Thursday 31 October 2013

Devouring Books: Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

*ADVERTISEMENT: I use Grammarly for english proofreading because every grammar error spawns a new devil baby and THAT MUST BE STOPPED.*

I read Rosemary's Baby almost immediately after reading The Stepford Wives, which, is not only the way I used to read pre-blogging (same author, ALL their books) but should definitely be taken as a ringing endorsement for Ira Levin. Whilst I felt like The Stepford Wives was maybe a bit... brief, and I knew too much about it for it to be really effective, I also got what Levin was trying to do and I liked it a lot. So, Rosemary's Baby it was!

I knew a little bit about Rosemary's Baby before I read it, but not nearly as much as I knew about The Stepford Wives, so it had that going for it from the outset. The things I knew (which I won't tell you about because what if you don't know?!) are sort of the big twist of the story, BUT there were still enough details and things I didn't know, like the twist at the end (it's a very twisty book) that made it completely worth reading, and completely excellent to read.

The story goes like this: Rosemary and her husband Guy are looking for somewhere new to live, and have actually agreed to live in one place when an apartment in a beautiful yet possibly cursed building which, of course, they can't resist. Upon moving into the apartment whose previous inhabitant died after being in a looooong (and obviously creepy) coma, Rosemary makes friends with a girl living next door with the old (and dare I add again, creepy) couple next door, and her apparent suicide kicks into motion a chain of horrifying events that could make a reader very very uneasy about a number of different things.

Because, here we go, things Rosemary's Baby has made me uneasy about:

  • Trusting old people: They could be out to get you in ways I won't describe but let's just say it has something to do with religion. Of course.
  • Moving out: So, of the few books I've read since leaving home, at least two of them (this, and The Stepford Wives, funnily enough) have involved characters leaving the safety of where they lived before for a new location where strange and terrible things start to happen. THANKS FOR THAT, IRA. Waiting for something weird to happen any day now.
  • Having a baby: Yeahhh, that's kind of the whole deal with this one. I think there are a lot of interesting links to be made between the way women are treated when they're pregnant, and the ultimate badness that happens in this book. There's a real sense in which women are not allowed to think for themselves whilst pregnant, and whilst normally doing whatever doctors tell you to do is probably fine, what if it isn't? And also, what if bad things are happening and there are conspiracies and aghhhhhh *hyperventilates*. Basically, this book makes having a baby seem terrifying in quite a few ways, not just the obvious.
Speaking of that feminist thing*, Rosemary's Baby not only speaks out against women having no control over their bodies whilst pregnant (something which STILL happens today) but also makes it clear just how difficult womanhood was in the sixties. Rosemary is from the Midwest and doesn't speak to her family, which leaves her with Guy and Hutch, a father figure who mysteriously falls into a long coma somewhere in the middle of all the drama, leaving Rosemary with only Guy, who we can't be sure can be trusted. Somewhere else in the middle of all this is a marital rape (sort of- by which I mean, it's sort of marital, but it's definitely rape), which Guy tries to explain away by basically saying that he wanted to do it so it's fine. Thankfully, narrative-wise, it's not brushed over and Rosemary DOES have bad feelings about it, BUT it's also very clear that she has nowhere else to turn, and there's not much she can do other than go back to the husband that raped her (again, sort of.) It's very frustrating, but also thought provoking and, you know, I think we need that.

Other than thought provoking though, this book is just very very effective at making you feel uneasy and troubled and all of those other good things. I couldn't even tell you how Levin does it, but I guess it's something to do with the normal, everyday things that any of us could be doing, being combined with some occurrences that are very strange, scary even, that we then have to agree could also happen to us because the other things are so realistic too. I can see exactly why it was so popular in the sixties and was made into a film right away (or so the last season of Mad Men told me) because it's just so... gripping and scary but in a completely normal setting. Very effective stuff.

So, come one, come all! Read Rosemary's Baby for the thrills and chills, stay for the feminist discourse. Or... You could probably just read it for what it is (a pretty great horror novel) and skip all that boring stuff** because it's pretty fantastic either way. Just... Maybe don't read it tonight, ok? Because I feel like Halloween is the night when unease can turn to, you know terror. Especially if you're pregnant...

*'Oh, is that what we were doing?' I hear you cry! Yes. Yes it was. It always is, even when it seems like it's not.
**By boring stuff, I obviously mean the stuff that MAKES ME GO ON EVERY DAY. You know, the usual.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Devouring TV: Extreme Couponing

One of the most astute things that my dad (and maybe anyone) has ever said about me is that I only watch really really good or really really bad TV. It's so incredibly true that I couldn't even say anything about it, just nod in agreement because, yeah. Absolutely. I can't explain this paradox, but the fact is that I want to watch Breaking Bad and I want to watch Hoarders, and I don't want anything in between. The best or the worst, that's all I want.

One thing that no one has ever said about me, but which I know to be true about myself, is that I like to mix the highbrow with the lowbrow- talking about parts of pop culture in a ridiculously over-analytical way for what they are. And that's what you're going to get here, so I can try to justify watching all the Extreme Couponing Netflix has to show, except for the stupid episodes where they've messed with the format and made couponers compete against each other for some reason... That, apparently, is where I draw the line. Weirdly.

So, Extreme Couponing. It's an American reality show wherein people who coupon basically for a living get huge amounts of shopping worth hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars for about $5. It is RIDICULOUS, and so much more exciting than it should be, and it's a shameful yet excellent thing to watch. There are quite a few reasons I suspect I'm so into it, not least of which is that you literally can't do this kind of thing in the UK. We don't have nearly as many coupons, there's no such thing as 'doubling coupons' (Americans: Your shops really do that?!) and most money off vouchers have small print that say 'cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer'. So, there's no possible way for me to ever be, say, paid to take things out of shops, so I have to live vicariously through these people.

A weird and unexpected side effect of watching Extreme Couponing has been that I've started to see the logic in doing what these people do. I mean, don't get me wrong- mostly I watched it because it's completely compulsive and also slides down so easily after a day of unpacking, but, of course, I've thought about it a bit more than that. At first I had a lot of criticisms, like 'whyyy are these people doing this in their free time?' and 'Do they really need that?' and 'Well, they can't get anything healthy with those coupons, anyway.' and it was like the programme had anticipated each of my criticisms and had an answer for all of them.

Like, 'whyyyy are these people doing this in their spare time?' Well, they're doing it so that they can save money. Or so they can support their extended family. Or because their husband lost his job (yeah, it's mostly women who do it...). I'm not saying there's not some kind of compulsion involved, but frankly, I think that if someone wants to do couponing instead of, say, a full time job, then I think that's an equally effective use of one time and also it's kiiind of the opposite of Capitalism, to which I say YAY. I have slightly more of a 'whaaaat?' reaction when people have a full time job, and in their spare time they coupon, because when do you start living, people?!

And 'do they really need that?' Well, they sort of do. Obviously no one needs a fifty year supply of toothpaste all at once, or an entire room for sweets (I actually do need an entire room for sweets, so) but on the whole, the people featured on Extreme Couponing kind of buy things they at least like (apart from this one woman who made her son eat cereal he didn't even like because it was free, which seems a bit against everything I'm trying to say here) and if they don't like them, or won't use them, then they donate them. And you can't really argue with that. Couponing for the good of humanity? That's cool.

'Well, they can't get anything healthy with those coupons anyway.' Well, for the most part, this is pretty true. I've seen people buy many many bottles of vitamin water, packs of oreo cookies, this same brand of noodles over and over again (there must always be coupons for them!), but, as the narration constantly reinforces, coupons for things like meat and produce and basically raw ingredients of all meals are pretty much like unicorns. So, I could watch with the smug belief that, well, at least I eat better than these people. BUT THEN I watched this episode with a vegan couponer, and well. I mean, what can you do with that? She must be pretty healthy AND she saves money. So, my conclusion is that you can be an unhealthy couponer, but you don't have to be.

Obviously, I've overthought this a LOT. But it's fun to do and I like it, so leave me alone! Here are a few random side effects I've experienced watching Extreme Couponing:

  • I've wanted to smack the voiceover person so much whenever he says 'a x% savings.' NO. It's either 'a x% saving' OR 'x% savings'. NOT BOTH.
  • They almost always get tons of vitamin water and it makes me crave vitamin water so badly. This wouldn't be a problem, but vitamin water is SO EXPENSIVE over here. It's not just a little bit more expensive, it's like the same as the dollar price, only in pounds but also with more money added to that? I can't afford that shit, someone find me a coupon!
  • Extreme Couponing is the only thing I've ever watched that makes me kind of want to live in one of the crappier states* in the US because they have better coupons. This is RIDICULOUS, and yet.
So basically. You probably shouldn't watch Extreme Couponing because MY GOD the amount of time you'll spend doing so, but if you feel a compulsion to watch really bad TV (I can't be the only one...) then you couldn't do much better, or in fact worse, than this. I love it, really.

*By crappier, I basically just mean not California or New York. Their couponing deals suuuuuck.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Sunday Sundries: Looking After Myself

It's Sunday agaaaaaaain!
I would be more excited about this, but I have to go to work later (don't even get me started on why the office opens on a Sunday now. I don't want to talk about it. Let's just say it's VERY ANNOYING, and should probably be illegal) so it's basically just Monday. Which is STUPID. But anyway, at least here the clocks have gone back which means I get an extra hour, with which I am writing this, so be grateful that I'm talking to (writing to?) you all.

Or... Just tell me to shut up. Whatever.

So I was planning to do a room tour for this weeks Sunday Sundries at the request of Frances, but... I kind of sort of didn't get round to it? Or, more accurately, my room has been way too messy most of the week to take pictures of, and yesterday I moved a few things around anyway and built a chest of drawers all by myself thankyouverymuch, so yeah. That's not happening, obviously. But NEXT week... I will see it done.
NOT the Les Mis gif I wanted... But just in case you thought I was over that, NOPE.

And instead, this is going to be about... Not much. I don't know, guys, I don't do stuff, stuff is annoying and involves leaving the house and I have ALL of American Netflix to watch, so there's that... But, ok, yeah, I went to Twickenham on Thursday just for a mooch around, and I do declare that it is the weirdest laid out place I think I've ever been to. I don't know if there's a centre to it that I just completely missed, but it was all a bit like BLARGH here are some places and GAHH here are some more. But whatever, they had many many charity shops which obviously I didn't buy anything from because I'm being good.

(Ok, I bought two books. But two isn't that bad. Except when you're not reading much. Yeah, I suuuuuck!)

Other than that, the only other exciting thing I have to share (and I use exciting in the loosest possible sense) is that yesterday I had THE most domestic and making things and whatnot day possibly in the whole history of life. I got up- made bread- went and built a chest of drawers, pausing only to put the bread in a loaf tin and also to get a hammer- I baked the bread and while I was waiting for it to rise more did ALL the washing up (there was a lot. A LOT.)- I put some washing on- I rearranged things in my room- I filled my new chest of drawers, reorganised my cupboard, had to lay down for a bit because TIRED- I hung out my washing and made my own dinner. 

I know that was enthralling for you, but it's just... I haven't had the opportunity to do most of those things in a very very long time, and even though basically all of that is essentially chores, it was just like 'yep. This is me. I'm taking care of myself now,' and even though, you know, I wouldn't want to do all of those things every day (why would I ever have to?!) I'm just happy that I have my own room to organise and my own oven in which to bake bread and my own place to be all domestic and whatnot.
So all of that was really just padding to disguise the fact that I don't really have anything to say. So tell me things- what have you been doing with your extra hour? I hope it's sleeping because that's the besssssst.

Friday 25 October 2013

"An old unresolved confusion gathered like asthma in Denise. She felt a need to get away and cook."

So what, we're on week ninety billion of The Corrections readalong now?
I think this will come to be known as, at least in my brain, the week I gave up on The Corrections with my soul. My eyes and my brain will still be reading it, but my soul is pretty sure that there's no hope for it ever getting, you know, actually good. Or of any characters being great. Or of anything happening that I remotely care about. I just... don't.

