Tag: politics


Sunday Salon: Justice Scalia Edition

Posted 14 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sundaysalon-200-pixshark

Time // 8:11 A.M. EDT

News // In U.S. politics, of course Justice Scalia is dead. It’s too soon for the Dick Cheney jokes, but there you have it. This is a huge game changer both with the court and with the upcoming presidential elections. President Obama, for his part, has vowed to have a replacement appointed before he leaves office — but whether he can do that remains to be seen. Vox published an interesting article on who he might nominate and who has the best chances of getting confirmed, assuming the Senate Republicans aren’t just blocking nominations to be politically difficult.

But can they really do that? The Washington Post seems to think they might and SCOTUSblog talks about the possibility of a recess appointment if that happens. I can’t find the article that I read last night discussing the idea that in the event of a Hillary or Bernie victory that President Obama gets appointed. It’s not unprecedented, William Taft was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1921, after his presidency. I’m not going to lie, Michelle, also a lawyer, would make a pretty badass appointee as well. (That is unprecedented.)

political scalia

Look, I make it a practice of never being happy when an individual dies, no matter how repugnant I may find them. I wish those close to him my most sincere condolences, but I think the court is in a position to be better for the American people. We shall see. In the meantime NPR has five opinions from Justice Scalia that you really should read. If nothing else, the man could write a mean dissent.

Anything Else? // I’ll admit that Scalia dominated dinner conversation between me and Mr. SFR last night and it’s still occupying my thoughts today. But I have also been doing some decent reading this week. Finished up at least one more book slated for the Tournament of Books. Started Oreo which is also on the Tournament of Books short list, but I’m finding myself exhausted by racial discourse recently. I’m aware that from the position of privilege from which I sit that’s not really a fair thing to say, but my frustration lies with people of my own privilege and station refusing to recognize it.

Simply by the virtue of the fact that I am white means I am privileged.

The fact that I am white and well educated makes me very privileged.

The fact that I am white, well educated, and socio-economically can be considered (at least) middle class makes me extremely privileged.

Why is that so hard for white people to say/recognize?

Lent // Of course I’m not Catholic, but I do like the practice of Lent and my goal is to get 7,000 steps in a day. I’ll tell you, a proactive goal is much harder than a goal of giving something up for me. Though in the reverse you could say that I’m giving up sitting on my ass. 🙂

Okay Reader, I’ve been a political minefield this morning. How’s your week been? Feelings on Justice Scalia? White privilege? Been reading any books?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Girl at War

Posted 18 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reading, Reviews

Must Read Monday: Girl at WarGirl at War by Sara Novic
Published by Random House Publishing Group on May 12th 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Cultural Heritage, Fiction, Literary, War & Military
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.   New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.

This is another one of those books that I will forever be indebted for other people pushing me to read (specifially – at least- Monika and Shannon). I’m in a funky place right now with my reading and my blogging but Girl at War pierced through that place, quite easily, and took me away from my own difficulties.

The first thing that I really appreciated and liked about this book is that the Yugoslavian civil war, which for Americans, even in collegiate level world history courses is glossed over like it’s no big deal. This book made me feel small as an American — in a good way. I want to know more now about the massacres that took place. Because honestly, there were scenes in Girl at War that felt like they were straight out of a WWII novel/non-fiction book. This was a lesson for me, something that I knew, but that this novel really pounded home for me — that even in a post Nazi world, there are still atrocities taking place. The Yugoslavian civil war happened in Europe, in my lifetime. Why don’t I know more about it?

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this novel was Ana’s desperation and journey to fit in to American society as a refugee, along with the juxtaposition of her sister, who had been sent to America as an infant with no memories of the horrors that happened at home.

The writing in this novel is excellent, like I said I’m in a slump caused by reasons I can pinpoint, and this still was able to awaken me out of my slumpiness and propel me through it in a mere few days. It leaves me to consider what other genocidal atrocities do I know about only for passing conversation.

Compelling, well written, and absolutely readable. This is your must read book for the summer.

Do you feel uneducated about wars that your country hasn’t been affected by, Reader? I also think of all the genocide and civil wars in Africa when I speak of this. Have you read Girl at War yet? Does it sound like your bag?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 21 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on January 28th 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 224
Goodreads
three-stars

Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun is an astonishing novel of unjust conviction, lost love, and a journalist’s obsession. Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single playing card found on each door. Known as the “Narito Disappearances,” the crime has authorities baffled—until a confession appears on the police’s doorstep, signed by Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman. Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated—but he refuses to speak. Even as his parents, brother, and sister come to visit him, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. Our narrator, a journalist named Jesse Ball, is grappling with mysteries of his own when he becomes fascinated by the case. Why did Sotatsu confess? Why won’t he speak? Who is Jito Joo? As Ball interviews Sotatsu’s family, friends, and jailers, he uncovers a complex story of heartbreak, deceit, honor, and chance.

I think I might be an outlier on my feelings about this book. While I appreciate the structure and style of this novel I have a thing about gimmicks. The gimmick here is that journalist “Jesse Ball” is obsessed with the “true story” of Oda Sotatsu. So I’m irritated right off the bat – what’s true? What’s imagined? Is this historical fiction or straight up fiction? 

That being said, the writing is quite lovely in this novel and the structure is unique. Told (mostly) in a series of interviews with people connected with Sotatsu, it felt a little like Solomon the Peacemaker (which you almost definitely have not read, but totally should). Outside the gimmick the story itself is compelling enough until you get to the end. Here I’m going to put a big fat…




Kind of Spoiler Alert
 
I’m sorry kids, but the ending was flat out lifted from that awful Kevin Spacey movie The Life of David Gale, or maybe David Gale‘s ending was lifted from the maybe real-life occurrences outlined in Ball’s novel – either way – all I could think of was that movie. Unfortunately the motivation and execution of the characters in the movie were a lot more plausible than that of those in Ball’s novel. 
 
Done Possibly Ruining Your Reading Experience
 
 
 
 
 
As far as the Tournament goes, this is pitted against Redeployment in the first round – which is interesting because Redeployment reads as stories that should be true (and probably are in spirit) while Silence Once Begun is claimed to be a true story (maybe it somewhat is, I haven’t researched it) as sort of a gimmick, but otherwise fails to really reflect reality. What’s interesting about the two novels is that they are both protest literature of sorts. Obviously I’m rooting for Redeployment and I feel like it will probably win the first round over this – but you never know what those crazy judges are going to do. 
 
Have you read this one, Reader? Do you know what I mean by ‘protest literature’? Do you have any examples? 
 
 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Posted 2 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion RightsPro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
Published by Picador on October 14th 2014
Genres: Abortion & Birth Control, Social Science, Women's Studies
Pages: 272
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A POWERFUL ARGUMENT FOR ABORTION AS A MORAL RIGHT AND SOCIAL GOOD BY A NOTED FEMINIST AND LONGTIME COLUMNIST FOR THE NATION. Forty years after the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, "abortion" is still a word that is said with outright hostility by many, despite the fact that one in three American women will have terminated at least one pregnancy by menopause. Even those who support a woman's right to an abortion often qualify their support by saying abortion is a "bad thing," an "agonizing decision," making the medical procedure so remote and radioactive that it takes it out of the world of the everyday, turning an act that is normal and necessary into something shameful and secretive. Meanwhile, with each passing day, the rights upheld by the Supreme Court are being systematically eroded by state laws designed to end abortion outright.In this urgent, controversial book, Katha Pollitt reframes abortion as a common part of a woman's reproductive life, one that should be accepted as a moral right with positive social implications. In Pro, Pollitt takes on the personhood argument, reaffirms the priority of a woman's life and health, and discusses why terminating a pregnancy can be a force for good for women, families, and society. It is time, Pollitt argues, that we reclaim the lives and the rights of women and mothers.

Holy poop on a stick, guys. I almost gave myself whiplash when I read this book. There was nodding and highlighting and more nodding and more highlighting. Pollitt nails it.

Clearly and concisely she lays out why abortion doesn’t have to be, nor should be, a scarlet letter upon women who have them. She speaks clearly on the anti-choice movement and breaks down the ‘true believers’ from those who would limit abortions to limit the upward mobility of women. 

First, the concept of personhood as applied to the zygote, blastocyst, embryo and, at least until late in the pregnancy, fetus makes no sense: it’s an incoherent covertly religious idea that falls apart if you look at it closely. Few people actually believe it, as is shown by the exceptions they are willing to make.

