I am in between Peggy Orenstein’s generation and her daughter’s. My peer group wasn’t inundated with pre-chewed princess pap in quite the same way girls are now, but we’ve had to work through (or neglect to work through) some pretty hefty entitlement issues and god damn do some of my lady friends love their pink.
Aside from being an easy to read and thoughtful discussion of ultra girly girl culture, the really interesting thing to me about “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” was the way Orenstein admits to herself and her audience that she actually may not have anything figured out. That took some serious balls.
Full disclosure: What initially caught my eye about the book cover was the sparkles.
'There Is No Year' was painful in the same way Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void or Sean Baker's Take Out were painful. I think the stretches of monotony were a storytelling device, a way of fleshing out the environment by show as opposed to tell.
Even though email and social networking and cell phones were frequently mentioned in the story, I kept feeling like they were in the 1950s.
I felt like I know these people, but like I didn’t know them at all, but I know plenty of people like that… who you don’t really ever know because they don’t share anything about themselves, they never discuss things openly, they hoard their secrets like a barrier between themselves and the world.
The book was somewhat difficult to start reading or pick back up, but once under way it was so engrossing that I lost time in it. I nearly missed a subway stop because I was so in the vast world Butler has created. Because it was so absorbing, it didn’t feel like a ton of work to read at the time, but the curious thing about this book is that having finished it other books are easier. It’s like I’ve been bench pressing literary chains with my mind and am now breezing through hauling my usually difficult 50 pound suitcase up the stairs.
'There Is No Year' doesn't make sense.
Mr. Butler, before a reading he gave at McNally Jackson on Monday, seemed to indicate it may not even make sense to him.
The lack of sense is what makes this book such a wonderful world to explore.
Blake, by the way, has a soft hypnotic drawl when he reads, and the cadence of a rapper. If you have the chance to hear him, I’d recommend you take it.
Perhaps you haven’t noticed this, but I like books. I like to read them. I like to turn their pages and feel their weight in my hand and soak up the information they contain with my brain or let them take me on a frivolous and entertaining ride.
Sometimes life gets hectic and I don’t have much time to read. Other times, like yesterday, I feel icky and end up on bed rest and get to do nothing but read which entirely makes up for whatever symptoms have landed me in pillow land.
I’ve been slowly working my way through Geoffrey Miller’s “The Mating Mind” over the past few weeks. It’s a heavy book. There are heavy concepts and words that are probably quite light to a biologist or evolutionary psychologist but for me require lots of thought and looking up things. It contains fascinating ideas like:
"The handicap principle suggests that sexual selection could even have favored a masochistic taste for memorable discomfort, since the ability to survive hardship reveals fitness. Even in the carnage of mechanized warfare or the intellectual bloodbath of an academic job interview, one can always think, "This will make a hell of a story someday.""
and (while discussing the human face):
"The head is a major target of sexual choice in both sexes. It is rich in fitness information because it is such a complicated piece of the body to grow, and so many things can go wrong."
The main goal of “The Mating Mind” is to explain things like art, music, humor and moral codes from an evolutionary standpoint. None of these traits are explainable in the context of Darwinian Natural Selection. I’ve heard numerous men state that the only reason they go out on stage, write a song, or build a company is to get laid. It was really interesting to see a scientific theory elaborating on this concept in less flippant terms.
After that brick of information, Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” (recommended and lended by the gorgeous Ryan Keely - who you should totally investigate via the NSFW hotlink) was a very enjoyable palate cleanser. All of the Babel/Infocalypse stuff was mental a walk in the park, comparatively. Interesting, fun, verrrry cyberpunk. I do like sci-fi/speculative/cyberpunk authors who have the knowledge and education to write convincing scenarios.
Next in the stack is Leonard Shlain’s “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” which so far is coming off as a ‘women are oppressed because ____’ anthem. I might move on to something else for the time being. Has anyone else read it and feel like giving me an opinion?
‘Wetlands' was raw, rough around the edges and rough around the middle too. One of the review quotes on the cover said it makes 'The Vagina Monologues' sound tame, which *is* true but barely hints at the frank and extremely detailed discussion of every secretion the female body has to offer.
If Chad Kultgen impregnated the Vagina Monologues. If Bataille birthed the resulting fetus in a back alley and the woman behind J. T. Leroy came along and drowned the resulting lump of flesh in a giant puddle of ejaculate… that might reach the same levels of literary depravity and filth that Charlotte Roche gleefully rolls around in for two hundred and forty pages.
I’ve never seen a female author write a female protagonist who is so fantastically comfortable with every supposedly disgusting little thing that comes out of her body and mind. If you happen to know of any other works in a similar vein, feel free to send them my way.
Shannon Bell’s 2010 book ”Fast Feminism” had me at the beginning of the second paragraph when she stated that she never writes about anything she hasn’t done. I really admire that desire to authentically experience things before forming and expressing opinions on them, especially coming from someone in academia.
Thirty-seven pages in, I realized that I had seen this woman’s writing before. I’d seen it in “Jane Sexes It Up" at 15 when I was still in the early stages of forming my own view of my self and body, separate from my second-wave feminist mother’s ideas of women and sexuality.
"Yes mom, I’m very happy that you fought for my rights to get an abortion if I need to and have access to various kinds of birth control. But, um, isn’t the point of all that to be able to have sex when I want and with whoever I want? Even if there’s a phallus involved sometimes? Maybe even a flesh and blood one that’s attached to a man?"
A couple of years later, Tony Ward (the man who took the photograph used on the cover of “Jane Sexes It Up”) and I met at a coffee shop in Philadelphia to discuss working together. He showed me some nicely lit photographs of pretty models, I declined saying I wasn’t sure how I felt about posing nude yet. If I’d known he was the person behind the cover of one of the most influential books of my adolescence, I’d have been naked before he could get the lighting gear set up - armpit hair and all.
Here I am, having gotten naked in front of lots of cameras, looking at the last chapter of “Fast Feminism” in which Shannon Bell says that she believes we get to choose our mothers and discusses her own. I don’t know if I chose my mother, but despite our differences over my career I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. She raised me in an environment where I could learn about and do anything I was interested in. Even if what I’m doing now involves lots of high heels and heated debates with her over the exploitation of women.
There’s something very special to me about turning pages, running my hands down a long shelf full of beloved dog eared paperbacks and solid hardcovers, and finding little notes or things shoved in between pages on a second or third reading.
On the other hand the portability of a device and ability to use it in lower lighting does seem very attractive for things like travel or reading in bed.