I got really bored this week, was the thing. For the last two weeks, I've been pretty much going 'ewwwwww' or 'OMG I hate you' or 'WTF, talking poo?!' but this week I just couldn't summon up the energy to care about anything that even happened. I had high hopes for Denise's life story, but that pretty much boiled down to 'she has an older dude complex because she lost her virginity to an old dude, and also she's probably a lesbian.' Which, I'm sure could have been interesting and complex if the whole time I was reading I wasn't thinking 'I bet this is how Franzen gets himself off...'
I know.
As to whether I still like Denise or not... I don't know. I know I don't hate her (she's not even interesting enough to hate) but she definitely has some loose morals going on, and Franzen's included stuff like this: "There was never much satisfaction for Denise in competing with girls" which makes me haaaaaaaate him because OMG obviously girls who are really good at things don't like competing with girls because ALL OTHER GIRLS (except his character) are bad at things. But Denise is good at things because she comes from his brain and he's a man (in fact, he's Jonathan fucking Franzen) so that's ok. 

Let's see, what else, what else? Well, I'd love to have gone on Denise's food journey across Europe because HOW AWESOME DOES THAT SOUND (minus, you know, the proposition from the married man at the end, WHY DO ALL THE MARRIED MEN WANT TO CHEAT ON THEIR WIVES?!) and also I kind of want to be the head chef at my own restaurant? Minus the shagging the owner's wife, of course. Important question- is Brian even allowed to fire Denise for having sex with his wife? Because... it kind of seems like he isn't? I want to bring the Citizen's Advice Bureau into this. 

I don't know, other things probably happened, but I stopped caring about 50 pages in? Oh, wait, Alfred is alive somehow! I completely predict a change of character in the last section, where he nearly died so he's all grateful to be alive. Has to happen. And Chip came back! I'm sure we were all really glad about that, am I right? I really really skimmed the Lithuania stuff, but I did pick up on a couple of things:
"If his sister was on her way out as a lesbian... then she could definitely now use the support of her Foucaultian older brother, but Chip wasn't ready to go home yet, and so he assumed that his memory had deceived him and that her phrase had referred to something else." 
Oh really Chip? You're going to do whatever you want instead of being there for another human being? HOW SURPRISING.
Also, this:
"Chip put his arms around his friend... He felt as if he were hugging himself, feeling his own primate shoulder blades, the scratch of his own woolen sweater."
As if we needed any more evidence that Chip is in love with himself.
Official theme song for this book. 

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Devouring Books: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

"I don't want to hear music, I don't want the sunrise to be pink. The world is a liar. Its ugliness is overwhelming; the scraps of beauty make it worse."

Way way back in February, the lovely Ellie read Warm Bodies and was a little bit enamoured with it. Because she wanted to discuss it with people (which, you know, is what we do here) and was really VERY enamoured with it, she sent me a copy in her lovely way of loveliness (I like people who send me books, can you tell?!) and... It's October and I've finally read it!

Yeah, I'm really bad at doing things. Leave me alone. 

But anyway. Read it I did, and let's just say that Ellie was not wrong to be enamoured by it. 
In this gif analogy, Warm Bodies is the bath water and I am the cat. And Ellie is the one who filled the bath. Where am I even going with this..?

Anyway. Warm Bodies, in case you haven't heard about it (IT'S BEEN A MOVIE, GUYS! WHO DOESN'T SEE MOVIES?!) is the story of R, a zombie who is just as bloodthirsty and brain hungry as all the other zombies but possibly with a few more thoughts and emotions than them, and his journey as he sort of kind of falls in love (as much as a zombie can) with a girl called Julie (R... and Julie. Hmmm.) and all these other things happen. Because I'm really being specific here.

Now, I honestly don't think I've read another book about zombies* so I can't really say what I'm about to say, but the first thing I really like about Warm Bodies is that it has it's own interesting twist on the whole zombie mythology. I think I've said before that I really like when vampire things (which I have a lot more experience of!) add to the whole mythology of vampires** and the twist on this is something that I don't think has been done before and it turns out to be very sweet and is the kind of thing that directly appeals to my nature and things.

No, of course I'm not going to tell you what it is. It's kind of the whole crux of the book, duh!

The next thing I really liked about Warm Bodies is that I reaaaaally liked the writing. Like, really really really liked. I'm told by people smarter than me (other bloggers, basically) that this is a YA book, and I guess it is (it's a bit teenage love-ish, not in a terrible way, but just oh well?) but in my overall experience those have not been so well written, and this is just... great. The sentences flew through my brain in a good way, and made me feel all the emotions and things. Not to the same intensity as, say, Tell The Wolves I'm Home or something, maybe, but still. EMOTIONS.***

Even more weird is that I enjoyed the writing in spite of the fact that it's written in first person present tense, which is normally my LEAST favourite in the world. But in Warm Bodies? It all made sense because for the zombies (or at least for R) there is no past they can remember, and no future they can think of that doesn't involve BRAINS. So, for me, it made complete sense that I was in R's head (because, hey, maybe the other zombies can't even think) and that we were in the present tense. But that doesn't mean that I'll tolerate it all the time... *looks sternly at authors*.

There were just so many little things I liked about Warm Bodies. The way that zombies eat brains not for nourishment, but to remember what it felt like to live and to have memories and whatnot, the way that an impending zombie apocalypse changes the people unaffected, making them crueller, taking away their dreams and turning them into people they don't even recognise anymore. Whilst R and Julie are really well drawn characters, some of the secondary ones are slightly less well developed, which is sort of fair enough considering R's really limited perspective, but Nora, who is not in the book long enough or verbally enough is really excellent and probably my favourite, even though I've had to make up a lot of her in my own head. I didn't really mind.

Basically. I really enjoyed Warm Bodies, in spite of (or maybe because of...) my zombie inexperience, and I especially enjoyed Isaac Marion's writing- in other words, I'd probably read his next book whatever it was about because yessir, you write nicely. I don't feel like I've been that convincing about why you should read this, so you should definitely read both Alley AND especially Kayleigh's reviews (Kayleigh is ALL about the zombies, and she thinks this was great. So, yeah) and they'll give you more reasons. Or just, you know, read it already and join the conversation. Yeah, I said it.

