Sunday, 24 June 2012

Interlude: A bunch of Feminist Magazines

I've always been pretty interested in Feminism, however I made it one of my resolutions to get more involved in it and continue learning more about it. So, I decided to subscribe to some feminist magazines to open up my horizons. I have since subscribed to Bust, Bitch and Ms. magazines.

I had saved up a bunch of issues to take with me on holiday to read by the pool, and they were pretty enjoyable.

Bitch - this was my favourite out of the magazines, not least because my friends were impressed by the boldness of the title. I even got some of the men reading it, although I'm not sure it was for the right reasons. I think they were a little surprised by the frankness of some of the articles, but it was all pretty good. I really enjoyed the design of the magazine, and I also really liked the range of the articles. Some of them were short and punchy, and there were also longer, more investigative pieces which were also really interesting, and a lot of them covered issues I'd never really thought about before. I'll definitely carry on with this one.

Bust - this was pretty feminist-y, but I guess this was the most mainstream of all the magazines. However, still really enjoyable and it's amazing how refreshing it is to read a magazine that doesn't have shitloads of dieting tips, or advice on how to 'please your man'.

Ms. - this was the most serious of the magazines, and I haven't quite finished reading all the articles yet. Again, it has some really interesting stuff in. However, this magazine is quarterly rather than monthly, and then by the time it actually reaches me from the US, a lot of the issues are things I've already read about. It is also aimed quite heavily at US readers and has a lot of local US issues. I haven't finished reading them yet, so I'll hold off on that conclusion for now.

It's a little sad that you have to go so far out of your way to find something inoffensive for women's magazines, but I'm glad that publications like this exist and I'm happy to subscribe to these so that I have something to read that isn't going to make me feel terrible about myself. I love when that happens.

92/111 - Out of the Ordinary - Jon Ronson

I bought this to take with me on holiday because it was just the sort of light-hearted reading I needed. I really enjoyed The Men Who Stare At Goats and The Psychopath Test, and this was pretty different, but still good.

This book is complied of various columns that Jon has written for various newspapers over the years. The first part of the book is dedicated to what look like diary entries relating mostly to his relationship with his son and his wife. It may have been the wine talking, but I found these really funny. There were some that were really endearing, and others that exposed how neurotic Jon Ronson is (but in a really relatable way, not meant negatively at all). Very funny.

I was reading a couple of reviews of this book and some people had described him as a poor man's Louis Theroux, which I don't think is very fair. I really like Louis Theroux, but I don't think that one is better than the other, I like them both. I also haven't read much of Louis' stuff, mostly only seen him on-screen, whereas I've read but not seen any of Jon's stuff. So yeah, I thought that comparison was a little bit unfair.

Anyway, I really liked it, and it was the only book out of the four I took with me on holiday that I actually finished. I'll definitely be reading the rest of Jon Ronson's at some point.

Next: J-Pod by Douglas Coupland

Thursday, 14 June 2012

91/111 - Bossypants by Tina Fey

I bought this recently because I thought it might be funny to read on holiday, but I didn't get round to it as I was probably too drunk most of the time. In the new flat, I have very little space for books, and this just happened to be one of the books that came along with me.

I don't particularly have any opinions on Tina Fey, and I haven't really seen any of her Saturday Night Live stuff or 30 Rock, but she seems to be pretty cool so I thought I'd give it a try. A couple of years ago I read The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman which was pretty good too. I think I mainly found it interesting to read about women who are in comedy, because people often say that women aren't funny. It's pretty refreshing to read about two women who might not be liked by most people but don't really give a fuck.

I do find that most of the comics I find funny happen to be men, but that could just as much be due to the fact that there aren't really as many female comedians out there. And when they're bad, they're criticised not because they're a bad comic, but because they're a female comic, and therefore all female comics are bad.

Anyway, this was okay for a chortle, and even though it didn't really do much for me, it was more enjoyable than Less Than Zero, which is what I was aiming for. Speaking of which, Bret Easton Ellis has reportedly expressed an interest in directing Fifty Shades of Grey as a movie. So who knows, maybe two pieces of shit will combine to make something awesome. Seems unlikely.

