New Challenge Needed

Well, the 30 day book challenge is finally over. A sigh of relief then, definitely. But also the certain knowledge that I would like to keep up the blogging pace and I would now have to think of my own subject matter. No fun, this having to think lark.

So I would like to say two things in this blog. The first is a great big thanks to all of you who have liked my posts and those who have started to follow me during this last month. It is incredibly flattering and always a surprise when people like my posts and I never really expect it. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to see the inside of my head on the page. Sometimes I don’t even like it in there all that much. So, thank you all.

The second thing is I am looking for a new blogging challenge. Something similar to the 30 day book challenge which was good because it wasn’t reliant on my finishing a book under a time scale. If you know of anything like this, please let me know and I will consider doing it.

DAY 30. – Book you couldn’t put down.

First of all, I would just like to say that I’m not sure that not being able to put a book down is necessarily a mark of quality. I read The Da Vinci Code really quickly because I wanted to find out what happened but afterwards it felt a little unsatisfying – like snacking rather than having a proper meal. Sometimes books that are a little more difficult to deal with or slower to start are often ultimately more satisfying.

I find when I read detective fiction, they are always quite difficult to put down as there is always a mystery to be solved. Most recently, I read Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Josh Lanyon and read it really quickly. There was real depth to this book and I will certainly be reading more by that author. Currently I am reading The Moonstone and that is quite hard to put down and I am certainly curious about what will happen.

DAY 29. – A book you hated.

I’m not really into hating books. Some books I don’t like obviously. But hate seems dreadfully harsh. Reserved, in fact only for books that offend in some way. Books that are blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic would be deserving of my hatred. Thankfully, I have not read many books that are.

There is only one book that I can think of that i have read recently that I have found offensive in this way. In my mind, Fifty Shades of Grey is anti-feminist. I know a lot of people claim that the ending of the first book is a feminist ending because she leaves him but the next two books obviously put a damper on this.

There are many annoying things about this book, not least that it really should be called Christian Grey and his ever-ready erection. I’m sure this is one of the things that women like about this book. Christian is always ready, no matter how recently he has already had an orgasm. That and the fact  that Ana has amazing wonderful orgasms right from the first. Every time. Then there is all the talk of Christians ‘considerable length.’ Actually that’s not offensive, it’s laughable. I’d have been happier if she had said Christian has an enormous cock. I find euphemisms much more cringe worthy for some reason. All the talk of inner goddesses had me cringing in much the same way. So far, so annoying but not quite enough to warrant hatred.

So here are two things that I really hated about this book. (I could choose more but these are the two that stand out.) Ana gives Christian a blow job in the bath. In fact, she deep throats him then he praises her lack of gag reflex. Really! Because they’re the words every woman is just waiting to hear. If a man had written this scene I am sure that women would have been appalled. Well, the fact that a woman wrote it doesn’t make it any less dubious as far as I am concerned.

The other thing that Christian says that should have women screaming in outrage is “You’ve had six orgasms so far and all of them belong to me.” So Ana is not even allowed to own the pleasure of her own body. Was this book really written in these last few years? To me, it seems hard to believe because the sexual politics in this book are so ridiculously old fashioned. It would be amusing if so many women didn’t love this book.

I’m not even going to comment on the whole s/m thing. Enough words have been shed over this book already. I am told that I should read the other books because they explain Christian’s background but to be honest I do not need to know because there is no excuse for the way he makes Ana act and the things that he does to her. That is as true in fiction as it is in real life.

 

DAY 28. – Favorite quote from a book.

One of my favourite quotes is from The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. “I’m telling you stories. Trust me” is a wonderful oxymoron. Telling stories implies lying, implies make believe and that is the very opposite of trust. However, this sums up perfectly the relationship between the reader and the writer. We put our trust in them even though we know that they are telling stories, possibly even playing games with us. If they are very good at their job of telling stories, the more we trust them. We allow them to take us through their make believe world.

Day 27 the book that has been on your to read list the longest.

As I mentioned earlier in this challenge, I have been trying to knock off some of the longer residents on my bookshelves. Earlier this year, I read The Story of the Eye by Gearge Bataille. I bought this when I was at university. Only twenty years ago. Pretty appalling really, especially as it is classic erotica. Forget 50 Shades of Grey, this book was genuinely shocking.

Books that are still on my shelf from this time are:

  1. Death comes for theArchbishop – Willa Catha
  2. Dead Souls – Nikolai Gogol
  3. The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall.

It makes me feel a little guilty. As if I was somehow hurting their feelings. I will have to read at least one of them this year.

DAY 26. – Book that makes you laugh out loud.

This was a difficult one. I don’t read a lot in the way of funny books. An obvious choice would have been Terry Pratchett or perhaps Douglas Adams as both their series of books have made me laugh out loud. However, choosing a single book by either of these authors was impossible. In the end, I decided on Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson which is on of the best travel guides to Britain you could hope to read.

I have read a few of Bryson’s travel books and they are all immensely photo (6)amusing but what is particularly good about this one is that I knew the truth of Bryson’s observations. Whenever I climb a hill in the Lake District, I think of Bryson puffing and panting his way up Haystacks and try and convince myself that it will be worth it when I get to the top. As Bryson knows, it always is but he describes the way you wonder what on earth you are doing when you are about halfway up perfectly.

Bryson has an easy going style which makes it feel like you’re having a chat with a good friend. I recently read A Short History of Nearly Everything and felt, at least for a short while after reading, that I understood some of the science involved, largely due to Bryson’s humorous and open style. His description of some of the early eccentrics of science and geology were truly wondrous to behold. It seems that there is no subject that Bryson could not make entertaining and funny.

DAY 25. – The most surprising plot twist or ending.

My first choice here is The Life of Pi. It should be obvious that the story of Pi and Richard Parker cannot possibly be true. A boy in a boat with a Bengal tiger, obviously it could not happen. But the skill of Martel’s writing means that you are completely drawn into the situation. You never doubt it for a moment and in fact, if you are like me, you want to believe in the story that Pi spins even when you know the truth.

As this is a story about faith and belief, it is fitting that belief wins over the rational, logical version of events. For me, before this book, I never really understood the impulse towards religion but this book suggested how it was a solace in difficult times and how it helped people cope with terrible events. I wouldn’t say that I am now religious but I at least understand why you might be.

My second choice is The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. This is a disturbing book with one of the most unsympathetic narrators I think I have ever come across. This is a bildungsroman like no other, although you could say it follows in the tradition of books such as The Catcher in the Rye and A Clockwork Orange. The violence is gruesomely inventive and unlike anything else I have ever read. Even the horrors of the book could not prepare me for the ending. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it but it is cruel, humurous and wonderfully inventive. It puts the rest of the story in another light.