This was like if Hannah Montana tried to write an erotica novel.
The popularity of this book makes me need to move t...moreThis was like reading a jackhammer.
This was like if Hannah Montana tried to write an erotica novel.
The popularity of this book makes me need to move to a different planet. I am making the assumption that it comes from people not actually liking to read, but liking to have their self-destructive cultural values reinforced. Girls don’t like to eat. If you do whatever he says, he’ll turn into a handsome prince. It’s not his fault he’s abusing you, it’s only because mommy was mean. To have good sex, a girl has to start out not wanting it. Women have to teach men how to be human.
If that’s not what it is, then maybe this book is an outline of a fairy tale and the sex scenes are what people are really looking at. Poor girl is asleep; rich prince is an asshole; they kiss and it wakes her up and turns him nice. We’re so used to the story that we don't need to hear any actual story again, but a shorthand is enough to awaken all of the comforting memories of being taught that if we stay with our abuser, he will change. It’s like this Jack Handy Deep Thought: “I remember the first time I ever saw a shooting star I said, ‘What the hell is that?’ But nowadays when I see one I just say, ‘What is that?’ I leave off the ‘hell’ part. Maybe when I'm old I'll just say, ‘Whazzit?’” Fifty Shades of Grey is the “Whazzit?” in a long line of stories about girls learning to be brainless to please their abusers.
So, maybe the Whazzit story has become so common that it is a neutral color and a reader who enjoyed this book would really be focusing on the sex scenes. But, then, is the sex really worth focusing on here? It uses the annoying euphemisms of typical romance novels and still manages to be even more prudish than usual about descriptions. I hate the “apex of my thighs” business, but that’s common enough. But, “he touched me There”??? That is just dumb. Another reader pointed out to me that if you search for the word "cock" in this book, it is never used to refer to a penis, but used about forty times to describe someone "cocking" their heads. It is used so much, and so oddly, that Ana even comments on all the head cocking that goes on. Not a super sexy use of a cock.
Also, the sex scenes are very logistically difficult to follow, which does not make for hotness in my book. I had no idea what happened during the one with the plastic tie. She somehow hooked her wrists on a bed post? Was she suspended away from the bed post? So confused. But, the weirdest one to me was the first bathtub scene. So, they’re in the bathtub, and she gives him the A+ blowjob, wherein we learn that she has no gag reflex. But . . . how much water was in the bathtub? How did this actually happen? Did they just have a couple of inches of water in the tub? That doesn’t sound very relaxing. If they had a normal amount of water, did she have to do an underwater bj? Did he have to float while she gave him the bj? Did he sit on the side of the tub??? If I don’t even know what’s going on, how am I supposed to consider whether it’s hot or not?
Even aside from being confused by the sex scenes, for me, most of this story was strikingly repelling. And I’m talking, like, I think even Pleasuring the Pirate was hotter. I imagine this can’t be true, but it’s possible that this book hits every turn off for me:
(1) “Baby.” Don’t ever call me a baby, unless I am actually being a baby. Also, never say “laters” before you say “baby.” The words “laters” and “baby” should never be used individually, and certainly not in the same sentence. Also, never say that like a million times and then discuss how original it is to say it. That makes me puke.
(2) Stick insects. Christian Grey appears to be some sort of stick insect with freakishly long tentacle fingers. I am not attracted to stick insects.
(3) Contracts. Not hot.
(4) Bossiness. I loathe bossiness. Why can’t people just do what they want to do, and also avoid being jerks? Why push everyone around? Unattractive.
(4) Boring snobbery. I just can’t abide it. It makes my skin crawl. If you want to be a snob, be a snob about something interesting, not wine and classical music and cars. Be a snob about stage makeup or teacups, or something. I don't know what. Be a snob about your own thing. Why is it cool to be a snob about boring things and nerdy to be a snob about something different? Wine/opera/cars snobbery is so expected. Plus, wine snobbery is impossible to listen to. I like wine, don’t get me wrong, but when people turn their nose up and start to talk vintages in a fake British accent, it is obnoxiously ridiculous. This didn’t actually do that, I imagine because James might ultimately know very little about wine, but it gestured at it as though she wished she could talk bouquets and oaks and vintages.
Those are the turn offs I can think of now, but I’m sure there are more. Oh, sitting in a bathtub of menstrual blood is, it turns out, a turn off for me. I knew about the tampon scene, and whipping a tampon out to have sex does not freak me out the way it seems to freak some people. One of my friends got totally freaked out by a part where something similar (though more clearly and eloquently, and also maybe a little more creepily, described) happens in The English Patient, and I remember finding it a little haunting and creepy, but sort of beautiful, there. BUT THEN, in Fifty Shades, SHE DOESN’T PUT A TAMPON BACK IN!! And they go and hang out in the bathtub for a little while. So, that’s disgusting and unnecessary. I am not in favor of hanging out in pools of things that come out of my body. Turn off.
Oh, seeing life through the POV of an anorexic – turn off.
Locality annoyance: say, “I-5.” “The Interstate 5”? Please.
I’m not even going to talk about the subconscious and inner goddess because that is just facially crazy talk. And annoying.
Setting aside all of the distracting writing and the way my personal lady parts shrivel up and hide at all the details of this story, it really is the fact the relationship here that is the worst thing. People have talked this to death, but much of the sex and violence Ana experiences are sex and violence she acquiesces to because she’s too scared to lose a boy, not sex and violence she asks for because she wants them. That is very, very annoying to read about. It’s like listening to a nauseatingly long restraining order hearing while knowing the whole time that it won’t be granted. If you want to sacrifice your life with the hope that a man will change, it’s your life. But, don’t whine to me about your stupid choices.
This was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to w...moreThis was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to work in the morning, and I’m pretty sure I was waking up whole neighborhoods with my loud, “UGGGGHHHHHHH”s because I could not refrain from reacting to what a bitch this book is. This book is such a little bitch. It is not SO bad to start out with, just your normal Anita Blake bitchiness, like, “girls shouldn’t wear pink; girls shouldn’t shop; girls shouldn’t be feminine; girls shouldn’t like boys.” And then the boys like her sooooo much because she is such an asshole. So, don’t worry, slatherings of male approval if you don’t wear pink.
OH MY GOD. UGGGGGHHHHH.
And THEN, after you trudge through Anita’s complete lack of personality and LAME sense of humor, why not throw on some racism, homophobia, and a huge helping of ableism? WHY THE FUCK NOT?? UGGGHHH. I want to punch this book in its smug little curly-haired kisser. It makes me figuratively puke.
According to people who have read beyond this book, at some point, Anita starts having sex with random monsters, which . . . whatever. I don’t even care about that because she is so obnoxiously prudish in these first two books. And, the thing is, if you don’t want to have sex with a vampire, more power to ya girl. But THEN the simpering self-congratulation about it. It makes me crazy. You suck so much, Anita Blake. You are everything wrong about anything to do with gender.
I figure there are numerous ways women can react to sexism when they realize it is there, so I’ve made a little chart to illustrate my thoughts on the matter:
As you can see, in my mind, all choices except doing whatever the fuck you want lead to a woman’s life being basically sacrificed to sexism. And this probably works the same with masculinity, too, obvs. I feel like I've forgotten another manifestation of women accepting sexism that looks almost like feminism, but I can't think what it is. And Anita Blake, all through this stupid book, is calling herself a feminist. You know she's a feminist because all the boys think she a spunky little hottie. Puke. This fake bullshit is such an easy justification for people saying they aren't feminists. But, how can you say anything is feminist that hates women and only seeks male approval? Puke.
On the one hand, I am so grateful to the women who came before me and forced people to recognize their skills and abilities so that hopefully in the future this stupid conversation will never even happen. So grateful. On the other hand, I think it is disgusting that the lives of capable women are sacrifices to either some kind of awkward attempt to be men or to a fight for the mere survival of girls because they are girls. I would consider someone like Lisbeth Salander an example of a woman who is painful to read about because her life is totally sacrifice to the mere survival of women. I don't think that's bad on Lisbeth's part, just depressing. I would consider Anita Blake a grotesque caricature of a woman trying to prove she is a man. Ugh. So uncomfortable to watch and annoying to hear about. Dude, just let girls wear pink if they want to wear pink. Pink is just a color, so dislike it if you want; but, also, pink is our childhood. And girlhood is not bad, so to the extent pink symbolizes women at our most innocently feminine, it pains me to hear women criticize it with the weight of rejecting their own innocent femininity. Again, like or dislike pink. Whatever you want. But, there is nothing noble or professional about hating the decorations of girlhood.
Aside from that, oh my god, the ableism in this book is absolutely disgusting. There is this whole section about a prostitute in a wheelchair, and Anita is like, “OH MY! KINKY! That is disgusting that anyone would want to have sex with a woman in a wheelchair!” No, you are disgusting, Anita Blake.
This is totally just a personal pet peeve, but it also really, really annoyed me the way Hamilton imagined being hardened to crime. Anita is hardened to crime here, so that means that she tosses around body parts at a crime scene and dares police officers not to puke in a room where the carpet is soaked in blood.
(Sidebar: it only really bothers her when she sees the dead bodies of children. Which, okay, I agree that it is, for whatever reason, exponentially more disturbing to hear about violence to children than adults. In a room soaked in blood, however, it strikes me as weird that she would not be bothered at all by a police officer jiggling a boob attached to a bloody rib cage, but a child’s hand would make her swoon.)
I have been privy to some pretty hilarious I-work-in-the-criminal-justice-system jokes lately, and, here, Hamilton did not even come close to what those sound like. Because they are only funny if they are respectful, if they have some kind of hope that some good will come of all of the criminal justice bullshit. This was so disrespectful. Not even close to funny. This link is totally NSFW, but it is How You Do criminal justice system investigation comedy. Hamilton's jokes are stupid, and her protagonist is stupider, and her snotty attitude about everyone who isn’t a 5’3”, 107 lb., curly-haired sprite is stupidest. Gross. UGGGHHHH. I hate you, book.
The audio reader was still good, though. I don't know how she managed reading this whole series. Voice of steel. Ugh, puke again on behalf of the poor reader.(less)
Culture imposes on women constant indoctrination of the idea that our vaginas should make us small, weak, and incapable of caring for ourselves or oth...moreCulture imposes on women constant indoctrination of the idea that our vaginas should make us small, weak, and incapable of caring for ourselves or others.
"A woman could obviously never be a fire fighter, for example." "We couldn't send a woman to do that military job because what if she got her period? She couldn't take a week off when she's there!" "There are just some days in the month when a woman diplomat wouldn't be able to do her job." "I wouldn't watch women's sports because women aren't as strong as men, but I guess the clothes are hot." "But, if we hire her, she'll probably want more time off because she has a kid, so she won't be able to do her job." "Sure one 'woman' did that, but she isn't like real women, and she's probably a lesbian."
It is easy to internalize that thinking, even though it obviously makes very little sense. Plenty of men are short and women are tall. Plenty of women are athletic and men sedentary. Gender has very little to do with physical strength, abilities, or athleticism. And, of course, plenty of men experience indoctrination that they are weak or lazy, and plenty of women, thankfully, live in families that undermine these stereotypes, so I'm not talking in specifics here. What I'm talking about is media and culture and the gendered expectations they impose as a sort of zeitgeist based in gender. That spirit is still that femininity is weak and masculinity is strong, and even where we see it making no sense, it is easier said than done to untangle right from wrong.
This second installment of the adventures of Lisbeth Salander looks very academically at appearances in basically the same manner as Girl With the Dragon Tattoo analyzed consent. It has Lisbeth with dark hair and light, tattoos and implants. It sizes her, the smallest of small girls, up against the most giant of giant men. It is also clever, in the same academic way that GWTDT was with consent, in easing the reader into comparisons and becoming more extreme, developing the idea to its furthest, as the book goes on. The boxer takes on the giant; Lisbeth takes on the douchey biker: Larssen eases us into the comparison of sizes and appearances. And the idea is this: appearance and size do not dictate our successes and failures; they should not dictate who we are.
I think the idea of Lisbeth getting implants early on in the book is interesting. The feel of the way it plays out with her seems . . . off, but I still can appreciate a sort of contrast between my instinctive reaction to Lisbeth altering her body with tattoos to my reaction to her altering her body with implants. On the one hand, I do think my aversion to the idea of implants is valid because of all of the women I’ve known whose implants have become infected or calcified. It’s just a bad health decision in most cases, in my opinion, in a way that I don’t think tattoos are unhealthy as a rule. On the other hand, I can see how altering your own body, in any way, can be experimental and interesting and give a sense of ownership. So, to the extent I start to judge the choice to get implants as succumbing to an oppressive social idea of women’s bodies, and getting tattoos as valid and empowering, I don’t think I’m being entirely fair. I am cool with a woman doing what she wants with her body, and judging a woman based on plastic surgery ultimately seems as dumb to me as judging her based on her tattoos.
Still, it seems unlikely to me that a woman who had a bad day would run herself a Jacuzzi bath and sink to the bottom of it, pinching her nipples really hard, even if she had just gotten a boob job she was super excited about. That seemed weird. It also seemed weirdly simplistic to me to describe how pleased Lisbeth was with her implants and how they made her feel attractive. I don’t dispute the idea that implants could make a woman feel attractive, but that seems like a shallow emotion to describe compared to other, underlying feelings that go along with it. Maybe it is not true for every woman, but when I drastically change my appearance to look more like a magazine and get a lot of positive feedback for it, there is always a feeling of betrayal I have that goes deeper than the flattery. I look more like a doll, and what people want from me is that I be a doll. But, I know that is not who I am or want to be. It also reminds me that people are suckers for media. So, while I don’t think those are universal feelings, I do think that Lisbeth and I have similar enough outlooks that it throws me off that she would be so single-mindedly pleased with her boobs.
Also, I will tell you right now that blond hair is not a good disguise. You go from dark hair to blond and you immediately get a lot more attention. Not that I think people would have identified Lisbeth, because I think they would have just been looking at her hair and boobs, but it is not a good disguise.
So, I appreciate the academic comparisons of appearance, but I felt very disengaged with this story and these characters overall. Blomkvist is such a douche. Every time he said something, with his simpering patience, I wanted to punch him. The letter he wrote to Salander. Oh my god. I hate that guy. What a manipulative, selfish martyr.
What was with Larsson being totally cool with Salander’s statutory rape of the island kid? Oh wait, huh, did he say later in the book that the age for statutory rape in Sweden is super young? Nevertheless, why was Salander okay with that? Everything that happened at the beginning of this book was very disorienting. In GWTDT, you could have cut the first 100 pages, but in this, you could have cut the first 200. Not looking forward to the first 300 pages of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
I don’t hate Salander at all, but I do feel somewhat indifferent about her. At the end of this one, when (view spoiler)[she dies and gets buried, I was like, “Huh, that is a bold move,” but I felt no emotion about it. And then it is made less bold by her rising again, but whatever (hide spoiler)]. Partly, regardless of what happens to her, I think Lisbeth’s life is already forfeit to this war she is fighting, so it is difficult to have hopes for her. She isn’t really a person, with her own dreams, because that isn’t possible for her - she is a sort of slave to fighting hatred of women. That is important, and I love that about her character, but at the same time, it’s not very human. It’s not emotionally complex.
Or, maybe it is ambivalence I feel about Lisbeth, not indifference, because in this one, like in GWTDT, there was a moment where she quoted something I recently said. It came about three-fourths of the way through the book, like it did in GWTDT, and it was sort of like a slap in the face. Like watching a robot take on my personality. Weird. I feel connected to Lisbeth through those things that she says, but it still always feels like Larsson was following me around, saw me say something, and wrote it down. And seeing me from the outside didn’t really tell him what was behind the thing I said. That’s how I feel about Salander – like Larsson couldn’t crack through her character to tell me what was inside. Those are the things I want to know about a character: the guts and innards. I want an author to take them apart and show me the character’s beating heart. That is not Larsson’s skill, so I end up feeling disconnected.
It is interesting that so much of this seems so purposeful, but an almost equal amount of it seems like a waste of space. After the first 200 pages, I was with the story, but until then I was doing some serious sighing and eye-rolling. I think it is a good policy to read these books in one sitting, and probably not while you’re reading The Iliad, which is what I did. The Iliad is like a bowl of rich chocolate mousse, where you can take one bite and be satisfied for days. This book is like what I imagine a Billy’s Pan Pizza to be: something sort of tasteless to rush through for the satisfaction of feeling full in the end. There is nothing to savor, but it has its place.(less)
Well, imagine if Effie Trinket wrote a book about Bella Swan that took place in David Lynch’s brain, using as literary reference the Harry Potter series and the Uglies series.
It is bad and somewhat horrifying at the same time. And while both Skye O’Malley and this book had some creepy abuse of women and girls, Skye had panthers on leashes.
What. The. Fuck?
A friend informed me that the word SMIZE means to smile with your eyes. I don’t know if that makes me hate this book more or hate it less. I actually think it makes me hate it more. Oh my god, the mutilation of the English language in this book is pure sadism. The alliterative synonyms!!! Can't unsee.
I looked at all of the pages in this book, so nobody better give me any bullshit about finishing the damn thing. I got all the way to the miserable end.
There is a part where the chosen models go on a “catwalk,” which, in Modelland, means they walk down a hallway full of cats, which are possessed by the spirits of other models, and get clawed by the model/cats. Tookie . . .
that is the protagonist's name . . .
Anyway, her romantic interest, Bravo . . .
I can't even - the words: they are not enough for how stupid this is.
So, Bravo is always casually sticking his thumb into Tookie's mouth, and there are elaborate descriptions of how manly his thumb tastes. How does that even happen? This book is so bad.
I kind of like watching America’s Next Top Model on a marathon – or at least I did like six years ago. I haven’t done that in a while. At the same time, I am sort of left with the same feeling I get when I watch the movie Stomp the Yard - that it is not about anything. Like, the girls get weird pictures taken of them, then Tyra Banks yells at them in a snotty voice, and then people cry. I don’t totally get it. In Stomp the Yard, too, there is a set of standards that I can’t imagine is real. People jump around, and then other people yell, and it’s like, awwww yeeeeah, somebody won. But did somebody really win? What were the rules? Was there a German judge? I don’t get it. It is not very fun to watch or read something that is so far removed from my reality that it is only confusing.
At least now I know Suzanne Collins was modeling the Capital in Hunger Games on ANTM. I guess that’s some kind of redeeming takeaway.
Karen sent me an autographed copy of this, too. So, that continues to be spectacular.(less)
Maybe I should wait to write this review until blood stops pouring out of my eyes, but where’s the fun in that? Skimping on exclamation points never h...moreMaybe I should wait to write this review until blood stops pouring out of my eyes, but where’s the fun in that? Skimping on exclamation points never helped anyone. I’m not going to tell you that big corporate conglomerates are the good guys; I’m not even going to tell you that I totally agree with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment during the Lochner era (though the reasoning from those interpretations has resulted in a lot of what I consider good outcomes - like how the government can't arrest people for using contraception or being gay). But, I am going to tell you that Thom Hartman makes so many basic (wrong) assumptions about the Constitution in Unequal Protection that it makes the book completely irrelevant to any discussion of actually limiting corporate influence over Amernican government. It might be my loathing of historical fiction talking, but this book totally sucks.
There are parts of it that don’t suck, but where it doesn’t suck, more recent legal developments have made it obsolete, or sucky assumptions have infested the non-sucky-parts. Sorry, Mr. Hartman, I mean this with all due respect, and you are obviously a much more influential person than me, so I hope that instead of taking offense, you will invest in a constitutional law class.
The basic assumptions I see causing so much confusion in this book are the following:
1. That the Constitution guaranties any blanket rights; 2. That including corporations in the Fourteenth Amendment makes their treatment under the Constitution similar to humans; and 3. That it is possible to limit corporate rights without increasing government rights.
There are many, many other assumptions and errors in this book, but those seem like the ones that are most fundamental to the premise of the book and that most make this book irrelevant to any real solution. I’m going to discuss those assumptions in the order I listed them.
First, it’s important to be clear that the Constitution doesn’t guaranty any blanket rights. It doesn’t guaranty that you can say anything you want to say, carry guns, be free from searches or slavery, have a jury trial, or vote. What the Constitution does is limit the government. Congress can’t pass a law that infringes on speech; Congress can’t pass a law that infringes on your right to carry guns; the federal government can’t unreasonably search your stuff. The Constitution formed the federal government; it didn’t form anything else, so it doesn’t govern anything else.
States gave up some rights when they signed on to the Constitution, so in some ways it applies to states. Through the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court has applied the other amendments to the states, so they are an exception to the rule that the Constitution only governs the federal government. Like the federal government, state governments can’t infringe on certain rights. While the Constitution identifies rights, it doesn’t guaranty that people always have those rights. I can infringe on someone’s speech, and, unless there is a statute prohibiting my infringement, get away with it without punishment. My boss can infringe on my speech, with a few limited exceptions. Goodreads, as another example, can take down my reviews if it wants to, and I have no recourse other than getting really, really mad and talking shit about it.
So, my point is that you’re a Supreme Court Justice, and you’ve got this case in front of you. Some doofuses (Congress) wrote a statute, and it says, “Any person who dumps more than five teaspoons of toxic waste into the Mississippi River has to pay the neighbors one-hundred jelly beans per teaspoon of toxic waste.” So, now BP has dumped six teaspoons of toxic waste into the Mississippi, and it’s claiming that the statute doesn’t apply to it because it’s not a person. Do you think Congress meant to include BP when it said “any person,” or not? Was Congress thinking about who was doing the dumping, or was it just thinking about punishing anyone (or thing) that dumped?
It is the same with including corporations under the Fourteenth Amendment. The focus of the Amendment is to restrict states from infringing on certain rights. So, then, are states not restricted as long as the rights they’re infringing are the rights of corporations? Maybe. But, then what if states decide than only corporations can buy property? So, you form a corporation, buy property, and the state can search it any time it wants to. Or, don’t worry, if you already own property, you’ll be granted a free corporation in your name by the state, and your property ownership automatically transfers to that new corporation, but the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply to your property. I’m not saying that would necessarily happen, but if a state can perform warrantless searches just because the land it is searching is owned by a corporation, that seems like undermining the basic purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to me. Its purpose is to restrict state power, not to grant rights to anybody.
Second, including corporations under the Constitution doesn’t guaranty that the government treats them the same as humans. Maybe that is just self-explanatory. All it means is that states and the federal government don’t get a free pass in whatever the limits on their power is, just because they are dealing with a corporation. The criticisms Hartman makes of the Santa Clara decision are true in many points (specifically, in his pointing out that it doesn't actually do what the basic premise of this book is claiming it does), but I completely disagree that a solution to corporate abuses is to allow states and the federal government to have complete freedom in governing corporations. Saying that states can’t deprive corporations of property without due process does not mean that corporations are similar to humans. I won’t go into the equal protection clause now, but it would, likewise, be weird to me if it didn’t apply to corporations. And neither of those clauses make corporations similar to humans, they only restrict state power.
Third, the way to limit corporate rights is to increase government regulation of corporations. Somehow, that idea gets glossed-over in this book. The reason I feel this avoidance from the book is because he references Jefferson a lot and the idea that Jefferson would have wanted to replace corporate rule with agency rule is totally outrageous to me. I mean, Jefferson was like a Clarence Thomas-style nut about anti-regulation, as far as I have ever read. To me, you can't be proposing government regulation and citing Jefferson as your founding-father backup. That's the way to get a zombie Jefferson stalking your home, looking for blood.
Anyway, maybe Hartman is assuming that applying the Fourteenth Amendment to only humans would increase regulation, but that seems far from correct to me. This year, I accidentally organized a panel at a conference that turned into recruitment for a militia hoping to destroy American infrastructure. I’m not kidding – at one point a speaker put up a slide on U.S. military strategies for fighting asymmetrical warfare. It was very troubling. Flannery was there, she’ll tell you. When people asked the speaker what her plans were for rebuilding society after she’s destroyed it, she carefully avoided saying that she wants to return to a hunter-gatherer society (which is what she wants to do, I believe). This review does an excellent job of discussing how unrealistic that idea is. There is a similar dissonance in Unequal Protection, where Hartman carefully avoids telling you that his solution to the evils of big business is to create big government.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s a good solution. I have been saying for years that we live in a feudal society, in which corporations are our feudal lords, and I completely agree with Hartman on that point. I do not, however, agree that the alternative is democracy. Hartman sets up the dichotomy that we could live in a democratic society, but a feudal society has supplanted it. I think that is false, and that feudalism and democracy are not mutually exclusive. I think you can have a democratic feudal society, and that is probably what we have. I think the alternative to Hartmann's feudal society is a socialist society. Personally, socialism, which I would argue is just another variety of feudalism in which government officials act as feudal lords, sounds way better to me than Hartmann's feudalism, but it is not very popular with real Americans, so I can see why Hartman sidestepped the issue. I think that when a stronger government supplants strong business interests, the nominal purpose, at least, is the public good. When business interests rule, that is not even a nominal purpose.
The real problem Hartman flatly (and wrongly) denies is in corruption. When regulators are giving BJs to corporations, there is a problem. And, I think it’s pretty clear that regulators are, for the most part, giving BJs to corporations in America, but also in other countries. The solution to this isn’t allowing more government abuse (as in, giving states the right to bypass the restrictions of the Fourteenth Amendment), it is to give the government more regulatory power over corporations. It is to require rich people to pay enough taxes that the agencies that catch corporate crimes can actually do their jobs.
Sorry, Brian. This book practically killed me. There is a sentence towards the end of this book that I can’t find now about a constitutional-law scholar who said he practically passed out when he read what Hartman’s ridiculous proposals were. That guy. I feel like that guy. I LOLed. I could go on about the errors relating to equal-protection analysis, and the founding fathers, and the restrictions on international treaties and tribunals, but you’ve probably already left the review by now. I’ll just tell you that this is a completely unreliable source of information about constitutional law. It is incorrect in ways that are both fundamental to the nature of the Constitution and ways that are trivial, but misleading. Completely exasperating.(less)
I love propaganda. I love its extremeness and enthusiasm, even when that enthusiasm is applied to some of the weirdest ideas. I mean, propaganda has c...moreI love propaganda. I love its extremeness and enthusiasm, even when that enthusiasm is applied to some of the weirdest ideas. I mean, propaganda has come up with some great images for women. There’s our girl, Rosie:
And then I’ll always love this one, which I think was one of my first avatars on goodreads:
And, then, we’ve got this whole bodice rippers dare going, so karen sent me this half-rad half-disturbing collection of pulp covers. Thank you, karen! It is pretty awesome as a collection of crazy propaganda, but also I had to stop reading it halfway through because I got too depressed. So, I just finished it a couple of minutes ago.
This book is pretty much a collection of cultural fears about women finding some kind of autonomy, or worse . . . making money! Or worse . . . LIKING OTHER WOMEN!! Terrifying, I know. I’m not gonna lie, the quoted parts are pretty amazing. This is one of my favorites:
She lay back, breasts floating, hair swirling in soft eddies around her beautiful face. “Be big,” she pleaded. “Be – be a seahorse with a beard of Neptune and the strength of a shark! Hurt me, Brent! Oh, make me scream with hurt and want and hurt again!”
Like ya do. V.D. Burns is pretty pissed he didn’t come up with that description. Also, when you try to google what that would look like, it just gives you a bunch of scary images of sharks, so don’t do it.
This is my favorite of the covers:
What is wrong with that girl’s butt? The quote about that cover is, fittingly, about spanking. But, obvs, the girl is doing the spanking, which seems like a missed opportunity, but what are you going to do with bad girls?
Also, these books are racist. I’m sure you’re shocked about that.(less)
Hmmm. There is something weird going on with this book, and I’m not quite sure how to react to it. It is smart, I think . . . but kind of creepy. So,...moreHmmm. There is something weird going on with this book, and I’m not quite sure how to react to it. It is smart, I think . . . but kind of creepy. So, this guy, John Wareham, apparently had something of a rough childhood, then, later in life, he wrote this book Chancey On Top. Then, later, he wrote this book, Sonnets for Sinners, which karen so awesomely sent me for Valentines in 2011. Awwww, romantic!
Anywho, I’m going through, reading this book, and totally digging it. It’s all compassionate and, whoa, we all are never satisfied with the people we love because we are searching for some ideal love we never got in childhood. Word. The format is that you read a poem on one page, and then you read something like a goodreads review of the poem on the other, so that is cool. And Shakespeare analysis – fun! And other silly poems from philandering celebrities! And then these other pretty poems from . . . who are these poems from? Why are they using contemporary vocabulary, and then the analysis on them is pointing out their use of Elizabethan slang for vaginas? And what about these lines, “So, for now, my love, to friendship cry, Avaunt! / And come with me in Aphrodite’s cunt”? Why is this lady talking about Aphrodite’s cunt? Isn’t that more what a nerdy 12-year-old boy would talk about to try to look smart and badass? So, I googled it.
And friends, I was not very excited about what I found. It turns out that the bulk of this book is poetry from the characters of the author’s other book, Chancey On Top, and then the author analyzing the poetry of his characters. Feel free to let me know if I’m wrong about this because there seems to be some somewhat elaborate effort to talk about these characters as real people. But, google seems to think that is just weird hand waving. You know, assuming google is right, there might be a kind of silver lining to this cloud about how it is such a masturbatory thing to do, BUT it is a book about people being selfish and focused on self-pleasure, soooo, fitting? But, still no. And then it seemed like, why is Shakespeare in here? Just to add some legitimacy? And why did this author take apart personal emails from fallen celebrities, turn them into sonnets, and then write an analysis of the poem he just constructed? It is kind of confusing to me in a John Nash way.
And I don’t mean, wow, you are a genius, author. Even though you do seem like a smart guy. I don’t know. I guess smart isn’t something you can really measure. I have been thinking about this with studying for the bar exam. One of my friends, who did the best in law school of all of my friends, wants to get an A+ on the bar exam. But, you can’t do that because you only pass or fail. So, because the sacrifices you make to get an A+ so far outweigh the benefits of getting the non-existent A+, does that mean you’re ultimately dumb if you try for and get the A+, but you're just good at taking tests? It is like showing off: so, you show off this knowledge or skill to impress someone with how good you are at this skill or knowledge, but rather than being impressed, the person is left feeling like, wow, what a show off. Like, the talent or smartness or whatever might be there, but the other weirdness so overshadows it that it doesn’t matter anymore.
So, rather than feeling like, what a clever boy!, as I felt at the beginning, I was left feeling kind of annoyed. And it has clouded even the poems and analyses I liked at the beginning. I think if it had just been a book of the author’s own poetry or a book of his analyses of Shakespeare’s sonnets on cheating, without all of this hoodwinking business, I probably would have liked it. The way it is, it just felt like sneaky and unnecessarily complicated self-promotion.(less)
In some ways, maybe, both love and destruction come to us, seek us out, and we are powerless to pursue or avoi...more (Painting of Swann, by David Richardson)
In some ways, maybe, both love and destruction come to us, seek us out, and we are powerless to pursue or avoid them. I tend to think that is not the case, but I am often wrong, and I am too willing to make grand pronouncements about life to be unwilling to be called wrong. Or, as my friend says of herself, I am never wrong because if I hear an idea that is better than mine, I change my mind to that idea, and then I am right again. Anyway, in Swann’s Way, Proust writes a museum of love and, the other side of love’s coin, abandonment, of comfort and loneliness. Every human relationship in this story is linked to some form of art, and I think the narrator gestures at this when he says,
If only Bergotte had described the place in one of his books, I should, no doubt, have longed to see and to know it, like so many things else of which a simulacrum had first found its way into my imagination. That kept things warm, made them live, gave them personality, and I sought then to find their counterpart in reality, but in this public garden there was nothing that attached itself to my dreams. (p. 565)
There is an inevitability to all of these art/human interactions, as though what is pre-written cannot be resisted.
I am going to talk in spoilers in this review, I think, but my own personal read of this story held most of it to be largely predictable, and purposely so. The beginning of the story is the end, and the end of the story is the very, very end, and all of the telling is wrapped up together. I don’t think I’m going to hide the spoilers, then, because the narrator tells you early on what becomes of M. Swann, and then he develops it carefully and delicately so that you know just how it should be told and how he has seen it unfold. It doesn’t seem to me that what I have to say will ruin any of it, but I like to come to books fresh, so I respect that, and if you feel the same, now is the time to exit.
Proust’s characters see life translated through books and paintings and music. In that way there is a sort of self-reflexivity in the story, but also something that feels resonant today. If we have seen it done before, if someone has recognized it before, we can do it ourselves. For example, the narrator’s Oedipal relationship with his parents comes to a peak (sorry) just before his mother’s censored bedtime read-a-loud of Francois le Champi. The narrator then develops a passion for the invented author Bergotte, and when the narrator learns that M. Swann is personal friends with Bergotte, he thereafter sees the Swann family through a Bergotte-colored monocle. He falls in adolescent love with them, the way he is in adolescent love with Bergotte.
Swann, likewise, uses art as a touchstone for life. Like men, or really both men and women, now, often justify a woman’s beauty, not by their own preferences, but instead through some expectation that Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba are the framework of beauty, Swann acknowledges a women’s beauty by association to painting. Swann’s kitchen-maid can be beautiful because she is Giotto’s Charity:
He finally reconciles himself to Odette’s beauty when he realizes she looks like Botticelli’s Zipporah from The Trials of Moses:
M. Swann’s very relationship with Odette becomes embodied in the little phrase from M. Vinteuil’s sonata. We ironically know from the story of Combray that M. Vinteuil died of heartbreak at least in part, presumably, because of his own “intense prudishness” and in reaction to his daughter’s lesbian tendencies – ironic, obviously, because M. Swann’s deepest disappointment with Odette is that she has ever been with a woman. Towards the end of Swann in Love, I kept picturing M. Swann's relationship with Odette as Love the Way You Lie. I wonder if the sonata sounded like that.
