Sunday, February 22, 2009

Books Books Books

Hello Bumpidee Readers...

I read so much crap in the past six months that I was kind of embarrassed to even list it here. Then I was like, why am I reading crap? Why not just read better books, and that led me to a kind of reader's block. Let's see the last crappy novel I remember not wanting to post about here was The Secret Life of Bees, which is really just not a good book and I have nothing to say about. I read it because two different people sent it to me in the mail and because I was supposed to see the movie with my grandma and so I figured I might as well read the book first. Well it's very Christian, so I guess that is part of its appeal for some people.

Uh what else? I was reading a lot of books that were slut memoirs, seriously weird genre. Like where the female writer confesses all the bad things she did as a young woman and sort of analyzes it in a moral way that is slightly feminist but more often self-help-y and titillating. I enjoyed reading them because they are so weird and I thought I'd have something smart and analytical to say, but I really ended up just feeling kind of headache-y and gross when I was done, like I had just read a salacious gossip-y Hollywood exposé, except these were by people I have no reason to be interested in. The one I recall best is called Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen, who also wrote Easy, a young adult novel about a girl with a bad reputation that I've been meaning to read. Loose Girl is one of those "poor little rich girl" tales of a party girl of privilege who hates herself. I don't really buy it when she says she regrets all of her sexual exploits, it sounds like she had fun and then regretted it later. Or maybe that she has low self-esteem and didn't know how to have fun. Either way, it's really not that interesting, but I still wanna check out Easy, because I think writing novels about girls getting bad reputations for teenagers to read sounds more compelling. It seems that she may have written Loose Girl as a way to promote her young adult fiction.

I can't remember where my reading took me after that exactly, but I re-read Pride and Prejudice after watching the BBC mini-series and the Hollywood version from 1940 starring Laurence Olivier.

Then watching the Lord Peter Wimsey series got me back into Dorothy Sayers, so I checked out her biography by Barbara Reynolds. It turns out she was a Christian humanist, as well as one of the world's leading Dante scholars and that writing popular detective mysteries was what she did in her spare time. If you read any of her detective novels, I recommend Gaudy Night, starring Harriet Vane. It's a really great mystery, partially because Harriet Vane is such a great female character.

I also read a little bit of Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury by Alison Light, which asks the question--what were the role of servants in Virginia Woolf's life and how does that relate to her as an artist. Hopefully I'll finish ask the question complicates Woolf's feminism--did her female servants have "rooms of their own" for example? Did her feminism reach that far, or was it just for white, upper class/upper middle class women like herself?

I was drawn to this after reading Coco Fusco's A Field Guide for Female Interrogators, which probably deserves it's own is a component of a larger feminist art piece of hers that asks 'what is the role of women in war'? Since Virginia Woolf famously addressed this question in Three Guineas, Fusco frames her book as a letter to Ms. Woolf, getting her up-to-date on how women's role in war has changed in the 21st century, focusing on the role of the female interrogator at Abu Ghraib...if that sounds compelling it really is. Who can pretend that American women are innocent and powerless and that war is waged soley by men in light of their participation in the "war on terror"? Fusco argues compellingly that we can't and that in fact to do so is to fail to explore how gender/power/nation intersect and function at the level of international affairs. She's basically asking the same questions feminist theorist Cynthia Enloe asks, but from the point of view of a performance artist who is familiar with literary criticism. Her question resonates and explores what it means to be female and how systems of power operate in the 21st century.

Last night I started reading Straight from the Source by Kim Osorio, a music journalist who used to be editor-in-chief of The Source and famously sued for sexual harassment. So far it's a compelling tale of a woman inside the Hip Hop side of the music business who demands to be treated as an equal and hang out on her own terms. As with any male-dominated music scene, this is a struggle for dignity and respect. She wants to be taken seriously but she also likes to have fun. It starts out where she already has a "bad reputation" and then back tracks to explore, from her point of view, what that really means. There's also a lot of inside stories about famous Hip Hop battles between late 90's/early 00's NYC artists, so it's pretty entertaining as a music book as well.

There's more....expect reviews of The Cramps: A Short History of Rock'n'Roll Psychosis by Dick Porter soonish.


a.mcque said...

thanks for this break-down.

this blog is a refreshing. it's too easy for me to subsist amongst meaningless snip-its found in everyday media sources. i default to reading things that don't require sustained attention or commitment. (yikes!) so, it's motivational to find reading prized here as an engaging and enriching activity.

Sarah U. said...

ha ha! The Secret Life of Bees IS awful! I went through a period of time a few summers ago where I only read what was available on the 'modern fiction' shelf at the Shelton book-thrift-store. It was kind of like russian book roulette. That one stood out as one of the worst stinkers!! and then they made a movie and showed it at OFS.. man.

Tobi Vail said...

I finished Straight From the Source last night and highly recommend it