I thought about this statement for a little bit and then I realized how much truth it had in it. If anti-choicers rabidly believe in life at conception – then life is life right? Rape and incest should be excluded exceptions, right? I’m not saying that there aren’t true believers out there who would love to exclude rape and incest as a means for abortion, however I think, (hope, pray) that if you asked the majority of anti-choicers whether rape and incest were valid reasons to ‘allow’ a woman an abortion, they would say ‘Absolutely.’

Indeed, it makes my stomach churn to think of a world full of ‘true believers’ in the personhood movement. (As a book blogger I must give you a hint and tell you it looks a lot like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.)

Pollitt makes demands on her own audience as well:

I want us to start thinking of abortion as a positive social good and saying this out loud. […] I want to argue… that it is an essential option for women – not just ones in dramatic, terrible, body-and-soul-destroying situations, but all women – and thus benefits society as a whole. 

Whoa. “Abortion as a positive social good…”? Yes. I will stand up and say that abortion is a positive social good.

Pollitt explores the terrible things that happen to women in countries where abortion is completely illegal (IRELAND), the lack of proper sex education here in the U.S. and how the anti-choice movement is weirdly at odds with both proper sex education for our youth and contraception – both which have been shown to reduce unwanted pregnancies (and therefore abortions) by a large margin in the youth population. If they hate abortion so much, how come they block the most effective ways to prevent it?

But the most remarkable part of this book is where Pollitt unpacks something that I’ve long known was there, but have been unable to express.

Motherhood is the last area in which the qualities we usually value – rationality, independent thinking, consulting our own best interests, planning for a better, more prosperous future, and dare I say it, pursuing happiness and dreams – are condemned as frivolity and selfishness. […] We don’t like the idea that a man might be severely constrained by a single ejaculation. He has places to go and things to do. That a woman’s life may be stunted by unwanted childbearing is not so troubling. Childbearing, after all, is what women are for.

…and there it is, right there. The notion in the anti-choice movement, whether they be true believers (who I can empathize a little more with) or people who consciously (or unconsciously) have a desire to keep women “in their place” that all women must be desiring (and able to care for) a child at all times is absolutely ridiculous in this day and age.

Let’s get a little personal. I had my one and only daughter during my second year of law school. I was one of the thousands (millions?) of women who had used her birth control properly and had seen it fail. I didn’t particularly want a child at that time in my life and while I’ve always been pro-choice I used the conventional logic that I was “too old, too married, and too financially stable to justify an abortion”. My daughter is delightful, but it’s been a hard road – especially for a woman who never wanted children to begin with. I’m lucky to have a spouse who takes on childcare-type things 50/50 (maybe even 60/40 in his favor sometimes) and that I am white and middle class.

TWIST.

The Girl was maaaaaybe six? seven months old when I was told that the birth control that I had resumed had failed again (Nuva Ring, ladies – it sucks) I was pregnant again – still in law school, now with an infant, oh and by the way – it was twins.  I was devastated. All  the work I had put into law school – down the drain. Two more babies and there was no way I could continue law school at that point in time – and I had already fought so hard to be there. But, all of my rationalizations against abortion were still there – I wasn’t seventeen, I couldn’t really justify one, could I?

I went so far as to call Planned Parenthood and see if there was anything that could be done. I was inching up closer to that cutoff mark and needed to make a decision, plus the 24 hour waiting period that was in place at the time. I didn’t believe in the idea of life at conception but at the same time society – even liberal society – had hammered the idea that abortion was so bad, so immoral how could I even consider such a thing? But I wanted one. I did. It’s also important to note that my husband backed me up on whatever I wanted to do, but was also leaning towards an abortion.

In the end I was saved the decision when my body decided for me and had a spontaneous abortion (see also: miscarriage). The relief that I felt was palpable. When I talk about it, it’s still palpable. To have had twins (and an infant) at that point in my life would have destroyed everything I had been working so hard for up to that point.

Had I read Pollitt’s book then, I might have had a different perspective on an abortion than I had at the time, and while I feel that I never would have regretted the decision had I had to make it – I’m not sure I could’ve made it. With this book I could have made it and not felt remotely ashamed about it.

Yet this is not my story alone. Every year thousands of women, many who are already mothers, many who are far more unfortunate than me, have failed birth control and lack the ability and/or the resources to bring another child into this world. After being denied an abortion because of arbitrary waiting times, or the inability to get the money together to have the procedure actually done – these women are forced to bring a life into the world that they may neither be competent nor financially able to care for. Where are the anti-choicers (the so-called pro-lifers) then? Dare I say cutting funding from WIC, food stamps, and Medicaid?

