Jane Rule

November 29th, 2007 | Uncategorized


Jane Rule died last night from complications of liver cancer at age 76. Desert of the Heart was one of the first lesbian books I read when I was 19. Here’s an excellent obituary in Xtra.

40 Responses to “Jane Rule”

  1. Maggie Jochild says:

    Ah, what a loss. My favorite book of hers was Memory Board. Thanks for letting us know. Candle tonight, for sure.

  2. April says:

    I’m sad now. The hot-eyed moderate will be missed.

  3. No Chaser says:

    Sad! Thank you for posting this.

  4. elteegee says:

    Rest in Peace, Jane. She was a groundbreaking and just plain great writer and incredible human being. She will be missed. Great obit by Schuster as well, thanks so much for posting it AB. I strongly suggest any who have not read her books to run right out and pick up a few in her honor, and those who have read them to sit down and reread a few.

  5. Feminista says:

    Yes,Rule was ahead of her time. If memory serves,the only book I read was Desert Hearts,which I thought was well-written. I think I’ll look at some of her later works now.

    Yes,very good obit. She and Helen were wise to move to BC during the McCarthy era.

  6. Sk in London town says:

    Sad to read of the passing of a great woman …
    thanks for sharing the obituary AB…
    and yes Maggie, a candle tonight for sure….

  7. Duncan says:

    Oh, no. As soon as I saw that headline I knew what was coming.

    She’s had a big influence on me, like many lesbian writers. (I think you’d be another, Alison.) I reread all her novels every few years. And her essays are wonderful; one of my favorites is the one on loving older women, starting with her grandmothers. I hadn’t read anything new by her in several years, so I was heartened to see that she’s also wary of the marriage craze. (And you can’t accuse *her* of being anti-relationships, or anti-couples.)

  8. fan#y767586840 says:

    my first fully conscious lesbian movie and afterwards the book. both the main drive for my coming out. thank you Jane, have a good journey!

  9. Linda Hurcombe says:

    Thank you, Alison, for posting this sad news. Living out in the wilds of Shropshire England, I would not have heard about Jane’s death so soon. The candle is lit, for Jane in memory and for us who remember, ‘In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountains start’–which was Auden but I always thought the title of her life-changing work came from that poem.

  10. Ellen O. says:

    This is the third post here (that I remember) of the death of an influential, groundbreaking lesbian author, artist, or activist. Barabara Gittings, Tee Corrine, and now Jane Rule. I’m pausing for a moment to appreciate what each of these women contributed to this world, their actions, books, and art, that in turn made my lesbian life and writer life, safer, more visible, and more free.

    I wonder too who everyone sees as innovators and inspirations, both locally and world-wide, in their own lives.

  11. Silvio Soprani says:

    I always liked how May Sarton’s novels about lesbians also including various kinds of people in the communities depicted. It gave hope for connection between people who were different.

    Linda, thanks for that wonderful line from Auden.

  12. Pearlie Mae says:

    Sorrowful to hear of the passing of one of my sheroes.

    Good to hear about it here, as opposed to some more conventional source.

  13. Ginjoint says:

    Wow, didn’t hear about this on CNN. (Gee, wonder why!) Thanks, Alison.

  14. R says:

    RIP Jane, Memory Board is a classic,…’all love stories end in tradegy as someone has to die first’.

  15. Blushing Girl says:

    Thank you, AB for sharing this… Until I read the obit I didn’t know she was a Mills alum. Our small community just got smaller.

  16. K says:

    She will be missed.

  17. QKelly says:

    Oh, I’m so sorry. Jane Rule meant at lot to me as a lesbian reader/writer; I was especially influenced by “Desert of the Heart” because in so many ways, I *am* Evelyn. Whenever a writer dies, I try to take comfort in the fact that the work remains. We’ll still have the stories, the essays, the spirit.

  18. QKelly says:

    P. S. — My mom died of liver cancer, too — it’s not an easy death, believe me.

  19. nycreb says:

    I loved her work and will miss her much. Now I just have to be sure I have *all* of her books…I don’t think I have the essays…Thanks for letting us know.

