinion.)

It is the triumph of both the author and his main character to turn everyday horrors into a rich field of imagination.

It's worth noting that Irwin was himself a househusband, staying home, writing, and doing housework while his wife was a member of Parliament.