*I KNOW. Wait, has Stephen King done zombies..? *googles* Ok, he has, but I haven't read it yet
**That's ADD to, Stephenie Meyer. Not completely mess up.
***Which is pretty weird for a zombie novel, I guess.
"Memories you capture on purpose are always more vivid than the ones you pick up by accident." (p. 84)

Sunday 20 October 2013

Sunday Sundries: The Glorious Return

Guys! It's Sunday and I'm doing blogging!
I know, I know, the three Sundays that have passed without my presence on the internet have been almost unbearable, but it's all ok now because Sunday Sundries are BACK and I must have a lot to tell you because 4 weeks in a person's life is like an eternity, right?

Well. Yeah, not really. Let's see. I've been:
Moving all of the things I own from one house to another. It only took 3 car loads...
Building bookcases that nearly destroyed me. Top tip- always just buy the IKEA ones.
Hanging out in London. Always the best. I LIVE THERE NOW (again, sort of...)
Discovering new bookshops. This one honestly made me a little bit high.

And... That's kind of it? I don't know, it seems like getting used to cooking for myself and doing my own washing and just generally taking care of myself completely takes more time than I remember, and all of a sudden it's like 10pm and I haven't done anything useful with myself. EVERY. NIGHT. Which is fine, and this is a whole adjustment time, AND most of that time is basically spent watching TV and being awesome with my housemates, which is never a waste of time, but still. I miss blogging! I need to make more of an effort to write things and to always write my Sunday Sundries because, yeah, it takes more effort than shooting the shit with ze housemates, but also I love it. So Imma make more of an effort.
Plus, I have every morning free which I could probably NOT spend watching Extreme Couponing. Even though it's AWESOME and also I'm going to write a post about it because I have feelings about it that the world needs to know.

Hmmm, what else..? Well, I can definitively tell you that it's awesome to live not-that-far-away from your mother but totally in-a-different-house, because INDEPENDENCE is awesome, BUT also she can come and pick me up and take me places and I don't have to pay for the train or bus. I should add that this isn't something I take advantage of to a huge extent, but it is fab having her pick me up to go food shopping or to go to my nan's on a Sunday (like she's about to in about 15 minutes... I'm still in my pjs, natch) and just to be able to see my whole family more often than I did when, say, I was at Uni. It's alllllll good.

Moving out: I recommend it.

So. I'm definitely going to go and get dressed now, but tell me things: What have you done in a month (I know we've almost definitely talked in the past month. But play along)? What would you like to know about my new house? Should I just go away and leave you alone on Sundays? You know where to tell me things.

Friday 18 October 2013

"It was unfair that the world could be so inconsiderate to a man who was so considerate to the world."

I feel like, before a certain incident in this week's section of The Corrections, I had a lot to say about misplaced ambition and parental... issues and clinical depression and a few other things, but now all I can think about is
I mean, just, WHUT?! I understand that Alfred has medical issues, and I guess he kind of keeps crapping himself, so obviously the natural step to take from there is for him to hallucinate a talking poo? And by 'obviously the natural step', I clearly mean, WTF FRANZEN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! I just... For a start I don't understand how he can take himself so seriously when he has written a novel that involves a talking poo, so I'm going to have to seriously re-evaluate my feelings about him, and for another thing, what the hell even was that?!


Moving swiftly on... So, this week, we got to meet the lovely (excuse me, 'lovely') Gary and Caroline, eldest son and daughter in law of Enid and Alfred and all round terrible people. At one point, I did take a note that said 'Gary's not depressed- he's just an asshole', and while I stand by the second part of that statement, I'm willing to accept that he is depressed, but for very specific reasons- such as, his mother says things that make him dissatisfied with his life ('oh, you work all day and then do the cooking too? Doesn't sound right to me' THANK YOU ENID, FEMINIST ICON) and he's not as rich as he should be, and and he can't be right all the time even though he'd love to be and ARGH.
Just that whole section, being inside Gary's pathetic, moany, terrible little brain made me feel all angry and claustrophobic and also angry some more and did I mention that I hate him? He and Caroline manipulate their children to form factions against each other, and obviously that's not going to mess them up in the future and ruin all their relationships with people and make them all into Chips now, is it? Just, STOP BEING BAD PARENTS, FICTIONAL PEOPLE!

And then we get to the worst parents of them all, and was it just me or was it more than a tiny bit heartbreaking to see tiny Gary and Chip have to deal with their parents' moods and unfairness and also their complete-refusal-to-do-anything-except-what's-expected-of-them-to-the-detriment-of-everyone-around-them, yes I'm looking at you Alfred
So here's an interesting parenting method- leaving your child at the dinner table for HOURS because he won't eat disgusting food, ignoring the fact that he's sitting there because 'it's Alfred's business' and just generally being terrible people. In one way, this second section annoyed me because, well, I don't want to feel sorry for Gary or Chip, or to allow their past to explain away everything they do that's bad now, but then there were things like this:
"It was in their nature to throw their arms around [Alfred], but this nature had been corrected out of them. They stood and waited, like company subordinates, for the boss to speak."
And it broke my heart just a tiny bit because those poor boys who just want to hug their daddy but they can't because he's an asshole and waaaaaaaaah
Edward Scissorhands just wanted to hug people too.
And no. I don't think we just let that explain away everything that these grown up people who make their own decisions do now, but I don't think we can just let it go either because the way you're brought up does have an impact on the way you behave, because that's kind of the context you exist in- Gary exists in a context where his dad should have made more money but wasn't bold enough, because that's all Enid ever talks about, and Chip lives in a context where he really likes boobs for some reason (yeah, I don't know either...)

Just to finish things off on a really happy note, can we talk about the part where Alfred rapes Enid? You might think I'm being kind of strong by using the word rape here, but by my calculations, Enid says no FOUR different times, and still Alfred has his way with her, feels guilty not for raping his wife but for getting his, ahem, fluids over his unborn child and vows to be nice to it always (thus giving a really easy explanation for his relationship with Denise). Which, fine, whatever, but REALLY Franzen? You're using rape as a means to character development of the rapist while Enid just stays silent about it? Fab.
On to the next part. Hopefully there aren't anymore marital rapes, because CHRIST don't make me smash things.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Devouring Films: Miss Representation

Miss Representation is a documentary that's been on my radar for the longest time- I actually get email updates from the organisation that either came from or made the film (I'm a little sketchy on the details, and I also don't even remember signing up for them, but there you go) that are essentially 'this terrible thing happened for women' or 'look at this awesome thing that happened for women'.

