So I didn't loooove this book, but I was still surprised by the universal panning of it on Goodreads. It's funny, peoples! It's also largely satirical...moreSo I didn't loooove this book, but I was still surprised by the universal panning of it on Goodreads. It's funny, peoples! It's also largely satirical, which is an under-appreciated art these days - in the written form, at least - and all too easily can be overlooked. So take out your satirical reading lenses and enjoy the following samples of Frazier's acerbic humor, as told through the voice of a burnt-out stay-at-home mother of two:
"Larry hopped out of bed before dawn and disappeared down in the basement, and I had the luxury of just lying there with the whole bed to myself and thinking about people I despised." p.59
"One very important key to maintaining our daily sanity is a simple scheduling tactic I call Putting Things the Hell Off. Today I am Putting the Hell Off Cleaning the Fucking Refrigerator, and the reason is simple: I just don't fucking feel like it. Looking at my calendar I see a whole raft of blank days during the rest of my life that I can devote to this stupid task, when perhaps I will be in more of a refrigerator-cleaning frame of mind." p.174
"Trevor has such an imagination and I hated to interrupt his creative processes, knowing how important this kind of play is to a child's development, but really he was driving me out of my fucking mind...." p.202
"Margaret and I agreed that it is somewhat harder to relax with a drink when the kids are home or when you know you might have to hop in the car without warning and chauffeur them somwhere. I feel this is an invasion of my personal space...." p.222
It's basically a book of that, so you can use the above to determine if this book is your kind of thing or not.
Still, despite some wickedly funny moments, I couldn't give the book more than three stars. Some of my first notes in this book were about how sad it made me when she closes with "Oh, what a fucking horrible day this has been," which happens about every third entry. Cursing Mommy is weary of her husband, her kids, her life - which makes me, as a stay-at-home mom (and one with a tendency to swear like a sailor, though I'm working on that), wonder what he's satirizing. Is Frazier saying Cursing Mommy has too much time on her hands to hate on things and should go find herself a job? Or maybe that part's not meant to be satirical? Complex literary styles can be so confusing, I tell you!
Oh, and an obvious disclaimer: Don't read this book if you're afraid of seeing Bad Words. There are many of them, as the title may indicate. (less)
Once, someone told me I was the most interested person alive. "Thank you!!" I told him, astonished that finally someone else realized what I've known...moreOnce, someone told me I was the most interested person alive. "Thank you!!" I told him, astonished that finally someone else realized what I've known all along - that the Dos Equis guy is lying. It is, in fact, I who am the most interesting person alive!*
"No, no - not interesting...interested," he said, shattering my dreams without even realizing it.
Shit. So much for that.
But then I thought about it, and being the most interested person alive is pretty cool, too. I can get sucked into ANYTHING because I am fascinated by EVERYTHING. I might be the only person on the planet who enjoyed Yann Martel's 14-page description of a pear in Beatrice and Virgil, and I have yet to encounter a subject that can't even pique my curiosity a little bit.
Soo, I felt pretty good when I started with Alexandra Horowitz's On Looking as I was anticipating having an obscure-fact party in my brain, but alas, there was no party to be had. Boo.
First off, the book is one giant LIE.
Okay so that may be a slightly extreme way of putting it, but I don't seem the be the only one who thought she would repeat the same walk with 11 different experts, thereby casting 11 different points of view on the same space. Wouldn't that have been infinitely more interesting?? (Spoiler alert: Yes.) I thought the entire point of the book is "look how much you're missing in everyday life" - so shouldn't these alleged** experts be able to illuminate one walk in 11 different ways? Oddly, some of the walks were in fact the same, whereas the others were in entirely different states. Huh?
There was also a problem of content. It often seemed the Horowitz didn't sponge enough information out of her experts to fill the whole book, so she resorted to bolstering each chapter with marginally relevant filler content. Example: In one chapter, she scours the streets with a doctor who's adept at diagnosing illness based on peculiarities of gait and appearance. Unfortunately, probably because people were bundled up against the cold and thereby hiding their sickly complexions from inspection, there were only about two people the doctor was able to size up on their walk. Rather than scrap that doctor idea and come up with a new expert to walk with, Horowitz is like, "hey guys, let me also tell you about this physical therapist I know from when my back was out, which I may have mentioned before because my back was out for like half of this project which probably was an ominous way to begin a book dependent upon my ability to walk but anyway this guy also knows some things about gaits, like let's see well usually you walk with your hips in synchronous rotation which thereby forces the legs forward via kinetic propulsion [yes, I made that up] and...what was I talking about again?" Right, like that.
