As an aside from my normally unscheduled book reviews, tonight I wish to do something different: book previews.
My reading list has a bridle put upon it, to stop fancy from galloping free, rampaging across the literary countryside, and eventually throwing me from the saddle to land, winded, at the bottom of a large pile of unread or partly-read novels, in a muddy puddle of insolvency.
Therefore, in addition to all the books that I can borrow for free from the library, I am allowed to purchase one and only one book per month. This rule does, occasionally, get bent out of shape a little (“A $6 kindle book? Then I can buy another book of similar value to meet normal expenditure on a novel!”), but overall holds up fairly well.
(We shall not speak of the occasion last year, when I bought 4 yoga books at once in April, thus using up my potential book purchases of May, June and July in the one fell swoop. August was a month of much rejoicing).
This rule does mean, however, that I read a great many more ebook samples than I actually buy; the local temple of Athene is helpful in providing the lack, but overall, there is a lag between sample and satisfaction.
Thus, finding myself at the end of a particularly egregious sampling binge (“No, K.L.! Wait until March! You can do it!”), I have decided to share with the gems I anticipate, even salivate, at the prospect of devouring in future, in order of excitement:
1. The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
David Mitchell is the author of Cloud Atlas, which was a brilliant read made into a beautiful, poignant movie. The sample of The Bone Clocks features Holly, a fifteen-year-old girl in the act of quitting school to move in with her older boyfriend, and subsequently running away from home, fancying herself adult enough to survive alone – and possibly (though she is unaware of this) pregnant. Similarly to Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks promises a series of interlinking narratives, so I am wildly excited to see exactly where this novel leads us.
2. The Philosopher’s Apprentice – James Morrow
A Doctorate student of ethical philosophy quits – dramatically, publicly – midway through his dissertation, and is immediately hired by a reclusive geneticist to instil a moral compass in her daughter, who lost hers in a diving accident. Satirical and well-described, I anticipate reading further.
3. The Incarnations – Susan Barker
A Chinese taxi driver is being stalked by someone who claims to have known him through six successive incarnations. With the vague horror overtones, I am concerned it will feature murder most foul before long. The local library has a copy, thank goodness.
4. The Madonna and the Starship – James Morrow
A television script writer has to save the world from aliens who admire his show for children about science… And who are determined to annihilate any humans who disagree with them.
5. Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami
Surrealist and…well, Murakami. A man catchs a lift up an office building, to find himself climbing inside a cupboard, down a ladder and into an alternate dimension of pitch darkness, to find his employer’s grandfather and deliver a message. Delicious!
6. Only Begotten Daughter – James Morrow
A sperm donor is called in to explain why one of his samples has turned itself into a foetus. He then raises the daughter of God, who can cure the sick.
7. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’engle
A classic of science fiction, and also a children’s novel. Apparently highly-recommended, and well-written thus far.
8. The Last Witchfinder – James Morrow
This particular James Morrowism was less satirical that the others I sampled: I found the matter-of-fact torturing of accused witches hard to stomach, their objectification by the main character’s father, a witch hunter, being a little too well portrayed. It narrated, confessional memoir-style, by Newton’s magnum opus, The Principia Mathematica.
9. Lesbian Pulp Fiction: the sexually intrepid world of lesbian paperback novels 1950-1965 – Katherine V. Forrest
An interesting snapshot of a post-war period, and the surreptitiously blooming of the lesbian queer fiction culture, which I am keen to explore further.
10. Clariel – Garth Nix
A long-awaited continuation of the novels set in his astonishing world of the Old Kingdom, where the dead walk and the magic of the Charter is used to bind creatures of free magic. This is a prequel to Sabriel and Lirael, adolescent favourites of mine. Clariel, blood relation to both the Abhorsens and the royal family, has been unwillingly brought to the capital city of Belisaere by her parents, who seem intent on marrying her to a murderer, ignoring her dreams of a life of self-sufficiency as a woodswoman. Intrigue run rampant.
That’s all for now, dear readers. See you soon!
(P.S., have I mentioned that my novel The Fall of Peter Pan is currently the #1 bestseller in the Mashups section of the Kindle store? Have I? I have? Oh, sorry. Don’t believe me? Find it HERE!)
Possibly the best thing to come from the 50 Shades of Grey tripe aside of the below Sinfest cartoon (relevant and related):
( http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4307 )
50 Shades of Feminism is a series of personal accounts from fifty different women – activists, professionals, mothers, sisters, lesbian, straight, from all cultures and walks of life. It raised interesting issues: brown women vs white in feminism, and the potential that women of colour can perceive such top-down approaches to helping as an attack on cultural autonomy, which can result in a knee-jerk regression into practices that might have been tapering off naturally within a culture, such as female genital mutilation.
There are some extremely hard-hitting personal stories in 50 Shades of Feminism. An account of the young woman raised in a conservative family whose son joined the Taliban; she was beaten to death by her father for daring to write poetry, and her mother committed suicide afterwards. Reading over the vast spectrum of different experiences reinforced to me how lucky I feel to live where I do, in a country where my personal freedom is a legal right, and reiterated throughout 50 Shades of feminism was that all the women’s voices ultimately expressed desire for the same things: personal autonomy, respect and equality.
The book isn’t just a skin-deep exploration of female experiences either; many of the personal accounts provide leads for investigating further the stories and information imparted. Linda Hilsum made a video in Afghanistan, about a project to train up young women as teachers, complete with interviews with the girls about their aspirations. Isabel Hilton raised an interesting topic in referring to a TED talk by a female executive in Silicon Valley – “(P)ower correlates positively to likeability in men and negatively in women.” This does link to the account in Women Warriors (a separate book by Robin Cross & Rosalind Miles)of Brunhilde, the Flemish queen tortured for days after her overthrow, more ferociously it seems due to her female impertinence in assuming the throne at all. Hilton focuses on female rulers through Chinese history and their postmortem vilification, contrasting this with the near-deification of some male rulers.
The entries are not all autobiographical; some women write of women they have known (a war correspondent, killed by shrapnel whilst sheltering from a bomb blast), others have imaginary accounts of conversations with influential historical women (such as Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx).
50 Shades of Feminism is also incredibly contemporary, having been conceived of, prepared, edited and published in the end months of 2012. Liz Kelly covers the sexual violence debates regarding Julian Assange, Jimmy Savile and the immortal horror of American Republicans with their ignorant references to “legitimate rape” (informative, shocking video mocking this term and its implications here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtzqvqzBdUQ ), and their declaration that conception following rape being a “gift from God.”
A great mix of sincere, down-to-earth, inspiring, angering, thoughtful, provocative pieces from a veritable stampede of intelligent feminists. I am keen to see more books published in this vein.
K.L gives 50 Shades of Feminism 5 out of 5 pants-wearing, kicking and cussing suffragettes.
I just finished reading How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran.
It’s hilarious. Breathtakingly funny, occasionally cringeworthy, and utterly sensible discussions of issues people face in everyday life; albeit this book is directed at those who (for the most part) possess a vagina.
It’s feminism defined as the right to be ‘one of the guys’, and a guide to picking out misogynistic or even our own sexist behaviour as ‘Dude. Rude. Would you say that or do that to another man?’ and ‘Is this something a guy would do, or is it just a bunch of bullshit we shouldn’t give a second glance?’
Reading How To Be A Woman is like sitting down with your favourite Disreputable Aunt – the one who’s still young enough to totally get you, who got drunk with Lady GaGa, writes columns on contemporary society, and speaks honestly and happily about both her two daughters, and about having had an abortion.
She’s so geeky, so upbeat, so clever and so unwilling to accept any of the facets or farces of life at face value – Brazilians? High heels? Having children? Not having children? Having to stay young? Sexism? Abortions? Menstruation? – that I want to be her.
And for the guys, who may be backing away from this post in fear, I say: “Dudebro. Read it. Read it now. This book may be the most honest conversation you will ever have with a woman, and you will understand so much.”
It’s an exhilarated, happy book. It’s not a rage, or a tantrum, or a sulk. I’m sure Moran, being human, has experienced all those things. But only briefly, and then she picks herself back up and jumps onboard the good ship HMAS Gosh, Isn’t This All Awesome? What Comes Next?!, and sails cheerfully off for warmer waters.
It’s inspiring, and makes me think that yes, we should have the lady-balls to say, ‘Yeah – I like the look of this world. And I’ve been here for a good while, watching. Now, here’s how I’d tweak it. Because we’re all in this together. We’re all just, you know. The Guys.’
If I could set a mandatory reading list for everyone, everywhere, I’m pretty sure this would be on it.
K.L gives How To Be A Woman 5 out of 5 tipsy friends dancing badly in public.