Needless to say, I get a lot of emails like this.

Anyway. So I'd never actually seen the documentary because I don't think it's out on DVD and it's been difficult to find online until, lo and behold, it appeared on Netflix one day! A few million episodes of Parks and Recreation and Extreme Couponing later, I finally watched it and I. Got. So. Angry.
At just, everything. At how, if you're a woman, you're only allowed to be on TV if you're really thin and really beautiful. At how, if you're a woman and you want to be a politician, instead of getting to share your ideas on how the world should be, you're really just opening yourself up to a discussion about your looks, style, and personality. At how, even though this documentary got so many powerful and successful women (Condeleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem) to talk about their experiences (not one of which was without sexism), you'd be hard pressed to think of many more women in the media who would even be qualified to talk about things like this because women are not valued in the media. At least not as creators of news, but definitely as objects of it.

So yeah, Miss Representation is about how women are represented (MISrepresented) in the media, and just how fucked up everything in the world is ever. The way I see it, it's like the women's movement happened, things got better for women legally and kind of socially and The-Men-Who-Run-Everything went 'shit! We can't let this happen!' and did everything they could to make women insecure, self-hating, body image OBSESSED and just generally made to feel as though they're not good enough for anything. This takes a few different forms, from airbrushing in every photo you see in a magazine so that some impossible standards of beauty are created, to abusing female politicians, mostly about the way they look, but also about the audacity of their decision to, you know, leave the kitchen, when obviously nobody wants to hear what they have to say. Because of their vaginas.

What it comes down to is this: The media has created an impossible, impossible situation for women where you have to be THE most beautiful creature in the whole world or nobody will like you, but at the same time, even when you are this most beautiful creature, you're not allowed to do anything because you're just a woman, and don't be silly, women don't have ideas or anything! It's not even just that though- it seems that, if women try to be or do anything that they're not expected to do, there's always some negative spin to be put on it- for example, I present you with this article about the fact that 3/5 of young doctors are female (How cool is that?!) and why that's a problem because you know the wimmins are just going to ruin everything with their lady bits and baby having.

AND it's not just that. Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, women are UNDER represented on TV. There are so few TV shows that star women, and even less that are considered 'important' viewing, for the pure reason that TV shows and films starring men are supposed to appeal to both genders, whereas those starring women are only supposed to appeal to women. That is complete BULLSHIT, of course, and THEN so many movies that star women are really about men because, let's face it, all women really want to do is get married and have babies and that's IT. And it's the 'that's IT' bit that's really the problem because, you know, I think that is something that many many women do want, but what about everything else we want? Why is that never talked about and explored, and why doesn't anyone make movies about it, and why why why are we left with such shallow and flat and non-exploratory definitions of what women want and what motivates them and what else there is to life apart from men and babies?

I realise I kind of haven't talked about the documentary that much, but really the questions it raises from the evidence it gives are more important than the film itself. It's a good film- well made, well thought out arguments- it does almost completely focus on the US, but the US is fucked up enough to provide evidence for a whole documentary, and from that you can really apply it to other places (as I did to the UK, obviously) easily. It's going to make you really fucking angry, and you know what? You should be angry. You should stay angry. The way women are treated by the media isn't fair, it isn't right, and being angry about it, and voting with your remote control and NOT just letting it fade into the background of your thoughts is the only way to combat it.

This documentary has reminded me why I get so angry when people say that feminism isn't necessary anymore, and why I'll remain angry until I see as many women as men on my TV, in my government, in businesses, making movies and writing TV shows, and until those women are allowed to look exactly the way they want to look, not the way it works for the media to have them look to conform to some bullshit standards of beauty. Until, in other words, women get the same treatment as men by the media. I mean, come on. It's only fair, right?

Saturday 12 October 2013


Oh hey, remember when I was like 'so I'll go to bed now and then get up in the morning and read for the last few readathon hours'? Well. I read a bit and went to bed and then woke up at ELEVEN AM (I know) and since my mum was coming to pick me up at like 12pm I kind of had to motor and shower and eat breakfast and then leave the house without so much as a book (that last part was kind of accidental) and now it's sort of now? I failed at the readathon, basically, but I got in a whole afternoon's worth of reading, and that is no mean feat!

So, Imma do the end of event survey anyway, so there.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Bahahahaha, um, most of them?! Clearly...

2. Could you list a few high interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?
Well, I thoroughly recommend Rosemary's Baby (it's a page turner) and always just stick to the authors you know you love- for me, it's Bill Bryson, or Stephen King.

3. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the readathon for next year?
I have some for MYSELF, but not so much for the actual event- I think it's pretty awesome as it is.

4. What do you think worked really well in this years readathon?
NOT MY READING BRAIN! Hahaha, no, but I don't know because, you know, I wasn't all that present...

5. How many books did you read?
Well... I finished one and started another. So, one altogether? A short one, at that.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin and Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
They were both pretty great, actually.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
See above.

9. How likely are you to take part in the readathon again? What part would you be willing to play next time?
I will always take part in readathons, baby. Anddddd... Next time I'll play the part of someone who actually reads things? That sounds like a start.

So yeah. Next time I'll be better at reading and worse at talking to people. It seems like the way to win a readathon, really!

Pages Read: 253
Books Finished: 1
Books Read From: 2
SNACKS: I basically just ate all the food. All of it. Yummy.
Naps: I slept for about 10 hours last night. It was great.

Update the Sheepish: 12am(ish)
So, I've been gone a while, huh? I was kind of expecting this because a house pizza thing was totally planned for this evening and I DID THAT and ended up not coming back upstairs for, like, 6 hours (which is MEGA LONG when you write it in numbers like that...) so yeah, that happened. But NEVER MIND because it was fun and pizza is amaze and also Johnny Depp so yeah. Reading? PAH. (I'm sorry reading ily forever, never leave me).

