Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Review: My Baby Shot me Down

My Baby Shot Me Down
Blinding Books

Authors: Clarissa Angus, Katherine Black, Maggy van Eijk, Harriet Goodale, Deborah Hambrook, Claudine Lazar, Rachael Smart, Ruth Starling, Alison Wassell and Laura Wilkinson.

My Baby Shot Me Down is an anthology of short stories, poetry and essays. It is women writing for women about what it means to be a woman. This is Blinding Books's first foray into creating an anthology and I think they've pulled it off. The organisation is spot on, the author introductions are punchy and quirky, and as for the selection, well, let's just say I'd like to give the editor a pat on the back (in a non-patronising way, of course).

One thing I will say is that it's taken me a while to get through this anthology. I don't think anthologies are there to be devoured in one sitting, but this one certainly requires a few. Don't get me wrong, that's not for negative reasons, it's just a little full on at times. Visceral came to mind at various points. Sometimes it's violent, occasionally it's a little hopeless, and more than once it had me questioning what good there is left in humanity. But, amongst all that are these little glimmers of something, I'm not sure what, but something that suggests that things will be ok in the end.

'Tuppences' and 'Patriarchy' by Rachel Smart deserve a mention for their unapologetically blunt language. Both cut straight to the core of the manipulation of the female body and the simultaneous exposure and concealment of the female body. 

'with adults like that, in a society like ours, who needs fucking enemies?'

'King of Cliche' by Alison Wassell is written entirely in, you guessed it, cliches. It's pretty genius. 'We'll Meet Again' by Harriet Goodale made me reassess my own reaction to the random elderly man who sits and stares at you. Laura Wilkinson's two short stories are subtle yet truly memorable. And finally, Deborah Hambrook's poetry takes mundane every day situations and reveals what can hide behind the mundane. 

I could easily mention every author in this collection, and point out many more heartbreaking, truthful and slap-in-the-face passages, but I won't. Part of this anthology's power, I think, is in discovering it for the first time and experiencing that initial shock, the growing awareness and, when it's over, feeling the need to go away and evaluate your own identity.

This anthology showcases a selection of unknown and overshadowed female voices. It's dark and disturbing at times, but hey, being a woman isn't all sugar and spice all the time. It's a collection that could be picked apart for hidden meanings and definitely one to dip in and out of over and over again.

Thank you to Ruth at Blinding Books for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, 4 August 2014

How To Build a Girl: Part 4

How To Build a Girl
Caitlin Moran

Readalong hosted by the awesome Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!)

I think we all know what exciting thing happened in this section. Yes, I'm talking about The Sex. It finally happened. 

But, first, let's rewind back and see how Johanna is getting on with being trouble.

Firstly she has a run in with 'The Kisser', a delightful sounding chap who is a little promiscuous when it comes to kissing and, surprisingly, 'he's just...normal'. 

'That's what he does. He's got off with all my mates. You know those things they have outside shops thats like a giraffe, and you put ten p in and have a ride? He's like one of those. You just...get on him, then get off with him. He's a man slag.'

I'm sure his mother's proud of him.

'It appears to be some kind of factory preset kiss - one, two, three kisses on the lips, and then in with the tongue - but it's happening! I'm in a kiss!'

Go, Johanna! I was practically cheerleading at this point. Ah, the first kiss. Mine was on a swing with a guy who's mouth could have fit over my head. A special moment.

Johanna returns home, high from her kissing experience, and finds out from her Dad that the benefits are staying cut. But fret not, he has a plan:

'Nah - we got to utilise our assets. Which is - me and you. You write about music. I make it.'

I almost 100% sure that's going to work.

Johanna starts setting up her reputation as 'trouble' by smiting various bands in her reviews.  After the smiting, some pretty obvious signs of Krissi's sexuality which Johanna entirely misses, and a few more mentions of SatanWankGate, this section spirals into the sex. Johanna gets to experience Tony Rich's mouth (reminiscent of my first 'boyfriend' again), and then she gets to experience a whole lot else. 

'Here's the amazing thing about sex: you get a whole person to yourself, for the first time since you were a baby. Someone who is looking at you - just you - and think about you, and wanting you, and you haven't even had to lie at the bottom of the stairs and pretend you're dead to get them to do it.'

The next bit of this section spirals in to a serious of casual sexual encounters and a number of disastrous attempts to be experimental in the boudoir.

Then we meet Big Cock Al who, as you can imagine, is pretty impressively endowed. Which is not a good thing (nobody wants cystitis). Even though he is entirely the sum of his parts (albeit his pretty large parts), he does seem to be almost quite sweet. 

