Monday 28 July 2014

"Some people aren't just people, but a place- a whole world. Sometimes you find someone you could live in for the rest of your life."

Oh, our little Johanna is in love!
It seems to me she could have picked someone who's sliiiightly less of a cunt to be in love with, but I suppose John Kite has a kind of dirty, dirty charm that makes adult women go 'ugh' but that sixteen year old girls can't really see through. I sense this is the moment where everyone goes 'But he's such a dreamboat!' and ehhhhh, is he though? He probably isn't.

I read all of this week's reading when I couldn't sleep at about 2am on a Saturday morning, so I may not have the freshest view of it. However- I know that it continues to be awesome. I know that within literally a three page interval, I cried and then laughed out loud, and do we have to relive the crying? We definitely do:
"I wouldn't have told her about how sometimes, when your daddy has fallen off a building, he doesn't like people to come to the house. That he won't let anyone in, or out. 
I suspect I would have said I didn't feel well- that I had a stomachache, and so she shouldn't come over.
And that was true in the end- about the stomachache. Because I ate everything on the table. I ate my whole birthday."

I just... I don't really talk about this a lot* because it's too sad to think about, and I'm not even the person it's saddest for, but it came up when I was commenting on posts last week so it feels right to talk about it here. So my own papa has a lot of medical problems that are too confusing and depressing to detail in this post, he and my mum live on benefits (less tragically than in this book cause their kids are all grown, but still, they ain't rich) and I relate so deeply to days that should have been awesome but haven't been because he hasn't been well. I say this not in a blaming way, because there's no one to blame, and not in an angry way, because there's no real point in anger; but the fact is that this part of the book relates more deeply to my own experience of the world than maybe any other book and so I will never be able to be objective about it.

So, basically, you can take your unreality of becoming a music journalist, and I'll take my incredible reality of living with a daddy who isn't well.

I know that quite a lot of the point of this book is about learning how to be cool (or you know, just survive) at parties, and how to be a music journalist, and how to fit in with the general population (of the music biz. Which is not the same as the general population) but for me, the parts about where Johanna is coming from are about 10,000x more interesting than the places she's going. The fact that we've all just been reading the book is the only thing stopping me typing out John Kite's entire rant about the poor of this country, but this is about the truest thing ever:
"When the middle classes get passionate about politics, they're arguing about their treats- their tax breaks and their investments. When the poor get passionate about politics, they're fighting for their lives."
Because, just yes. Johanna's description of what losing 11% of their benefits means to her family is completely heartbreaking because with that kind of crushing poverty, how is anyone ever meant to escape from it. I think it's really easy to sit back and say 'why don't they just get jobs?' but when everyone's trained for industrial jobs and Thatcher has more or less just made it so there aren't any, what other option is there? I won't go on the biggest rant ever about the way the media treats people on benefits even now**, but the point is, I don't really think it's a life anyone desires, willingly chooses, or benefits from. So STFU, The Daily Mail.
I feel like this post is basically just a series of rants about society, and if you don't like it, take it up with the backstage team***. Whilst reading, I'm definitely not as angry with the book as I am in this post, and mostly I find it delightful, and then heartbreaking, and then delightful all over again. I feel like I've been defending dadda a lot in the comments on everyone's posts, for obvious reasons, but I DID get annoyed with him this week when he didn't even appreciate Johanna carrying a pint of Guinness back from Ireland for him. I mean, it's exactly how I expected him to react, and it was funny (you can tell Johanna would never get too big for her boots, because dadda would never let her) but it's also like DUDE! Appreciate the effort, willya?!

ONWARDS! Will Johanna ever get laid? Will John Kite be the one to lay her? Or will we get more of the hilarity of wanking followed by the AWFULNESS of a brotherly confrontation about it? (SO AWFUL. I cringed like I've never cringed before). All will be revealed next week, I suppose!

(P.S. You can totally preorder this book if you're in Americaland from here, and if you're in England you can buy it RIGHT NOW- I suggest getting it from here.)

*Although I guess I mention he's in hospital a lot, so there's that haha
**But I will just say that pensioners take up the biggest part of the benefit bill, but no one ever suggests euthanising old people to cut the deficit, do they? Of course not, because that would be AWFUL, but also, shut up.
***That would be me. Hi!


  1. I don't get the John Kite hate at this stage. Sure he doesn't seem like the most responsible person, but considering he's 24 and a famous musician he also doesn't seem that bad. I definitely know people who are much worse AND have zero idea how to talk about politics. I think he could be an interesting person in Johanna's life - especially since she doesn't really have any friends outside of her family.

    BUT I also have a sneaking suspicion that everything with him is about to turn to shit, and I can definitely see that he has the potential to be a dick. So, for now, while he's basically harmless I'm going to enjoy him.

    And dude. The "I ate my whole birthday" section made me so super sad. I feel so wretched for their whole family. And poor Krissi, now having to come to terms with the possibility that he might be able to go to uni? Ugh, :(

    1. I know what you mean. As I was typing, I *was* like 'Do I really feel this strongly about hating John Kite?' and the answer is probably noooo, but at the same time, I really do think, like that guy said, he's kind of playing up to an image of himself instead of actually being himself. That said, he's an awesome character and I wouldn't have the book without him haha.

      I actually cried! Actual tears! Because I get it, man. But yeah, their whole life situation is super sad. I want to say 'God, Krissi, just get a student loan' but my student loan didn't nearly cover all of my uni spendings- I had savings from my Saturday job, and my parents helped me as much as they could, so that really is v sad. Poor Krissi.

    2. I have a feeling it might go a little like Shannon suggests, and that he is a decent dude but we're seeing Johanna's perspective and he'll be more into a friendship than the undying love Johanna keeps daydreaming about.

      I feel like Krissi's issue is perhaps less the getting of loans and more the 'i should be getting a job and supplementing his parents wage' immediately kind of issue. There's undoubtedly a lot of pressure on him as the eldest, even if it's mostly put on him by himself.

  2. I like John Kite. I think he's a very accepting person, a lot more 'what you see is what you get' than a lot of the other posers Johanna's being exposed to in her new career. And he doesn't immediately take advantage of her very young self, which is refreshing. He's a bit rough around the edges, but he's NICE.

    The media portrayal of people on benefits makes me so fucking angry and depressed that I try not to even GO there now. I wouldn't watch those 'debates' on TV because I knew I'd want to murder people. And by people, I mean Katie Hopkins, obviously. There is so much ignorance out there, so many people who don't realise things like what you pointed out about pensioners taking up a hefty amount of the large sums getting thrown around on the news, and how tiny benefit fraud really is compared to what the public perceives it to be - mostly BECAUSE OF THE MEDIA. The people who belittle benefits are always the ones who are financially secure and have never had even the THREAT of living that way hanging over their spoiled heads. Aaaaand here I go again. *coughs and sidles away*

    1. I KNEW EVERYONE WOULD LIKE JOHN KITE. I think he's a good character, and brings an interesting factor into Johanna's life, but I just. don't. like. him. Ok? Ok.

      I can't stand people who would never have to (or think they would never have to) go on benefits belittling people who are. I mean, there's a bit of a personal thing in it for me because my parents are on benefits (i.e. they are getting money back out of the system they've paid into their whole lives, i.e. they are fully entitled to them, i.e. shut up) but even if there wasn't, I can't deal with people being dicks about it. I'm pretty sure benefit fraud is less than 1% of all benefits claimed, I'm pretty sure that actually you do have to have lived in the country for a certain amount of time before you can claim them, and hey, living on benefits is hard enough without people being dicks about it.

      Really if everyone just stopped being dicks, this would be a lot easier!

    2. It's like the 'debate' here in Australia about refuges where some of the most extreme conservative politicians are whipping up fear about them coming in droves and stealing our jobs. Meanwhile it's actually British and Americans overstaying their visas who make up the largest number of illegal immigrants in Australia. But noooooooo that never comes up in the discussions.

  3. I don't dislike John Kite at this point, but I'm definitely skeptical of him. I'm mostly worried that we're only getting Johanna's side of the story and that it's a little off (because I know that my point of view was totally off as a teenager).

  4. Laura, I absolutely love how personal your response was this week. I don't happen to share your feelings about John Kite, but I do see where you're coming from. But Lordy, I'm so thankful that I've got readalongers like you outside the US participating because it's good to get an extra dose of reality check when it comes to the Thatcher years. And because most Americans (and I totally represent the average here, sadly), don't really know a thing about the politics of other countries, particularly when they are teenagers.

  5. I don't hate John Kite, but I do have some suspicious feelings about him. He seems like he should be old enough to not have a 16-year-old girl sleep in his bathtub, innocent as it may seem. We shall see.


  6. I don't hate John Kite either, but I think that's maybe because I think several of my friends have dated one version of John Kite or another in real life. And they were nice guys, if a bit flakey and maybe could use a shower more frequently. But then again, my friends are in their 20s, not 17, and they're going into John-Kite territory with a bit more worldliness...

    I agree that the parts about Johanna's home life are the most wrenching, and the parts I'll probably remember the clearest about this book. I know I was hard on whether the book was realistic about her landing the job the way she did, and I wonder if partly that was because the rest of the book feels so REAL without even trying too hard?

    Anyway, I love this post of yours and that Eric GIF is a lovely gift after all the sadness in this week's reading.
    P.S. Are you watching the current season of True Blood?? I am freaking out about how they're going to end Eric's storyline.

  7. "It seems to me she could have picked someone who's sliiiightly less of a cunt to be in love with, but I suppose John Kite has a kind of dirty, dirty charm that makes adult women go 'ugh' but that sixteen year old girls can't really see through. I sense this is the moment where everyone goes 'But he's such a dreamboat!' and ehhhhh, is he though? He probably isn't."

    YESSSS, you just perfectly summed up while I'm hesitating on John Kite. I feel like he's kind of bound to be a shitty person, even though he seems all nice to Johanna. He seems flaky.

    " I think it's really easy to sit back and say 'why don't they just get jobs?' but when everyone's trained for industrial jobs and Thatcher has more or less just made it so there aren't any, what other option is there? I won't go on the biggest rant ever about the way the media treats people on benefits even now**"

    I just want to mention that I'm not evil! People are very angry-feeling towards my post... I'm not anti-poor people or anti people-on-benefits. My only issue with the book is that I just want one mention of how her parents are TRYING to find some sort of work, even if there isn't any, even if it would be the most crappy, part-time job ever. I literally just want them to try. Then I would be totally happy with them and wish them all the benefits they could get. (Well, probably not her father... I just don't like him. But I'd like her mother a lot more.) And also, I DO think old people on pension/Social Security take up WAY more benefits than they should. I've gotten into this argument with my friends before because they tend to look down on welfare people unfairly as a huge burden, when in reality a lot more money is spent on people over the retirement age.

  8. "The parts about where Johanna is coming from are about 10,000x more interesting than the places she's going." YOU ARE SO RIGHT. It's tempting to see her London Life as this sparkling fairyland and Wolverhampton as a beige place where she will never be older than 12. But nothing of SUBSTANCE has happened outside of Wolverhampton, aside from her her conversations with John Kite (who, by the way, is not so much a dreamboat to me as a peculiar musician with a very sexy Conor Oberst or Bob Dylan).

  9. I think at the same time as it being a book about learning to be cool, it's also a book about learning to live. Reading this book has made me think about my own experiences growing up (and I think it has done for lots of us), and how those experiences shaped me and my view of the world. What is really special about Johanna's experience is that Caitlin shows us exactly how it shapes her. We might be learning how to be cool, but behind all that we're learning how a girl can grow up in such circumstances and still forge out an awesome (and hopefully sex-filled) life. I love that. I love how real and relatable this all is in varying degrees.

    Anyway, I adored this section and the nitty gritty of it all (including serious cringey wank moments). And dear god let Kite be a good guy.

  10. HER STORY ABOUT HER BIRTHDAY. I can't. That was too much. Especially Johanna saying we could have the story and how it doesn't upset her anymore and those are LIES Johanna. I do not believe that doesn't still hurt.

    I do not dislike John Kite because he seems like he is not taking advantage of Johanna BUT THAT SAID, I'm still side-eyeing him while I try to figure out why he wants to hang out with a teenager. What's your game, Kite? (I hope it's just friendship.)

  11. John Kite is in my side-eye-line as well. ...and YES. ALL THE SADS about Johanna's 11th birthday.

  12. I love that British people can just say "cunt" and have it not be a big deal.

    Damn you and your post for making me feel as many feelings as the book makes me feel. And by "damn you," of course, I mean "bless you and your beautiful face."