So anyway! It's like midnight now, so I'm pretty much just going to go to bed because YAY bed. But I will read a bit first, obviously, and probably a bit more and then it'll be 2am anyway, so there's that. And then, MORE READING IN THE MORNING (probably). It's all good.

Pages Read: 218
Books Finished: 1
Books Read From: 2
SNACKS: A loooooot of pizza.
Naps: Actually none. And I definitely feel less tired than earlier. Which probably isn't an invitation to just stay up all night... OR IS IT?!

Update the First: 4pm(ish)
So SOMEONE opened up their computer at about 3.30pm to read some blogs and do a few life things and somehow it was suddenly 4.10pm... I'm not sure who but I'm sure she had her reasons...

Anyway. Reading! It has happened. I'm reaaaaaally tired, possibly because I've been reading whilst fully in bed (FULLY. All that's missing is my pyjamas and no-bra. [Side brackets: I'm wearing a weirdly nice bra for this occasion for no reason and I just keep looking down and loling at myself because boobs! What are you doing?! I might have had too much caffeine already and this is why I'm telling you this story...]) But I've already finished Rosemary's Baby, and I'm reading Hearts in Atlantis which is funnnnn because this kid's all like 'OMG books are sort of magic' (only, in the way we think of them as magic, not in a different, weird Stephen King way) and it's awesome. And now I'm trying to think of the first book that made me forget where I was while I was reading it and it miiiight have been Little Women.

So. That's cool. And Imma read some more now. Also, possibly oreos.

Pages Read: 150
Books Finished: 1
Books Read From: 2
SNACKS: Hummus, with veggies and doritos, and these strawberry laces from ikea that may have been open for too long... But they've gone away now, it's all ok.
Naps: Don't even tempt me...

Before the madness
Ohhhhhh yes. It's that time again, and by 'that time' I obviously mean time to READ ALL DAY AND NIGHT AND NEVER SLEEP EVER! Or... Read for all of the afternoon and evening and go to bed at a reasonable time and maybe read a bit more in the morning because I'm being totally sensible about this because I have to work tomorrow (YES. On a Sunday. I KNOW) and that is NOT going to be happening if I read instead of sleep.

BUT ANYWAY. Let's ignore my lameness (I consider not reading for a full 24 hours lame, apparently) and look at some BOOKS:
There they are, in all their glory. SO. Of COURSE I'm not going to read all of these (as always) but I don't even want to read all of The Corrections so THERE. These are what they are, from bottom to top:

  • Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood
  • Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • Affinity by Sarah Waters
  • South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
  • Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
To be honest, if I finish Rosemary's Baby, and the parts of The Corrections I'm reading this week for the readalong, and maybe one of the other (short) books, I'll be pretty happy. Also this was supposed to be posted this morning so I'm totally late and now it's all STARTING and ooh, isn't it exciting?! (I am so unprepared. But I have snacks!) Sooooo, here's the starting questionnaire:

1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm in LONDON (sort of) which is the first time I've done a readathon in a house that isn't my parents'. This is pretty awesome.

2. What book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Even though I'm halfway through Rosemary's Baby, I'm actually really looking forward to finishing it! Other than that, I'm quite excited to read some of the GIANT King book because I haven't read any Stephen King for a little while now!

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Something wonderful has happened, and I have a tub of hummus that has to be eaten by Monday. A full tub. I'm pretty excited about it. Also, double stuff oreos.

4. Tell us a little something about yourself
I'm woefully unprepared for this readathon, and a little sleepy. It should be interesting! *sleeps all day*

5. If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do different today?
Hmmm... I usually do better in the October rather than April readathons, I think because BED SNUGGLING, but realistically I'll probably be reading less today because of reasons. But, my ADVICE (not that anyone asked for it) is to go easy on the caffeine if you don't want to feel like you might be dying at 5am. That's English time, though... So... Midnight in the US?

I won't be seeing 5am though. Not this time.

That's it! I'm going to reeeeeeead. This is awesome.

Friday 11 October 2013

"She was so much a personality and so little anything else that even staring straight at her he had no idea what she really looked like."

The Corrections! It's not terrible, am I right? I did tell all of you last week that Franzen, he's not so bad at the writing, so am I feeling a teeny bit smug right now?
A little bit. But that might just be this book rubbing off on me. Or rubbing UP on me. It's pretty gross, is what I'm saying.

Anyway! Things to discuss. So far, I kind of hate Enid, I definitely hate Chip (in my Franzen experience, each character gets a focus on them, and I'm kind of hoping Chip's is over) and I basically like Denise and Alfred. Oh, poor sweet ill Alfred, who actually I've just remembered is a big racist, so actually maybe I don't like him... I think a thing Franzen has done really well already is exploring the complexity of family relationships- Enid has a problem with Denise because she's not living the life she expects for women, Chip has a problem with Alfred because something something childhood trauma, Alfred and Denise are like one faction and Enid is kind of out there on her own... It's interesting, anthropologically speaking, is what I'm saying.
But, more importantly, let's be mean about Chip. I think it was Australian Kayleigh who said first that he seems like the fictional equivalent of Franzen, and if we're talking about how terrible they both are, then I'm going with HELL YEAH he is. I just... What is WRONG with him? Because, I mean, there's this:
"'Oh, Chip... Your script starts off with a six-page lecture about anxieties of the phallus in Tudor drama!'"
Of COURSE it does. Of COURSE. Because, let's face it, Chip is the kind of guy who sniffs couches to try and get a 'vaginal tang' (NO) and whilst he may have a Phd, he's also incredibly emotionally stunted when it comes to women, probably because of, let's say, his mother. That seems like the direction we're going with this. If there's one silver lining to Chip, it's that even Franzen doesn't exactly idolise him or try to make him seem anything less than pathetic- there are a lot of things wrong with his life (because he's an ARSEHOLE) and that's kind of the point of him, I think.

