Monthly Archives: March 2018

Serious Concerns – Wendy Cope

The first few months of this year I took a weekly creative writing class. I loved it and it’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. The general outcome seems to be that I am drawn to writing about kick ass feminst sci fi or hard core feminist horror.  Watch out literary world (jk).

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One week a nice old man gave me Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope to borrow. It was after poetry week when I said I hadn’t really read any poetry, but I was interested in getting into it more.

The poems are funny. Quite dark. Often about relationships, but generally about life.

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I love the few poems that are written in response to her being asked to write a poem for a specific event or programme. e.g. there’s one requested by, but not taken up by, bbc radio. In it she’s really scathing about writing to a specific brief. And another she was asked to write about xmas, which is really funny, but not taken up, and you know exactly why when you read it!

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This collection works brilliantly as an introduction to reading poetry for a complete novice. The language or structure isn’t complicated. They are warm and funny and brilliant. So thank you to the nice man at creative writing class for lending me this book!

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The Circle – Dave Eggers

The Circle is about big corporations and data. Written in 2013, I think it would have been more shocking to read back then. Honestly too much of the events in the book seem like real life now.  It’s still a good read and a big fricken warning about how careless we (mostly) all are with our data and privacy.

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time left in book: 8hrs 10 mins. Yes it’s a big one!

This was a book club read and it was generally enjoyed, though a few people said they enjoyed the film more. I haven’t seen it yet, but will report back when I do. It’s such a rare statement to make about a book and a film, I will have to watch it!

So what is The Circle actually about? Recent graduate Mae Holland gets a very sought after job at a tech company. She loves the company, with all their social perks and on-site amenities. There are social clubs and you are expected to interact with your colleagues on social media as part of your job. How delightful! Clearly it very soon takes a very dark turn. You can predict the rest.

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I will finish this book and I have all the things I need to help. 

Her immediate supervisor was a man named Kevin, who served as the ostensible technology officer at the utility, but who, in a strange twist, happened to know nothing about technology.

We’ve all been there, right?

Also, The Circle gave me this quote:

some terrible sex-porn-witchcraft controversy?

and I’m giving you no context at all for it, but it doesn’t sound so terrible?

The Circle is a good read. It’s nearly 500 pages though, so I might just recommend you watch the film.

Motherhood – Helen Simpson

This Vintage Mini is five short stories, by Helen Simpson, on the theme of motherhood. The stories are beautiful and poetic, and really felt like they exposed some of the realities – both good and bad – of motherhood.

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Lentils and Lilies is told from the perspective of a teenager. Her take on her own mother and the mother she encounters while she is skipping through her sunshine filled, idealistically viewed life is so damning. It brilliantly captures all that horrifies teenagers about adulthood, and being a mother, and me too if I’m honest!

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TIRED LION-TAMERS. I’m dying.

In Cafe Society, two mums try to grab a coffee and a chat with a three and a half year old in tow. They barely have chance to exchange more than a few superficial words. Then they eventually give up and leave. The nightmare of sleeplessness, having given up jobs because the emotional and practical labour of running the household and the family, while also working in professional jobs full time, was too much.

The truly sad thing is we get these insights as things they are thinking to themselves because they don’t get chance, or feel like they are letting themselves down if they vocalise them, to the other woman. They aren’t close friends and so they are extra guarded with each other.

I’m so grateful that I had a group of other mums with babies the same age as mine who I met once a week. Looking back they were a lifeline and I love them for helping me through those fucking awful early days. I don’t make friends easily, so the fact that it was a regular meet up, every week, almost without fail, was essential. I always felt like I could be honest about whatever I was thinking or going through with my babes, and I felt honesty back. I’m definitely honest with other people now with respect to the difficulties of having small children. I don’t think it does anyone any favours to sanitise the experience. It’s ok to hate parts of it and to struggle. It’s bloody hard, and boring. So I’m on a bit of a one woman mission to break this particular taboo, especially with new parents who have just got that glazed, slightly demented, look about them.

So anyway, yes the experience of trying to continue to do normal things while having a demanding, whirlwind, toddler with you. Urgh.

Next is Hay Yeah Right Get A Life: Dorrie. A mum to three young kids, thinks about the lack of time she has for herself. She considers how time for herself is time taken away from the children and how this means she gets loaded with guilt.

I can’t see how the family would work if I let myself start wanting things again, thought Dorrie; give me an inch and I’d run a mile, that’s what I’m afraid of.

Her marriage is unhappy. Her husband is angry with her for losing herself, yet never takes the children on his own to allow her some breathing space. He’s angry that she doesn’t earn money and sees the the time coming where she can work for his business when the youngest starts a few hours at nursery. He doesn’t appreciate what she does and also doesn’t help. It’s so grim. And this one ends on a positive note. Sheeesh. Mega grim.

Heavy Weather is about a lady with a 3 month old and a 2 year old. To cut a longish story short, she’s fucking knackered.

The trouble with prolonged sleep deprivation was that it produced the same coarsening side effects of alcoholism. She was rotten with self-pity, swarming with irritability and despair.

Finally, we have Early One Morning. This one is genuinely quite sweet. Whilst also being about the waves of divorce that hit at different ages of the children! It’s set during a school run with a group of kids around 9/10.

They should make stories like these required reading before people decide to have children. So much reality. Waaaaahhhhh. It’s a brilliant little book and some of the stories will definitely stay with me.