Next: Not sure what to read next. I'm going on holiday again for a few days, so I'll probably take something easy to read, and while I was moving I found a lot of books that I'd quite like to read again, so I might revisit some of those.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

90/111 - Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

I bought this book really recently because I signed up to a book club who are going to be discussing it in July, only I'm not sure I'll be going. I hated this book. This book left me feeling empty inside, which I understand it the point, but it's not clever or meaningful to write about a bunch of over-privileged cunts who don't care about anything and are dead inside.

The narrator, Clay, is back for Christmas in L.A. and everyone around him is so cool and detached and removed from everything. Always on shitloads of drugs. Never feeling anything but there is always some sort of anguish bubbling below the surface. Nothing means anything, nothing is out of bounds or beyond reproach.

I really can't stand this sort of writing (at least Charles Bukowski is funny sometimes). Rich, white kids suffering from rich, white-people problems. So so fucking dull and uninteresting.

I read American Psycho a few years ago and I also found that incredibly dull (makes a much better film), however at least there was some satire in there, too. This book seemed to be about proving that you can have nothing in your life and witness incredibly bleak and terrible events without them affecting you. And what does that prove, or show? Is such a level of detachment really something that's worth aspiring towards?

Nothing wrong with the writing, that was fine. But if I wanted to read about a load of self-involved, self-indulgent fuckwits then I don't have to look much further than beyond my own doorstep. I can do without reading about them on top of it all. And I know what people will say - that I didn't 'get' it, that it's supposed to be about boredom and nothingness and the abyss. Steaming load of crap. Ugh.

Not sure what to read next, but it won't be hard to find something more enjoyable. I can say with certainty that this will be my last Bret Easton Ellis book.

89/111 - Generation A by Douglas Coupland

Phew, it's taken me ages to finish reading this! I started it at the end of my holiday, and I'm about to go on another holiday so there will be some more books being read pretty soon, I hope.

I bought this just before I left Waterstones, I think. I was getting pretty into Douglas Coupland at the time and I still really enjoy reading his books. This was no exception. Although I do wish I'd had a little more time to dedicate to reading it solidly, as I think that would have made it flow a bit better for me.

It's a book set in the near future where bees have become extinct and the world is in a sort of crisis. Seven characters are drawn together as over a period of several months they are each stung by bees. This is such a significant event that they are immediately carted away to secluded locations so that they can be studied, in the hope that a discovery will be made that will bring back the bees from their extinction.

Even though the book was told from the point of view of seven different people, a lot of the time the narratives felt quite similar, which I guess is Douglas Coupland's voice dominating things a bit. But that's okay, he's got a good voice, so I don't mind.

The book had some central themes which I found quite interesting - one was the idea of your life being a story. The idea of a story is very ingrained in the way that we think on a day to day basis - things have a beginning, a middle and an end. In order to explain our lives and to get meaning from our lives, we are all constantly making up stories as we go along. At one point, one of the characters points this out and says that there's no real reason for us to react to our surroundings in the way that we do. For example, I could jump out of my window right now and that would be another part of my story, but because I am the one telling it and constructing it, I have decided to write this instead of any other of the billions of things I could be doing.

One of the scientists takes the group to an island and isolates them, and gets them to invent and tell stories to one another, as its thought that story-telling produces a special kind of protein which would have attracted the bees to this group of people. The stories that they end up telling are often about story-telling and finding meaning in your life through the construction of a story.

This universe also features a drug called Solon, which causes users to become addicted to solitude, and when they go through withdrawal, they resent having to care about or be around other people. It is described as the feeling of becoming lost in a good book, but multiplied by thousands, and past users never get over the craving for that feeling.

I'm a bit ill this weekend, so I can't really articulate why I found these ideas interesting or satisfying, but I did. So I'm going to leave it at that.

Next: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis