What will survive of us is love

January 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Posted in books, debate, men, Waterstone's, work | Leave a comment
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The Doobyman

When I was but thirteen or so (ok, sixteen, but I wanted to go all poetical), my parents started giving me £100 a month pocket money (what a spoiled brat I was).  It never went very far, for on that first Saturday of the month, I would hotfoot it to Canterbury in search of the finest gin, kitten heels and new publications.  Yes, I would dabble with Methuen, the charity shops and the independent bookshops, but Waterstone’s was my favourite.  Back in the day, there was only the one in Canterbury, the ‘chip shop one’, as I call it, and I would linger there in the poetry section, hoping to meet my future husband (what a ridiculously romantic teenager I was).

 I am no longer that sixteen year old in her secondhand Burberry trench, scouting the Sylvia Plath section for lines to rip off.  Twelve years on, and my lyrical tastes are more Thomas Hardy and Hugo Williams than the suicidal poets (although Anne Sexton’s verse is truly beautiful).  But I still believe in beautiful bookshops, and I still rage against the company which offers half price chocolate at its tills and employs someone who thinks The Life of Pi is a cookbook.  I still believe in bookshops in beautiful buildings, where the booksellers actually know if Nigel Slater wrote a cookbook called Simple Suppers and who the author of The Master and the Margarita is.  And I really do believe that the company for whom I work will rise, Phoenix-like (how fitting), out of its slightly financially dubious ashes and remain the bookseller’s in which I once loved to roam and for whom I now love to work.  Simples.

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One is the loneliest number

June 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Posted in debate, family, motherhood, Uncategorized, women | 2 Comments
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Does this baby look lonely to you? Does he????

It’s a strange fact of parenthood that you exchange all ownership of your life for this strange beast called a baby (it doesn’t make sense initially that even your pregnancy will result in a baby, let alone the idea that that baby will be a child, and that child will be an adult…………..).  Bizarre that somehing so biologically related to you can seem like a hostile takeover of your single life at times of nostalgia.  But more on that topic later.

What I mean is, as soon as you are pregnant, everything you do will be judged in relation to how it affects your baby.  I kid you not, the foul look bestowed on me by one person when I dared to ask for a glass of wine haunts me still.  Others warned me not to stress myself out, because it might ‘affect the baby’.  Frankly, that had the same effect as ‘calm down’ usually does on me: to abbreviate for the sense of decency, FOAD was my mental response.  A lot of people have this hippy idea that every pregnant woman should mellow and ‘glow’ in preparation for her new earth mother persona.  Because becoming a mother means surrendering all traces of your former personality, right?  Hmmm………..

The latest I’ve experienced is the ‘When how are you having another?’ question.  Jeez, because being pregnant was such a blast that I want to do it again six months after giving birth?  Erm, no.  It seems that society expects you to fill this 2.4 child ideal, either out of some crazed old-fashioned Tory attempt to keep Britain traditional, or because the person in question has fulfilled their family quota and now expects you to go through the same ‘joy’. 

Let me explain the root of my ranting: as a quasi only child, my half brother and half sisters being eleven, twelve and sixteen years older than me, I spent quite a lot of time alone as a child.  Obviously I had friends, but I treasured the time I spent alone for the independence it taught me and opportunity to develop my imagination.  Not to mention the chance to cycle around the garages for ages with my parrot on the handlebars.  In no way did I ever feel I’d missed out; let’s face it, unless you live in the Gobi desert, you are going to go to school/brownies/ultimate frisbee and meet your peers.

So please: don’t think me selfish, or call me so, as some idiot man did last week.   I think it would be more selfish to have another child to satisfy other people’s opinions.

Rant over.  You can take out your earplugs now.

P.S. The title is an Aimee Mann song and yes, I’m being ironic.

Do I look like a girly girl to you?

May 13, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Posted in books, debate, men, Uncategorized, women | 6 Comments
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I didn't have an umbrella, alright?

I’ll start with a couple of disclaimers:  I never wear jeans, am incredibly vain and am obviously pregnant in the photo above.  So, we can conclude that not only am I a woman (sorry for being ridiculously obvious, but you know), I could also never be described as a tomboy.

Then again, I am convinced I am the man in my relationship (in no way do I mean this in a physical sense).  Asher bows down at the throne of Richard Curtis (he also loves war films and Bond, to give him credit), I crack up every single time Jenna and I watch ‘our’ film , ‘Misery’.  (Anyone who doesn’t laugh when Annie Wilkes says she’s going to put on her Liberace records needs a personality bypass.)  Asher bought me this card for Valentine’s Day:

whilst I bought him this:

You get my point?

So it really rather pissed me off when some foul man asked me recently whether or not I liked Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, and, after I said yes, implied that he wouldn’t like them, because I’m a ‘girly’ (yes, he really said that).  Oh, I’m sorry: I didn’t realise that literature had become gender specific now.  Heaven forbid that both the female of the species and the greater sex enjoy the same book.  Christ, is that the time?  I better get back to my manicure and Mills and Boon bonkbuster.  (Exit in my pink Nissan Micra complete with pink furry dice, pink  headrest covers and pink steering wheel cover. )

The author is dead. And so are her characters, it would seem.

May 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Posted in books, debate | Leave a comment
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You’d have to be a philistine, agoraphobic or illiterate not to have noticed the rise in vampire fiction these past few years.  Those of you who do read (and I’m not counting Heat magazine, though I know you love it, Greg and Janie) or have the pleasure to work in a bookshop will know that the lady who started the trend goes by the name of Stephanie Meyer.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I’m an English graduate, and am therefore used to sucking the life out of literature until it ceases to mean anything ( I can’t believe people actually get paid to teach people to do this).  Yes, I enjoy this, and I also believes that sometimes dissecting a text brings you more pleasure from it.  But I also think that there is nothing better than reading a book purely to enjoy it.

That’s why those journalists and any other people (usually those who have to read a newspaper to find an opinion) who write that Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight tetralogy is merely a vessel for her Mormon beliefs are missing the point.  Alright, perhaps I am, too: if journalists only ever wrote about how much they’d enjoyed a book, there wouldn’t be much point in reading their work.  What I’m saying is, think like Barthes.  Think the author is dead.  Suspend your belief when reading about Bella and Edward, and submerge yourself in the mythology that there really are vampires in smalltown America (vegetarian ones at that).  Stop seeing the fact that the young lovers take so long to sleep together as a metaphor for the preservation of virginity, or the large Cullen clan as representative of the typical Mormon family.  Does it really matter who wrote it?  Like it or don’t like it: don’t ruin what is supposed to be a leisure activity with analysis.  Because I hate to break it to all you other English graduates, but not everything has to mean something.

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