  20. Jaibe says:

    Sadly, one of my friend’s partners died totally unexpectedly Thursday night — good thing I’d just read “on grief” and can send it to her.

    R — all love stories, excluding “Unbearable Lightness of Being”. Actually, I know several couples who have died together, but you have to spend a lot of time in cars. But in general, yes. Is that a quote from Memory Board?

  21. Feminista says:

    I guess we can agree that Jane Rules. **grin**

  22. Silvio Soprani says:

    In my earlier comment about May Sarton –which looked like a non-sequitor but was actually a response to Ellen O’s question about who else inspired us– the book I was trying to remember was KINDS OF LOVE by May Sarton.

    Jaibe, sorry to hear about your friend’s partner.

    Having lost two women friends last Autumn (neither had a partner), I find that they are in my thoughts almost daily and I feel such gratitude that they were in my life, simultaneously with feeling confused and continually hurt that they are no longer accessible to me.

    Someone who did not believe in an afterlife once told me that the soul of a person is just the memories they leave behind in the hearts of their friends. I am not qualified to rule on whether or not there is an afterlife or whether people’s souls are watching over us, but i definitely feel the reality of the memories of my lost humans in my heart.

    I can only hope I will survive in the hearts of the people who love me.

  23. Lisa (Calico) says:

    “…For an indefinite period of time.”

    I was just thinking about Jane recently.

    DOTH is a lovely story and it sounds like Jane was a lovely person. RIP.

  24. Olivier says:

    Interestingly (in view of the earlier thread), according to the Xtra obituary, Jane did not buy the notion that young people must must be “protected” from adult sexuality at any cost and even seems to have found the notion downright pernicious.

  25. QKelly says:

    One thing that did worry me about Rule was her strong anti-pornography stance. I see all sorts of problems and potential problems in some pornography, but Rule seemed tp argue that even having certain types of sexual fantasies was morally wrong. I start to get nervous when I hear any philosophy that seems to advocate policing people’s thoughts.

  26. Duncan says:

    That’s weird, QKelly, because I don’t recall that about Rule; as I remember (and as the Xtra obit indicates) she was strongly anti-censorship, and very much against “policing people’s thoughts,” though that didn’t keep her from having strong opinions and expressing them. Admittedly many people view the expression of (other people’s) strong opinions as “policing their thoughts,” interfering with their freedom of speech, and the like. In any case one can oppose censorship very strongly while still arguing that some fantasies are morally questionable. … I think you must have Rule confused with someone else.

  27. Maggie Jochild says:

    You’re correct, Duncan. According to the eulogy written about Rule by Sandra Martin and printed in the Globe and Mail (posted earlier today at my website, Meta Watershed), she “defended Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium in its 15 year legal dispute with Canadian Customs Officials for regularly impounding shipments of gay and lesbian erotica. She believed ferociously in freedom of expression and the innate ability of ordinary Canadians to define their own literary tastes.”

  28. QKelly says:

    “I think you must have Rule confused with someone else.”

    That’s very possible; it’s been a while since I read the essay I (thought I) remembered. From the 80s, as I recall, and of course she could have changed her mind since then. I’ll root around through my files and see if I can find the reference.

  29. Roz Warren says:

    She wrote with such insight and clarity. I loved her books. Hadn’t realized she had died. In contrast to all the media fuss about Norman Mailer, who was not nearly as engaging and truthful a writer.

  30. Leslie says:

    How sad!! I just re-read Outlander again a few weeks ago (it’s pretty much an annual read for me) and loaned Memory Board to my mom who is dealing with my Granny’s alzheimer’s. She has been a constant in my book-life, and I’m sad to hear that she’s gone.

  31. Jaibe says:

    Silvio, I agree — I have been fortunate not to lose many people close to me from adolescence until just a few years ago. And now that I have lost some relatives and friends, I am amazed how they still influence my thoughts at least as much as when they were alive — well, more than when they were alive but not in the same city, obviously less than when we saw each other and conversed regularly. But knowing they are dead, when something reminds you of them you don’t just telephone them and catch up on gossip. You really think about them and their lives, beliefs and behaviour, and think about how they would react to your situation. It is almost like you and all their other friends are simulating them, their minds, so some aspect of their minds still survives.

