After years of reading BDSM romances, I jumped at the chance to read this memoir (via Edelweiss), written by an author of erotic romance, about her in...moreAfter years of reading BDSM romances, I jumped at the chance to read this memoir (via Edelweiss), written by an author of erotic romance, about her initiation into submission. Uncomfortable. Intriguing. Horrified. Romantic. Sad. Hopeful. These are my adjectives for this book. Note that Erotic is not among them. But that's no reason to turn you off Sarah's story. Uncomfortable and Horrified definitely might be a turn-off, but if you want a dose of realism to balance out the kink you've read, Intriguing is the word. Only if you've read plenty of BDSM romance already, though...this is no place to start.
Middle-aged Sarah lives in England. Divorced from a much-older man, her children are grown and her interest in BDSM results in her seeking a "mentor" online. She connects with Max, and after signing a contract--which includes no intercourse--her initiation begins. Her scenes of submission are raw and scary; Sarah never really explains why pain and humiliation turns her on, but she does describe everything in emotional and physical detail. Reading about a flogging in an erotic romance is not at all the same as the beatings Sarah endures. I can't stress that enough.
The story unfolds in many ways like a romance, even though Sarah initially keeps "sex" off the table and Max intends to keep his relationship strictly impersonal. What I often find confusing in erotic romance I also find confusing here and perhaps it's because of my age. I don't understand why everything but intercourse is not "sex." Frankly, if you're going to let somebody give you screaming orgasms, if you're going to give a man a blow job and swallow...how is that not "sex?"
Anyway, as Sarah gets deeper into the lifestyle and they remove "no sex" from the contract--the scenes related to her desire for actual sex with Max are erotic--she begins to develop feelings for him. Though he fights it, he falls in love with Sarah. But that "other woman" who often crops up in romances also crops up here, and when the compartmentalization of Sarah and Max's BDSM relationship breaks open into the messiness of Max's real life, suddenly the wall between reader and writer breaks wide open. Somehow reading about her BDSM scenes was like following a travelogue for me, but after Max and Sarah flew off for a romantic interlude in Paris and it all went to shit, that this is a true story nearly broke my heart.
I surprised myself in that I liked this book. Memoirs always work better, I think, when they're written by actual writers, and though the writing here isn't brilliant, it kept my interest. Generally when I read kinky scenes, if there are things like canes, hardcore whips, the involvement of fists or backdoor action without lots of loving prep that isn't graphically described, I am immediately turned off. I didn't find scenes like this in Sarah's story erotic in the least, but I was so intrigued by her experiences that I wanted to keep reading, probably because they were a part of her real life and I wanted to know what happened next.
Why does severe pain and humiliation turn some people on? Sarah's book doesn't answer that question for me, but I found her journey from middle-aged mother to BDSM devotee interesting and well told, and the intersection of kink with reality grounded this memoir in a unique fashion. If you've read BDSM romance and want to know what happens when fantasy becomes experiential, give this one a try. I won't give spoilers, but remember that Hopeful was one of my adjectives for this read.(less)
My consciousness was raised in 1978, during my first semester at college. Nearly 35 years later, my 20-year-old daughter is about to start her junior...moreMy consciousness was raised in 1978, during my first semester at college. Nearly 35 years later, my 20-year-old daughter is about to start her junior year. Like the young professional women Povich writes about as her new book begins, she doesn't consider herself a feminist. Like the bright and shiny-eyed women at the start of her book, my daughter lacks the contextual history of sexism and the knowledge of who fought the good fight for equality. I would love for her to read this book.
Povich uses the experiences of those modern young women as entrée to far more personal experiences. The author was one of nearly four dozen women employed by Newsweek magazine to file an EEOC complaint charging their employee with systemic discrimination. Women were hired as researchers (AKA fact checkers), but rarely as reporters, even less often as writers, and certainly never as editors. Many of these women actually did the work of reporters and/or writers, but were not paid for it, and even the women who did that work were not considered when those positions opened up. Ironically, even the landmark Newsweek cover article, "Women in Revolt," was written by an outsider, the wife of one of the men on staff.
Why were women ghettoized? Why weren't they considered for "men's" work or paid more? Because it simply wasn't done. Or so one of the magazine's editors admitted at the time, not even realizing how ridiculous a statement it was...and remains.
The author, along with the others involved in the action, was a "good girl," an apolitical woman who almost reluctantly became involved in a fight that helped open up journalism to women. These women were not bra-burning, flame-throwing "feminazis." But they realized after training men to become their bosses that something had to be done. And so they did it.
Interestingly, though their experience was groundbreaking, few even in the industry know about their efforts today. The young women Povich writes about at the start of her book work[ed] at Newsweek in the late 2000s, and after experiencing some of the same systemic sexism, they had to dig deep into the archives to learn about the EEOC action, filed as the "Women in Revolt" cover hit newsstands. Hopefully all women in journalism and/or media will be able to avoid that and simply pick up The Good Girls Revolt, and perhaps even hand it to their bosses.
Povich provides her own personal story, along with truncated stories for many of the women involved. Not only is it interesting to learn about their experiences in a macro sense, their individual career arcs are also intriguing, particularly those whose reluctance to claim their own success interfered with it. And, all the angst these women felt while planning for the action provides for some of the book's best moments, which reads during those scenes like a suspense novel what with secret meetings, concern about moles, etc. With the Mad Men like backdrop of hard-drinking, horny male writers and editors, it fits perfectly into today's zeitgeist.
I liked this book a great deal and recommend it to women of all ages...those my age, those my daughter's age, and all those in-between. It should be required reading in every newsroom today (Internet, print, broadcast), and be a part of many a college curricula. What keeps it from earning a higher rating? Well, Povich, who had a remarkable career, shortchanges her own experiences, and while I liked reading about some of her colleagues, I wish she had been more thorough with their stories. However, when my biggest criticism of a book is that it leaves me wanting more, I realize that's a minor quibble.
(The publisher provided this book via Netgalley.)(less)
Buzz Bissinger writes with searing honesty in Father's Day, which ostensibly recounts a road trip taken with his son Zach in 2007. Zach, in his mid-tw...moreBuzz Bissinger writes with searing honesty in Father's Day, which ostensibly recounts a road trip taken with his son Zach in 2007. Zach, in his mid-twenties at the time, was born prematurely and with a major oxygen deficiency three minutes after his twin's birth. He suffers from a myriad of mental disabilities and is also a savant when it comes to dates and places. Bissinger suggested the trip as a way to get to know his son, who has an interior life, just one that is inaccessible to those around him. In an effort to create enthusiasm for the trip, he suggests to his son, none too keen on driving across the country, that rather than visit attractions like the Grand Canyon, they visit cities and towns in which they once lived, and visit old friends and colleagues.
Anyone who parents a child with some sort of learning difference and social challenges will empathize with the author, who readily admits to mistakes he made along the way, and anger and frustration he continues to feel. My heart broke when he wrote about his blue box of test scores, psych analyses, and teacher comments. While most parents have boxes of their kids' art work and report cards, there are many of us with our own blue boxes.
When she heard I was reading this book, a friend told me that a friend of hers had read it and disliked it because the author's behavior toward his son is not always sugar and spice. That may be precisely why I liked it. It's honest. It's gut-wrenching, and when the author dons a hair shirt, it felt authentic to me.
I don't want to give much detail because those who read the book will discover it for themselves. Just know that in addition to the pathos, there's great writing, and, from Zach to his dad, a lesson or two about handling life when you want to explode. Because as much as Bissinger longs to teach his son, he readily accepts his son's lessons, about acceptance, about love, and dignity.
This book is a strong B+; I'm actually wavering with an A-, or DIK grade. What may put it over the top is a conversation the author had with Zach's twin shortly after his college graduation about who might assume responsibility for Zach after the death of their parents. If you read the book, I'd love to hear from you, and if I update the grade, I'll reflect that here.(less)
"Alyssa Shelasky's memoir thoroughly details her childhood within a rather bohemian family, the subsequent death of one of her close friends on Septem...more"Alyssa Shelasky's memoir thoroughly details her childhood within a rather bohemian family, the subsequent death of one of her close friends on September 11th, her experiences as a celebrity journalist in New York and Los Angeles, her love life, and how she transformed from a woman who never cooked into a foodie and amateur cook. The book includes recipes, often reprinted from other sources, which nonetheless sound tasty. Her growth as a foodie and cook began during her relationship with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn (Top Chef, Top Chef All-Stars),. She never refers to him by name in the book...or the cooking shows on which he appeared...he is always "Chef." Some may find that mysterious, but others, compelled to google her name to verify his identity, may be irritated. It certainly annoyed me."
"I've watched Eloisa James' writing career since she first became a published romance author. While never particularly drawn to her fiction, when I sa...more"I've watched Eloisa James' writing career since she first became a published romance author. While never particularly drawn to her fiction, when I saw this book available on Amazon Vine, I ordered it. Why? Because I enjoy this type of memoir. Going in readers should know that James doesn't present her year in Paris in a traditional sense. Instead, she's taken Tweets and Facebook entries and worked from there. Some are expanded into short essays--some are simply paragraphs of observations. Given that she lets readers know up front that the move to Paris with her Italian husband and two kids came after her mother's death from cancer, her own cancer diagnosis two weeks later, followed by removal of a breast and subsequent remission, I think she made a good choice. Her "living in the moment" attitude is a perfect match for this type of writing, and though as a reader I don't know what the future will bring for the author, I was glad to be along for the ride."
"My criticism of romances filled with darkness often goes something like this: “The book’s unrelenting darkness went entirely over the top and into me...more"My criticism of romances filled with darkness often goes something like this: “The book’s unrelenting darkness went entirely over the top and into melodrama, piling one bad thing onto another. Real people’s lives are not the Perils of Pauline.”
"After reading Theresa Weir’s new memoir, The Orchard, I may be forced to revise that criticism. Apparently one bad thing after another can befall a person. The question is...do I want to read it?"...
Click here to read the rest of my Fresh Meat on Theresa Weir's The Orchard at Heroes and Heartbreakers.(less)
Listened to audiobook version on lengthy car ride. Entirely spellbound by Campbell Scott's narration and Hillebrand's writing. Enjoyed how she wove th...moreListened to audiobook version on lengthy car ride. Entirely spellbound by Campbell Scott's narration and Hillebrand's writing. Enjoyed how she wove the lives of Seabiscuit's owner, trainer, and jockeys into the narrative so that I came to care about the entire team. Although a part of history, the book so well written and the narration so well done it felt very much of the moment. (less)
"Ever since I saw the first 'wow, this is great!' review of Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones, and Butter, I knew I had to read it. When Amazon offere...more"Ever since I saw the first 'wow, this is great!' review of Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones, and Butter, I knew I had to read it. When Amazon offered it through their Vine program, I requested a copy. As advertised, the author's voice is clear, strong, and very descriptive; it's not surprising to learn she earned a master's degree in writing. When she describes the "pig-urine stench of panchetta," I sat back, thought about it, and realized she was absolutely...incredibly...right on the nose. The book's structure, though, didn't work as well as the prose itself. I would have preferred seeing her in my mind's eye as an adult first, and a chef, before reading about her very unusual upbringing. Context is necessary on both ends, and without the later context, her background seemed all the more foreign..."
"While John Kralik hadn't fallen as low as Michael Gates Gill, author of How Starbucks Saved My Life, and is fifteen years younger, both men hit rock...more"While John Kralik hadn't fallen as low as Michael Gates Gill, author of How Starbucks Saved My Life, and is fifteen years younger, both men hit rock bottom in their personal and professional lives when they took unusual actions to save themselves. Gill learned, through menial work once thought beneath him, among people he would otherwise never have met, how to regain his self-worth and get by, happily, with far less than he'd grown accustomed. John Kralik, who years earlier had quit his high-end law partnership to go the noble, Jerry Maguire route, discovered doing the right thing doesn't always result in right results."