In which I review/speculate on/suffer mild anxiety about the books piling up at home.
In this edition:
So, John Waters is a bit of a hero of mine. He’s an eclectic, eccentric and totality delicious artist and filmmaker who has made a living by glorifying American ‘trash’ culture. Drag queens, trailer parks, undesirables, junkies, petty criminals, porn stars, poor musicians, awful artists and other assorted social misfits and urban vulgarities are his stock and trade. I adore him. I’ll also have to tell you more about him sometime. Also, I had no idea this book existed till I saw it in the book shop the other day. It’s about his decision to hitchhike across the States alone as a 66-year-old gay man; his fears, his hopes and then of course the reality. I look forward to savouring it.
I got this after reading one of Brain Picking’s glorious posts. I have been reconnecting with poetry of late – I had always loved verse as a kid and a teen but like everyone, totally left it behind along with most things that are associated with the hideous experience of high school. I wish we had studied this book in high school – mind you, I’m well aware that while I appreciate it now, I may not have back then. Also, it was not published when i was in high school. Anyways, in what is only a very small volume, Oliver goes through and explains poems, their components and the use of rhythm and sound in such a loving way. It is clear that poetry is her everything, and it is always enlightening to read a work of passion. Bonus – I now know what ‘iambic pentameter’ actually means. Amazeballs.
I am about to embark on a new side project (yay for side projects!) that will be photography based. I used to be a prolific photographer, but sort of fell out of practice years ago. This project idea is my way of rekindling my love affair – but I need all the support I can muster. I grabbed this when I saw it in the hopes of some inspiration. And inspiration it gives in bundles. I’ve only just started it, but of course being a photography book, I’ve flicked through and poured over many of the glorious images and photographer profiles it features. With a string of street photography exercises to inspire newbies and old-hands alike, I’m really liking how practical this book is in a non-technical way. It’s focussed on the philosophy and practice of street photography, rather than how impressive your camera is or what lens you are busy using (basically, all the stuff that made me push photography out of life for a good long while). So, looking good so far…
Two of my very good friends and I recently formed a book club. Not just any book club though, we like to refer to the club as ‘FBC’. Feminist Book Club. Our aim is to try and acquaint ourselves with a broader range of feminist writing than just what is available to us through, well, our Facebook feed.
It’s been a tough slog. We started with Lean In (an excellent read but one that left me wondering who would speak for those women who weren’t part of that elite, highly educated, executive slice of the workforce), then tried Thrive (which I couldn’t even finish, it’s repetitive, ra-ra driving me totally insane despite it’s sound and alluring argument) and even gave Fear of Flying a go (totally didn’t finish this one as the racism, self-absorption and psychobabble just made me sigh out loud much too much on public transport). All of these books had their merits but man (ha!) have we been struggling.
Thank Her Holiness, Our Lady Beyonce, that we found this. I’d read a few of Gay’s essays around the place and have always been left wanting more (in a good way). This collection is not the easiest of reads – Gay tackles intense, difficult topics with a razor-sharp intellect and the potency of lived experience. It is revealing and confronting and wonderful. She covers a breadth of issues like race, sex, rape, Scrabble, privilege, film, education, sport, values, fat camp, reading, criminal justice, Sweet Valley High and more. I am about two thirds of the way through and it still feels like a roller coaster. Her insight is both unapologetically political and unapologetically personal. Her arguments are constructed in a way that drills down into our assumptions; she questions context and finds the invisible, or rather visible yet ignored, evidence of our own cultural failings. As an example, the last essay I read on the award-winning film 12 years A Slave was both illuminating, challenging and validating. I nodded my head as she articulated a pestering discomfort I’d had about what is an otherwise exceptional film, and shook my head in concern that such an insightful critique is not more widely known or discussed.
As you can imagine, she cops a lot of flack on Twitter from the Bin Juice Brigade.
I feel a connection to Gay’s writing because I feel that I am too a bad feminist; a woman who struggles to understand why everyone is so confused about equal rights yet finds herself falling victim to the shiny, shiny lure of patriarchal B.S. quite a lot. I know that Roxane Gay has a loyal and growing following. I can only hope more people who could benefit from a different perspective (and that is pretty much all of us) will take the time to read this. And I very, very much look forward to reading more.
What’s on top of your book pile?