By far my favorite chapter was her walk with her toddler son as I myself have an almost-toddler son, and I am endlessly fascinated by what he finds fascinating. We take him to the aquarium to see the bright, colorful fish and silly penguins, and the kid stares at, say, the bolt holding the tank together. Horowitz was smart to start the book with this little man's walk, though, since it hammers home the point that really, nothing is intrinsically more interesting to look at than anything else (except faces, according to science - babies are born to respond to faces). Everything provides an opportunity for investigative study, when you think about it, but in this day of constantly being "on," we too often forget that. Horowitz's book is a nice, if slightly off-target, reminder to slow down and look at the world around you.
I can think of no better ending to this review than the immortal words of one Mr. Ferris Bueller:
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."***
*I pride myself on being a grammar nerd, but this is tripping me up. Do I say am or is there?? Calling Jess, help please...both sound wrong.
**I don't know why I said that. They're clearly well-established in their fields and are fully deserving of the "expert" title.
Interesting that I chose to read this book right around the time when I decided to lean OUT big time.
Prior to March 2013, I had a great job doing int...moreInteresting that I chose to read this book right around the time when I decided to lean OUT big time.
Prior to March 2013, I had a great job doing interesting work for (mostly) wonderful people, but that job happened to exist in NYC - aka the most expensive city in the country - and for all the job's plusses, "financially rewarding" it was not.
Post March 2013, everything changed. I had my first baby - a sweet, adorable bundle of baby boy joy - and upon crunching the numbers, I realized that post-tax and post-nanny, it didn't necessarily pay (financially, at least) for me to work. I knew we could live on my husband's salary alone without changing our lifestyle significantly (yes, my salary was that paltry), and I knew that if I were to continue to work, the cost of a nanny would have eaten all but about $5,000 of my post-tax income. Would you work full-time for that amount of money? Would $5,000 get you out of bed every day and help you overlook crowded smelly subways, meetings with people you kind of want to punch in the face, losing PowerPoint presentations when your computer crashes, having no flexibility to your life from M-F, 9am-6pm...$96 a week. $13 a day. No thank you.
That, paired with a rather inconveniently timed move to Boston, left me a stay-at-home mom who now spends her days singing "The Wheels on the Bus" at baby music class, playing with the parachute at baby-and-me class and doing downward dog while blowing kisses at baby yoga class instead of going to meetings, writing proposals and managing budgets.
It'd be nice to end that previous paragraph with a "...and I wouldn't have it any other way," but the truth is, I miss work. I miss the brain power involved, I miss being around adults, I miss solving problems...but the flip side of that truth is that if I were at work, I would miss my boy. What's a young professional gal to do?!
Sandberg acknowledges that having approximately $1,000,000,000 in the bank makes it a little easier to cover the childcare and other household help that greatly, greatly simplify the life of a working mother. Still, her message isn't one of an out-of-touch, idealistic celebrity boss - she's not Gwyneth, and this isn't Goop. The stats in Lean In aren't anything that someone with an interest in women's studies wouldn't have encountered, but they're upsetting to read, particularly given how numerous they are. (Most interesting to me is the case study where a successful woman was profiled, and a focus group gave her horrendous ratings on things like "would I be friends with this person," "I'd like to work with this person," etc. The exact same profile was given to another focus group, only this time the woman's name was changed to a man's. You probably aren't surprised to hear that this fictitious man got rave reviews for his business savvy, his drive, his success...all the things the woman was critiqued for.)
I think Sandberg's admonishment to "lean in" is exactly what women need to hear, and her book should be required reading for anyone in the workplace, particularly for those who think being a feminist is bad and/or that things already are equal because the women's rights movement already happened. (These are also the people who don't think racism is a problem anymore, either.) This book made me imagine what my life would be like if I don't go back to work - and if I do.
