Tuesday, December 6, 2016

As Far As You Can Go-Lesley Glaister

As Far as You Can Go-Lesley Glaister

the facts
satisfaction: side
pages: 327
gender: F
nationality: UK
year: 2004

An English couple answer a newspaper ad and find themselves in the Australian outback.

I don't know. I didn't quite engage with this novel. It's supposed to be a psychological thriller but it was one of those occasions when you're like, are these people stupid? Who thought this could be a good idea?! Like a horror film where you're like OF course, you died, you idiot, you went into the dark room where there was screaming without a weapon.
Problem 1: Answering a newspaper ad to go to a geographically isolated place WITHOUT meeting the only other people there. Of course, a meeting doesn't always raise alarm bells but in this case, due to their first meeting, it would have.
Problem 2: Your relationship is in trouble. Let's go to a place where you can't escape each other and try to "fix" the other person. Never. ever. going. to. work. It's like when a couple first moves in with each other and suddenly end up arguing every day about which way the toilet roll should unroll but instead of being able to go and rant to your friends, you just have...the outback. And, I'm sorry, no one can 'fix' another person if that person doesn't want to be fixed-and it's rare.
So, as a result, the first half of this book felt interminable as Glaister forms the characters in this relationship. Don't get me wrong, the characters are strongly imagined and well developed but the pacing was soooo slow for someone like me who felt like she'd sized up the relationship from the first 20 pages. 50+ pages later, finally, they're realizing that they should be leaving and any suspense for me was gone.
However, what Glaister really does well is the creation of the setting. My god, the outback, the heat, the insects, and the landscape were like their own characters. I'm glad to have read this book for the setting at the very least.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Girls Will be Girls-Emer O'Toole

Girls Will Be Girls-Emer O'Toole

the facts
satisfaction: side/up
pages: 277
gender: F
nationality: Ireland
year: 2015
non fiction-gender studies

Emer O'Toole engages with feminist theory about the performance of gender.

O'Toole covers most of the accustomed bases of feminist theory and makes an entertainingly convincing argument for examining your own life. Why do you, as a woman, do the things you do to be a woman? We, women, are all of us aware of the differences in our lives from those of men. Men shave their faces but nothing else, women may shave everything else. Men don't wear makeup, women may wear 'too much' or 'too little'. What O'Toole does best is asking the reader to think about why. She does so by connecting the dense theory, the abstract and often labyrinth ideas, to her own life. And so we learn of her upbringing in an Irish Catholic family with a strong emphasis on a binary view of life. I enjoyed her exploration of the home-a contentious sphere for feminists- which juxtapositions the teaching of the equal sexes with a practice that highlights inequality. O'Toole writes accessibly-this barely feels non-fiction- and with wry humor. I found myself smiling at her jokes.

What I, however, cannot forgive O'Toole for is her discussion of sexuality. She completely dismisses bisexuality essentially because she doesn't believe in it since it's only a societal construct. There's no real warning before this dismissal-she just kind of launches into it and heavily implies that bisexuality is a performance in of itself. There's a sort of contradiction going on in her thinking-we're free to define ourselves as feminists but in the sphere of sexuality, it's the other person who defines what you are. She has more thinking, more growing to do I guess, which is the theme of the book in a way. After all, she has gone through all these experiments and costumes, talks about her discomfort, but there is still some dissonance going on here. She never really discusses how she learned to feel comfortable in her own skin. Has she? This is kind of what I feel the limits of the performance of gender theory are. If gender is performance, what does that mean for your default performance? Sure it's a societal construct but where is the comfort in that? Can we live our lives without that basic comfort?

I will end with the fact that I was likely not actually the target. My academically gender studies credentials are advanced-born from a women's college education, trans-activism, and a long time interest which had me reading Butler as a teenager...the same time O'Toole is just beginning to "experiment" with what costumes she could change. Thus, I already have a series of critiques I can level against the performance of gender (for instance, this was an entirely cis-centric tome with an inadequate consideration of transgender persons). I tried to put them aside for this review since this book is likely meant for people who are on the fence about feminism or people who have not read any of the actual theory.