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Cook and the Carpenter: A Novel by the Carpenter

with an introduction by Bonnie Zimmerman
Copyright Date: 1973
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Cook and the Carpenter
    Book Description:

    Women's liberation sought to transform every sector of U.S. society--its educational system, culture, language, politics, and, importantly, the delivery of social services. To enable this movement, women all over the country began to establish women's centers. In New York City, women from almost every local women's liberation group took over an abandoned building in lower Manhattan on New Year's Eve, 1970. They named the building The Fifth Street Women's Building and renovated it to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate women in need. The take-over was a huge success, attracting hundreds of activists and community members. Thirteen days later, the New York City Tactical Police stormed the building, expelled the women, and ended the action. The City then tore the building down and built a parking lot on the site. June Arnold was one of the original planners and an active participant in this episode. When she got out of jail, she went home and wrote this novel about what happened. The Cook and the Carpenter, which quickly gained fame for its use of a non- gendered language, remains one of the best representations of the time period that berthed modern feminism and paved the way for lesbian communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0788-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Karla Jay

    Despite the efforts of lesbian and feminist publishing houses and a few university presses, the bulk of the most important lesbian works has traditionally been available only from rare-book dealers, in a few university libraries, or in gay and lesbian archives. This series intends, in the first place, to make representative examples of this neglected and insufficiently known literature available to a broader audience by reissuing selected classics and by putting into print for the first time lesbian novels, diaries, letters, and memoirs that are of special interest and significance, but which have moldered in libraries and private collections for...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxxvi)
    Bonnie Zimmerman

    There are points in a person’s life that forever mark the divide between past and future. The ideas and experiences encountered then will have an impact far greater than might be understood at the time. One such turning point for me was the time period spanning from 1969 through 1973, an era that saw the emergence of the women’s liberation and lesbian feminist movements. The ideas I encountered and the books I read then have had a greater effect on me than any books or ideas since. There were the foundational works of feminist theory like Shulamith Firestone’sThe Dialectic...

  5. The Cook and the Carpenter
    • 1
      (pp. 3-14)

      “You know Texas. Do you think it’s true?” the cook had asked an hour ago. The carpenter’s answer was forgotten now in nan pursuit of truth: do I know Texas? Na surrounded this fact in the usual way: I was born of Texans and half-raised here—my second half, the older half, the half already halfway over into adulthood. The first half was reared in a deeper South where crops are grown and only livestock is raised.

      From nan ninth to eighteenth year, the carpenter had lived in Houston. Nine years to know Texas, to absorb peripheral local color while...

    • 2
      (pp. 15-29)

      The two young people bent over the machine, their heads like shining parentheses enclosing a tape recorder.

      Chris turned off the machine. “Why don’t we summarize that we have three choices: run away, call the police, meet the attack in some way. No one wants to run away …”

      “No one says na wants to run away,” Andy said.

      “Right. And everyone thinks that even if we call the police we will have to be prepared also to meet the attack, because they won’t come until a crime is being committed.”

      Andy wrote it down. “That’s the easy part of...

    • 3
      (pp. 30-40)

      The night of the carnival the carpenter was the only person from their group who was not happy. From nan own nature na had doubts; when these were not shared by anyone else, they increased and throve in an open field. On everyone else’s face, excitement reigned over a terrain reaching from pleasure to hysteria.

      The cook was close to the latter border. Na had not only conceived the original idea; na had also done most of the detail work. Na had made each person a vest which slipped on over the head, giving a panel of cloth covering the...

    • 4
      (pp. 41-43)

      The cook’s hair smelled of cigarette smoke and charcoal and faint hamburger; the carpenter breathed the combination into nan brain to quiet the one anger that na could not speak about and did not want to think about: na first disappointment with the cook’s way of making love. The gentleness of nan touch, now, after less than a week, irritated the carpenter; the hand sliding over nan head and back was so parentally soothing, so tender and loving, that the carpenter thought na would burst from hidden tears of grief. The slight scratching of the cook’s ragged fingernails, the one-time...

    • 5
      (pp. 44-53)

      In most groups there are whispers, a term that has little to do with the volume of the speaking voice but refers rather to the peregrinations of what is said: phrases wander from ear to mouth to ear, during a walk across grass, down a hall to work, behind a door in the bathroom, at varying distances from the people or events which are their subject, leaving a trail of uneasy excitement throughout the routine. Words are passed along like hasty pats, the person speaking making no more serious commitment to them than the recipient, sometimes with a laugh, sometimes...

    • 6
      (pp. 54-57)

      By ten o’clock the carpenter had cut two boards wrong: once because na had not allowed for the top board of the bookcase to be two board thicknesses longer than the inside boards, the second time because na had cut along a pencil line made for an inside board before the board had been chosen for the top because of its more graceful grain. Nan mind was preoccupied with its own lack of sleep. Guilt from the hangover was punishing nan pocketbook sternly.

      Outside the garage Andy and Chris stopped laughing as na approached.

      “What’s so funny?” the carpenter said....

    • 7
      (pp. 58-70)

      Three arrived the following Friday afternoon, in a Volkswagen bus with a companion from Chicago and people they had picked up in St. Louis and Little Rock … seven in all, they brought produce and bedrolls and three recorders and squatted on the group playing, “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” A local bakery truck pulled into the driveway behind them. Its driver unloaded three boxes of bread and sweet rolls and immediately drove off.

      “Who was that?”


      “A friend who wants to help us,” Three said. “We found na at a traffic light.”

      The cook met the boxes...

    • 8
      (pp. 71-80)

      The afternoon was damp and cold with a grey half-rain that penetrated all the available air by refusing to define itself. The carpenter clung to the garage, the door down and shut from necessity now; na breathed sawdust for air as na sanded board after board, side by side and edge by edge, sanding mechanically in compulsively set and compulsively varied sanding patterns, binding naself.

      The cook was alone, left out of love (by all except Stubby whom na could not face, because the cook saw in Stubby’s literal body and mind nan own imagination’s failure).

      The cook lay down...

    • 9
      (pp. 83-87)

      One night the carpenter and Three lay in each other’s arms and loved each other entirely until morning.

      The next day all day the strong unique smell of Three remained, blowing suddenly through the field where the carpenter walked as if the entire earth were inside nan nose’s memory.

      I close my eyes and see your eyes, deep brown flecked with yellow, brown-yellow flecks like strange underparts of the sea where fish are seen only by you looking for fish, cropping bubbles at each unheard pause. We curved in and out of each other as if our bodies themselves were...

    • 10
      (pp. 88-103)

      By January the group felt itself together enough to act. Some of them were angry that they had had to wait this long. The Christmas holidays, in particular, had left the atmosphere around the house permeated with past emotions, with the world they had discarded but which the children and their own memories could not quite. The most impatient felt that the air should be cleared at once.

      Regular cleaning day was Sunday.

      “It’s New Year’s Eve,” Three said.

      “Perfect,” the carpenter said.

      “Aren’t we going to have a New Year’s Eve party?” Andy said. Andy was still fifteen.


    • 11
      (pp. 104-120)

      The carpenter was at work at seven one morning. Na heard nothing there inside nan own concentration and jumped when na saw the pair of feet beside the pine plank.

      “I didn’t mean to scare you.” The cook’s skin glowed from the crisp clear morning air but nan eyes slipped sideways each time the carpenter’s met them. The cook had brought coffee for both of them. The carpenter put a clean piece of board over the sawdust. They sat side by side. The carpenter blew across the hot coffee and steam covered nan glasses.

      “Thanks for the coffee,” the carpenter...

    • 12
      (pp. 121-124)

      Excerpts from meetings: January-February

      “Why don’t we ask the city council to let us use the building?”

      “And smile? Ask nicely and say please?”

      “I know nobody herewantsto ask. We’d all rather take. But if it’s a way of getting the building …”

      “Bullshit. Until we learn how to say, You on that throne, you got no power because we didn’t give you any byaskingyou for this—until we say that by our actions we’re still in first grade.”

      “They wouldn’t give it to us. I’ve been to every open meeting the council and the school...

    • 13
      (pp. 125-131)

      March 3 was Texas Independence Day. They planned to take over the building the following Saturday night.

      The building chosen was the old elementary school in their neighborhood. The residential section of the town had grown the other way and only businesses and a few old people’s rooming houses were still in this area. An adjacent section though was a community of low-income people, occupying houses built over twenty years before on the GI bill. The original owners had moved out and the houses were rented to young families or single people. There had been a new elementary school built...

    • 14
      (pp. 132-146)

      The former Shadyside Elementary School was ten blocks away. Sleet had turned to hail by the time they had walked three of them. There were tiny pellets of ice bouncing across the black asphalt like crystal beads, hitting the shining wet black surface of the road so rapidly that to the eye the road became water and the drops rain and then the road solid and the drops hail, and back again. Several people held out their hands and collected the ice pellets and stared at the road and said, “Hail,” out loud.

      There were about twenty-five of them bunched...

    • 15
      (pp. 147-149)

      Opening the door to leave the courtroom the next morning, they heard the noise. There was a crowd outside two blocks long. Their own group had made signs, were passing out leaflets; the black newspaper had put out an issue this morning, with pictures of Leslie being carried to the car, the deputy’s face as he beat her a contortion of hate.

      The street was filled with marching and shouting and an occasional raised fist, but if there were a hundred women, there must have been over fifty strollers with toddlers inside—blue and red and brightly-decorated strollers, jingling their...

    • 16
      (pp. 150-156)

      In private, the cook apologized to the carpenter for not being arrested also; she had felt she should take care of the children. “It must have been grim for you,” the cook said. The carpenter thought she understood “grim;” she started to say … “I mean ‘grim;” the cook explained, “to be shut up in a cell with Three, since there would be too much temptation for you to let loose your hostility.” The cook was lighting a cigarette and did not see the carpenter’s face. “I know your relationship is based on hatred,” the cook said. “I can understand...

    • 17
      (pp. 159-180)

      The carpenter stared out at the dawn, hypnotized like a comma on the plumbago bush whose blossoms were pale no-color now although the mind knew they were blue. The carpenter’s eyes were suspended at the edge of the bush, waiting for increasing light to bring it into blue.

      She was no longer the carpenter. Since jail, she had used the name her mother had given her at birth, possibly her real name. For six months she had called herself, and had lately been called by others, Henrietta. Henrietta—sometimes shortened to Rietta—had taken on a new sound, the sound...

  6. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-181)