Tuesday, 26 February 2013

126/111 - Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I had a week of holiday last week and so decided to get something new and shiny to read, of course. The idea was to get something quite easy to read, something perhaps a little trite and trashy, and so I decided to go for this. I first read about this book on an American blog, and I think it's very recently been released in the UK. I think I assumed that it would be similar to Eat Pray Love, however I was so impressed by this, totally blown away.

It's the story of Cheryl, who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail some years after the death of her mother has totally traumatised her. She ends up dropping out of college and cheats on her husband and ends up getting involved in drugs etc. and decides one day pretty much on a whim to do this 100-day long hike as a kind of healing journey, I guess. On the surface of it she initially didn't appeal to me as a person as she sounded a little self-indulgent, and some of the issues in her life were caused be her own actions, however I really quickly grew to like Cheryl and her determination, and I found myself really moved by her story. There were a couple of points in the book that made me tear up, it was so moving, and I was so pleased for her when she made it to the end of her journey successfully.

I guess the parts of her that initially made me uncomfortable were more things that I see in myself and don't particularly like, so some of this was like looking in a slightly uncomfortable mirror. I remember a few summers ago taking a trip to that side of the US with my boyfriend at the time and lacking the resolve to do even some of the day hikes where we were (although in my defence I don't feel great about heights) but I am also a monumentally lazy person, so the idea of walking for 100 days makes me feel tired just thinking about it. Would love to do something similar one day though.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

125/111 - Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti

This week I have a week off work in which I plan to do as little as possible as well as to read some interesting and hopefully uplifting books. This is always a tough time of year for me, so I'm taking a week out to relax, which for me, means spending a fair amount of time with books.

I bought this book a little while ago in the hope that it would provide some insight into the question of having children. I'm getting to an age where I'm starting to see some of my friends beginning to think about having families, and that slightly odd feeling of observing people on Facebook who have already started to do so, which feels strange as they're people I don't know very well.

To begin with, my own position on whether or not to have children is as follows: I'm not sure I want them. I have always seen myself as someone who could take it or leave it when it comes to having children, and I cold picture myself as someone who just never ends up having them. Not because I necessarily hate the idea (although there are definitely aspects of it which make me incredibly uncomfortable) but because it's never really been an inevitability for me. I don't see myself as just 'ending up' with children, and I don't buy into the idea that it's the only end point in life.

However, I'm open to the idea that there may be such a thing as a biological clock and that one day, I might be struck with Baby Rabies, and in a sense, that would be a much simpler decision for me. If I really, desperately wanted children, then great! I'll have them. But I'm not sure that I do want them, and that's cool for now.

This book is an exploration of lots of areas concerning motherhood and childbearing, and is separated into 'Lies' and 'Truth'. Jessica explores things like 'natural' motherhood and breastfeeding, and the way that mothers can be extremely judgemental with themselves and each other when it comes to how to raise your children. I was in particular quite interested in the ideas surrounding identity, and that to be the perfect mother (if there is such a thing) you have to self-sacrifice almost everything about yourself - your time, your body, your work, and frighteningly, your autonomy.

I was also really pleased by the honesty in the book, particularly when it comes to whether having children truly makes you happy, and how boring it actually is. There are obviously women out there who had children with certain expectations, and wish they never had. I would hate to be in that position, which is why this book is so interesting to me - I would rather regret not having children than regret having them.

Bits that made me uncomfortable to think about were the bodily autonomy bits. Pregnant women lose a lot of their rights, as well as having to sacrifice their bodies to pregnancy, which probably sucks. They also become public property, with people touching their bellies and asking after them, or judging them on having some sushi or strong cheese.

I'm also really uncomfortable with the idea of not being able to work, or having to rely on a partner for income if I had kids and stayed at home with them. Jessica does a really good job of taking apart the myth that motherhood is 'the most challenging and rewarding job in the world'. Really? If that's the case, then why aren't more men doing it? It's a really fucking patronising thing to say if you're not willing to do it yourself. I'm not sure if I agree that mother should be paid for raising children, however I consider myself to be quite lucky in that in the UK at least, my rights as a mother would be better than in the US as I have things like maternity leave and childcare.

It's crazy to think that so many people don't even consider whether or not they want children before they have them. I remember reading something online a long time ago which likened it to going to a restaurant and asking for something that's not on the menu. People are so concerned with when and how they're going to do it, do they ever really stop to think about whether they should? Or whether they want to?

Conclusion: still not sure...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

124/111 - No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

I read this book several years ago while I was at university. I remember taking it to a park with me, which I stumbled across by accident on one of my long drives. It was a National Trust park called Sheffield Park Garden, and I used to go there on my own a lot after I discovered it, trying to recreate the long route I had found to get there. It was a huge park with lots of big lakes, and I still probably haven't seen all of it. I remember taking this book with me and taking a seat on a bench and reading some of the stories while I was there.
I decided to re-read it again recently, as when I was putting together my rainbow shelves, the memory of the cover design caught my interest again, and I decided to give it another read through.
I really like this collection, as it's very unusual and quirky, and also pretty sad. A lot of the characters all feel very similar, quite lost and a bit odd, so I guess I can relate to that quite easily as I often feel a bit lost and odd. Some of the stories are funnier than others - I particularly like the Swimming Lessons story. They all feel like they're about quite insignificant moments in your life that are actually much bigger moments than you realise. Makes me feel deep thinking about it.
I like it and I'd like to see more from Miranda July.
In general, I'm not sure how I feel about short fiction. I know some people, like my old boss from Waterstones, love it, however I'm not decided. There is something about it that I do really like, such as how ephemeral it feels, however I do also sometimes feel unsatisfied reading short stories. I have a few other in my collection, so I may try dipping into them now and again.
Next: Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti

Moving house

I haven't had a good sit down to read in AGES, because I've been moving house. Good news is, it's pretty much done now, still need to properly settle in, but this weekend I concentrated on getting some bookshelves up and getting a reading nook.

Two new bookcases from Argos.

Some of my books arranged in rainbow order - it was bound to happen eventually.

Our Ikea lovely comfortable chairs, which I am currently enjoying doing some reading in.

Porthole window, very exciting.