Currently Reading, an Extract: Straight White Male

“These guys – how did they do it? These supermen – how did they tough it out? Married to the same woman for twenty or thirty years. Lived in the same house. He thought of the last twenty years – the mad blur of property and sex, of packing crates and removal man and postcodes and limbs and anuses and cunt lips pressed hard against his face and women whose names he could not remember screaming his name in hotel rooms and flats. Yeah, he got the fact that you didn’t have to go out every seven years or so and find a woman who basically hated you and buy her a fucking house. But, even so, what did these guys do? Was it that they never had the opportunity? Did Sandra at the office never tug that tie towards the stationary cupboard at the Christmas party, or whatever they did at those things? Dd that redhead at the bar at the conference never say ‘What room are you in?’ Did the girl at that drink after work never smile just a bit too long? Or did all this and more go on and they all said, ‘I’m sorry, I’d love to, but I’m married.’ Did they just stop looking?

But they didn’t, in his experience. By forty they all sat in the bar – at the reunion, or the fishing trip, on the stag night – and said, ‘Christ the arse/the tits/the mouth on that?’ Desire was there all right, but the will was gone. Was the will gone because of the statistically high chances of rejection? Or because of the fear of reprisals – the house, the alimony, the kids and all that? Or was it – and Kennedy came at this odd, alien thought carefully – because of the genuine love of the loved one?”

– Straight White Male by John Niven

What are you currently reading?

Separating the Author from the Text

Attending University was a long-term goal of mine, as soon as I understood what one was I knew I would be going to one. When the time came to pick a degree I think my parents were secretly hoping I would pick something ‘useful’ like Maths, but being the mind dwelling creature that I am I chose the theoretical over the practical – Cultural and Historical Studies was a studious mash-up of Philosophy, History, Cultural Studies and due to the way I took my degree, Literature.

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I love analysing books and while I am not always spectacular at it I find it an interesting aspects of reading.

Which is where loving or loathing a book/author can become problematic; any long-term readers will have noticed that Ender’s Game is one of my favourite books and any awareness of the media at the moment will have let you know the author – Orson Scott Card – is one abhorrent human being.

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Until the production of the film, I had no idea Orson Scott Card was a Homophobe and all around ass-hat. Ender’s Game blew my mind, I loved it, I breathed it in, but I can’t help but wonder what it is teaching me when its author has such extreme views and if it is okay to love a book written by such a man.

Can I love a book and hate the author?

It would be difficult for anyone to argue that there are no anti-homosexual elements in Ender’s Game; for example, there is a strong emphasis on male ‘heterosexual’ power and the weakness of anything that is not. Women are a minority in battle school, any form of emotion is seen as weak and should any emotion be experienced the women will comfort the man – an example of this is Valentine being brought in to support Ender as he faces his most difficult tasks. Here emotion and weakness – femininity – is attributed to being un-heterosexual, thus anything other than heterosexual elements in a male can be seen as homosexual. Valentine is rejected from Battle School due to her compassion, a womanly trait, and Ender – the wildcard – slowly sheds the ‘weaknesses’ that adversely affected his relationship with older brother Peter, to become the champion. Even Peter is not punished for his ruthless ambition, he becomes leader of the free world. Petra, one of the few girls in battle school is identified as having masculine traits – how else would she have got into battle school?

Due to the mostly male cast I would say that it is being gay here that is being attacked, as opposed to Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender – which I am positive Card does not approve of either. As a homophobic man, I would guess that this is the sexuality he finds most threaten to his own.

You could suggest that I am reading into the text, however, I do not see how – as a strongly right-wing individual – Card’s views could not have been layered into his work. Of the people I have interacted with whom have been homophobic or uncomfortable with homosexuality, there is a tendency to strongly enforce or defend gender roles; boys must be sporty, strong protectors and women emotional carers. Messages are not always placed in the text intentionally, it would be impossible for an author to disconnect from their text enough for their subconscious not to imprint on their work.

In conclusion, if I understand all of this, is it then okay to love the book?  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but I can’t say I enjoy the message it is sending out.

What are your thoughts? Is it okay to love a book and hate the author?

Literary Life: August in Review

It seems I spent most of August camped out in my room reading up a storm. Even though it is now Autumn (the best of all the seasons) it still feels like this:

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Beachy Head, East Sussex, UK

Netgalley has been feeding my bookish needs, which probably partly explains why I’ve read so many books this month – not that I’ve stopped buying them!

Currently Reading:

The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis

Unfinished:

None!

Read:

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

Fifty Shades of Feminism

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Being a Rockefeller, Becoming Myself: A Memoir by Eileen Rockefeller

My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation by Molly Haskell

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Enon: A Novel by Paul Harding

Islamophilia by Douglas Murray

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie

Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies by Hadley Freeman

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Poetry Discovered:

Talent by Carol Ann Duffy
My Talk by Glyn Maxwell
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
You by Carol Ann Duffy

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Bookish News/Events/Awesomeness for September:

Books are my Bag is happening on the 14th September. It’s all about supporting your local book shop, so get your book lists ready and get visiting – you’ll even get a nifty tote in return! Events are all over the UK (sadly none in my town, Brighton, but I’m going to visit bookshops anyway!)

Speaking of totes, on my next trip to London I am going to get myself an awesome Daunt canvas bag – just because.

I’m also rather desperate for their paperback mixed subscription – because who wouldn’t want books delivered to you all year!

And for any UK residents, here is a list of all September Literary festivals (not sure why there is a Spanish one listed.)

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How was August for you?