Bitch Doctrine: essays for dissenting adults

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Read 23/11/2017-02/12/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I often used to read Laurie Penny’s articles in New Statesman and the Guardian, partly because I felt that I should because here was a young woman writing about the experience of being female and queer in a patriarchal world with no holds barred, and also partly because her self-absorbed, earnest approach to journalism wound me up in a way I enjoy. (I have a tendency to project the irritation I feel about things that seem beyond my control onto unconnected subjects.) Continue reading

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Reblog: thoughts by Miri on The Age of American Unreason

I’m doing something that I rarely do. I’m reblogging something I’ve just read that is an excellent analysis of why US politics and, in many ways, western democracy in general is in the state it currently is.

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

Miri explores interesting non-fiction and writes thoughtful and thought-provoking analyses of what she’s read. If you’re anything like me and enraged by a gamut of injustices, chances are you’re also something like Miri and should subscribe to her blog.

I’m currently reading Laurie Penny’s Bitch Doctrine (review coming soon), and a lot of the ground Miri covers in this blog post chimes with the things Penny says in her essays.

Let’s hear it for the women who use their reason to question the world around them.

In Cold Blood

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Read 26/09/2017-06/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

As I started this book, it felt like I knew the story already, and yet I didn’t. I had watched the film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, based on his experience writing the book, which has left me with a strange half knowledge.

It took a while for Capote’s writing style to gel for me. I’d come from volume 7 of The Sixth Gun (review to come), and prior to that had read Peter Carey’s memoir Wrong About Japan, both of which were punchy and fast flowing in their own ways. In Cold Blood starts off more melodramatic in tone. It made me think of those true crime TV programmes where re-enactments take place and a man with a sonorous voice intones the story over the top of the action. A bit like Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, for readers in the UK.

As I settled into Capote’s style, though, I found myself gripped by the scenes he was setting. Continue reading

Wrong About Japan

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Read 20/09/2017-22/09/2017

Rating: 4 stars

My husband noticed this on the non-fiction shelves in the library. I like Peter Carey’s novels, and a memoir of how he and his teenage son became captivated by manga and anime and travelled to Tokyo to meet artists and directors in each industry sounded interesting. Continue reading

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

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Read 12/09/2017-17/09/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

It’s a funny old thing, time. Gwen and I have been chatting in the comments over on her blog about how our attitudes to books and their authors change over time, and how where you are in your life can affect how you react to a book, from thinking it’s the best thing ever written to throwing it down in disgust before you’re even half way through.

That’s almost where I am with Bill Bryson. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Read 17/05/2017-18/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This is a very funny book, chaotically and terrifyingly so. I don’t need to tell you what it’s about. You already know what it’s about.

I’ve had my copy for about ten years. It was given to me by a chaotic and terrifying writer that I once knew. I think he was attempting to channel Hunter S Thompson. Sometimes that’s all you can do when you live in darkest South Wales.

I’ve been saving it up for a moment such as the one that hit me this week. I’m calling it existential nihilism, even though that gives more weight to my ‘so what?’ than it deserves. Continue reading

Hidden Figures

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Read 07/04/2017-10/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

What I wanted was for them to have the grand, sweeping narrative that they deserved, the kind of American history that belongs to the Wright Brothers and the astronauts, to Alexander Hamilton and Martin Luther King Jr. Not told as a separate history, but as a part of the story we all know. Not at the margins, but at the very center, the protagonists of the drama. And not just because they are black, or because they are women, but because they are part of the American epic.

So says Margot Lee Shetterly in the prologue to her history of the black female mathematicians working at NASA from the 1940s onwards. Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia. Her father was an engineer at Langley, working for NASA. She grew up among the women who worked alongside her father as human computers. Until a chance remark made by her father on a visit Shetterly made with her husband in 2010, she had no idea about the pioneering work these black women carried out, or about just how many black women worked at NASA. And so began her research into the subject. Continue reading