  32. Straight Ally says:

    Oh my heavens, that certainly is an excellent obituary. Thank you, AB.

    I’d never heard of Jane Rule but would now like to read some of her work. My sympathy to all of you whose lives she touched.


  33. Bett Norris says:

    Yes, I am very sad. Jane Rule is the one writer who has had the most impact on my own writing, even influencing the decision to become a writer. I have all her books. They are like old friends, and I will reread them now. Even listing the titles gives me pleasure: Inland Passage, Outlander, Contract with the World, Against the Season, After the Fire. I recommend the 2005 edition of The Yound in One Another’s Arms, with an introduction to the work written by Katherine V. Forrest, published by Little Sister’s Classics. A great place to start if you want to begin sampling this great writer’s work.

  34. Bett Norris says:

    Yes, I am very sad. Jane Rule is the one writer who has had the most impact on my own writing, even influencing the decision to become a writer. I have all her books. They are like old friends, and I will reread them now. Even listing the titles gives me pleasure: Inland Passage, Outlander, Contract with the World, Against the Season, After the Fire. I recommend the 2005 edition of The Young in One Another’s Arms, with an introduction to the work written by Katherine V. Forrest, published by Little Sister’s Classics. A great place to start if you want to begin sampling this great writer’s work.

  35. Kenna Fair says:

    A Toast to Jane
    One of the thing that will be happening at the memorial on Galiano Island Dec 9th is a toast to Jane. I have been in touch with many people, nationally and internationally, who would love to be part of the toast but will not be able to come to the Island so it was suggested that we let everyone know the exact time of the toast so all could participate. So that is what will happen. The toast to Jane Rule will be Sunday December 9th and 1:00 pm pacific standard time. Get you friends together and raise a glass to Jane. Please pass this on to everyone you know who would be interested in honouring Jane. We only have a few days to get the word out!!

    Kenna Fair

  36. cally chef says:

    Thanks to everyone for putting into words, the feelings and thoughts I too would like to express. I’m a bit emotional with our loss. Jane, you will be missed!

  37. Eloise Klein Healy says:

    I’m missing Jane Rule a lot. Over the summer we were working together on an interview for The Women’s Review of Books, honoring the award she had received, the Order of Canada. Once Jane knew she had terminal cancer, it was clear she probably wouldn’t live to see the interview in print. She was covering much territory in the interview. Maybe some of you would want to read it. The issue will be out in January or February

  38. JJ says:

    I’m very sorry to hear this news. I think I have all of her books and kept hoping she’d write more but haven’t seen any for many years.
    Does anyone know where to get a copy of the documentary?

  39. Erica Mandell says:

    I got a lot out of the obit noted below. Sorry the link didn’t transfer. I’m a Luddite, I’m afraid.

    globeandmail.com: Jane Rule, 76

    I feel a great loss not only that Ms. Rule is gone, but that I never met her. At least Ms. Bechdel receives email and snail mail!

    Regardless of one’s views on gay marriage today, I think it must take bravery to live in a lifelong committed relationship, endure heterosexual ostracism, yet publicly denounce coupledom as privilege.

    “A Perfectly Nice Man” tends to get reread by me a lot. The person who associates Jane Rule with censorship might want to read some of the essays in A Hot-Eyed Moderate before issuing a final verdict. And I have to put in that Ms. Rule was born in my home town: Plainfield, New Jersey.

  40. Athanasopoulos I. says:

    I know that this migt be of little importance but i would like to say something about Ms Rule. I never had the chance to know her,all a i know is that she and her late partner Hellen came to Greece in the early 60’s i think.Back then my country was still recovering from the wounds that the civil war had left.They came to the village wich my mother lived with my grandmother and her younger brother.My grandfather had died a few years ago leaving my grandmother a widow with two small children.Ms Rule and her partner Helen gave my grandmother money to repair her house wich was in a very bad shape.After she left Greece she kept contact with my mother sending her letters, and money some times ,they kept writting letters to each other until the early 90’s i think.I wish i had the chance to meet her or writting her a letter of thanks,i guess it was not to be.My deepest sympathies to her friends and her next of keen.