Hmmm, what else..? Well, it's pretty ironic that Chip's all like 'BLARGH capitalism and advertising and everything is evil,' when basically all he thinks about is the acquisition of money. What are you going to use that money for, Chipster? Feeding starving children and saving the rainforests? Loljk it's actually just to get some more fanny.*
I actually meant to start a list of all the different descriptions of vagina in this book, but I always read it without paper or even digital paper (you know, my phone) near me, so I've kind of lost track... But there's 'an affectionate warm rabbit', 'pussy like a seasoned baseball glove' (that one ESPECIALLY horrified me because I HATE the word pussy. Hate it.) and, if I remember rightly, something about a quim. Not to mention the boobs! Just to be clear, this isn't me being a prude, it's just me being like 'GOD, Chip, stop being so GROSS' because did I mention that I hate him? I reaaaaaaally do.

So I realise that I just said all the bad things, but really, I am genuinely enjoying myself with The Corrections. I'm enjoying hating Chip, I'm enjoying trying to decipher mother-daughter and father-daughter relationships, I'm looking forward to meeting the other brother (it's going to happen- I fear he might be even more of an arse than Chip!) and just generally for more of this book. It's really pretty good, in spite of all those things I just said. Yeah.

*Fanny as in vagina... I've just realised that you lot are mostly American and fanny is, you know, less gross over there. Damn.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Devouring Books: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

"That's what they all were, the Stepford wives: actresses in commercials, pleased with detergents and floor wax, with cleansers, shampoos and deodorants. Pretty actresses, big in the bosom but small in the talent, playing housewives unconvincingly, too nicey-nice to be real."

The Stepford Wives is surely one of those things that's broken out so far beyond the pages of its original form that no one bothers to read the book anymore. A Stepford wife is a term you'd use to describe someone who's REALLY into housework and whatnot (a loser, in other words) and is, not to put too fine a point on it, sort of acting like a robot. HOW WEIRD.
So, we all know how the story ends, right? (If you didn't, I guess you do now! Sorry...) And the thing is, when you know how a story ends, it's kind of difficult to work up the energy to actually read it because, you know, what's the point? Thankfully, The Stepford Wives is reaaaaally short, and I paid hardly any money for it (3 Ira Levin books for £5, thanks The Book People!) AND I was falling behind on RIP reads, so reading this in one day it was!

So, The Stepford Wives. I think we all know the story, but quick summary- family moves to a new town (Stepford, natch) where the men have their little 'Men's Club' where they hang out and smoke and talk about manly things (no, I don't know either) and the women stay at home and clean and cook and do 'womanly things'. Not just some of the time, but ALL of the time. As in, there is nothing else. Ever. Joanna is the matriarch of this new family in Stepford, and this shit FREAKS HER OUT. She makes a couple of new female friends, who are also new in town (how weird that they're not freaky lady robots...) and when they start acting strange (kind of like... robots) she REALLY freaks out and then things culminate in that ending we all know about.

While I was reading it, I couldn't help but think about what it would have been like reading this in 1972, knowing nothing about it and being SO SHOCKED by the ending. I don't think I'm wrong in thinking that it would have been AWESOME, but there is something to be said for knowing what's going on the whole time. I'm not sure it's a book I'd be that bothered about re-reading (mainly because this sort of was like a re-read, in itself) but I took in and was impressed by little gems like this:
"'I'm doing Marge McCormick's wash. She's got a bug of some kind and can barely move today.'"
Bug... Can barely move... Think about how easily that would just fly over your head if you didn't know the real score, and now appreciate how clever that is. I love it.

Mainly, I didn't mind knowing the end because it meant I could think about important matters of feminism and whatnot.
My thing is this. I can't exactly tell if Ira Levin is like 'ladies, you'd better expect some kind of backlash from all this free-thinking and empowerment you've been doing' or if he's like 'fucking hell, these men are terrible. What the fuck?' Obviously I want it to be the latter, but I'm concerned that it's the former... I guess that, having the story told from Joanna's point of view is almost the same thing as being on her side, except really it's to maintain suspense because she's just the dumb woman who doesn't know anything. So, there's that. The difficult thing of trying to interpret this at all is that you literally know nothing about the men- it's a teeny book anyway, so there isn't tons of character development anyway, but the men are mysterious as hell- they go to their men's club, do their men things, plot turning their wives into robots...

And really, for once, I really want to know what motivates the men. (I know!) Are they really so threatened by their wives having interests outside the home and possibly even having *gasp* jobs of their own that they'd want to replace them with subservient, boring wives with bigger boobs and a 1950s sensibility? Do they hate doing the tiny bit of housework and child-rearing that they're asked to do (and from Joanna's point of view, it really isn't that much) that they'd trade in their human women for something much more sinister? Clearly, the answer is yes, but I still want to know why. The Stepford Wives lets you make up your own mind about that.

 So. This is a really good suspense tale, but there's really not too much to the book- what it really has going for it, though, is the way it makes you think about things for a lot longer than can possibly be healthy. It raises a lot of questions, and then leaves you to answer them for yourself, which can be frustrating, but is ultimately something I really appreciate from books. If you don't mind answering some questions for yourself too, then I wholeheartedly recommend this.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Devouring Books: The Girl Who Had Stuff And Did Stuff Trilogy by Steig Larsson

Oh man.

When I first announced my intention to read these books, the reactions of you lot ranged from 'oh yeah, I've never read them either' to 'OH MY GOD, DON'T DO IT!' and this was not what I was expecting because have you SEEN the praise heaped on these books? 'Best thriller in years', they said. 'Unmissable', they also implied. Obviously I'm just paraphrasing here, because these books have now been graciously rehomed in various charity shops, but that's basically the gist of it.

So what did I think? Something in the middle, I guess. There was a lot I haaaaated about them (and I mean really and truly hated. Abhorred. Couldn't even stand) but there were also things that made me think they weren't so bad, after all. I think it's important to note also that I read them in packing breaks, when I probably wouldn't have been able to focus on a book with even the slightest bit of smartness to it (sorry, Steig) so that has to be taken into account of the things I thought about them.

