This was my first experience reading Kate Bornstein though I’d heard about her (at length) from a friend who enjoys her work. I had also listened to hThis was my first experience reading Kate Bornstein though I’d heard about her (at length) from a friend who enjoys her work. I had also listened to her interview on the Radical Guy Podcast (a great podcast on transgender issues, very informative, you should check it out by the way). So I was familiar with her overall message and her direct and accessible manner of presenting it.
Hello Cruel World is directed at teens and so I take it, Bornstein did not approach all the issues she usually addresses and in all their complexity.
The first part of the book in which she talks about bullies, being an outsider for whatever reason (gender, race, religion, age, etc.) constitute a nice introduction to all these postmodern notions for teenagers or for anyone of any age who is new to all this. However, I could never quite manage to take the second part of the book, in which she details all of the 101 alternatives to suicide, seriously.
Maybe it’s because I’ve felt miserable for being an outsider but I never seriously considered suicide. I may be mistaken, but I really don’t think that if your mind is set on killing yourself, reading this book will actually prevent you from doing it. In that sense, I think the title and the aim of the book are slightly off. I think this would make for a great introduction to these issues, heck every teen should read this, but I’m not sure that the general purpose was nailed.
Nevertheless, I like Bornstein’s style. Someone who can tell you to play nice with other children all the while advocating scarification and drug use isn’t just anybody (I’m simplifying things here, Bornstein doesn’t just tell kids straight out to do drugs, just go read the book, you’ll see). Bornstein has managed to truly rid herself of all these preconceived notions society forces upon us every single minute of every single day. Her analyses are disarmingly simple and logic for that reason.
Overall, interesting because it is pretty accessible but I don’t think it successfully carries out its initial purpose. Recommended, not to those who feel like ending their lives, but rather to those who are looking for an entertaining introduction to issues of gender, race, or anything else that can make you an outsider. ...more
This is an enjoying little guide describing the various figures and portrayal of fairies. It's smartly constructed in a way that you don't have to reaThis is an enjoying little guide describing the various figures and portrayal of fairies. It's smartly constructed in a way that you don't have to read the entire book in one go. If you'd rather go through it in a chronological order, you may but you can also read it by theme or subject and follow the many references that link one chapter to another. More than just a book on the depiction of fairies throughout the ages in literature, poetry, painting, etc. it's also a very interesting study of the portrayal of women as it cleverly links the two subjects. Highly recommended to those who have an interest in gender studies and fantasy. ...more
Highly recommended book to all those interested in philosophy but who don't know where to start. The author makes a point at being clear and accessiblHighly recommended book to all those interested in philosophy but who don't know where to start. The author makes a point at being clear and accessible. All the difficult and complex concepts are explained and detailed in simple enough language. The book is intended as an introduction to philosophy for the non-initiated. Philosophers and their theories are dealt with in chronological order and each chapter is ended by a "What to read from this author first?" and a "Further reading" section which gives the reader the opportunity to go further. This is definitely the book I needed to get back on track philosophy-wise! ...more
This is again a book I picked up at the agency. I wasn't sure what to expect, I wasn't even sure whether it was fiction or non fiction but, being theThis is again a book I picked up at the agency. I wasn't sure what to expect, I wasn't even sure whether it was fiction or non fiction but, being the arthurian mythology lover that I am, I couldn't let this book pass by without at least giving it a look. Turns out it's non fiction and I did more than simply giving it a look. I read the whole thing.
This book did more than simply entertain my fascination about Merlin or Arthur. There's more in there than a mere retelling of all the myths and literature about those famous characters. It starts from there but it also deconstructs the various existing narratives about Merlin and Arthur, gives them a context and really tries to unearth the truth behind the lies.
If you go to the amazon page, you'll see that a lot of people are not too happy with Ardrey's new interpretation of history. For starters, according to Ardrey, Merlin and Arthur were Scotsmen (not Welsh, not English) and lived during the late sixth century. They were also men of the old way celtic ways and so they fought the Angles and the Saxons but they also fought the Christians and that explains the reasons why Merlin was so often portrayed as a madman or a demon and Arthur preoccupied by the quest for Graal.
Ardrey sheds light on the old ways, the way sexuality, homosexuality and even tranvestism were perceived. Women were not seen as the creatures of temptation and deception that Christianity claimed them to be. It's fascinating to see and realize how much Christianity changed everything and, most often than not, for the worse. When you look at it, the reason why Christianity was embraced by most sovereigns (including King of Francs, Clovis) is because it completely squashed individuality, marginality and replaced it with blind obediance (I'm not setting on an anti-Christian quest here, I'm just saying that at the time, you weren't really asked whether you believed in God, you were forced to). People of the old ways who favored discussions, arguments and couldn't agree on anything didn't really stand of chance. When you look at it, living conditions during the old ways were much more in accordance with nature and human nature in general.
This really struck a chord because I'm all about alternative models of society. I can't understand how we came to be as close-minded as we are and this helped me understand. I can't figure out why we ever thought that spending most of your life working and not with your loved one could ever be a good thing. Society as it is doesn't give you time to develop and grow as an individual and why should it? It's far more content with letting you become a sheep whose only source of information is TV propaganda and is unable to think for itself. Bitter, much? Just a bit... back to the book.
I understand writers who say they find more inspiration in non fiction than in fiction and more essentially history books. Whether Finding Merlin is historically accurate I don't know and quite frankly I don't care. The research and the methodology appeared solid enough for me but hey, I'm no sixth century expert. I know this book dug up some amazing characters for me, namely Languoreth, Merlin's twin sister who was also Queen of Scotland (married to a possibly gay king), played a huge part in the country's history and was contemporary to the greatest figures of the period (Arthur, Merlin, Mordred, Mungo, etc.). There's story to be told here. It tells a lot about Christianity when such a great and powerful woman is simply remembered as an adulteress.