Pollitt points out the classist and sexist attitudes that both the left and the right have taken towards abortion, adoption, and contraception. She stresses the need to change our language and rhetoric in order to change the conversation. More often than not abortion is not the tragic, awful thing that anti-choicers would like the rest of us believe that it is.

One final point that Pollitt makes and then I’ll let this rest, the law, as it is currently written cannot compel a parent to give so much as a blood transfusion to a living child. Why is it more acceptable under the law to require a mother to be a walking incubator for nine months if she chooses not to? How does one resolve the two? Short answer: you can’t.

One last quote for the road and to possibly really piss you off:

And what about the Second Amendment? If abortion is different because it’s about life and death, so too, potentially, are guns, yet we seem positively loath to examine people’s reasons for wanting to own them. Any old wave in the direction of an explanation is good enough — “they’re fun,” “they’re part of our tradition down here,” “I’m a collector.” And unlike abortion, guns kill more than 32,000 actually existing people every year.

This has been a deep and harrowing post, Reader. So I won’t pose any questions. Feel free to air all opinions (for and against) here – respectful dissent is always encouraged.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Top Ten Books I’d Recommend to Religious and Social Conservatives

Posted 5 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

I know it’s rude to discuss religion and politics… but that’s just what we’re going to do today! These are my top ten picks that I would recommend to religious and social conservatives if they would be willing to read them with an open mind. Enjoy! Links go to my reviews unless noted otherwise.

  1. Pastrix by: Nadia Bolz-Weber – a beautiful spiritual memoir. Bolz-Weber is an ordained Lutheran pastor, but she’s a bit unorthodox and totally amazing. Hot topics: Religion, LGBT, Feminism
  2. Never Pray Again by: Aric Clark, et. al. – Written by three pastors, this book is a call to action for theists and atheists alike. They call for action to be more Christlike, through charity, understanding, and love. They call for you to get out of church and do something. Hot topics: Religion
  3. The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion by: Martin Thielen – a book that is targeted towards progressive Christians, I think that conservative Christians could get a lot from this book if they read it with an open mind. Hot topics: Religion
  4. Atheists in America edited by: Melanie E. Brewster – A collection of essays from atheists around America. I recommend this to theists and non-theists alike. It’s a fantastic and empathetic portrayal of American atheists. We’re all around you, you just don’t know it. We’re not interested in eating your babies, either. Hot topics: Religion, atheism, LGBT
  5. God and the Gay Christian by: Matthew Vines (Monika @ A Lovely Bookshelf’s review) – I haven’t read this one yet, but I trust Monika. This book is written, surprisingly, from a conservative Christian viewpoint. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Hot topics: Religion, LGBT
  6. A Queer and Pleasant Danger by: Kate Bornstein – Another memoir, Kate Bornstein was born a nice Jewish boy, who then joined The Church of Scientology – left, transitioned to a woman and now considers herself a gender outlaw. It’s compelling and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Hot topics: LGBT, religion, gender politics
  7. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by: Peggy Orenstein – a ‘feminism-lite’ parenting book. Good thoughts to think about whether you are raising a girl or not. Hot topics: Feminism, parenting, princess-culture
  8. How to Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran (this is the latest of my read along posts -the previous posts are linked at the top, but there are spoilers. Clicking the title will take you to the Goodreads synopsis.) A coming of age novel that frankly explores female sexuality, masturbation, poverty, and growing up a girl. It’s fabulous. Hot topics: Feminism, sexuality, classism, poverty, welfare.
  9. Requiem For a Dream by: Hubert Selby, Jr. – a classic novel that expertly explores the horrors and havoc drug addiction and mental illness can wreak. I hope it can help people better understand and feel empathy for such people, instead of complete disgust. Hot topics: Addiction, mental health.
  10. Guns (Essay) by: Stephen King – a brilliant essay written by Stephen King in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. There is something for everyone on all sides of the American gun debate. Hot topic: Gun control
So there you have it, Readers! Sex, drugs, religion and politics all in one post. What can you recommend to get me out of my comfort zone?


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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How to Build a Girl: Chapters 16 – 20 (Read Along)

Posted 4 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran 
Read Along! Chapters 16 – 20.

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.

If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.

Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.

Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.