Swann handed over his preferences regarding beauty to painters like we hand over our preferences to movie producers and modeling agencies. M. Swann reconciled himself to owning Odette as a mistress while they both slept with other people, but if Odette slept with a woman, that was betrayal. Today, we can handle adultery, abuse, marital rape, and bride purchasing, but if gay people get married, that will undermine the institution. People never change.
Or maybe we change, but we change as individuals. This book made me love Proust. I think he captures all of this with the awe of adolescence and the cynicism of adulthood. I also love him because he reminds me so incredibly of one of my best friends from school. My friend, whom I am calling Marcel below because, you know, privacy, matches his polo shirts to his argyle socks every day. He is always on gchat, and some of us were planning to start a blog where we posted our gchats with him because we think they are so hilarious. Anyway, I am posting some of them below because I think they are how a modern day Proust would be. In our first year of law school, a lot of people thought that Marcel was a snob. But, I don’t think he is. Or, technically, he is, and his snobbishness might stand out more because of his money, but aren’t we all snobs about something? He is a snob about BMWs, and I am a snob about coffee and middlebrow literature. So, when people say Proust is a snob, I’ve started to feel a little defensive because, sure, but aren’t you? He is also sweet and witty and shy. And has more weird allergies than anyone you’ve ever met – or at least my friend does. Seriously, who is allergic to lettuce? But, now I am mixing up my Marcels. And, oh Marcels, why do you get so taken in by other people’s rules about beauty? If you think a girl is ugly, think she's ugly. And if you like her anyway, like her anyway! But, don't get so taken in by other people's ideas and expect them to be universal. But, ah, you do, and I love you anyway.
Some cattleyas for the bitches:
And the Marcel gchats (keep in mind that this person is like twelve years old):
Day 1: I'm including this one because it is probably Marcel's favorite, but I also really love it.
12:49 PM Marcel: our sea of whirly twirly lamps is a little too organized right now
12:50 PM me: i was thinking that too
12:51 PM Marcel: much better
1:17 PM Marcel: Rosamond wants me to be facebook friends with Octave and his girlfriend so she can creep on them that makes me uncomfortable
me: yeah, don't do it she will regret it later too
1:18 PM Marcel: i don't think i'm much of an enabler anyway i mean i wouldn't want that on my resume or anything
1:19 PM me: yeah, i hear firms look for "passive aggressive" before "enabler"
1:20 PM Marcel: i'll have to work on that then i'm not sure i'm good at being passive aggressive unlike some people...
Day 2: This is really more expressive of him as a person.
9:40 AM Marcel: this dude in front of me in admin law spends his time in class looking at assault weapons on his computer all class
9:42 AM me: whoa that is not good who is the dude?
Marcel: disturbing Albert something 2L
9:43 AM me: ohh, Albert Bloch?
Marcel: that sounds right
9:44 AM me: yeah, that guy is pretty weird. he dated mlle Lea all last year he's a big republican or, like, maybe just last spring
9:45 AM Marcel: crazies attract
9:46 AM me: so true
Marcel: i mean you should see the people i've attracted over the years i sadly mean that jokingly and seriously
9:47 AM me: same 9:48 AM literally, one guy who liked me went running through the streets of seattle naked because he made a deal with god that if he gave up everything, including his clothes, god would get these friends of his back together as a couple. He was a nice guy, though. 9:49 AM and, you know, that was a really good deal for god.
9:50 AM Marcel: you can't call someone crazy for believing in god joke i'm intentionally missing the point
9:51 AM me: bah dum tss
10:10 AM Marcel: i don't think i'm very comfortable with the expression that's how the sausage gets made
me: it's like "flesh it out" bad visual
10:23 AM Marcel: if norpois or cottard were in admin law i would actually skip this class but we still get bontemps so it's tempting to skip
10:25 AM me: who teaches that class?
10:26 AM Marcel: Mme. Verdurin i think i don't like her 10:27 AM but i'm not positive
me: huh, interesting i have never had a class with her, but she has always been nice to me
10:29 AM Marcel: i think she just annoys me in class and so far it has been unrelated to her red hair at least consciously
me: yeah, it is tough to separate that
Marcel: but maybe i've been seeing her red hair and just not liking her bc of that
me: definitely possible and not unreasonable
10:30 AM Marcel: i'm not sure where i picked up my default of strongly disliking redheads until i get to know them like gilberte and saint loup are great
me: true, but they might just be an exception to the rule
Marcel: fact 10:31 AM one of my business partners has red hair and i appreciate greatly when he wears a hat
me: "one of my business partners." please say more words about that.
Marcel: well one of six others 10:32 AM they're certainly not all redheads
10:33 AM me: "business partners." please say more words about that.
10:34 AM Marcel: Beta Cascade Ventures, LLC we're an investment company with focuses on philanthropy, education, and networking
10:38 AM me: huh 10:39 AM that is very 1% of you
10:40 AM Marcel: our logo is a sailboat
me: o m g
10:41 AM Marcel: i'll have to show you sometime(less)
This is Professor Leslie Harris, who wrote this book. She runs family and child law stuff at the University of Oregon. Maybe she runs family and child...moreThis is Professor Leslie Harris, who wrote this book. She runs family and child law stuff at the University of Oregon. Maybe she runs family and child law stuff in the world, but I am not qualified to give definitive information about that. I think it’s safe to say that there is some tension between her and me that I won’t get into now because that’s not really the point. She did give me a Child Advocacy Fellowship for this year, and it’s paid, and that was nice of her. In that clip, you miss the part of the presentation where she spends about ten minutes trying to shut down the slide screen and ends up turning all of the lights off in the room. That was pretty funny. At the second event we did this year, she ended up turning all the lights off again. I hope it happens at all of the events during the year.
What I do want to talk to you about is my new theory about how to choose law school classes in your second and third years of school. This is probably not a really interesting topic to you since, like, almost no one here is in law school, but I’m going to tell you anyway. The first year of law school classes are all required, which makes it easy because you just have to suck it up and take them. It’s a lot harder to try to figure out what you want to take because, let’s face it, how do you know if you want to take Land Use Law instead of Natural Resources Law until you’ve taken them? The thing I realized, though, is that the first year isn’t really about the topics you’re learning. It’s about learning how to read cases and find the law. So, once you’ve learned how to do that, you can pretty much do it for any topic within the law. What you should do, then, in your second and third year of law school is take classes from professors you like, or in areas of the law that you find challenging. Unless you are really driven in a particular area of law, in which case you’ll obviously follow a certain track, I don’t think it matters so much whether or not you come out of law school with complete coursework in a particular area of the law. You can teach yourself an area of the law later if you need to.
And that’s my point. Particularly with kid law and family law, you can teach yourself this stuff. Probably, you could teach yourself Administrative Law, too, but that’s a little less likely, I think. After having taken Administrative Law from a professor I really like, and still having no idea what that topic is about, I would hate to encounter it on my own. There are minotaurs in there. Kid law, though, is doable. So, I think, if you look at a class title and think, “I have no idea what that means,” you should take that class. If you look at a title and think, “I can pretty much picture that,” you probably don’t need to take it.
Also, if you work for Aspen Publishers, I want to work for you and edit your casebooks. Will you give me a job? I want to reform your casebook editing department because shape up, people. Why are you releasing these books with weird errors? Actually, it was the family one that was so bad, not this one, to be fair.
Anyway, kid law is about how parents have a fundamental right to care for and raise their kids, but the state also has a parens patriae interest in caring for children. Kids don’t have rights themselves. The stuff we do to kids is terrible, both on the state side and the parent side. It turns my stomach. If kids get bad parents, it pretty much just gets worse and worse for them in general as far as I can tell. The juvenile court system is separate from the criminal court system in the US, so juveniles aren’t protected by the Constitution in the same way as adult criminals. In many ways, they are more protected today than they have been in the past, but still not as much as adult offenders.
I guess, my frustration with the juvenile justice system is similar to my frustration with the criminal justice system in general. I feel like it’s not a productive solution to put people in boxes when they’ve done something harmful. I don’t have a better solution, but this seems like a bad one. And, with kids, it seems like they grow up in a bad environment and either they get removed and put into foster care, which often is worse than their original homes, or they wind up in juvenile detention, which is worse, too. So, kid law is depressing.
Next term I’m taking Trademark Law and Federal Jurisdiction. I’m crossing kid law and environmental law off of the list of potential futures for me.(less)
Semen, blood (menstrual and regular), pussing sores, placenta, vomit, rape, murder, hamburgers. This book has a lot of classic conversation topics. Ge...moreSemen, blood (menstrual and regular), pussing sores, placenta, vomit, rape, murder, hamburgers. This book has a lot of classic conversation topics. Generally, I liked it. Well, I’m not sure it’s fair to use the word "like" in relation to this book because it’s about as unpleasant as it gets. But it’s elegantly gruesome. I lived in Manhattan when the Sensation exhibit was at the Brooklyn Museum, and it was kind of the Thing to go see it, so my roommates and I went one night. hector reminded me a lot of walking through that exhibit, but in reverse. Like, not walking through backwards (duh) because that probably wouldn’t make that much difference, but absorbing the horror in reverse.
The most memorable and disturbing work in the show to me, and (according to Wikipedia) one of the most controversial, was Myra. brrr. I’m not sure if my memory is grossly distorting the experience, but I’m going to tell it like I remember it. I walked into an exhibition room, with maybe 20-foot-tall ceilings, and a black-and-white painting of a 1950’s blond, angry, momish woman took up the entire wall opposite me. It was kind of pretty, but a little ominous if only for being so huge and pissed off. It was a relief, though, from the other, brighter elements of the show – the dead animal halves in formaldehyde and beheaded mannequins - so I was drawn to it. As I approached the painting, I could tell that it was made of handprints – you know, like the picture of Obama made of teeny pictures of Obama? Or the one with the Olson twins made of teeny Olson twins? A mosaic. But it wasn’t until I read the placard that I understood it was horrifying. The picture was of a woman convicted of murdering children, and it was made of the handprints of a baby. Yesh, creepy.
So, aside from this book having some murder elements and some killing babies elements, the general experience of reading it was similar to viewing the Myra painting. The difference is that with the Myra painting, I saw it first from a distance, framed by other works of art, and it was inviting, even mundane. As I got closer, it became gruesome. hector, in contrast, starts with a close-up of horror that gradually pulls back, and as I understood the perspective of the horror, it became somewhat mundane. I’m not meaning to say that the ultimate reveal and perspective of hector is not horrifying, only that perspective is everything, and compared to the early, close-up horror, the pulled back horror was less shocking.
There is a story about Roman Polanski making Rosemary’s Baby and shooting the scenes so that the audience was always trying to look around corners and see what was happening just outside of the camera’s perspective. That’s how I felt reading this story. I was craning my neck to look down a hall that wasn’t there and around the pages to see who was talking.
The one critique I’ll make of this story is that I think it’s more effective to start with something identifiable that draws the reader in and end with something horrifying, rather than doing the opposite. This book is basically the story of a woman prisoner, and you don’t know who she is. She is everywoman. Ultimately, when I realized who she was, when she really took on an identity, it made her treatment seem comparatively less barbaric than I originally thought it was. I apologize for saying that, because I genuinely do care about the topic of this book, but I care more about who I thought she was than about who she turns out to be. I may change my mind later, but I have given great consideration to that value judgment.
It was kind of like coming to me and tragically, frantically telling me, "THERE'S A BOMB!!!"
"Where?! Where?!" I ask you.
"Oh, whew!" But, wait. Should I be relieved about that? No, it's wrong, but there you have it. There is always a bomb in Jerusalem.
I’m trying to be cryptic because I want you to decide for yourself whether you want to read this book spoiled or unspoiled. If you want to read it spoiled, the Afterward is a statement of purpose. If you want to read it unspoiled, like I did, you’ll still get the point by the end of the story. It’s probably better to resist the Afterward because you have the “ah ha!” experience. It’s up to you, though.
Anyway, this may sound cynical, but my impression is that people are most motivated to care about this particular topic if they understand how caring benefits them, rather than through descriptions of its brutality. We’re just desensitized. Regardless of whether I’m right about that or not, this is a particularly relevant message about a particularly timely topic. And I think the words are beautiful, even if the images are intentionally disgusting. Our lovely GR author, K.I. Hope wrote it, so you should read it. It is artistic and worth your trouble. Probably, don’t read it if you’re pregnant, though.(less)
I have this terrible, dreary feeling in my diaphragm area this morning, and I’m not positive what it’s about, but I blame some of it on this book, whi...moreI have this terrible, dreary feeling in my diaphragm area this morning, and I’m not positive what it’s about, but I blame some of it on this book, which I am not going to finish. I have a friend who is mad at me right now for liking stupid stuff, but the thing is that I do like stupid stuff sometimes, and I think it would be really boring to only like smart things. What I don’t like is when smart (or even middle-brained) writers take an important topic and make it petty through guessing about what they don’t know. I can list you any number of these writers who would be fine if they weren't reaching into topics about which they have no personal experience (incidentally, all writers I'm pretty sure my angry friend loves. For example, The Lovely Bones, The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc.). These are the books for which I have no patience, topics that maybe someone with more imagination or self-awareness could have written about compassionately, without exploiting the victimization of the characters. They’re books that hide lazy writing behind a topic you can’t criticize. The Help is one of these.
You’ve got this narrative telephone game in this book. The telephone game is pretty fun sometimes, and it is really beautiful in monster stories like Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights because what they are telling me is not intended as trustworthy or earnest. All of the seriousness in monster stories is an impression or an emotion reflected back through the layers of narrative. I don’t feel that way about the topic of The Help, though. In this book, a white woman writes from the point of view of a black woman during the Civil Rights movement, who overhears the conversations of white women. It's an important topic, and I don't want to hear it through untrustworthy narrators.
So, I can basically get on board with the dialect of the black maids, but what throws me off as a reader is when the black maid is quoting the white women and they’re all speaking perfect English without a trace of an accent. It becomes particularly weird when one of the black maids starts to comment on the extreme accent of one of the white women, Celia Foote, whose written dialogue continues to be impeccable. Who is this narrator? Why does she choose not to speak proper English if she can speak it? Why does she choose to give proper English to someone else who she has told me doesn't speak it? Also, usually the layers of narration in a telephone-game book are only within the book. In this case, it’s the author’s voice stabbing through the story. I am convinced it is her whose brain hears the white woman speaking TV English, and the black women speaking in dialect. It gives away the game.
Even the quotes from the movie have an example of this. A conversation between her and Minnie goes like this:
Celia Foote: They don't like me because of what they think I did. Minny Jackson: They don't like you 'cause they think you white trash.
Celia speaks in a proper sentence, but Minny misses the "are" in the second part of the sentence. Celia says "because," but Minny says "'cause." If the reader were supposed to understand that Celia does not speak in dialect, that would make sense, but since it specifically states that she does, it doesn't make sense.
To attempt to be clear, I didn't have a problem that the book was in dialect. I had a problem that the book said, "This white woman speaks in an extreme dialect," and then wrote the woman's dialog not in dialect. Aerin points out in message 111 that I am talking about eye dialect, which is about spelling, not pronunciation, as in the example above. Everyone, in real life, speaks in some form of non-standard English. Though I have seen some really beautiful uses of eye dialect, as Aerin points out, writers typically use it to show subservience of characters or that they are uneducated, which often has racist overtones. If it troubles you that I'm saying this, and you would like to comment on this thread, you may want to read other comments because it is likely someone has already said what you are going to say.
I’m not finishing this one, and it’s not because I think people shouldn’t like it, but rather because I’m almost 100 pages in and I can see the end, and it’s failed to engage me. When a few IRL friends have asked what I thought of the book and I said I didn't care for it, they have told me that I am taking it too seriously, that it is just a silly, fluff book, not a serious study of Civil Rights. Again, I don’t have a problem with stupid books, but when it’s a stupid book disguised as an Important Work of Cultural History, all I want to do the whole time is tear its mask off. And a book about Civil Rights is always important cultural history to me. Anyway, the book becomes unpleasant; I become unpleasant; it’s bad news. If you loved this book, though, (or, really, even if you hated it) I would recommend Coming of Age in Mississippi. I think that book is one of the more important records of American history. Plus, it’s beautifully written, inspirational, and shocking. It's been years since I read it, so I might be giving it an undeserved halo, but I can’t say enough good things about it.
“If you go at night, take a friend.” “Check under the car and in your backseat before you get in.” “I’m just s...moreWomen are raised to routinely fear rape.
“If you go at night, take a friend.” “Check under the car and in your backseat before you get in.” “I’m just saying it’s a good idea to know where the exits are.” “I got you this whistle for your keychain, you know, just so you have it.” “You were an hour later than I thought you’d be! We called the police!” “Oh, that’s pepper spray; I keep it with me just in case.” “I just make sure I get my keys out and check for other weapons if I’m getting off work late.” “Is this weird? I live alone and I’m going running, so if I don’t call you by 11:15, call the police, okay?”
A woman who fights back – no, a woman who argues at all – does so knowing it will probably make her a social pariah.
“She’s just one of those women who makes life hell . . . like a Hillary Clinton type.” “You’re different; you’re not a ball buster like some girls.” “You know that rape accusations can destroy a man’s life, right? And when she said it, did you see how she looked? I mean . . .” “All girls do is complain and nag. Not you, of course – most girls.” “But it is really women who are the privileged ones to be covered and cared for by the man; all of the responsibility for decisions are on him.” “He didn’t mean it the way it sounded, so you'll just regret it if you tell him he's wrong.” “She never understood me, and now she’s making all of these claims and trying to take practically half of my paycheck. I think she was just in it for the money in the first place.” “All I said was she has a nice rack; what a bitch.” “That’s just life; make the best of it.”
And there is good reason we are raised to fear rape, and raised not to fight back: survival. Women know that if we walk alone in the dark, statistically there is a good chance we will get raped. If we go to the wrong party, we’ll be raped. If we misread that boy next door and his swellness is a con, rape. And when a person is in a position of being systematically controlled, it often does cause more physical or emotional damage to fight back. It’s not right, but it is realistic.
It seems to me like it is the equivalent of every man being raised that if he leaves the house at the wrong time, he might encounter a woman who will strip him naked, hold him down, and knee him in the balls while she masturbates. And then in this alternate universe, these boys find out, as they grow up, that most of the men they know have had that happen to them. And I’m not trying to minimize sexual assault experiences that involve little or no physical injury, nor am I trying to minimize sexual assaults against men: no one has the right to touch another person’s body without permission. I’m talking about the way women are raised to think of daily life. Women are not raised to be afraid we’re going to get a super hot BJ that we didn’t realize we wanted, which is sometimes how I feel people talk about rape accusations. We are raised to encounter our daily lives knowing that, even if violence wasn't in our past, violence probably is in our future. And every time someone says, “Don’t go alone,” it is a little reminder that a lot of men hate us.
I have to say, though, that while I think it is realistic to say that women are raised to fear rape and to incorporate that fear of rape into our daily routine, and that sometimes fighting back makes things more dangerous, I do not believe it is effective to live in fear or to encourage women to live in fear or not defend ourselves. I think that perpetuates an idea that women are powerless, which then encourages women to freeze up when encountered with violence or even conflict. I think trusting our instincts and learning martial arts is probably more productive.
And teaching men not to rape.
That seems like the approach this book takes, though it more directly simply reflects, with appropriate outrage, on the levels of male contempt for women. And I think in that way, in the way it is directed to men, it is about how gross contempt for women is, whether it takes the form of self-absorption or sadism.
This book is smart. It is symmetrical in its execution in many ways: in starting and ending with Blomkvist’s corporate corruption story, and in the way it shows men and women accused of race whoring, men and women subjected to violence. The juxtaposition of (view spoiler)[Salander’s rape with Blomkvist’s consensual sexual encounter with Cicilia (hide spoiler)] is really well played. It is viscerally grotesque in the contrast, and it highlights the theme of consent. It was physically difficult for me to read, especially in the contrast, and I thought that made it very effective.
Salander’s character, too, is smart. She is both the outcast that women are when we fight back, and she is something of the misunderstood-bad-boy hero turned girl. I liked that. When she (view spoiler)[saves Blomkvist, it is all really vivid and heroic, but still corporeal and disgusting. I liked that Blomkvist couldn’t take charge because he was in too much shock, and that she truly saved his life (hide spoiler)]. It bothers me when a storyteller starts to let a girl save a guy, but really she only tosses him the gun to save himself. Salander gets some real action and some real credit, and it is satisfying.
Ultimately, it is pretty clear, but not laughing in your face, just resigned, Larsson knows (view spoiler)[Blomkvist is a self-serving ass, too. It was so smart at the end when Blomkvist runs into his nemesis with a girl Salander’s age on his arm, and Blomkvist so despises him for it. I like how in the end our hero really isn’t our hero. He really has only used Salander, and how far is that from hating women? It is certainly not respectful (hide spoiler)]. The hatred we condemn in this book, though, manifests as violence, and I can get behind featuring that and then fading out to Cicilia’s father condemning her as a whore and Blomkvist’s blissful self-absorption. It is a meaningful gradation. But, it is important that (view spoiler)[Blomkvist isn’t the ideal model of men being friends with women because he would be too specific – because there probably isn’t an ideal model. Larsson doesn’t justify Blomkvist’s assholery, but he is not so in love with his hero that he can’t acknowledge it (hide spoiler)]. And, aren’t we all assholes to each other a lot of the time? But not all of us get off on kneeing each other in the balls.
This struck me as a very masculine translation of male hatred of women and the way women navigate a world that tells us every time we turn a corner that it hates us. It seems like men either have considered what life would be like if they had been trained to fear leaving the house after dark, or they haven’t. And in my experience, it is difficult for men to understand a woman’s words if she tries to describe it, so I think it is important to have a man tell a story this way. I do see how the graphic descriptions of sadistic violence against women might allow a sadistic audience to read only for that, but the fact that Larsson balances this with graphic violence against men neutralizes the gender-hatred aspect of that to me. And if you are reading these books for the violence, see a psychiatrist, but I don’t think it is productive to censor descriptions of violence just because someone fucked up might get off on them. And if you think these descriptions are fantastical exaggerations, go spend some time at your local women’s shelter. Unfortunately, I think you will find you are wrong. And I don't think it does anybody any good to be afraid to tell these stories.
I hated the writing in this book a lot. Like, I hated it a lot. It both hit a lot of pet peeves of mine and it was just objectively bad in a lot of places. I don’t have a problem with books being badly written if the writing doesn’t get in the way of a good story, but here the writing was waiving its hands in my face the whole time trying to get me to lose the story. The sandwiches! OH TEH SANDWICHES! I wonder how much tourism for Sweden Larsson drummed up by the sandwich descriptions. I hope none because gag. I can see how he created the effect of an investigatory report through the writing, so, I think it is intentionally the way it is, but it was a choice I did not enjoy at all. So, overall this was a very unpleasant book to read, but it was smart, and its smartness outweighed its unpleasantness in my evaluation.
It is always kind of a funny experience to read your own words as someone else would write them. In every Willa Cather novel I have read, there has been a moment where I’ve read something and thought, “I just said that last week!!!” It was funny in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: I wanted to high five Salander all the time because I would think her dialogue right before I read it. I imagine everyone in the world has told me to read this book because of the times I say, “Oh, another man who hates women.” Or that it is bullshit to say someone had a violent childhood, so of course he had to be violent against women as an adult. So, it was funny to read somebody else say those words. At the same time, Salander felt like a man recording the facts of what he saw a woman do and say once, not like a living, breathing human character. That doesn’t take away from the smartness of the book, but it is another reason my actual enjoyment factor was low.
Also, I had to go buy pickles yesterday because reading about so many of them gave me a craving. I hope Larsson’s estate got some sponsorship money from the sandwich and pickle lobbies. (less)
I don’t mean this dismissively, but I feel like I finally get what Charlton Heston meant when he cried out, “Soylent Green is people!! It’s peeeeople!...moreI don’t mean this dismissively, but I feel like I finally get what Charlton Heston meant when he cried out, “Soylent Green is people!! It’s peeeeople!” Just . . . I don’t know. That movie’s pretty silly, but I keep walking around the house feeling like all those years that I ate meat, I was really eating human souls. And I even knew almost all of this information before reading the book. I know I’m being dramatic, as per usual, but there really is something about food that brings out both the best and the worst in humans. I think that’s part of the point of the title of this book. It’s about eating animals, but it’s also about us being eating animals. See what he did there? Anyway, I can’t give this book a full 5 stars because I have really high expectations for JSF, and, honestly, this book isn’t extremely well organized. I think the topic of what we eat is probably the most important one in American society today, though, and the dialogue Foer creates is very representative of the arguments that smart people make in legitimate disagreement over the topic of eating animals.
I saw Foer read from this book at Powell’s last October, and the day after that was the last time I ate meat. For a long time I knew about the health and environmental issues of factory farming, but I really love hamburgers, so I thought I would just be really careful about where I bought meat. I realized, though, that I really do care how we treat each other and how we treat animals, and I was not careful about where my meat came from. I became a vegetarian partly because it’s easier than having that mental dissonance, where I really care about all of the corruption and waste of the meat industry, but I set it aside because something tastes good. Other things taste good, too. It’s not worth the energy. I guess, the other part of why I became a vegetarian is that I forgot how to put up the mental walls between the human behavior that is so disgusting to me that is almost uniformly represented in the food industry and my condoning it by eating its products. The points that Foer read from this book in October just haunt me.
I don’t think that death is the worst thing, and so eating animals doesn’t horrify me because of the killing. I really get that other people do think that death is the worst thing, and I don’t necessarily think I’m right, but that’s the place I’m at in life. My friend pointed out how silly this is of me yesterday when he was asking why I love the movie True Romance so much. I was talking about how wonderful I think it is, and then I was qualifying it by saying that the part between Christopher Walkins and Dennis Hopper is so racist and makes me really uncomfortable. So, my friend started laughing at me and was like, “So, you don’t care about the total disregard for human life, but it really gets to you that they’re being racist?” What can I say? Maybe someday all of the things I’m offended at will line up really neatly. As it is, obviously it would offend me a lot more in real life to see someone killed than to see someone be really unpleasant, but in movies the opposite is true.
Even then, even in real life, I think that pointless suffering, not death, is the worst thing. And when pointless suffering is knowingly caused by humans, I think it’s bad just for the suffering itself, but also because of what it means for the people causing the suffering. What have we done to ourselves? What have we made each other? There is a letter toward the end of this book, written by a slaughterhouse worker, that describes this slaughterhouse atrocity that is burned into my brain now in a way that I can only think to describe as a Skye O’Malley. But this is a real, true incident, that I’m glad was written because it needs to never happen again. The incident itself was purely sadistic, but writing about it was somehow Important in the way that confessions and justice are important. But also important because although this man is responsible for his own actions and atrocities, people who work in slaughterhouses, like the animals going through them, are some of the most vulnerable elements our society. Both Gandhi and Aristotle are attributed with saying something like, nations should be judged by how they treat the most vulnerable among them. By that standard of judgment, the U.S. is not passing.
One of the major themes in this book is about traditions surrounding food and the way it brings people together in this really wonderful way. I think Foer speaks about family, even humanity, in such a beautiful, nostalgic, and hopeful way that there is something worthwhile about his unique exploration of this topic. It is not a cold, moral topic. It is about our mothers and fathers in the kitchen and our children playing in the yard while we barbeque. But that doesn’t remove us from complicity in what goes on to get the food to the table. It doesn’t excuse us.
There were two points he made about that particularly, which really influenced my decision to become a veggie. I’m going to spoiler them a little bit and probably mangle them a lot, so skip over if you wish. Also, my friend made this homebrew oatmeal stout in honor of his daughter’s birth, and it and its progeny are slowly changing this review into a drunk review, so there’s a chance none of this will make sense anyway.
(view spoiler)[First, Americans choose to eat less than .25% of food on the planet. Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized every year and the bodies turned into food for our food. It makes no sense for us to eat cows, pigs, and chickens that have eaten dogs and cats, rather than for us to eat dogs and cats ourselves. The reason we do is that dogs and cats are “pets,” and cows, pigs, and chickens are . . . I don’t know. Food? But the intelligence and habits of the animal species are not different than each other. The animals we eat are as smart and social as the animals we refuse to eat. And the system of feeding meat to herbivores because we’ve decided that one species is okay for humans to eat and the others aren’t is so arbitrary and . . . well, gross. The thing that got me about this, though, which we all know is true but I hadn’t really looked in the face before, is that eating a hamburger made out of a cow is not different than eating a hamburger made out of one of my cats. And I really am offended by the idea of one of my cats living the lives that chickens or turkeys or pigs live in factory farms more than I’m offended by the idea of eating one of them. It is appalling! Animals should not be treated this way, and humans should not be in the position that they think it’s okay treat them this way.
Second, there’s a little bit of a How the Grinch Stole Christmas quality to the book that really gets me. I saw Foer read right before Thanksgiving, and it turns out that the entire end of this book is about Thanksgiving. His main point, I think, is that we associate meat with these wonderful family traditions, but is that why the traditions are wonderful? Turkeys have been genetically mutated and pumped full of antibiotics to the point that they can’t breed, can’t fly, sometimes can’t even walk. Setting aside the fact that the first Thanksgiving didn’t even have a turkey, do we show our thanksgiving best by eating one of these birds or by abstaining from it? Do we show our love for each other by eating animals that have been bred to suffer? (hide spoiler)]
If you want more details on what exactly all this is so appalling to me, I suggest you do read the book. Or, even watch Food, Inc., which is wonderful. And movies about the food industry are way more immediately powerful and entertaining than books. Sorry, JSF, but I honestly fell asleep a couple of times reading this book. Not in a way that means I didn’t like it, just in that way that I fall asleep to Blue Planet or The Vertical Ray of the Sun or the Documentary History of the United States. All wonderful works of art with magical sleep powers.
There’s one more point I want to make about this whole topic, and then I’ll leave you alone. It’s not my point, it’s the point of this girl who took JSF on his tour of factory farms. We make these justifications for the sense of taste that we make for no other sense. For example, if someone tortured a pig to death for a painting, we wouldn’t justify it in the way we justify torturing a pig to death for bacon. The girl says is, “Why doesn’t a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to killing and eating it?” If we would die of hunger otherwise, that might be a difference, but there is a lot of evidence that says a vegetarian or vegan diet can be healthier than an omnivorous one, and none to say they lead to starvation. What I’m trying to say is on a scale of bad, death is not worse than pointless suffering. But why live on that scale at all?
I am so sorry to be proselytizing here. It’s totally unacceptable. Blame it on the oatmeal stout and progeny if you wish. Plus, you know how new converts are. Rabid (wrote “rabit” first. Typing equivalent of slurring my words). All I’m saying is this: people eat more meat now than they ever have in history. And the diseaseS propagated by meat, not to mention the antibiotics made useless because of overuse on animals, make the meat industry possibly the most dangerous instance of institutionalized terrorism that exists in America. Hi, FBI, no offense intended! Even if you (FBI readers included) cut back a little bit on the meat you eat, it makes a huge statement to the meat industry. I came to being a veggie after many years of just cutting back on the animals, and I’m still not a vegan. It’s so doable.
Anyway, my plan is that my next review not be about something totally horrifying. For my first week free from school, this week has been strangely scarring in the reading. I always hope that there are some things that people will not do just because why would you? But I guess the excessive and sometimes ridiculous laws have a purpose. When I get back to school maybe some kind of class action against factory farms for H1N1, MRSA, salmonella, e. coli, and other crimes against humanity? We’ll talk. (less)
"Whenever you read a good book, it's like the author is right there, in the room, talking to you, which is why I don't like to read good books." - Jac...more"Whenever you read a good book, it's like the author is right there, in the room, talking to you, which is why I don't like to read good books." - Jack Handey
This is one of the only books I plan never to finish. I thought the writing was beautiful, and I don't even know that I would say it was badly edited (a comment I read in another review), but I hated all of the characters. I loathed them by the time I stopped reading. I even hated Chick a little bit. I skipped some and glanced at the end to see if it would be worth finishing, but I couldn't get too excited about anything I saw. If anyone has a good reason for me to finish this book, I would be interested to hear it.
I was recommended to read it by two very different people - the prom queen my Senior year of high school, and a friend of mine who was later locked up in a high security mental ward in Seattle. Made me want to give it a try, you know? I don't know if I've ever hated so many characters in a book as though they were my personal enemies.
This book sat inside my nightstand for a couple of months, and then I just couldn't stand having it there any more, knowing it might be sneaking out and watching me while I slept. I took it to the library and handed it to one of the customer service people, asking him if I could give it to the library. I didn't want to sell it to a used book store and then have someone make the mistake I made of actually spending money on it; and I couldn't throw it away because I do think it's well written, so I had to give it more respect than that. The man tried to scan it for about thirty seconds as though I was returning it. "No," I explained, "I'm not returning it. I just want to give it to the library, if that's okay." "Oh," he said, looking at his computer screen and not giving any other response. I walked away quickly, just in case he was planning to tell me I couldn't leave the book. He's the librarian here at the Eugene Public library with the handlebar mustache, and the greying hair with a bowl cut, who looks like he's part basset hound. That's a pretty irrelevant story, but why are you still reading this? (that's what Katherine Dunn said)(less)
THIS HORROR STORY IS TO SCARY FOR ME IT HAS A CREEPY GINGER KID AND HE RAPES ANN COULTER BECAUSE SHE WANTS HIM TO!!1! THEN THEY HAVE A LOT OF TICKLE F...moreTHIS HORROR STORY IS TO SCARY FOR ME IT HAS A CREEPY GINGER KID AND HE RAPES ANN COULTER BECAUSE SHE WANTS HIM TO!!1! THEN THEY HAVE A LOT OF TICKLE FIGHTS AND BUILD SUM HOUSES THATS ALL i REMEMBER.(less)