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writing of readerly reviews of writings

Tag: :Dyke Writers:

Review: Jesse Blackadder’s “Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica”

jesse blackadder chasing the lightJesse Blackadder’s fictionalised account of the first women to set foot on the Antarctic mainland, fruit of her own journeys there. It’s a competent novel, easy enough to get absorbed by it, the oceangoing scenes are vivid, as is the (anti)whaling panorama. I’m not convinced by it as a “historical” novel, though; I have no sense of either the 1930s or Norwegians in a work entirely peopled by 1930s’ Norwegians, and there was no real distinction of voice between the three female leads. (Who, most disappointingly, got into a catfight partly over a man. Sigh. I’d definitely expect better of a dyke writer than that.) I also couldn’t give a damn about the “who stood where when” shenanigans, which meant the plot’s key tension entirely missed me. Overall, solid and moderately enjoyable but not superlative.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
An exhausted Saturday evening read
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Larissa Lai’s “When Fox is a Thousand”

larissa lai when fox is a thousandHypnotic and provoking. Lai takes Chinese folktales about Foxes (mystical tricksters), blends them with historical accounts of women poets, and leads those stories into the lives of a group of queer Chinese Canadian young women in contemporary Vancouver. It’s a highly sophisticated diaspora novel, questioning identity, race, sexuality and gender in classic 90s fashion, but with genuine and innovative flair. I found the 20-somethings’ dramas a little wearing – thank god for age — but that would be the author successfully reaching her intended audience. A really interesting book, worth chasing down.

Where it came from: Mega opshop book section
Time and manner of reading:
Pre- and post-yoga reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “She was crying with new eyes made of brown glass, beautiful and smooth as polished wood, so perfect that she almost believed she had her own eyes back” (p.193)
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Seekers of something curious & modern & gender- and genre-bending
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture”

ariel levy female chauvinist pigsLawksamighty, another book which tells me the world is nastier than I’d imagined. Levy analyses women’s participation in highly sexualised modern culture as consumers, purveyors and designers of Raunch Culture – aka women acting like porn stars all the time is the coolest, dude. With chapters on mainstream US trends in public sluttishness, dyke misogyny, teen sex anxieties and TV consumer-sex in various forms, it’s classic New Yorker writing and research on a hideously demoralising topic. Ewk. And ewk again. I have nothing intelligent to say except that I wish none of it were true yet I fear that all of it is: skankfest is the new black. Good on Levy for writing the book, this analysis needed to be done.

Where it came from: AN’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Evening reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “Hotness doesn’t just yield approval. Proof that a woman actively seeks approval is a crucial criterion for hotness in the first place.” (p.31)
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Dummy category – those who’ll read it aren’t the ones who’ll need it
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: “Moments of Desire: Sex and Sensuality by Australian Feminist Writers”, edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker

hawthorne, pausacker (ed.) moments of desireI was delighted to relocate this on DC’s bookshelf, possibly hers, possibly mine, but gifted to me now. I’d be on the look-out for some months, wanting to track down Hawthorne’s poem ‘Erotica Alphabetica’ that I’d read and remembered as an undergraduate: it happily stood the test of time. I also enjoyed Rosemary Jones’ prose-poem ‘The Woman in the Moon’ (source of the citation below). Unfortunately, that was about it. I found almost none of the pieces erotic, which is always a risk of “erotic” writing, but worse, I found that they nearly all were too damned cerebral, thinking too damned much, working too damned hard to break down the stereotypes of what constituted the erotic. (Which, fair enough, has been feminism’s modus operandi – making the status quo uncomfortable with itself.) Worse, even, most pieces weren’t actually terribly good, and I eventually got too bored/irritated to keep reading. I will keep it for the sake of those two pieces, however, and it makes a reasonable addition to the feminist / lesbian / women’s / writerly history section of the Keeper Shelf.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf as a gift
Time and manner of reading:
Kaleidoscopic bed reads with a final train frustration
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “She was dream / she was silver / she was tough” (p.66)
Reminds me of/that: Erotica is *terribly* subjective
Who I’d recommend it to:
Historically feministly curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac

Review: Jackie Kay’s “Trumpet”

jackie kay trumpetEC and SL had both highly recommended Jackie Kay’s writing and/or humour, so I snaffled this on my latest library shelf-trawl, and what a good (first!) novel this one was. In a chorus of voices – widow, son, mother, hack journalist, etc. – characters respond to the death of jazz trumpet great Joss Moody: ta-da, Joss was actually Josephine Moore but had been living as a man for at least 40 years. Sensitive, matter-of-fact, written with delicacy and aplomb, it’s a very good, very absorbing novel. Highly recommended. PS Love the sly titling.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Gallery cafe, bed and bath reads over one evening
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: If memory serves, Rose Tremain wrote a first-person parallel in Sacred Country
Who I’d recommend it to:
Curious, lit-lovers – but especially those interested to learn about other genders’ experiences
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; Moments of Desire edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker

Review: Lorna Sage’s “Moments of Truth: Twelve Twentieth-Century Women Writers”

lorna sage moments of truthI read this book faster than it deserved and I just couldn’t help myself. Lorna Sage selected these essays on seminal twentieth-century women writers from among her writings; they’d been previously published as introductions, reviews, obituaries. Her subjects: Djuna Barnes, Simone de Beauvoir, Jane Bowles, Christine Brooke-Rose, Angela Carter, Katherine Mansfield, Iris Murdoch, Jean Rhys, Christina Stead, Violet Trefusis, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf. There’s an awful lot of big names there, and Sage does them such shining justice: her nuanced, informed, vastly read reading of these writers’ work – particularly to examine the concept of vocation for a woman writer – is insightful, witty, intimidating. What a joy it must be to be read with such intellectual aplomb. I’d read most of the writers included, and those I’ve missed have just been jotted up the to-read list by several notches. A fabulous book, and I will have to reread it in a few years to see if I can bring more reading and understanding to it. Highly recommended.

Where it came from: Birthday gift from MOD
Time and manner of reading:
A few days of bed, train, café and writers’ centre reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “Reflection here is a kind of pun on thought and mirrors: mirrors flatter our delusions but most of us probably can’t think without them. We know ourselves best as images that are ambiguous, hypothetical, provisional.” (p.215)
Reminds me of/that: How much more – and more wisely – there is to re/read
Who I’d recommend it to:
Literary readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass

Review: Violet Trefusis’ “Echo”

violet trefusis echoViolet Trefusis was most infamous for her youthful love affair with Vita Sackville-West, later a one-time lover of Virginia Woolf. This slim little novel tells not of that affair, but of the lethal charm of Parisian belle Sauge on her visit to and seduction of her wild and beautiful Scots cousins at the family estate. Apparently, Sauge represents how VT liked to see herself and her androgynous/bisexual conquests. Some interesting passages of description fall amid this literary worship of Scotland, although the plot is thin and sadly predictably sad. Good but not really for the general reader.

Where it came from: UPB
Time and manner of reading:
Armchair and creekside reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Literary historians and the curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Life on Earth by David Attenborough; Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins