I passed my theory test on November 14th 2013! And that was after only 8 hours of sleep in 48 hours, and the...more*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
I passed my theory test on November 14th 2013! And that was after only 8 hours of sleep in 48 hours, and the day before I was sitting in a hospital room waiting for my mother to come out of high risk hip replacement surgery. I was so pleased she pulled through okay that I didn't care if I passed or not. But when I saw I did, I had to turn the letter over in my hand to check my name, and not someone else's, was on it!
Honestly, I didn't use this book that much. Answering the questions and watching the Hazard Perception clips on Theory Test Pro for 3 weeks trained me up to pass. All the questions you get wrong get funneled into the next practice test you take so that you eventually learn from your mistakes. I'd advise anyone learning to drive in the UK to use this website to study for their theory test.
If, however, you're without a reliable internet connection then this book is the next best thing, although it will only suffice for the multiple choice portion of the test as there's no substitute for the Hazard Perception part where you click the mouse when you see a hazard in the short video clips to test your response times.
After reading 11 chapters I decided to put this down and return it to the library. Not because it was terrible - the writing hooked me from the start,...moreAfter reading 11 chapters I decided to put this down and return it to the library. Not because it was terrible - the writing hooked me from the start, and the characterization was detailed, delivered via "show" rather than "tell", but it was obvious to me that I was going to be strung along.
Clearly this is a mystery and not paranormal, as advertised. From Armstrong's last few novels, I knew reading the whole would provide few answers to the questions and mysteries posed in the opening chapters. Frustration would only sour my view, so I chose not to continue.
However, the little I read earned my respect for the brave Olivia and left me disgusted by her mother's weak-willed cold-heartedness and James's equally despicable spinelessness when it came to loving and supporting Olivia in spite of the type of public adversity that leaves politicians and prominent figures cringing painfully.(less)
They informed, analyzed and challenged GR's decision to move towards censorship, and echoed my thoughts and feelings on the situation exactly.
Now for the criticisms.
OFF-TOPIC possesses a very narrow and biased focus, concentrating exclusively on Goodreads and its reviewers, and for the most part excludes dissenting points of view and the wider context of author opinions on the new policy, Amazon's censorship of self-published authors, and various retailers removing all ebooks by self-published authors while they weed out the excessively offensive and illegal works. These events were taking place concurrently during a 3-week period and one wonders if they're all interrelated.
Some contributors have authored several pieces within the book. They also happen to be the most popular reviewers on Goodreads, the most visible, so many will have previously read what's included here. It would've been nice if OFF-TOPIC contained a few more pieces submitted from less high profile Goodreads members to showcase variety and prove that this policy has an impact on everyone rather than the most prolific or active minority.
And while the majority of the pieces are thoughtful, well-written and entertaining, there is repetition and overlap in particular areas where my attention wandered. Considering the limited scope of subject area, this is to be expected.
I've tried to review this work fairly, in light of my obviously biased standpoint, evaluating OFF-TOPIC as I would any other non-fiction read.
The Sparrow is a huge improvement over its predecessor The First. Whereas The First serves as an introduction to a world where the dead suddenly return alive, The Sparrow delves into the moral issues that arise from it. Are the Returned human? Are they still the people they were when they died? How is this possible: Is it magic or can science explain it? And do we sacrifice our humanity in seeking the answers to these questions?
Married couple Heather and Matt face these questions when they discover Returned little girl Tatiana. Heather embraces the child, accepting and caring for her while husband Matt treats the Returnee as a thing to be exploited:
"These things aren't people. They're something else. And if there's a way for us to capitalize on this, then I'm all for that."
Heather is appalled at his reaction but replies with compassion, hoping to change his mind:
"If I could see my mother again... If my mother somehow shows up in all of this, if I get a call that she's been found in some far-off part of the world, I'd pray to God that the person who finds her would take care of her, that they would get her back to me, that they would have the decency to let me decide whether or not she was real, whether or not I could love her again."
Fear and uncertainty in the face of this bizarre phenomenon is to be expected, but the actions taken driven by these feelings have shown to be, in some cases, unaccountably violent and homicidal. In an attempt to understand Matt's rejection of Tatiana, Heather believes that since he's never experienced loss, he's unable to reconcile what the Returned can mean to those left behind in their grief:
'Heather was certain that Matt's problem with Tatiana stemmed from the fact that he had never lost anyone. Both of his parents were still alive. His brothers and sisters, even his grandparents, were all still alive. He had never known the loneliness of waking in the middle of the night from a dream of spending time with a mother who had been dead nearly a decade.'
The object of contention, Tatiana, is shown to be a normal human child and nothing indicates that she is otherwise. She possesses memories of her former life with loving parents, who took it in turns to make up bedtime stories to entertain her. Unfortunately her short life, and that of her mother's, was cut short when violence came to her home in what I assumed to be the Rwandan genocide in 1994, leaving her father bereft and alone (who was away at the time, helping those in need).
I'm definitely looking forward to the next installments of this series.(less)
By reading Eternity Embraced I was hoping to finally finish the series with Ecstasy Unveiled. Unfortunately, dipping my toes back into the Demonica universe again with Eternity Embraced wasn't the motivator I was hoping it to be.
I expected too much, for starters. This is a mid-series short story - those can be notoriously unfulfilling. Adding 'paranormal romance' into the mix can result in tired cliches, which I've apparently outgrown. On the positive side, the couple were together before the events in this story take place, meaning there's no 'love at first sight'. On the other hand, these characters are completely new and hail from an Aegis Guardian cell in Portland, bringing little to the Demonica universe which is primarily based in New York City, though the main couple featured in the debut novel do appear at the end.(less)
On paper, the effect of this Returnee's reappearance had the potential to be h...more*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
A great idea poorly executed.
On paper, the effect of this Returnee's reappearance had the potential to be heart-wrenching as a 37-year-old man attempts to solve a life-changing dilemma: to continue with his present life with a wife and child, or leave them for his 17-year-old first love who disappeared, and was presumed dead, 20 years ago.
I really wanted to like it but the writing is rushed and choppy. (view spoiler)[The inclusion of his wife's affair was incongruous, over the top and seemed like it was added at the last minute to lessen any guilt Peter might feel if he decided to leave Samantha for Tracy. (hide spoiler)]
The Choice ended (view spoiler)[logically (hide spoiler)], the way I thought it would, albeit in a rough and rushed manner. However, unlike in the other prequels, we experience nothing from the Returnee's perspective except the effect she has on her mother via her anxious phone calls to Peter.
From the quality of writing in The Sparrow, I know Jason Mott can do better. I just hope The Returned embodies the skill I know he possesses.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Realistic portrayals of the bureaucratic response to an unexplainable event and the emotional turmoil experi...more*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
Realistic portrayals of the bureaucratic response to an unexplainable event and the emotional turmoil experienced if you were to find out a dead loved one was in fact alive, drew me in as the scene was set for the rest of the series.
However, upon finishing, I was left feeling a mild mixture of indifference and curiosity, reminding me of the way short stories in anthologies are written; leaving what comes next, or reasons for what takes place, up to the imaginations of readers. Although the last sentence is ominous, indicating a not-so-happy ending.
As I own the other currently published installments in this series, I'll definitely be continuing, especially as there's a TV series based on it in the works.(less)
If you've never read or seen a comedy of errors or farcical play like those of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, then you might find this more ent...moreIf you've never read or seen a comedy of errors or farcical play like those of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, then you might find this more entertaining than I did. Having studied Wilde's slightly more modern The Importance of Being Earnest in great detail as a teenager and later watching An Ideal Husband, you come to realise this genre is little more than a one-trick pony; if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Besides minimal alterations in events, only the cast and the production values change from play to play, from performance to performance. Originality is harder to come by in these older and somewhat old fashioned, and perhaps less sophisticated, plays. Wilde managed to stand out from the crowd with his tricky witticisms and absurdities. She Stoops to Conquers possesses nothing so unique, as far as I can tell.
The repetitive nature of this sort of play's light humour devices such as the use of puns, wordplay, slapstick and the heavily relied upon mistaken identity trope (which is used here), concluding with the inevitable romantic happy ever after enacted by genteel, upper class main characters making satirical references to gender and class politics before falling in love at the drop of a hat (sometimes literally), tend to leave me a little bored of the predictability while only evoking a chuckle or two at most.
Also repetitive was the use of the word 'impudent'. Unfortunately this was written pre-thesaurus so I'll have to forgive Goldsmith's overuse since he didn't have easy access to synonyms like we do today.
Honestly, the skillful audio portrayal of She Stoops to Conquer by the distinct voices of a full cast, especially SpikeJames Marsters, is solely responsible for capturing and maintaining my attention throughout. I imagined Mr. Marsters in his Buffy persona's pre-vampire days as a less feeble version of the English gentleman William Pratt. You'd never know he's 100% American from his superb upper crust and unrefined British accents. Twice my age and yet I still perk up at the sound of his voice. *smiles*
I am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't fought...moreI am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't fought for racial equality and against segregation.
Brilliant free BBC audio of "I Have A Dream" read by Maya Angelou, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ndileka Mandela (granddaughter of Nelson Mandela), Stevie Wonder, Doreen Lawrence (mother of murdered British teenager Stephen Lawrence), Malala Yousafzai (sixteen-year-old student from Swat in Pakistan, shot by the Taliban for going to school), and a few others.
Each reader seemed to have read a passage personally relevant to them, bringing new meaning to MLK's eloquent words from his impassioned speech delivered to hundreds of thousands of people in Washington 50 years ago, the anniversary of which was yesterday (28th August 2013).
1st read: 29th Aug 2013 of BBC audio 2nd read: 9th Sep 2013 of Paperback (less)
Right now you're thinking: Is this book racist? No doubt the title is controversial, as are its contents, but I can happily reassure you, as a mixed r...moreRight now you're thinking: Is this book racist? No doubt the title is controversial, as are its contents, but I can happily reassure you, as a mixed race individual myself, it's not racist.
'Human variation is real, and it's foolish to ignore it or sweep it under the rug. It's not something to be ashamed of or to avoid for fear of conflict... Our diversity is a gift, and to keep ourselves separated and compartmentalized would be to waste that gift.'
What do Steve Jobs, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bob Marley, Nicki Minaj, Bruno Mars, Naomi Campbell, Vin Diesel, Jimi Hendrix, Ne-Yo and Jessica Alba all have in common? You know many more mixed race individuals than you think.
I jump on anything that refers to mixed race individuals as I'm the product of a British born black mother of Barbadian descent and a British born white father. I think I first heard of this book when I watched Channel 4's 'Is It Better to Be Mixed Race?' presented by a geneticist and mother of a mixed race child, and more recently I watched the BBC's Mixed Britannia documentary series.
A History Lesson
Historically, we were referred to as "mongrels", "halfbreeds", "half-nigger", and "mulatto" - which is actually a reference to the mule because some believed whites and blacks were two separate species and therefore shouldn't be able to successfully interbreed, like the mule which is infertile due to having parents of different species. Over in Europe they figured out this wasn't the case and sought to rectify it:
'After the First World War... The Nazis thought it was a scandal that White German women had children with Africans from an enemy army and in 1937, 385 of these children were rounded up and sterilised in clinics.'
Miscegenation, the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types, was ruled illegal in America. In the early days the white slave owners covertly broke the laws they passed by raping their slaves and those that were found out and couldn't buy their way around it were banished from the colonies, ministers performing mixed marriage ceremonies were heavily fined, and in 1924 marriage was punishable for up to 5 years in prison. In 1958, having married, Mildred Jeter (black) and Richard Loving (white) were sentenced to 1 year in prison and a 25-year exile from Virginia, but finally in 1967 the Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, which happened to be the year before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. However, Alabama in 2008 and South Carolina in 1998, 40% and 38% respectively voted to keep their anti-miscegenation laws.
Last week I watched a documentary on the life of Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple. I didn't realise quite how brave she was in marrying her white husband and having a mixed race daughter while living in a state which outlawed it, the stress of which was magnified after TCP was released. Honestly I'm surprised they escaped physically unscathed, if not mentally.
The Essence of the Author's Argument
A high level of bilateral symmetry, 'the two halves of something on either side of a particular line being exactly the same', of the face and body are perceived as more attractive and fertile, smell better and experience greater disease resistance, and is reflected in DNA. We receive two copies of every type of gene; one from each of our parents. If those copies are different, it's called heterozygosity. The more symmetrical tend to possess a higher level of heterozygosity and have a more diverse genome, which is beneficial when it comes to disease. If your two copies of genes relating to genetic disease are the same, then you'll suffer from that disease, yet when they're different you'll have a smaller chance of developing it.
Certain racial groups suffer particular types of disease. Those of black African descent tend to suffer sickle cell anaemia. If they do, having a child with someone outside of that racial group greatly decreases the odds the child will be affected by it but will be instead a carrier of the disease. However, sickle cell anaemia is fairly unique in that those living in Africa come into contact with malaria and sickle cell carriers are less likely to die from malaria. This is why sickle cell is still present in many Africans. This is called hybrid vigour, 'the tendency of a cross-bred individual to show qualities superior to those of both parents'. If that child then goes on to have their own child with another carrier, he or she may suffer the disease.
Ziv doesn't really address this. His focus is on first generation mixing, perhaps for simplification purposes, though I suppose you could extrapolate from his thesis that if each generation mixed with an entirely different racial group there'd be an increasing amount of genetic variation.
On the other hand, hybrid vigour has its limitations as we've seen in mules. Two species with varying number of chromosomes will either be unable to create viable living, breathing offspring or they'll be infertile and may be handicapped in other ways. Those with a same number of chromosomes can produce spectacular results but rarely occur in nature. You've probably seen photos of ligers and tigons; lion-tiger crosses.
This is a 900lb, 6ft tall and 12ft long liger named Hercules. His parents were a male lion and a female tiger.
(Click to see corresponding article.)
They grow at an astonishing rate. I wouldn't be surprised if he's one of the biggest mammalian land predators on Earth.
But then there are pizzly bears; polar bear - grizzly bear crosses.
(Click to see corresponding article.)
Their fur is darker than a polar bear and lighter than the brown grizzly bear. As a predator they will struggle to survive for their fur will be more visible in both the Arctic, under the cover of woods, and out in the open near streams, easily spotted by predators, prey and competitors. Any benefits hybrid vigour gives them are wiped out by the handicap of their appearance.
Selective breeding has been taking place since before Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species. He specifically references agriculturalist Robert Bakewell for using evolution by natural selection with sheep, cattle and horses. Unfortunate side effects have been found in turkeys bred for food. The breasts of males have become so large they can no longer mate with the females leading to artificial insemination. Cavendish bananas (the most popular variety) are clones and produce no seeds but are vulnerable to a deadly fungus.
One thing Ziv doesn't believe in is absolutes as he closes with a caveat: Using Gattaca as an example, Ziv says, 'Genes aren't everything... Discipline, dedication and near obsessive training... [and] proper nourishment, free from toxins, with regular exercise' contribute to a healthier disposition. Basically, genetics are a foundation on which your health is based but environment enhances or undermines it.
If you've never studied biology, don't fear; Ziv eases you in with a laid back style of writing using language a layperson will understand, plenty of examples and non-cheesy jokes. If you look up the studies he cites be prepared for confusing terminology. A little scientific accuracy is sacrificed for simplicity's sake, though quotes like this: 'Asexual people are like slow Cheetahs - they die out' grated a bit. Asexual people exist. Admittedly they account for only a small percentage of the population (1% meaning The Asexual Visibility & Education Network is potentially representing 70 million people - that's the population of the UK), and of course before the advent of test tube babies they didn't procreate.
Then there's 'A handsome man is a handsome man, whatever your culture.' Not so much. What's considered attractive varies according to culture.
And: 'We have evolved to avoid incest; incestuous individuals had inferior offspring and died out.' They didn't die out. Later, he details the Westermarck Effect - a disinterest in sexual relationships with the people you grew up with around you, and also mentions how in the Middle East and parts of Africa first cousin marriage is common to reduce familial conflict. Incest is something we've been both fascinated and horrified by as early as 429 BC in Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and we still are judging by how popular the Song of Fire and Ice series is and subsequent TV adaptation Game of Thrones.
'We're attracted to people with faces similar to our own.' We're more likely to be attracted to: our first cousins than those unrelated, those of the same race as our parents, those that smell like our parents. (From "The Big Bang Theory" during The Maternal Capacitance episode, Beverly says to Leonard: "If you want to have intercourse with that girl, find out what kind of cologne her father wore.")
I'm going to assume that there's little research on BBtL's subject matter because some of the studies referenced are pitifully small. 86 couples volunteered for the study that found symmetrical men were more likely to bring a female partner to orgasm. Sometimes Ziv admits all he has is anecdotal evidence and others he just neglects to mention how small and unrepresentative a study may be, especially Jay Phelan's as yet unpublished study on which the author places huge emphasis; 99 participants and no mention of the selection process leaves me sceptical, increasingly so since the researcher wrote the foreword to BBtL.
As always with non-fiction, bias is always an issue. BBtL is very Western and very American. Whenever I encounter this, I always look up Britain for comparison. I'm proud to say we never had anti-miscegenation laws.
'By 2000, the UK had the highest number of inter-racial couples in the world and the following year the UK added ‘mixed race’ to the census - 1.4% of the population respond. Birth records for the UK show that at least 3.5% of newborn babies are mixed race and today mixed race is the fastest growing demographic predicted to become Britain’s largest ethnic group by 2020. (Source)'
Today they estimate there're between one and two million mixed raced individuals living in the UK, and mixed race is the largest ethnic group among under-16s.
Unfortunately there is one way in which interracial children are disadvantaged: bone marrow transplants. To find a close match the donor would be ideally the same blood type and ethnicity as the recipient. The more mixed you are decreases the chances of finding a match in what is a tiny pool of willing registered donors. But then Ziv's theory, excluding environmental factors, means you're less likely to suffer serious health issues in the first place.
Although physical health is addressed, mental health is neglected. There are identity issues, the effects of discrimination on their parents filtering down, and the possibility of being rejected by all the ethnic communities your genes represent. Mixed race children are the least likely to be adopted, partly due to the, perhaps misguided, fear that the adoptive parents won't understand cultural and racial differences that may negtively affect the personal identity of the child.
According to the 2010-1 British Crime Survey, 'the risk of being a victim of personal crime was higher for adults from a Mixed background than for other ethnic groups.' They're also far more likely to be arrested or stopped and searched than cautioned. Mixed ethnicity prisoners represented 3%–4% of the British national prison population' - a higher percentage than the total population of the UK.
According to the 2009-10 Citizenship Survey: Race, Religion and Equalities Topic Report, 29% of mixed race individuals are atheist - the second highest atheist population after the Chinese at 49%. 55% of mixed race people said they were Christian while 10% were Muslim. Of the mixed race who were harassed 62% was due to skin colour, 41% ethnic origin and only 6% due to religion which is the lowest figure of all ethnicities for religion.
At any rate, babies born today are far luckier than I was in the 1980s. As a child, I was a minority perhaps only meeting 4 other mixed race children of a similar age, all of which were West Indian father / white British mother. And that's including the 3 years I spent in a big bad city inhabited by over half a million people.
When attributing Ziv's theory to myself, I found that I possess the 'sexiest' waist-to-hip ratio (i.e. my waist measurement is 70% of my hips). I would estimate that my half-sister (with a Jamaican mother) doesn't have the ratio but she does possess a more symmetrical face and well, much bigger breasts. We both inherited our father's hayfever and paler skin that others often mistake for Mediterranean. I have a peanut allergy, mild myopia, and I recently developed migraines but otherwise we're relatively healthy. Although there is a good chance that I have Scottish genes on both sides of my family tree; my Bajan ancestors were probably slaves and Barbados was home to many an exiled Scotsman, decreasing my level of heterzygosity. In view of this, I'm left wondering why Ziv doesn't account for the random selection of genes taken from our parents. We currently do have rudimentary artificial genetic selection to avoid a handful of hereditary diseases.
Is miscegenation the solution to racism?
In the early 1960s Norman Podhoretz believed mixing and interbreeding would improve race relations. From the movie "Bulworth":
"All we need is a voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction," He goes on to explain: "Everybody's just got to keep fucking everybody 'til they're all the same color."
'The idea of eliminating race entirely is a little naive. Prejudice is a foregone conclusion. Some people want to feel superior to others; the criteria that they use to accomplish that, be it skin color, level of education, income, or upbringing, are secondary.'
I'd like to know the ethnicity figures for South Africa and Zimbabwe. Surely with apartheid and whites driven out or killed, the figures would show segregation and less interracial individuals. I certainly wouldn't want to live there.
Reluctance to Intermarry
Alon Ziv brings up some valid points under the heading 'Some of my best friends are white people... (But I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one.)' His parents are Jewish and many Jews want to preserve their heritage, especially the older generation, and there's the very real fear that intermarriage will 'lead to a dilution of culture and a loss of tradition.' He asks a very powerful and controversial question: 'Did the Jews survive the Holocaust only to be eliminated through assimilation?' Also, some religions specifically forbid intermarriage.
Despite the 2000 U.S. census forms being confusing when defining race and nationality and therefore accuracy of the resulting data being compromised, the bottom ten most interracial states are all in the East whereas the top ten are all in the West, apart from New York. But the fastest growing cities are also in the West, which also happens to border two other countries; immigrants are perhaps settling close to where they originate.
Segregation follows the same pattern; the least segregated cities are in the West. However, white-Asian segregation is much less pronounced compared to white-black segregation.
✺ 6% mixed married couples ✺ 2.4% Americans interracial. California is the most integrated and interracial state. ✺ 14% of Asians are interracial compared with 5% of blacks. I'd argue this is skewed due to the world population of Asians being far higher than the black population.
Where there's integration there's more intermarriage; in cities. Emigrating and settling in 'ethnic conclaves' is a barrier to mixing, as seen in animals: '...goslings raised in a mixed flock had no color preference.' Although we tend to choose to marry someone of a similar background. Race and religion correlate 90% of the time while intelligence and personality only 40% of the time.
Asian women marry white men more than vice versa, and white women dating black men is 3x more common than vice versa.
Q 'How many races are there?' AThere's no definable number. It's a continuum or spectrum.
Q'Are certain races better at certain things?' A Scary and divisive question. We can't say for sure but the fastest sprinters and long-distance runners appear to be of African descent.
Q 'Which is the best combination of races?" A Ziv says Bantu (southern Africa) + Eskimo. This reminds me of the pizzly bear situation so I'd hesitate to agree.
An interracial future is inevitable. Ziv is not commanding us to have interracial babies, he just informing us that the old adage is correct: variety is the spice of life, we have the right to choose who we have children with and we shouldn't be weighed down with the baggage of racism holding us back socially and scientifically. Race exists and is genetically identifiable with the help of DNA genealogy testing.
Lastly, I don't like to see authors commenting on reviews, let alone negative ones, but I have to concede that he makes some very valid points in his one and only comment, and if you read his book, you know that he is far from a stiff upper-lipped serious professor type. However, the reviewer does make a few, albeit mostly small, scientifically accurate... corrections, which have plainly been changed to make for easier digestion for those without a biology degree.(less)
Naomi Wolf does not have a way with words. Dense, vague and ambiguous language; sweeping generalizations; an...more*Cross-posted on Wordpress and BookLikes.
Naomi Wolf does not have a way with words. Dense, vague and ambiguous language; sweeping generalizations; and seeing a deeper meaning or intent where a simpler explanation is more likely and appropriate – which created a conspiratorial air that everyone, or just men, were doing everything they can to oppress women and repress their desires. Frustration had me skimming, and I found myself regularly defending men and questioning women’s complicit behaviour in undermining their own positions in society.
Contrary to Wolf’s implications, not all men are women haters. Sadomasochism is not a new concept, of which the 18th century Donatien Alphonse Francois Sade, also known as the Marquis de Sade, can attest. The role of masochist is not always female and submissive, the male not always the sadist and dominant. No mention is made of the controls in place when acting out S&M to protect both actors in the roleplay e.g. safe words. Wolf’s perception of S&M is most definitely abhorrence for what she sees as the violent degradation of women.
Women are underestimated. They are to have more than one sexual fantasy; can desire to be dominant and submissive at different times, and just because they might enjoy rape fantasy does not mean they want to be raped or believe rape is acceptable. Also, male rape exists – they can be victims too, just as women can be the rapist or the abuser. Not all pornography is disturbingly violent; Wolf makes no distinctions between hardcore and softcore porn and various fetishes.
Men aren't unaffected by The Beauty Myth. Replicas of the beautiful male Adonis grace magazine covers and appear in top grossing movies. Show me covers of the average looking man who doesn't possess a six pack. Men's Health?GQ? Nine out of ten are the epitome of male perfection, but does 90% of the male population reflect this look? No. Men suffer the same self-image problems as women: body dysmorphia, anorexia, bulimia, etc. Bulimia and cosmetic surgery (specifically genital surgery) are the only topics in which Wolf considers men to be victims, in the Hunger and Violence chapters, respectively.
I can't quite decide if Wolf cherry picks her data or if she's ignorant of certain issues due to the time in which The Beauty Myth was written. However, she does make some valid points and highlights issues like female genital mutilation, post-traumatic stress suffered by rape victims, the prevalence of rape in universities and incest in families (Kinsey found incest in 24% of American, Australian and British families), and a possible link between victims of child sex abuse and the desire for cosmetic surgery.
'In the wake of rape allegations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, feminist Naomi Wolf publicly denied that if a man holds down and tries to sexually penetrate a woman who previously agreed to sex but changed her mind after he refused to wear a condom, he is a rapist. She also denied that penetrating a sleeping woman is rape. Wolf later went further, alleging that it is wrong to keep confidential the names of people who report that they've been raped. She reasoned it encourages false rape claims and that women should grow up and be treated as "moral adults" who stand by their allegations. When the two Assange accusers' names were released, they received death threats and experienced other forms of humiliation, the very reason names are publicly withheld now.'
This is backed up with Wolf's discussion with fellow feminist Jaclyn Friedman [part I and part II]. It's astonishing to me how much the author has changed her opinions on rape. In 1990, when The Beauty Myth was first published, Wolf was telling us how common acquaintance rape is and that victims of rape that don't call it rape still suffer as much as those who do, and twenty years later in 2010, she believed the controversial police report over the rape victims own words. It boggles the mind. How can she not remember writing this?:
'...much AIDS education has been utterly naive. If a quarter of young women have at some point had control denied them in a sexual encounter, they stand little chance of protecting themselves from the deadly disease. In a speakout on sexual violence at Yale University, the most common theme was a new crime that has been largely ignored: when a woman stipulates a safe, or nonpenetrative, sexual encounter, but the man ejaculates into her against her will.' (pg168) [emphasis mine]
What has happened to change Naomi’s mind after twenty years as a feminist and someone who has worked with rape victims?
Moving on. Question: Who is responsible for the evolution of culture? Government? Religion? Marketing directors? The people? Every now and then Wolf derives intent to derail female empowerment by THEM and somehow manages to avoid identifying the person(s) of blame and it wasn’t always obvious. I can see entities like Playboy intending to effect cultural change for financial gain, and with the help of other entities and technological advancement, has succeeded in its quest to make pornography easily accessible. However, this was only possible with majority social acceptance. Without the complicity of the general public, effecting change is difficult. Wolf doesn’t really address this, she prefers to concentrate on her perceived instigators of change rather than the response of the people as a whole.
I couldn’t finish the first chapter, ‘Work’, as it was badly written – almost nonsensical at times - and in desperate need of an editor. I skimmed over ‘Culture’, ‘Violence’ (which actually focuses on cosmetic surgery) and ‘Beyond the Beauty Myth’. Religion was an easier read and mostly made sense. ‘Sex’ is the chapter I concentrated on.
Twenty three years have passed since publication and while I can sort of see why this was groundbreaking in 1990, I find it strange that much of the feminist literature published today still refer to The Beauty Myth. Saying that, most of the topics covered are still relevant but areas of it are seriously outdated and perpetuates inequality by almost completely demonizing men, failing to recognise women's potential to be abusers, and men as victims. (less)
"It says here Jamar bought a toilet seat for fifty thousand dollars," Ascanio said. I looked at the screen. "It says it's from Amarna, from the eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt." "It's a toilet seat," Ascanio said. "It's four thousand years old." He looked at me incredulous. "Some ancient Egyptians sat on it and took a dump." "I assume so." "He paid fifty thousand dollars for a used toilet seat." [...] "You could buy a car for fifty thousand dollars. A really nice car." Ascanio's eyes lit up. "A Hummer. You could buy a converted Hummer." "You don't need a Hummer," I said. "Chicks dig the Hummer." "You don't need any chicks either." "He gave me an injured look. "I have needs."
The ultimate battle between entertainment devices: old versus new, low-tech versus high tech; pitching friends - a donkey and a monkey - against each...moreThe ultimate battle between entertainment devices: old versus new, low-tech versus high tech; pitching friends - a donkey and a monkey - against each other.
These days we're more likely to pick up a shiny and versatile iPad before we'd even look at the one-trick pony of a book, dismissing their simplicity by thinking it's synonymous with boring. Far from it! The simple things in life can be the most enjoyable.
I can imagine children having this exact conversation either among themselves or with an adult. It's a cute way to introduce children to the now old fashioned notion of holding and reading a physical book.
As soon as I was done fawning over this I passed it on to my sick mother who's been miserable of late and it produced a fit of laughter - a surprisingly happy sound I've been missing of late.
Beautifully illustrated with such an adorable and timely little story to perk up anyone's day, It's a Book... so awesome it should be on every child's bibliophile's bookshelf.(less)
'Good poems and novels are those that transcend their age and speak meaningfully to us all. They deal in permanent, imperishable features of human existence - in joy, suffering, grief, death and sexual passion, rather than in the local and incidental.'
Literary criticism: where philosophy and psychology meet.
Speaking of philosophy, this very much reminded me of my Philosophy of Art and Literature module at university, which is not to say that this can't be read by a novice or a teenager studying for GCSE or A Level English literature - I've studied both. It's accessible enough to be useful to these groups, the first chapter especially as it covers how to go about analysing the opening passages of certain well-known classics, some of which are required reading for those precise qualifications e.g. Macbeth.
A few months ago I was deciding which literary theory and criticism books I wanted to read and Terry Eagleton was firmly on my list as a former professor of English literarture at the University of Oxford, though as they're quite expensive I've yet to acquire them. Then, I spotted How to Read Literature on Netgalley and immediately requested it.
From the title and synopsis I inferred that this would be an introduction to the subject for beginners, and it is, though it only mentions a few schools of literary theory and movements in passing when I would've preferred a structured but brief accounting of their main principles. As Eagleton sacrifices breadth for depth he loses the opportunity to give the reader a more comprehensive educational foundation from which to work. And although the depths reached are appreciated, overly numerous examples throughout were not. There comes a point when you're flogging a dead horse. I understand the need to find a passage the reader can connect with and learn from but boring them to death while making the same point again and again isn't a desired situation. Sufficed to say, I skimmed.
(As a side note, I should add: if you haven't read many classics, be prepared to be spoiled. Ending after ending is revealed.)
Eagleton's writing style is sometimes readable and sometimes difficult and dense - when I wished he'd been more direct and concise - and even contains the occasional superfluous digression. I longed for a more definitive structure with stricter boundaries so I wouldn't miss the important literary terms and movements casually dropped into the conversation with the reader.
Despite the author's detached commentary, hiding behind 'sometheorists believe' instead of owning an opinion, personal biases and judgements are apparent. For instance, from Eagleton's oddly contradictorydiscourse on vampires, I then infer that he isn't a fan of the postmodern fascination with them in literature and abruptly dismisses their influence. I also assume he has a disliking of radical feminists to make an out-of-the-blue and unwarranted comment on their orifices. Bible fans won't be happy either, and almost insults hardcore fans of fiction in general, saving himself at the last second.
'Like a baby, it is detached from its author as soon as it enters the world. All literary works are orphaned at birth. Rather as our parents do not continue to govern our lives as we grow up, so the poet cannot determine the situations in which his or her work will be read, or what sense we are likely to make of it.'
To use 'baby', that exact word, makes me wonder how many not-so-professional author reactions to a negative review (from him as a literary critic or someone else) Eagleton has witnessed, because equating the relationship a book has with its author to a baby is a favourite line of those who are unable to gracefully accept criticism of their work.
In view of this, he's rather too charitable regarding the possible mistakes made by authors, their ignorance or failure to do their research. This is a pet peeve of mine and it's hard to believe that a critic would rather give the benefit of the doubt, believing 'the distortion is deliberate' than point out the errors. Unless I'm reading a dystopia or have an author's note explaining why they've distorted facts, then I'm going to think the worst.
Indirectly, Eagleton explains why so many young adult authors use orphans - or near enough i.e. unsupervised children and teens - as their main characters because they're easier to write about since they're free of 'the complex web of kinsfolk' and there's 'less history to hamper them.' That absence of parental relationships releases the author to allow their characters the freedom to do what they like - a get out of jail free card, if you will, making for a simpler writing experience.
How to Read Literature is broken down into five chapters:
Openings Where we learn to dissect and assess the opening passages of various well-known classics.
Characters Focuses on two types of characters - the standard and the eccentric, and the value we place on them.
Narrative Explaining the difference between plot and narrative, omniscient and unreliable narrators.
Interpretation How interpretation and meaning is based on the experiences, culture and time period of the interpreter and the work they're examining, and that no one interpretation is right or wrong. An author's intention can be different to a reader's interpretation. Baa Baa Black Sheep is used as a humorous example.
Value The most structured and succinct chapter, which also happens to be my favourite, successfully drawing the book to its conclusion by noting how, when and why we value good (and bad) literature.
Good literature can be: complex or poignantly simplistic, coherent or fragmented, profound or not e.g. Oscar Wilde, possess a substantial or thin plot.
Just some of the aspects under the microscope of literary criticism:
Micro aspects sound-texture character names syllables rhythm & rhyme ambiguities imagery grammar & syntax emotional attitudes paradoxes, discrepencies, contradictions, contrasts, connections, parallels unspoken implications tone changes quality of writing e.g. sombre, colloquial, terse, jaded, theatrical, ironic, abrasive, sensuous
Macro aspects character plot theme narrative originality traditional/conventional
Unfortunately my ARC didn't contain a bibliography, notes, further reading, a glossary or an index. Hopefully, the finished edition will include some or all of these sections.
In spite of my less than glowing criticism, I enjoyed the pertinent and astute observations made by an obviously accomplished and well-versed expert. How to Read Literature is a good introduction for newcomers to the subject and I would recommend it as such.
*My thanks to Yale University Press and Netgalley for providing me with the ARC in return for an honest review.(less)