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Conundrum by Jan Morris
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Conundrum (edition 2019)

by Jan Morris

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353746,181 (3.88)23
Member:housefulofpaper
Title:Conundrum
Authors:Jan Morris
Info:Slightly Foxed Editions (2016), limited edition hardback, 200 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
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Conundrum by Jan Morris

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» See also 23 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Conundrum by Jan Morris is a fascinating story of how James Morris became Jan Morris. James since he was four years old felt he was a girl yet he grew up as a male and served in the British Armed Services. He was a writer of note, married, had five children, looked male but knew that he was really female. At around age 45 he went to Casablanca for a sex change operation that was successful and lived successfully as a woman. It is interesting to see how she perceives the way she is treated differently as a woman by society than as a man. Whether that is accurate or only her perception is not easy to say. The book is well written. She is accomplished writer and wrote a trilogy on the Victorian Empire. The first two volumes written as a man and the final volume as a woman. This is a sensitive book, touching and well worth reading. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Sep 16, 2017 |
Memoir from 1974 of the author's life as James and transition to Jan.

James led what appeared to be a macho and cultured, not to say privileged, life in the Army, and as a foreign correspondent and travel writer, but then transititioned to become Jan. The fluent prose makes it fascinating reading, though I'm not sure how much today's trans activists would agree with her reflections on what it is to be male and female. ( )
  Robertgreaves | May 6, 2017 |
Jan Morris is one of my favorite travel writers and I love his trilogy about India so I was interested to read this memoir. Here he talks about his personal journey from James to Jan, with honesty and elegance. ( )
  gbelik | Dec 4, 2015 |
I have to push down the urge to now run out and buy every single book that Jan Morris has written. She writes travel books, and also wrote a three part work on the history of the British Empire. This is a travel book... of her journey through the search for her Identity. It is written so, so well. She is sincere without ever being close to schmaltzy. You can feel as you read that she delved deep into her past psyche and really, really worked to make her feelings describable, even tangible. That's difficult to do even with 'normal' feelings - and she's gone back through to her male past (which must have been difficult to remember since she had been living and thinking and feeling for years in a much more feminine manner) to describe feelings. I also appreciated it for what it is - her story of her journey, not a history of a group, or a medical description - it does not apply to anyone except her, and she does not try to force it to apply to anyone else but herself. (which I really wish more people would do nowadays) She says in the introduction to this newer edition that transsexuals have appeared as this kind of person and that, or in other words, matching the diversity of the rest of the world. Although she comments only on other transsexuals as the diverse group that they are, her work to describe her inner struggles with clarity helps anyone who reads it realize the inner forces at work for all transsexuals. ( )
  sriemann | Mar 29, 2013 |
Very interesting as an account of Jan Morris's experience of going through a sex-change in the 1970s, but perhaps a bit too dated in its attitudes to be much more than a document of a particular period in the development of attitudes to sex and gender (understandably enough, given that Morris grew up between the wars and comes from a firmly upper middle-class background). ( )
  thorold | Dec 16, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Still, a comparison to later works suggests that Morris is perhaps withholding more than just the details of sex. It's almost as though Morris has traveled to some gorgeous jungle and waxed on about the landscape, the flora and fauna, the waterfalls, a chirp of a bird, but has forgotten all about the people. And maybe the parallel stays intact here: armchair travel, after all, is not travel itself, and the place in question is never quite at the hands of the reader. In Conundrum, Morris says several times that she imagines her condition as mystical or spiritual, and perhaps what all this irksome withholding is intended to do is retain, amid the candor, some of that mystery for herself.
 
Both as a man and as a woman the author has always had a remarkable capacity for sexual sublimation, feeling an estheticized "lust" for cities, for landscapes, for sights, sounds and smells. While she says that orgasm is "possible," one gets the impression that sex does not interest her, though she is still in her 40's. Obviously, what is an ideal solution for her would not appeal to everyone. "Conundrum" suggest that identity is more important than sex and few reasonable people would argue with this. But even granting that it must be an enormous relief, as well as a positive pleasure, to break through to a clear sense of long-suppressed self, one experiences at this point in the book a feeling of anticlimax.
 
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The writer Jan Morris has led an extraordinary life. Perhaps her most remarkable work is this honest account of her ten-year transition from man to woman - its pains and joys, its frustrations and discoveries.
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