I'm going to do a teeny review of each book at the end (because, you know, I know you were all worried that wasn't going to happen) but here are a few generals:

  • I kind of love Lisbeth Salander- She's probably not a great role model or anything, but she's without a doubt the most interesting character in the books, and she's flawed and broken in a way that women characters aren't often allowed to be. It's worth noting that a lot of the other characters are super one-dimensional, so Lisbeth really stands out as especially interesting, but whatever. I basically just wanted to read about her doing stuff.
  • I kind of really hate Mikael Blomkvist- Ok, I didn't to begin with. He's fine as a character, a bit boring and plot-moving on-ish, but his heart's basically in the right place, and his morals align with mine and whatnot. BUT. I hate him. I haaaaaate him. He is the laziest written character because he has no flaws, and (most annoyingly) every woman he ever meets wants to have sex with him. There is literally not a female character he comes across who doesn't want to have sex with him, and by the third book, it was just like 'oh, you've just introduced a single female character? I WONDER WHO SHE'LL BE BONING NEXT CHAPTER!' No good reason is given for Blomkvist being catnip for women, and it freaks me out that Larsson probably basically wrote him as wish fulfilment for himself. But UGH.
  • But the feminism, though- So the Swedish title of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is actually The Men Who Hate Women (bit different, then) and I think the way the books were marketed* over here actually says a lot about us, but the point is that there is a LOT about the men who hate women. There's a whole lot. There are sexual harassment subplots, and countless attacks against women, and it's made crystal clear that this shit is NOT OK. Which, obviously, I appreciate, even whilst I was shocked that shit like this happens in Sweden, because if Sweden isn't safe for women, then what do we have?!
  • That writing, though- It's not the best writing. For the most part it's readable, but a lot of the dialogue is really bad, and I honestly believe that about half of the third book should have just been edited right away. Just... No. I don't know if I can blame some of it on the translation, or if it just is genuinely bad writing, but beautiful prose is not something you're going to find in these books. Just... In case that's what you were expecting.
So far, this seems like I'm pretty evenly for and against it, BUT my hatred for Blomkvist really outweighs my love for Salander (I haaaaaate him!) and I don't know if the clearly female-positive story lines are enough to balance out the really bad writing. I just don't know how I feel, so let's look at each book individually shall we? ('Oh yes, lets!', I hear you cry)

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
This was definitely my favourite of the three books, because it was a fairly self-contained story and it was fun trying to solve the mystery of the girl who disappeared from an island that was impossible to get off of secretly. Less fun were the parts with the rapes, but I feel like they weren't really gratuitous and were really there to serve the story. There was, however, a lot of unnecessarily complicated economic crap, including this 20 page section right near the beginning of the book that I'd imagine has tripped up nearly everyone who's read it. Note to writers: DON'T put a boring, rambling crap part right at the start of your book, what is wrong with you?! And then a similar thing happened at the end- the interesting part of the story was solved about 100 pages from the end, and then somehow the crap part was back and whyyyyy? But, overall, I liked it? So, I moved on to:

The Girl Who Played With Fire
I didn't dislike The Girl Who Played With Fire. I mean, sure it starts off with about 100 pages of things that have nothing to do with the story (seriously, was there an editor of these books? Because it sure as shit didn't feel like it) and sure there are loads of convenient last minute rescues and things when Larsson didn't want to kill a character off, but there was a lot more Salander! And eventually (and I mean, after literally hundreds of pages) you get to the crux of Salander's childhood, and that was kind of (hmm... very kind-of) worth waiting for. Plus it's all actiony and fairly exciting and I'd come this far so I figured, might as well read:

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest
Annnnnd, what a mistake that was. This book had pretty much nothing to it. All The Things kind of get solved at the end of The Girl Who Played With Fire, and THIS book is pretty much Mikael Blomkvist showing how much smarter he is than A WHOLE TEAM OF MEN and also having sex with yet more women (obviously). Don't get me wrong, Salander still manages to solve a lot of her problems, and everyone else's, for that matter, but there are a LOT of pages for NOTHING new to happen in (I mean, stuff happens. But it basically just wraps up the second book. In SEVEN HUNDRED PAGES. God.) But, I mean, I kept reading it, so... Can it have been that bad? Maybe not.

Ha, remember when I said I was going to 'review' each of the books separately? Obviously I meant, 'tell you my feels about each of them' because reviewing? What's that?! But anyway. The crux of the matter is this: I'm pretty glad to have gotten these out of the way, and I'm really glad I read them before I moved so I didn't have to lug them up all the stairs. They're absolutely not the best books in the world, and I wouldn't want to read them again, but they did keep me entertained at a time when I didn't think I wanted to read anything, AND (and this is really important) if there was another book (and I believe there were supposed to be quite a few more) I'm pretty sure I've have read that one too. So. Take from that what you will.

Oh man, a whole post about Swedish books, and look what I nearly forgot!
It's ok. All is well now.

*for 'marketed', read 'the way they changed the title and that'

Friday 4 October 2013

The Corrections won't even need correcting... Or something.

Guys! WHAT, it's time for another readalong?
This is clearly very exciting, and the fact that I'm writing this at 10pm on Friday night should not be taken as any kind of indication about how excited I am or am not about it. I just... Moving and unpacking is really tiring and I have forgotten more than just writing this blog post this week, let me tell you. But the point is, READALOOOOOONG!
So, Franzen. HE'S kind of a douche, huh? I think that's something we can all agree on, and I have been leaving appropriately DOOOM-y comments on everyone's blogs, but the thing is, I have read Freedom, and... I kind of liked it? It probably wasn't as good as everyone says it was, and it definitely wasn't as good as Franzen thinks it is, BUT it was still perfectly enjoyable, and interesting, and made me think some thoughts. I also zoomed through it, which gives me high hopes for The Corrections, so we'll see.

Of course, this could just be one of those things where I'm like 'ZOMG, this is the best!' and everyone else is like 'UGH I hate this so much' (DON'T PRETEND YOU DON'T REMEMBER NORWEGIAN WOOD) but I'm ready for that eventuality and also YOU ALL SUCK.

I'm just kidding. I love you.
Anyway. Mostly I'm glad we're doing this because it means Alley will stop going 'Wow, we really need to read The Corrections, dude' and me replying 'yeah, we should do that. Maybe we should read it together' and OH LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENING, that's cool! So yeah, GO US for getting things done maybe... A year and a half after it was first conceived? Yeah, we're good at getting stuff done.

SO. You can still sign up to join us if you would like, but otherwise come back here on Fridays to observe the carnage... OR the awesome book enjoyment. Perhaps.