So, while I can see myself running board meetings and accepting Time's Person of the Year award, I - and millions of others - struggle with the reality of what life would be like with two parents working, and the thought of it makes me hyperventilate. The chaos! I am emphatically not a fan of chaos. After a long day of work, household duties still would need to get done, and while it's not glamorous, someone has to be sure that a healthy dinner is on the table every night and that all members of the household are bathed on a somewhat regular basis and that the dirty laundry gets washed and folded. Since my husband works crazy long hours, that someone would be...me. How some people do it, I have no idea. One of the women I respect most from my job is a C-level executive, has three great kids, works out, always looks impeccable in super chic clothes, cooks AND reads (and is on Goodreads!). For the life of me, I don't know how she does it.
I'm no closer to arriving at the answer - my answer, the one for me and my family - than I was when I started this "review," which is more a blog entry than an actual assessment of the book. I suppose, being a businesswoman, Sandberg can appreciate that economics necessitates that either choice - staying home or working - will result in the diminishment of something else, be it family time, a skyrocketing career, sleep...something's gotta give. I'm just not sure what I want that something to be yet. (less)
In 200 or so micro-vignettes, The Lovers' Dictionary reveals more about two people, their relationship and every relationship that ever existed than b...moreIn 200 or so micro-vignettes, The Lovers' Dictionary reveals more about two people, their relationship and every relationship that ever existed than books many, many times its length. That in itself is remarkable---especially to someone like me, to whom brevity does not come naturally.
I love the sentiment expressed on page 120 (ineffable, adj.) that "trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough." I love that that the author wrote this while actually describing so beautifully love and life through revised dictionary definitions.
At first, I thought this was a story about the birth and death of a relationship, but upon further consideration, I'm not convinced that's the case. I don't think it's a love story, or a break-up story, or a cathartic-release story. I think it's a story that portrays love as an entity different from being in love. When you're in love, everything is wonderful all the time. When you love someone, sometimes that person doesn't put the cap back on the toothpaste, or maybe they drink too much, or maybe they drive you nuts by using their legal background to out-lawyer you while arguing (or maybe that last one is just me...), and it's up to you to decide if that's something you can live with.*
That leads me to my favorite entry of the book---vagary, n. The mistake in thinking there can be an antidote to the uncertainty.
How brilliant is that?
Side note: I appreciate creative writing---not just Creative Writing, i.e. fiction, but creative in how the writing plays with prose and our preconceptions of what format a book should take. On that note, major applause to Levithan for taking a risk and succeeding wildly. I wonder, however, if this book would have earned the same reception had Jonathan Safran Foer written it. All the popular kids love to belittle JSF's creative work as precious and twee, but I'm not sure I see what makes one's work clever and the other's contrived.
*In my case, I'm going to stick this one out for the long-haul.(less)
Do I need to tag this review as a spoiler if I mention that the ship sinks?
Everything I knew about the Titanic prior to reading this book had been gl...moreDo I need to tag this review as a spoiler if I mention that the ship sinks?
Everything I knew about the Titanic prior to reading this book had been gleaned from a picture-heavy kids book I had when I was little and Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie was atrocious ("I'll never let go, Jack!"), but that kids book? I pored over that with equal parts horror and fascination many, many times, but then I apparently forgot how much the ship interested me because I never read anything else about it.
Until now, that is! Dun-dun-dunnn.
This book studies, as the title succinctly suggests, the "life and death" of the Titanic. There is no mention of Jack and Rose. Rather, it tackles the question of what happened---not just in the hours after the ship struck the iceberg, but before the collision (e.g., to what extent did the battle for transatlantic passenger-line dominance impact the boat's questionable design? What circumstances led Captain Smith to forge full-speed ahead through a known ice field? Did the ship's owners apply pressure to risk safety for speed? Did anyone legitimately believe that a ship, floating on water, could be unsinkable?) and after she went down (e.g., why did the crew seem entirely unprepared to respond to an emergency? Did they wait too long to admit that the strike had been fatal? Why were there 20 people in some lifeboats designed to hold 65? Was there really another ship nearby that failed to come to her rescue? Why was the owner, J. Bruce Ismay, such a pansy? What was discussed at the hearings that followed, and why don't we have anyone to blame* when so many things went wrong?)