A highly recommended read for both amateurs of arthurian myths and history in general. Ardrey has done a considerable amount of research and crosses results in various fields of study including geography, linguistics and of course, history.
Finding Arthur: The Once and Future King came out in April 2009. Finding Camelot is planned though no release date is available yet. I'm eager to read both.
In Black Milk, Elif Shafak tells her readers about her postpartum depression following the birth of her first child. I think it to be a very sensitiveIn Black Milk, Elif Shafak tells her readers about her postpartum depression following the birth of her first child. I think it to be a very sensitive subject to approach. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to open up and tell your insecurities about being a mother to the rest of the world. Especially, when most of the world still assumes that if you are a woman, you will be a mother at some point. That is after all what you were made for, weren't you? Whoever said "one is not born a woman, one becomes one" really didn't what they were was talking about!
But Black Milk is not just an intimate account of the author's experience before, during and after her pregnancy, it's also a wonderful insight into the lives of female writers throughout the ages and how, each in their own way, tried to resolve this dilemma posed by motherhood. In Black Milk, you will read about the lives and works of Sylvia Plath, Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Ayn Rand, Anais Rand, Doris Lessing, Lou Andreas Salomé, Rebecca West, Audre Lorde, Sandra Cisneros, George Eliot, Toshiko Tamura, Yuko Tsushima, Carson McCullers, to quote but a few. In that aspect, I found the book to be a great introduction to feminist criticism and literature. I've compiled quite a list of female writers that I need to get to. Elif Shafak interweaves her personal experience with that of these writers of the past and present to try and comprehend the notions of womanhood, motherhood and how they can be balanced with the life of a writer. I'm no writer, but I know these questions hit home and so, her approach has more to do with personal space and the need to continuously grow as a human being, than simply the activity of writing.
All mothers will at least agree on this, having a child changes everything, for better or for worse. And so, at some point in your life, are you supposed to simply stop being you to become a mother, entirely dedicated to childrearing? Can you ever get back what you lost (I'm aware that motherhood is not without its rewards, but come on, you have to at least sometimes reflect nostalgically on the moments when you could sleep late and step out of the house on a whim with nothing but your purse). How do you balance the needs of a little one, entirely dependent on you, with your own needs? And does the fact that I'm worrying about this means that I will be a bad mother? These are questions I've been asking myself for quite some time and even more so now that most of my friends are getting married and having children of their own and I don't feel ready for that. And it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one!
I was amazed at the extent to which I could relate to Elif Shafak's experience. It's true that, at first glance, apart from being born in the same city 14 years apart and having traveled quite a bit from an early age, our lives don't have much in common. And yet, I could completely relate. I've always been one who enjoyed solitude and never get bored when I'm left to my own devices. I think it's a good thing my parents had a second child after me, otherwise I fear I might have felt even more alien than I do now! I'm too often caught up in my own little world and never seem to be on the same page as everyone else. One has to be very precise and specific when addressing me, if there's any ambiguity, consequences may be tragic. For that reason, I'm really bad at getting jokes. When everyone will understand Meaning A and see that there's also a Meaning B which makes the joke a joke, I will find a Meaning C without having understood A or B. Yes, it's that bad.
Dating and living with someone that's very practical, down-to-earth and logical in everything that he does (my complete opposite) has been very enlightening in that respect. And it's the source of daily miscommunication and misunderstandings that while most of the time are funny, can also offend or hurt people when I don't really mean to. In brief, I am socially retarded! How can I ever possibly be a good mother?! I sincerely fear for the child. And to get back to Black Milk, it's something Elif Shafak asked herself and part of the reason behind her postpartum depression was because she didn't feel that she would be up to the task. She feared that she would lose herself, her writing, her career, her intellect and not even manage to be a good mother in return.
One thing that bewilders me in our society is how when you are young, people encourage you to complete long studies, during which you read in vast quantities, discuss, debate and write about a variety of issues, only to find a job that is mostly admin and repetitive (as most jobs are) and expect you to be happy about i!. I stayed in university for seven years and while I wasn't quite sure why I was there the first three, my master's degree changed everything. It gave me a chance to formulate questions about identity, race and gender that I had carried with me for years but didn't have the tools to express. I know a lot of people remember their university years as parties and getting pissed, I did do that, but it also felt like my brain was buzzing, like I was being intellectually challenged on a daily basis, because I had the time and luxury to think. Let's face it, when you come home from work, you're not going to sit down and read philosophy (well at least my brain can't process much at the end of the day!). You merely switch on your TV and let others do the thinking for you.
It's sad to realize at 25 that your best days are behind you and that you will never have that freedom of thought back. It's simply not compatible with society as it is. I've been thinking that working part-time is probably more suited to my personal needs, but besides the financial impossibility of that, there's also the pressure that I need to have a career and that working part-time will leave me an assistant ten years from now! Imagine, adding a child into the mix! When will I find the time to read, blog, think and live inside my little bubble? (But then, ten years ago if you'd told me that I would be in a stable relationship and sharing a flat with roommates, I wouldn't have believed you!)
If Elif Shafak seems to have resolved these issues, I've yet to. It's fascinating to see the author's fragmented selves argue and lash at one another and finally come to some sort of a peaceful understanding, at least for a little while. I know this is a bit of a weird review, it's a very subjective and personal reaction to this book, but that's what it triggered in me. It does not read like non-fiction at all. It's both a powerful and emotional account of a woman's journey into motherhood and a writer's historical analysis of the lives of female writers of the past. I can't recommend it enough. ...more