hello readers...I am going to try and be better about updating the bumpidee reader in 2011, I read a lot last year that I didn't review here and I need to stop doing that! I often don't read a whole book and am always reading more than 5 books at once...maybe I have A.D.D., maybe I should read a book about it! or A.D.H.D. or whatever it is...but guess what? NO EXCUSES!
here's a short list of stuff I'm reading now, for my obligatory january post:
culture clash: dread meets punk rockers by don letts...don letts hung out with the clash, managed the slits, djed punk shows, makes films, was in big audio dynamite and was a part of the kings rd proto-punk anti-fashion scene...this is a great book, read it if you are interested in cultural history, racism, punk, reggae, post-colonial london or the politics of style.
a tale of two cities by charles dickens. started this before xmas because of oprah (for real) but also because I'm about to go to london and paris. i read this book in 9th grade, but it's not my favorite dickens, it's got less humor and more streamlined storytelling. it's reminding me a little bit of nathaniel hawthorne, who I'm not super into...it's good though, gotta hurry up and finish so I can move on to great expectations...I read the first half really fast and then got interrupted by the holidays and then chaos at work aka inventory...so this is what I'll be reading for the next few days...I am realizing all my ideas about the french revolution come from this book, so that needs to change, but it's a vivid, fast-paced class-struggle-themed political drama/romance...on the side I am reading a book by peter ackroid about c.d. and also reading a little about him in some london travel books.
at one point I was going to london a lot and got really obsessed with peter ackroyd in the way you do when all these coincidences start happening that seem to connect with the book you are reading and things get weird. actually the last time this happened I was reading a dorothy sayers mystery on tour and stayed the night at my friends parents house. we arrived at night via amsterdam I fell asleep reading about a murder that took place in epping forest, which I thought was in london. over breakfast I asked "where's epping forest" and the people we were staying with informed me that we were in epping forest and in fact it was across the street from their house. I'm sure if you live in london (or new york or l.a.) you are used to stuff like this happening, but nothing ever takes place in olympia..so this is something that is really cool about travelling, getting all caught up in the literary landscape and history of a place, uncovering multiple layers of narratives embedded in the geography of a city.
king kong theory by virginie despentes...I asked for and got this book for xmas, since kanako said she might start a book club. I read the first and last chapter and skimmed the rest. that's usually what I do with theory, a habit from school, where you try to figure out what the thesis is and evaluate whether or not it's argued coherently. so far it's more poetic than I expected and rebellious in an in-yr-face punk style, which is rare these days. in that sense it reminds me of s.c.u.m. manifesto by valarie solanis, which I'm not a big fan of although I recognize its historical impact was major --it helped inspire the women's liberation movement for example--but I never got totally into the poetry or rhetoric of solanis like some of my friends did.
I don't know too much about virginie despentes other than that she is a filmmaker. I've heard her compared to catherine breillat. I know some people think her movies reinforce patriarchy in their depiction of violence against women, even though that is not her intent. she's provocative and controversial and seems to be more of an artist than anything. she's interested in power...the weak and the strong...she evokes some of nietzsche's ideas in the genealogy of morals/beyond good and evil... also: lydia lunch helped translate this book.
I'd like to read some contemporary feminist criticism of king kong theory to see how people have reacted to her work. there seem to be some possible limitations here repeated from early 'radical feminism'...radical feminism in the sense of feminists who believe that gender oppression is primary and trumps class or race...that despentes has a class analysis and talks about economics and capitalism is relevant here, but so did many "radical feminists" and as invigorating and influential as a lot of those early texts are, they are limited in scope and have been widely critiqued. I'm not saying king kong theory is necessarily fucked up in the same ways, just that I'm questioning a lot of her claims and some of my thought process is the same as what happens when I read a lot of what is known as radical feminism from the late 60's/early 70's...I am questioning a lot of her generalizations and broad sweeping statements and wishing for more specificity.
these are my initial impressions, which will probably change as I read more. I want to finish this before february so I might actually go ahead and read it this week...but maybe that is just wishful thinking...so far I'm not super into it, but I can see how it might be totally inspiring if you read it in the right time and place. it's got a lot of anger and vision to it. it's cool to hear someone say "fuck you, this world is totally fucked but I am not". it's a bold thing to say and something that women need to hear. there is a lot of resistance and courage in this work. it's visceral and descriptive.
a strange stirring: the feminine mystique and american women at the dawn of the 1960's by stephanie coontz...i got a review copy of this in the mail this week and have been reading it today...it's excellent....read johanna fateman's review here...I am forcing myself to put it down until next month...if anyone would like to read this book and meet up to discuss it I would be totally into that, so let me know! it's a nuanced, social history of betty friedan's the feminine mystique, but it doesn't seem to be just for theory-nerds or womens studies majors; this book is for anyone interested in having a clear understanding of post-war 20th century American history.
coontz has a race and class analysis of the feminine mystique , but persuasively argues that it is worth a deeper look, not a quick dismissal. I read the feminine mystique when I was 18. I wasn't a 50's housewife or mom, I was a teenage girl in a band in a male-dominated punk scene struggling not to be defined as "someone's girlfriend", and it resonated with me at the time. I look forward to reconsidering it in its social context.
other than this, I'm reading a lot of travel books about london and paris but that will soon stop and I will be there! I think I'm going to have to return everything else to the library and save it for another rainy day. I'm sure there are plenty to look forward to.
what should I read when I'm on my trip? that's the real question!