Women and Power: A Manifesto – Mary Beard

A short book about women, the history of misogyny, and how women now are prevented from speaking in public forums by the very structure and roots of our society. It’s a lovely, short, easy, powerful read.

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Based on two talks Beard gave in 2014 and 2017, this classicist links modern phenomena with their roots in the ancient world. We see how ancient imagery is used to try and silence women (Hillary Clinton as Medusa anyone?). She explores how our entire construct of power eliminated women’s voices right from the beginning. She explores how we can trace misogyny back to these ancient times and therefore once we understand where it originates, we can see how we can change things and deal with it.

You can’t easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change the structure.

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Links between Telemachus and Penelope, Miss Triggs, Lavinia, and of course Medusa with online abuse and other grim modern examples of misogyny, especially in the sphere of silencing women speaking publicly, are littered through Women and Power. 

Every time I even think about the title of this book I get Harpy by Petrol Girls in my head. Click the link to be able to listen to it in its full feminist hardcore glory, or if your ears are too sensitive for that, here’s the main part I get stuck on loop in my head! but actually, do listen to it – it’s marvellous.

Petrol Girls – Harpy

Women with power must be shouted down
Women with power burned or drowned
Women should take it and not make a sound

Keep being loud and taking up space women! And read this book. It packs a punch in its 115 pages.

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The Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2018

Ooh I love the Women’s Prize. Last years winner, The Power by Naomi Alderman, was one of my favourite books of last year. (My review is here 🙂 ).

So who has made it onto the 2018 longlist?

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H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
Sight by Jessie Greengrass
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

So pleased to see I’ve already read, and loved, one of them: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (my review). One I have sat waiting to be read – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It sounds right up my street and I’ll have to bump it up the tbr pile.

Of course when I saw this list the other day, I immediately went and requested as  many as possible from NetGalley. So now I also have Sight by Jessie Greengrass, The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal, and Elmet by Fiona Mozley to read too.

I’ll hopefully get through a few of these before the shortlist is announced on 23rd April!

 

All the Beautiful Girls – Elizabeth J. Church

I ended up quite enjoying this book about a girl with a horrendous childhood making her way in the world of 1960s Las Vegas show girls. Although I nearly ditched it when I had to read so much about the horrendous childhood. Just not the sort of thing I like reading at all.

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I realise for the story to do its thing, we needed to have Lily come from a place of horror. Her parents and sister die in a car crash when she is eight years old. She is sent to live with her stern aunt, and paedophile, rapist uncle. He abuses her until she starts her period at twelve years old. It’s so horrible. I was just at the point of giving it one more page, and if there was any more rape descriptions I was giving up. Thank you menstruation!

Lily is a dancer, but of course what she ends up doing is being a showgirl. She’s beautiful, you see! Now here’s where I really quite enjoyed the book. Glamour, booze, gifts, growing up.

I also haven’t yet mentioned one of my favourite aspects of the book, Lily’s friendship with the man who crashed into her family’s car, killing them: the Aviator. It’s a weird, sweet, strange relationship.

If you can stomach the section where her horrible childhood is set up, then want a lovely growing up girls adventure in 1960s showgirl Las Vegas, then this might just be for you!

2018 Reading Goals

Well look what I found languishing in my drafts folder! My reading goals that I thought about and typed up and never posted. So here goes! and because it’s actually already March, I already know I’m not doing so well on some of these. But here they are as written at the very start of the year:

My 2018 goals can be summed up by:

Read what I want. Read diversely.

To expand on this a little bit:

  • Don’t try to plan too far ahead and embrace reading what I feel like reading. So no restrictive reading lists. They don’t work for me. This means I need to be careful with requesting NetGalley books. I try to make sure there’s a good amount of time between dates the books are published, and I must make sure I really want to read it. It’s also helpful to have quite a long time between requesting  book and the date it’s published so I don’t feel pressured to read it when I don’t really feel like it.

 

  • Read diversely. By this I mean read men and women,. Read books written by LGBTQ+ authors, and books with LGBTQ+ characters. Read books by BAME authors. Read books written by authors from different parts of the world. Read more translations. Read more genres. I’m hoping the PopSugar challenge lists will help with some of these goals.

 

  • Read at least 75 books. I read 65 this year. I think I can do better.

 

  • Read books I already own and try not to buy more (though inevitably I will, I will just try and minimise it). Here are the scary stats:
    • unread books on my shelves today( I know this will be too low because a load of my books are still hidden away waiting to go on my shelves after decorating. They are mostly reference books, but there’s bound to be some fiction hidden in there) : 201
    • unread kindle books: 178
    • unlistened to audio books: 11
    • total TBR: 390
  • yes that is an obscene amount of books.

 

  • Read at least one book that’s over 1000 pages. 2666 by Roberto Bolano has been on my bookshelves unread for about ten years. Maybe this year is its year.

 

  • Read some authors I have wanted to read for ages, but haven’t got round to. This could be so many! Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Roberto Bolano, Virginia Woolf, any Bronte.. and so many more.

 

  • Read the Iliad. This is primarily to start helping me with answering quiz questions in an online quiz league I’m in. 😀

 

  • Not strictly a book reading goal, but a related one. I’ve signed up to do a short introductory course in creative writing. I’ve never done anything like this since secondary school – I’ve been all maths and physics in my education after school!

 

That’s all I can think of right now. Think I can manage all of these in 2018!