Fascinating stuff. It makes me grateful that we live in a day where travel is done in the sky. At least if shit goes wrong there it's over in like 30 seconds, whereas these poor people suffered for hours and hours. A slow-motion plane crash, that's the Titanic.
*I'm not typically a blame-game kind of gal. Sometimes things just go wrong. The sinking of the Titanic, however, does not appear to be one of those things, in my expert (amateur) opinion.(less)
Fascinating essay about Tilikum, a captive orca involved in the deaths of three humans in three separate instances, each raising the same questions: S...moreFascinating essay about Tilikum, a captive orca involved in the deaths of three humans in three separate instances, each raising the same questions: Should we keep these wild animals in captivity, given the dangers to both the animals and ourselves?
I'm going to go with "no," and at the risk of sounding cold and heartless, I'm much more concerned about the orca's plight than the dangers to ourselves. These people knew what they were getting into. You can't be a professional killer-whale trainer and ignore the word "killer" in your job description. That doesn't mean it's not sad and tragic when a death occurs, it's just not entirely surprising.
Regardless, it would be interesting to know what causes these deaths and other non-fatal "incidences." Did Tilikum think he was playing? Surely if he wanted them dead the scenes would have been bloodier than they were, but on the other hand, these are incredibly intelligent creatures, so it's doubtful that he didn't know what he was doing. Good questions, but the answer seems pretty clear regardless of Tilikum's motive: you won't have to answer questions like that if you don't keep six-ton animals locked up in captivity.
Stolen from his family---Zimmerman describes how Tilikum's pod followed the crate that was dragging him to his new "home" for hundreds of miles, screaming and crying the whole way---locked in a tank hardly suitable for a salmon, and forced to do stupid tricks to entertain humans, Tilikumi's life isn't what it should have been. This should be required reading for anyone planning a heartwarming family trip to SeaWorld.
Which brings up one final point: I don't doubt that SeaWorld cares about its animals. I just don't think that even the best possible treatment in captivity can even come close to the quality of life these animals would have had had we humans not interfered.
Note: This review is spoiler-free! It'd actually be pretty difficult to spoil the plot of this book, seeing as...moreFifty Gripes about Fifty Shades of Grey
Note: This review is spoiler-free! It'd actually be pretty difficult to spoil the plot of this book, seeing as there isn't one.
1. The first gripe should probably point out that this is the worst book ever written. Well, that, or it’s the best book ever written, if we’re talking about satirical parodies of a teenager’s lite-porn fantasy world.
2. Couldn’t James have made even the slightest attempt to hide the fact that this book was one giant knock-off of Twilight? Shouldn’t her publishers have insisted on it? Twilight sucked, but at least it was original.
3. Message to James: You do not know American English. Things Americans do not say: shall, lovely, parcel, I’ve (as in, “I’ve not been there”), smart (when referring to fashion).
4. This doesn’t defend Bella Ana, but she was basically minding her own business when Edward Christian kept contacting her with lame foreboding messages saying things like, “You’ll stay away…if you know what’s good for you.” Um, she was. Narcissist.
5. Meet Jacob Jose, the vaguely ethnic dumping-ground of a friend. He’ll be there if you need to stage a situation where Christian, the rich white hero, can “rescue” Ana, and he’ll be there to artificially stir up drama and jealousy when your plotless ramblings can go on no longer. Things he cannot do: Transform into a werewolf. None of it matters, though, because he only appears like four times in the entire book.
6. When choosing Ana’s favorite book, did James have to pick a 19th century British novel? You couldn’t have at least gone with, I don’t know, an 18th century Irish one, to try to convince us that you’re more than just a plagiarizer wearing a sheer veil of originality?
7. Any book that makes me look back fondly on Twilight deserves to be burned, Fahrenheit 451 style.
8. You know those girls who lash out when unfortunate-looking menfolk politely express interest in them yet gleefully accept creepy, stalkerish, obsessive come-ons from attractive guys? Right, so Ana would be one of those girls. Ana, twirling her hair: “What’s that? You want to follow me around uninvited and possess me and stick it up my butt? OMG, my insides are actually repulsed by you right now but I’ll pretend I’m into it lest you walk away from me because I’m that desperate.”
9. The word “medulla oblongata” is used at least three times. None of the characters is a brain surgeon, neurologist or psychiatrist.
10. Ana, poor moron that she is, thinks it’s so romantic that she’s being stalked.
11. BDSM is not inherently bad, assuming it’s taking place between two consenting adults. But if a guy I was just starting to get to know told me that I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week if I repeated “that stunt” I pulled last week, I would run. The fuck. Away.
12. Darfur? Really? We’re going to bring Darfur into this stupid book, in some ill-advised attempt to elevate its subject matter? Please just don’t.
13. If you’re going to make your sex-god of a hero 27 years old, at least say he’s the founder of a tech start-up. Do not try to convince me that he’s running a multi-billion dollar corporation.
14. Also, 27? Ew. If you want me to believe in the character you’re trying to paint Christian to be, he needs to be, like, 41. And look like George Clooney.
15. Let’s pretend for a minute, though, that he really is this 27-year-old billionaire stud. Would he really be interested in this boring, bumbling dork of a college kid? I think not.
16. Now let’s pretend that Ana is actually the girl Christian thinks she is—this sexy ingénue who doesn’t know her own powers. She’s going to put up with his crap? Nope. Maybe play him for a while for a new Chanel bag and some Loubs, but put up with his moody little-bitch behavior? Never.
17. Soo let me get this straight. He was statutory raped when he was 15, and rather than thinking, “Holy shit, this dude needs therapy,” we think, “How fortunate! Now he can take what his rapist taught him and fuck up someone else.” Charming.
18. Maybe it’s just me, but if some rich hot dude wanted to give me a brand new MacBook and a car and first-edition books and expensive lingerie, I’m pretty sure I would ask zero questions and accept each and every gift with open arms.
19. So 22-year-old Ana gets her very first email address in 2011, post-graduation. Um, James? I know Ana is so poor and all, but you do realize that email addresses are free, right? I started college in 2001, a full decade before Ana graduated, and even back then, they just gave you one. It’s not like there’s a limited supply….
20. Why is everyone grinning all the time? He grinned at me, I couldn’t help grinning at him, my grin spread across my face…stop! Stop grinning! Seriously, James must have used that word 438 times throughout the book. I'm going to take the next person who grins to the Red Room of Pain and find a way to knock it off of their face. And yet, the grinning is almost bearable compared to all the goddamn smirking going on. I shit you not, Ana and Christian had two facial expressions—the grin and the smirk. Sometimes, one would grin and the other would smirk in response. Sometimes, a grin would morph into a smirk. Sometimes, a smirk would morph into a grin. All made me want to throw my Kindle against a brick wall.
21. While we're on the subject of overused words and phrases, how about Ana's horribly irritating way of saying she "fired up the mean machine" instead of just freaking saying "turned on the computer"?? Ugh I hate her.
22. Ana’s roommate Kate is super smart! She’s even the valedictorian! That must explain how she came up with her genius theme for her valedictorian speech: “What Next After College.” Shockingly original, and unfortunately, no transcript is included. I guess we’ll have to watch every generic graduation scene in every movie ever created to find out what life lessons we missed out on.
23. In order to help Ana “make the right decision” (i.e., agree to enter into a life of BDSM with him), Christian gets her drunk…because decisions about sex should always be made while intoxicated, and guys should do everything they can to make sure a girl is too drunk to think clearly before she agrees to the boning. No one seems to have a problem with this line of thinking.
24. Your inner goddess is a toolbox. With any luck, Christian will flog her right out of you.
25. Ana’s inner monologue (not to be confused with her inner goddess) wants to stop what they’re doing, sexually. However, she neglects to stand up for herself and say that, which is an important message to send to America’s youth: If you’re not comfortable with what someone’s doing to your body, don’t speak up. Stay silent! Accept it! Otherwise, you might scare your partner away, and then you’d just be a pathetic single person without a sexy rich boyfriend.
26. I have no first-hand knowledge about BDSM, but I do know that it’s not abuse. It may look like it, and it may feel like it, but it’s not. You agreed to it, because apparently that’s how you get your kicks. But in James’s world, jokes about domestic violence are FUNNY. Therefore, you should always laugh about how your Dom is “assaulting” you, since it’s not like it completely undermines the people who are actually being abused.
27.Christian: Let’s talk about gagging and anal fisting. Ana: No, I don’t want that. Hard limit. Do not pass go. Not allowed. Christian: Okay, cool, so we’ll work our way up to that. You’ll like it, and besides, no doesn’t really mean no, not when you’re as good-looking and rich as I am. Ana: Um....
28. Ana starts by telling us she’s not a big drinker, but then one sip of Bollinger and she’s all, “Kate’s cheap red wine was simply unpalatable after the Bolly.” Really? The Bolly? Mighty exquisite taste for a 22-year-old broke college girl.
29. Pretty sure that every time James didn’t know what to say next, she just made Ana gnaw at her bottom lip so Christian could remind us how totally sexy and fuckable she was when she did that. This happened approximately every 1.5 pages.
30. While we’re talking about Ana’s annoying habits that are so blatantly designed to be like, “I don’t even know how sexy I am because I’m so innocent,” allow me to bring up the numerous times she says, “I blinked up at him….” I know we’re supposed to picture this doe-eyed, sexy/sweet minx who’s completely unaware that she’s eye-fucking the shit out of her man, but I would argue that she probably just has something in her eye. Quick, get that girl some Visine!
31. “My sex” is not a suitable substitute for “vagina.”
32. Neither is “there….”
33. Gotta love the contrived pretention that is the Grey household. First of all, the father’s name is Carlisle Carrick? Really? Die. Also, when Christian offers to take Ana on a tour of “the grounds”? Really? Die. And then he shows her his rowing trophies? Really? Die. Also, when the “help” comes in and serves dinner? Really? Die. These are the sort of people who would totally pull a Gwyneth and come home from a trip to Londres speaking with a posh British accent.
34. The epitome of pretension would probably have to be when Alice Mia starts chattering away about Paris and just slips into fluent French. You see, she’s just so rich and worldly (despite this sounding like her first time to Paris and her clichéd view on Parisians) that she doesn’t even know when she’s speaking French. Oh, the refinement!
35. Can Ana have a reaction to something that’s not Holy…shit or Holy…fuck? Really, it’s getting tiring. Have you no thoughts? It’s called your medulla oblongata…use it.
36. I almost fell off my chair when Christian, this powerful and mighty man of business, declares Ana to be a “master negotiator.” You must be fucking with us, James. The girl can barely speak up for herself! At one point, she was like, “I want to work out three times a week instead of four,” and he was like, “Hmm, you drive a hard bargain, Miss Steele…you should work for my company.” Jesus, if that’s all it takes to be a billionaire master of the universe, then I am on my fucking way.
37. Also: Is it realllly necessary to call each other “Miss Steele” and “Mr. Grey”? Couldn’t, say, their names suffice? If not, may I suggest “Insipid Tweenybopper Posing as a Sex Slave” and “Mr. Grumpy Face”?
38. So you connected in Atlanta...I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you fly Delta. Well, I fly Delta, fancy-schmancy business class even, and I assure you, the elite lounge does not offer manis, massages and Moët. Regrettably.
39. I believe the TSA would have a little problem with anyone—yes, even Christian Grey, worldly, handsome billionaire that he is—trying to change someone else’s itinerary. Those people don’t let you fly if your middle initial is wrong on your ticket, so pretty sure they’re not going to cave on this.
40. I loved when Ana and her mom were at the hotel bar drinking cosmos. OMG just like Carrie and the gang in episodes of Sex and the City circa 1999! Sooo chic.
41. Are these people unaware that the “reply” button exists? You really don’t need to change the subject line with each and every email you send.
42. Are these people also unaware that texting exists? It’s pretty cool, they should check it out.
43. Um what you creepy psycho stalker, why did you follow me home when I said I needed time away from you to think and then you show up at the hotel where I am uninvited so you can look like an obsessive creeper nut job in front of my mom YOU CRAZY STALKER. Oh wait, I take it back, I’m cool with it!
44. Thank you, James, for confirming my belief that one should never take a bath outside of one’s own home (and even then, only after scrubbing it with like eight gallons of bleach). I feel pretty terrible for the poor sap who next checks in to their hotel room and decides he’s going to take a nice luxurious bath after a long day, completely oblivious to the fact that Ana just PERIODED all over it.
45. Between Weinergate, the Brett Favre/penis scandal and all the rest, what self-respecting, intelligent person would be so stupid as to put all the kinky shit about his sex life over the Interwebs?
46. My Hard Limits: Tampon removal.
47. It’s normal to be afraid to show your new boyfriend/girlfriend affection. Doing so requires you to put yourself out there in a super vulnerable way, after all. What’s not normal is being afraid to show your significant other affection because you’re afraid he’s going to harm you.
48. If BDSM is your thing, own it. Positioning it as a bad thing that needs to be “cured” with some good old-fashioned cuddling is problematic, because it turns him into a sexual predator and her a victim.
49. You are not fifty shades of fucked up, Mr. Grey. That adds depth and layers of complication to your charmless personality. No, sir, you’re just fucked up.
50. For all this, James is now a multimillionaire. (less)
Despite what you think when the subway is slow, you don't know what to make for dinner and Law and Order: SVU is a re-run, your life does not suck. In...moreDespite what you think when the subway is slow, you don't know what to make for dinner and Law and Order: SVU is a re-run, your life does not suck. In case you're the type who needs a little help remembering that, Behind the Beautiful Forevers will remind you on every page.
Let's play a little game. Give yourself one point for each of the following that you have:
- Fresh, running water on demand
- Permanent, professionally constructed shelter
- An education, including access to 13+ years of free public schooling
- A government that supports its citizens
- The right to equal treatment
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you scored 5/5, and I'm going to go up on a higher limb and assume that you don't very often think about how lucky that makes you. I know I certainly don't.
Then you read a book like this, and boom. Perspective.
More perspective: So I found this jar of jelly - Sarabeth's brand, the kind that costs like $9.99/520 rupees a jar - that was moldy in the back of my fridge this morning. First off, jelly gets moldy?? I had no idea that could happen. Anyway, it does, and it did, and while I'm a big recycler, the thought of scraping moldy jelly out of a heavy glass mason jar sounded like a gross way to start the day. (We live in NYC and don't have a garbage disposal, making these sort of projects even more fun than usual.) I held the jar over the trash, trying to convince myself that it was okay to toss it this time because it was so icky and all, but in the end, I sucked it up, cleaned it out and recycled the glass because otherwise I would have felt majorly guilty and dug it out of the trash later in the day, which would have been even grosser.
Observations on this gripping story:
1. I let food go moldy. I have so much food in my life that I can't possibly eat it all, so it goes bad, and I throw it out. This is not a very uncommon experience.
2. I buy jelly that costs 520 rupees (and then, as point one indicates, don't eat it). Sunil, a little boy in Annawadi, had to ask his friend for two rupees - that's less than four cents - so he could buy the food he needed to not go hungry.
3. After I let my food get moldy, I just want to throw it out because it's gross and I'd rather not deal with gross. Scavengers in Annawadi would fight each other for the chance to recycle an old glass jar previously filled with moldy jelly.
This book is loaded with perspective, and I think people respond to that either by turning against the book - This book is depressing; so many horrible things happen in it - or latch onto it and can't get it out of their minds. I'm the latter sort of person.
Sadly, I'm not sure how I can help. Corruption is so rampant in India - Boo even writes about orphanages selling the wares donated to them instead of giving them to the children - and until change happens at the top, I don't foresee the lives of India's millions of slumdwellers improving.
This means another generation of children who can't get an education because they have to work, then can't get steady, respectable jobs because they have no education, then can't support their families because they have no pay, then get married and bring more children into the world. Repeat cycle.
This book is tragic and upsetting, but it's something everyone should read. We're all in this together, you know.
N.B. Fans of Behind the Beautiful Forevers should take a look at Half the Sky. (less)