In case you missed it!
How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10
How to Build a Girl  – Ch. 11 – 15

Mmm. I think that we all knew shit was going to get real this week. And it does. I don’t know if I’m having a harder time with this post because I’m in post-bar decompression mode, but don’t misunderstand that I’m still incredibly excited about this book. Plus, all the Star Wars references in this section made me unreasonably happy.

There are two big themes in these chapters. Feminism and cynicism. Let’s get to it.

Dolly is fully fleshed out now and yes, she is trouble.



Oh, sweetie! Dadda has troubles, addiction troubles. I don’t want that for Johanna – who shares a body with this troublesome persona she has created for herself.  But even at the beginning of chapter 16, where Johanna feels most definitely ‘incontrovertibly real’ – she’s still faking it when it comes to that one thing that teenage girls are taught to obsess over – her virginity.



Not So Side Note: I’m not sure which part of society is worse – the conservative side that treats girls as irredeemable whores for sex outside of marriage or that part that makes them feel unlovable and un-liked because they haven’t had sex yet. It’s also worth nothing that both those sides pull on girls – and it’s total bullshit both ways. There’s no way to win. Back to the story.



Lord. Seventeen, booze, music, and a writing job – and Johanna is still incredibly innocent. I laughed pretty hard at the ensuing discussion on Neil Young owning all the buffalo, Mike Nesmith’s mum inventing Wite-Out (is that true?) and how to get high on office supplies. It made me remember how weird gossip and facts were exchanged before you could just pull up all that shit on Google. “I had no idea. Basically, the WH Smith in the Mander Centre is Wolverhampton’s version of Studio 54. It’s a narcotic goldmine. I’ve only ever used it to buy staples.” (p. 194)


So Johanna procures her first kiss from The Kisser – who’s name she doesn’t know. “He’s a man slag.” (p.193) After nine minutes of kissing – he wanders off – no hard feelings and Johanna feels super about it. Good for her!

Getting home Johanna’s sent out to talk to Dadda in the garden, there’s an incredible feeling of love and bonding that goes on here. Dadda’s recounting of his own childhood and the horrors of post war Britain.


Hit the nail on the head again Moran. I often feel this way about the not so distant past. Women’s suffrage, contraception, World War II. For sure, things aren’t perfect now. But I can’t think of another time in history I would ever want to be a woman.

Drunk and full of family love and feeling Dadda asks the question we’ve all been waiting for: “You’ve got to get me in there, kid. Get me a break. Get me in that paper. And we’ll be millionaires by Christmas.” (p. 200)

Never drunkenly agree to nepotism.

Chapter Seventeen has some levity and I was glad to see Krissi and Johanna make up after “Satanwank-gate” and we get the first peek into a heavy truth that is going to laid upon Johanna by the end of this section. (We’ll get there.) 

Chapter Eighteen we all had our eye on John Kite for the douchebag – but we were wrong! Tony Rich. I’d like to say that Moran has written the best description of sexual tension that I’ve ever read.


So, Tony Rich takes her virginity. Like many girls, Johanna isn’t surprised by the sex itself.
“Here’s the amazing thing about sex: you get a whole person to yourself, for the first time since you were a baby.” (p. 209)

These thoughts and feelings are still incredibly innocent and naive. Yes, at it’s best, that is what sex is, but Tony Rich isn’t having that kind of sex with Johanna. I love Johanna for her innocence, so much. But please, for the love of all things holy. Don’t get pregnant. Also, AIDS – this is the early nineties – AIDS is still a death sentence. Please don’t get AIDS Johanna. I’m so worried.

Okay. So. Aside from the mom-like worrying we have to have: 

Feminist Stop #1
I’m going to take things out of order because I want to highlight just how much importance Johanna is placing on feeling useful during sex and how little she values her own pleasure.

Yes, I’m really happy that Johanna is enjoying herself and seems to be gaining confidence. However, this section is brilliant commentary on what’s societally expected with women and sex, what we (read: me) somehow believe and still struggle to overcome.  She talks again and again about wanting to be useful, she wants to help these men… Often at the sacrifice of her own enjoyment of the act.  This rang so true for me. I can’t say it better than Caitlin Moran, so get ready for the best of: (the bold is all mine)

  • “…I still didn’t come, but when he came, I felt enormously … useful. Men need to come – and I made it happen. I had a simple purpose.” (p. 210)
  • (Blow jobs) “Like sucking your thumb, but whilst making someone else very, very happy.” (p. 221)
  • “Keep on pretending you’re Al. Think about how amazing it must be for him to have sex with you! […] Yes – this is a good day for Al. Lucky, happy Al.” (p. 229)
  • “I am being a generous lover!” (p.228)
  • “And also, no one yet has made me come. I am still the greatest lover of me. I’m still the best I ever had.” (p. 223) 
  • “How long should you take to come? Do I take too long? Should you not even ask it of a man if you take more than, say, four minutes? Is that simply unreasonable? I don’t want to be a difficult case…” (p. 223)

Look me in the eye (or right into your webcam) ladies, and tell me you’ve never worried about being a ‘difficult case’. If you can, I think I hate you a little. In the nicest possible way. Moran points out that there are no examples of female orgasm at this time outside of When Harry Met Sally, and let’s face it, even today we’re sadly lacking in realistic discussions on female pleasure, at least in mainstream media. Especially when you stop to consider all the examples of male pleasure we have. 


Shit man. You can’t sit in front of the television for fifteen seconds without a Viagra or Cialis commercial coming up, but when Trojan ran a relatively discreet commercial – late at night, might I add – for a vibrator – the whole frickin’ internet was up in arms. Nope. Even in 2014, the idea of women getting pleasure from sex is somehow weird and shameful and should be hidden in the back of your dresser.

In case you’re curious here it is: 



Racy, huh? 


Big Cock Al. More variations on the theme. She takes it like a champ, he then falls asleep and what does she do? She cleans his flat. To be useful. Again, this resonated with me. I’ve actually done this.



So despite poor Johanna’s aggravated cystitis, “I need codeine and cranberry juice, please.” I say. “These are the medicines of cystitis.” (p. 235) I still found this section to be pretty hilarious. On how to deal with an unfeasibly large penis, I think my favorite was number four “Think of Han Solo.”


I thought that the party at Big Cock Al’s with Johanna sitting in the bathtub, tending to her lady parts was an interesting juxtaposition with the last time Johanna found herself in a bath with rockstars in the room – with John Kite. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m pretty sure it’s deep and important.


Feminist Stop #2 


Yep. Right there y’all. Remember earlier when I was talking about which part of society was worse? It’s all bullshit because it comes around from the ridiculous idea that a woman is nothing more than her virginity or her sexuality. Fuck that noise. Preach on Sister Moran.


Before we get to the cynicism I need to talk about how Johanna describes her deflowering to Krissi.

Did anyone else dissolve into giggles when Johanna decides to describe her deflowering to Krissi using different names? “”Why don’t we give the protagonists different names?” I suggest, “Not me and Tony Rich. Say, Peter Venkmann and Dana Barrett?”” (p. 213)


Cynicism
So, Krissi lays it on Johanna in Chapter Seventeen that he likes music, so he doesn’t read her work, because all she ever does is tear bands apart. She doesn’t seem to get it at first – but by the end of Chapter Twenty she starts to. I basically have the entirety of pages 244 – 246 underlined, I hate playing favorites – but I’ll only make you suffer through two short quotes that don’t need any explanation. 


And then we’re left with another cliffhanger. Please don’t make it be AIDS. But the title to Part Three “Rip it Up and Start Again” gives me hope.

That’s a wrap this week, Readers. How are we feeling? Anxious? Scared? Like Caitlin Moran is an AMAZING FEMINIST WUNDERAUTHOR? And yes… Pats is my favorite character in Ab Fab. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Feminist Friday: Good Bones and Simple Murders

Posted 9 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: Good Bones and Simple MurdersGood Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on June 8th 2011
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, General
Pages: 176
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In this collection of short works that defy easy  categorization, Margaret Atwood displays, in  condensed and crystallized form, the trademark wit and  viruosity of her best-selling novels, brilliant  stories, and insightful poetry. Among the jewels  gathered here are Gertrude offering Hamlet a piece  of her mind, the real truth about the Little Red  Hen, a reincarnated bat explaining how Bram Stoker  got Dracula all wrong, and the  five methods of making a man (such as the  "Traditional Method": "Take some dust off  the ground. Form. Breathe into the nostrils the  breath of life. Simple, but effective!")  There are parables, monologues, prose poems, condensed  science fiction, reconfigured fairy tales, and  other miniature masterpieces--punctuated with  charming illustrations by the author. A must for her  fans, and a wonderful gift for all who savor the art  of exquisite prose, Good Bones And Simple  Murders marks the first time these  writings have been available in a trade edition in the  United States.From the Hardcover edition.

Can I just use all the adjectives to describe this collection? It’s brilliant, funny, surprising, troubling, sad, witty, and amazing all at once. Like all short story collections there are good stories and bad stories. 

The first story that made me sit up and go ‘huh.’ was called ‘Unpopular Gals’ – it was a few vignettes written from the perspective of female fairy tale villains. The evil queen in Snow White, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella – it was delightful in the way that Gregory McGuire’s Wicked is delightful with reimagining these one dimensional women, giving them depth, and making them sympathetic.

‘Simmering’ was flat out funny, creating an alternate universe where the kitchen is solely and completely in the realm of men. It’s a fantastic piece that embodies what the feminist movement is about – and that’s choice. To stay at home, to have a family, to be single, to work. 

‘Liking Men’ is a difficult piece about the struggle of rape survivors to feel some normalcy in intimacy after their attack – and just how long that can take. 

‘Hardball’ is a dystopian story – that if I ever talk to Hugh Howey, I’m going to ask him if it was a starting point of inspiration for his Silo series (You might know the first one as Wool) because it felt very familiar to that. Except, cannibals. 

I took notes on a few more stories that really stuck out for me, if you’re just leafing through the collection I’d recommend that you check out ‘The Female Body’ and ‘Cold-Blooded’ as well. Fantastic collection.

What about you, Reader? Have you read any great collections of short stories recently? How about the short story as a form, do you like it? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Saturday Verses: Margaret Atwood’s GASOLINE

Posted 12 April, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

Confession: I’m not big on poetry. But, in line with both National Poetry Month and my Margaret Atwood project I’ve picked up a few collections of Margaret Atwood’s poetry.

The Door is a collection that was published in 2007 and the copy that I checked out from the library came with an audio CD of the author reading the poems herself. So I popped it in to listen to on the way home. The very first poem in the collection really struck me on a number of levels. So, here it is.

‘Gasoline’

Shivering in the almost-drizzle
inside the wooden outboard,
nose over gunwale,
I watch it drip and spread
on the sheenless water:

the bright thing in wartime,
a slick of rainbow,
ephemeral as insect wings,
green, blue, red, and pink,
my shimmering private sideshow.

Was this my best toy, then?
This toxic smudge, this overspill
from a sloppy gascan filled
with the essence of danger?

I knew it was poison,
its beauty an illusion:
I could spell flammable.

But still, I loved the smell:
so alien, a whiff
of starstuff.

I would have liked to drink it,
inhale its iridescence.
As if I could.
That’s how gods lived: as if.

What do you think it MEANS, Reader? I want to talk about it, but I want to hear your thoughts first, before I poison them! 




April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Wednesday Essay: Guns

Posted 6 November, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Wednesday Essay: GunsGuns by Stephen King
on 2013
Pages: 25
four-half-stars

In a pulls-no-punches essay intended to provoke rational discussion, Stephen King sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America. Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King’s keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.

This piece frickin’ amazing. King churned this guy out within 48 hours of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. It doesn’t matter what side of the U.S. gun debate you’re on, there is something in here for you.

1. Maybe it’s the ‘attack’ on the modern 72 hour news cycle with tragedies like Sandy Hook.
2. Maybe it’s the reality on what the two purposes of semi-automatic weapons are for… 
3. Maybe it’s a comment on the fact our ‘so called culture of violence’ is … NOT a culture of violence (I found that part extraordinarily interesting.)
4. Or maybe it’s what happened in Australia that is a remarkable result of banning some types of assault rifles.
5. Maybe it’s just (the totally awesome) idea that everyone who watches Fox News and MSNBC should be forced to watch the opposite view for a year. 

Gun pro or not, this piece is brilliantly written and should be read for everyone.

The only reason I give it 4.5 stars is that I felt it should be a free Kindle single. At first I speculated that King might be on contract to charge something for the works that he produces for the Kindle, later I learned that the proceeds were donated to charity. 

All in all. Absolutely brilliant.

For a small taste of King’s opinion writing on something not so controversial see the piece that he wrote in the Boston Globe after the Red Sox won the World Series last week: Every Little Thing Turned Out All Right.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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