'You don't need a vagina,' I think. 'You're simply trying to avoid rental charges on an appropriate storage facility. My friend, you will need council permits to part something like this.'
But then Johanna does this thing which seems wrong on so many levels - she allows him to have sex with her, without having sex with him:

'In later years I find this is called 'physical disconnect', and is all part and parcel of women having their sexuality mediated through men's gaze.'

This just feels so wrong to me. I may be a bit soft when it comes to doing things I don't like, but sex is one area where you will never find me just doing it for the hell of it. Ain't nobody going there unless I've given them express permission. This has led to a few too many 'she's fridgid' (which is a whole other level of feminist hell) comments, but frankly, I don't give a shit. My body is mine to give to whoever I want. 

So she outs up with his giant cock, and ends up with cystitis and has to sit in his bath for a pretty long while. Oh, metaphor for female oppression by male sexuality. 

Then there's this, and I love this:

'Because I still don't know what I think or feel, and I'm throwing grenades and filling the air with smoke while I desperately, desperately try to get off the ground: to get elevation. Because I haven't yet learned the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind.'

God, yes. Oh so many yes's. 

I have to say, this section put me to sleep a little. I was very excited that the sex finally happened and all, but it all just felt a little overdone and self-indulgent. But then the ending of the final chapter of this part seemed to take a more thoughtful, almost startling turn. I'm looking forward to the final section, and finding out what Johanna learns from trying to build herself (I'm guessing that's kinda what's coming). 

How did you find this week? A bit too sexy, or not sexy enough?

You can pre-order the book from The Odyssey Bookshop here (US), or buy it from Foyles here (UK).


Saturday, 2 August 2014

In-Flight Reading

This morning (super early) I'm flying to Pisa, for a week long holiday chilling with my family. From Pisa we will hire a car, drive to a tiny village in the mountains and hole ourselves away in our villa with books, food and copious amounts of prosecco. Priorities, guys, priorities. 

I am more than a little excited to be heading to Italy, by far my favourite country in the world. Way back in 2010 my best friend and I spent five weeks travelling Italy so being back there and revisiting Florence, Siena and Pisa is going to bring back some truly amazing memories. I'm hoping I still have enough memory of the language to get by, too (I took some classes before travelling to alleviate the anxiety - worked a treat!).

But before we actually step foot on Italian soil, there is the flight. Flying and I have a turbulent relationship (pun most certainly intended). I loved it as a kid, until I was around 18 and I went to Paris in a tiny prop-plane and hit serious serious turbulence. Even my Dad was worried. And if my Dad, as a pilot, is worried, then I'm freaking out. Since then I've been pretty terrified of flying. It's getting better and I had a long-haul flight to New York that went some way to curing me, but I still do get those tummy flips when they call passengers for boarding.

I deal with that anxiety by being prepared. I like to know exactly what I'm doing, where I've got to be and at what time. I spend ages planning my hand luggage, and prep my little clear plastic bag for my liquids in advance. Then comes in-flight entertainment - the most important part. As well as a host of magazines (Women's Running and the Literary Review), I pack my ipod which is full of music, audiobooks and the odd podcast. This year I have also downloaded a ton of TED Talks to enjoy mid-flight (I'm addicted to TED Talks). Finally, I'm taking along Lady Audley's Secret (I suspect I'll reach the denouement and be much enthused and thoroughly in love with sensation fiction all over again), and my kindle packed full of books. I think that'll do me for a two hour long flight. There's no such thing as being over-prepared (or so I tell myself).

How do you cope with flying, if you're a Nervous Nelly like me?


Friday, 1 August 2014

August Reading

At the end of the month, these posts are actually my favourite to write. I'm such a planner and planning reading is by far the best kind of planning out there. Last month I aimed to read whatever I fancied and I really succeeded in that goal (and had an awesome time of it). This month I'm going to do things a little differently again. I've set myself a little outline of the genres/types of books I'd like to read before the month is out, not the actual books because I'm still going to leave that to spontaneity, but the basic plan. Here goes.

August Reads...

1 Non-fiction book

The options: Inconvenient People by Sarah Wise, The Fateful Year by Mark Bostridge, The War that Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan

1 Poetry collection

The options: Memorial by Alice Oswald, War Reporter by Dan O'Brien

1 New to me book

The options: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Assault by Harry Mulisch

1 Jane Austen novel

The option: Mansfield Park

The rest of my reading is entirely up to choice, but I'd really like to stick to these categories and see what I can discover.

Last year I took part in Adam's Austen in August event and had the best time reading Emma and Sense and Sensibility. This year Jenna has taken over the role of host and gently nudged me into the direction of Mansfield Park which, incidentally, is the only Austen novel I have not read. I've not delved into the world of regency England since last August so I think this is going to be a treat and a continuance of my current comfort reading schedule.

Are you taking part in Austen in August? What book are you looking forward to reading this month?

© Lit Nerd. All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig