Belated Response to Germaine Greer’s transphobic comments

You’d think that ‘are you a feminist’ would be an easy question to answer. Enthusiastically, you’d say ‘of course, I believe in equality, don’t you?’ In fact, if asked, I do say yes, not least because it is important to acknowledge all the changes that have brought us to the position we are now in. The women who won votes for us, women who were firsts, who fought for whatever reason. And I do believe in equality. Obviously. Not just for women but for everyone.

And therein lies a problems with feminism. It isn’t inclusive. You’d think that being on the wrong side of prejudice might make feminism open its arms to all women who have suffered. This does not seem to be the case.

A recent example of this was Germaine Greer saying in her usual subtle way that trans women can’t be women. (Does this mean you’re only a real women if you have all the correct body parts. What if you have had a mastectomy? What if you are intersex? What if you happen to look rather boyish? Do you have to prove your female parts before you are allowed to have a voice?)  I do not think that the entirety of my personality – or anyone else’s – resides entirely in their genitals. I do not look at someone else and think I wonder if they have the correct genitalia for the clothes you are wearing. Greer goes on to say that transwomen don’t always look or sound like women. The assumption is then what do women sound or look like. Is she suggesting you have to be suitably feminine to be a feminist? Surely not but clearly there are some rules. Whatever it is she thinks about women and what they are like, it is very narrow and confining.

If you are going to live as a woman, you are going to face female problems, regardless of what body parts you may have beneath your clothing. If you are going to face sexism in any form then you are surely allowed a voice within feminism. Of course, I am not the same as a transwoman, just like I am not a black woman and I am not a lesbian but that doesn’t mean that I think that feminism should be open only to those who are like me. Difference is important, probably more important than sameness.

Transfeminism exists, has its own identity and doesn’t need the likes of Greer to offer support or otherwise. But it would be nice if mainstream feminism – the view that the majority of people get of the movement – would be a bit more supportive. Greer is listened to and has an enviable position in the media. It is a shame she uses this position to be a bully. Maybe it is true that once you have some form of power, you can no longer relate to others who don’t, regardless of what sex you are.

 

The Art of Fiction – David Lodge

2016eclecticreader_bookdout2016 Nonfiction Challenge

Genre: Literary Criticism

Narrative Style: A series of essays originally published as newspaper columns.Unknown-2

Rating: 3/5

Published: 1994

Format: Paperback

Reading Challenges: Non Fiction Reading Challenge, Eclectic Reader Challenge – Genre a book about books.

I have had this book on my shelf for about twenty years so it seemed a good place to start reading some long neglected non fiction. I do enjoy reading literary criticism and it is a long time since I have read any so I was looking forward to reading it.

Lodge has an easy to read style – probably because these were originally written for a non-expert audience. It is easy to grasp the concepts that he discusses even when they were quite complex ideas. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of literary criticism and is illustrated by extracts from texts which illustrate its use. This was good because it meant that you had carefully chosen extracts to ponder over if you found the ideas difficult to understand.

As always with literary criticism, there were times when I thought Lodge stretched things a bit but they were few and far between. It is the nature of reading that some things that seem obvious to one reader will seem far fetched to another so I would have been surprised had this not been the case.

My other criticism is really a matter of taste. Lodge favours writers such as Woolf , Beckett and Joyce which really don’t particularly appeal to my taste. He seems quite in thrall to this sort of writing – in fact, he does talk of the influence on his own fiction of such writers. Lodge mentions his own fiction fairly often and even uses it as an illustrative example for one of the chapters. While it would seem unlikely that he would manage to not mention his own fiction, it does seem rather conceited to put it up there as an example in amongst such writers as Austen, Joyce, Elliot, James and Poe. (I have never read any of his fiction so maybe I am being a bit harsh.)

The main thing I have  come away from this book with is a list of authors that I would now like to read that I might not have considered otherwise so thank you, David Lodge for expanding my already over burdened to read list.

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016 – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley.

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Genre: Steampunk

Narrative Style: Third person from various viewpoints. Some flashbacks but largely chronological.

Rating: 3/5Unknown

Published: 2015

Format: Kindle

Reading Challenges: Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016

Synopsis: Thaniel Steepleton returns home to find that someone has broken in but instead of stealing anything, they have left him a watch. A watch which does not open. At least not straightaway. Six months later, the watch opens and starts to tell time. Later, that day, when its alarm goes of, it saves him from a bomb. When Thaniel goes to find the watchmaker, he meets Mori, a Japanese immigrant. He seems harmless enough but why do the police think he may be involved with the bomb makers? 

This is my first attempt at reading in the steampunk genre and it wasn’t entirely successful. There was a lot of promise in this book. The appearance of the watch was mysterious and when it saves Thaniel’s life, it becomes even more interesting. Certainly, the start of the book had promise and at first, I was keen to read on.

When Thaniel meets Mori, it is clear that he has been expected and straightaway, the reader is led to believe there is some mystery surrounding him. His mastery of clockwork is almost beyond imagining. (I really liked his clockwork octopus which was forever stealing Thaniel’s socks.) Thaniel takes to him straightaway so when the police ask him to spy on Mori as part of their investigation into the bombing, he is torn but he agrees to do it.

It is at this point that the narrative starts to fall apart. Enter Grace Carrow, who its studying physics at Oxford (and has had some narrative attention so far. It is clear that she and Thaniel are intended to meet.) Grace is in an awkward position. She has been left money and a house but she must marry to get them. If she does not get them, she will have to give up physics and become a school teacher. Almost immediately after meeting, Thaniel agrees to marry her so she can inherit, on the promise that his nephews can go to a good school. Grace and Mori are both suspicious of each other and it becomes a battle for Thaniel’s feelings.

I didn’t find the narrative very convincing from this point onwards . It seemed a waste of what could have been an interesting exploration into free will and predestination as it becomes apparent that Mori has some form of second sight.  The characters were somewhat flat and Thaniel was a bit colourless for a hero. Grace was more interesting but still woefully under drawn. Events stretched my willingness to believe to the absolute limit.

Having said all that, I think it is a genre I would like and I would be interested in reading more steampunk books. If anyone has any recommendations, I would like to hear them.

 

Non Fiction Challenge

2016 Nonfiction Challenge

It has long been a thought of mine to read more non fiction. When I was studying for my MPhil, I was required to do a lot of non fiction reading and although I enjoyed that, I haven’t kept up the habit. I read five non-fiction books last year out of 65 altogether. So this year, in order to ensure I do a little better, I am signing up to The Introverted Reader’s Non fiction reading challenge.

The challenge is as follows:

The Challenge: Read any non-fiction book(s), adult or young adult. That’s it. You can choose anything. Memoirs? Yes. History? Yes. Travel? Yes. You get the idea? Absolutely anything that is classified as non-fiction counts for this challenge.

I always like levels in my challenges, so here are mine:

Dilettante–Read 1-5 non-fiction books

Explorer–Read 6-10

Seeker–Read 11-15

Master–Read 16-20

This challenge will last from January 1 to December 31, 2016. You can sign up anytime throughout the year.

I am going to sign up at Explorer level – I think 10 non fiction books is reasonable to aim for. I already have two definite that I am reading for another challenge – The Power of Beauty by Nancy Friday and The Art of Fiction by David Lodge. I also received Patti Smith’s autobiography for Christmas so that is high on the to read list. I’ll add books as I read or decide to read them. This is the list so far,

  1. Papillion – Henri Charriere
  2. The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
  3. The Power of Beauty – Nancy Friday
  4. If this is a Man – Primo Levi
  5. The Art of Fiction – David Lodge
  6. Suffragette: My Own Story – Emmeline Pankhurst
  7. Just Kids – Patti Smith

Plans for the Future

Or is it really that time again already. Another year has flown by and I am still no further forward then I was last year. A large part of this was my own fault. Losing files is inexcusable. It took me a while to forgive myself.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to blog every book this year. I got fed up with it towards the end of the year and it was never really what I wanted the blog to be about. It was supposed to be more personal – about my journey as a writer and a person. It has been helpful to do these last few years when I have been going through a lot of personal things and it kept me blogging but now it is time to get back to what this blog was originally for.

I have signed up to do the Eclectic Reader Challenge again and I am looking for another challenge to take the place of the TBR Challenge. I have looked at a few but have not yet made up my mind – any recommendations would be gratefully received.

After the stupidity of losing the final version of Choose Yr Future, it was a while before I could bring myself to rewrite the parts that I had lost. Some of which I had paper copies of but some had been written straight onto the computer so I had to hope that I was getting it right. In the meantime, I was writing but I was working on other projects – the next novel, The Practise of Deception and a number of new short stories.

Now I am at the stage I was at before I lost the file. I have a finished version of Choose Yr Future which has been redrafted and edited. I suppose the next step is beta readers so I need to discover the best way to do that and also the best way to publish. There are a lot of possible platforms for self publishing if I decide to go that way again. Again, any advice would be gratefully received.

 

Books Read in 2015 58. Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott

Genre: Adventure, Classics

Narrative Style: First personUnknown

Rating: 3/5

Published: 1817

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: Francis Osbaldistone doesn’t want to continue in his father’s business, forcing his father to appoint his cousin Rashleigh. This is the beginning of an adventure that will involve Francis in the Jacobite Rebellion and the ways of highwayman Rob Roy. He also meets the love of his life, Diana Vernon who is involved in events more than he can imagine. 

Reading Challenges: TBR Challenge. Time on Shelf – 20 years.

The synopsis I’ve just written makes this book sound more exciting then it actually is. The book is 500 pages long – the story could easily have been told in a lot less. It takes a long time to get properly started and even once there is action, Scott insists on documenting just about every second of our hero’s life. Every meal and conversation. This makes it very hard going, particularly Frnacis’ conversations with his servant which are written in a dialect that bordered on incomprehensible at times.

Francis is not a very exciting character. Quite why he didn’t wanted to become a clerk when he was so well suited to it is beyond me. He is not nearly as interesting as Rob Roy. Given that the book is named for him, he is in remarkably little of it. This is a shame as he seemed much more interesting than Francis.

When there is action. it is exciting and well written and the plot is actually quite interesting. It became a slog because of all the extra information and scenes that weren’t strictly necessary. Like Dickens, Scott tends towards long and complicated sentences with multiple clauses which sometimes left me wondering exactly what I’d just read. This also made it less enjoyable.

Towards the end, when the story was quite action packed, I started to enjoy it more. And any part of the book where Roy was mentioned was also exciting. It was a shame that those parts weren’t more frequent. I’m not sure I would read anymore of Scott’s novels based on this one.

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016

2016eclecticreader_bookdout

This will be the fourth year I have participated in this challenge and it looks to be the most interesting yet. It is hosted by Book’d Out and involves having to read books in 12 different genres. This year there are a lot of genres that are completely new to me so that is exciting. I have some ideas about what to read for some of them but would welcome recommendations for any of the others. Below are the 12 genres. If you fancy having a go, follow the link above to sign up.

  1. A book about books (fiction or nonfiction) – The Art of Fiction by David Lodge
  2. Serial killer thriller – The Redbreast – Jo Nesbo
  3. Paranormal romance
  4. A novel set on an island – Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  5. Investigative journalism (non fiction)
  6. Disaster fiction
  7. Steampunk sci fi- The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley
  8. Any book shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize – Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan
  9. Psychology (non fiction) The Power of Beauty – Nancy Friday
  10. Immigrant Experience fiction – Small Island – Andrea Levy
  11. YA historical fiction
  12. A debut author in 2016