Room – reaction and spoilers

I've just read Room by Emma Donaghue. I didn't like it. The first third in the Room made me feel desperately uncomfortable and final two thirds of the book were borderline tedious with the occasional bright part which all involved Ma demonstrating her remarkable personality.

As I always do after reading a book, I turn to Amazon and Goodreads, to read the reviews. Of the minority three star and under reviews on Amazon, I was struck by people who were willing to admit to being feeling sickened and revolted by the fact that five year old Jack is still being breastfed but at no point expressed the same feelings in regard to the fact that a woman had been raped on a nearly daily basis for over seven years. I love that Donoghue even anticipated this type of reaction in the book itself during Ma's TV interview: “In this whole story, that’s the shocking detail?” I mean, really people, you are so immune to the atrocious treatment of women and children (as Donoghue also highlights: "As for kids – there's places where babies lie in orphanages five to a cot with pacifiers taped into their mouths, kids getting raped by Daddy every night, kids in prisons, whatever, making carpets till they go blind…") that you aren't appalled by that but are by breastfeeding? An act that brings nourishment and comfort.

On a less dismaying note, I was also surprised, but in a less appalled way, by the amount of, I want to call them Britishisms, but since Emma Donoghue is an Irish-Canadian, that's not quite right, but anyway by the use of words and phrases like "fish fingers" and "poo" in a book set in the USA. I'm sure there are others.


Image via Grazia Daily Book Club

Tipping the Velvet

I saw Jodhi May in something today and suddenly got an urge to watch her in the TV version  of Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet. I bunged in the DVD and starting watching it from when Florence (played by May) tells Nan (Rachael Stirling) about her relationship with Lilian (Cyril’s mother). The next morning, Florence suggests they go out together. Nan takes her to a pub where she has to tell Florence that some of the clientèle of the spacious pub are not, in fact, men. Subsequently, they overhear a conversation which puzzles Florence who has to ask what “tipping the velvet” actually means and Nan explains in words and mime. They then walk home and, in scene of astonishingly awful cheesy CGI, they kiss on a bridge over the frozen Thames while a man skates on the river below them. By this time I’m going “something isn’t right” (and I didn’t mean the terrible effects) so I rush upstairs to grab the book.

Anyway to cut a long story short, in the book the scene when Flo tells Nan about Lilian is pretty much the same sans the politics but it is Flo who chooses the pub (actually, a small room in a pub), it is Flo who informs Nan that not all the blokes are blokes (“to think…that I might have worn my moleskins, after all”), and much more importantly, it is Flo who tells Nan what “tipping the velvet” means to Nan’s great confusion.

What was the thinking of Andrew Davies here? Why did he swap the dialogue around? Maybe if I reacquaint myself with the adaptation I’ll understand what he was trying to do but otherwise it removes Nan’s essential naivety and places it on the sensible and straightforward and quite frankly wonderful Florence who doesn’t deserve that.

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Stranger Than Fiction

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to
stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar. in Following the Equator by Mark Twain (1897)

I really enjoyed this film starring one of my favourite people, Emma Thompson. Great music, fascinating story, good cast and lots of baked goods. I would have happily been one of Ana’s study buddies.

Best line “I brought you flours.”

Margaret Atwood

“I’m a reader of science fiction and fantasy” – Margaret Atwood in Ursula Le Guin at 80 BBC Radio 4 17th March 2009 at 11:30

I thought at first (due to her accent) that Margaret was confessing to be a writer of science fiction…


I got this from maurinsky:

Here’s the deal:

1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.

“Don’t you get tired of wading in mud and filth? – No, I can’t do that. Y’know it. Especially this coming week, there’s too much to do. I’ve already been away too much.” – Haweswater by Sarah Hall

I tag any five people who have left a comment on this blog.

What is up with The Guardian?

The Guardian‘s blogging editorial policy seems determined to be as divisive as possible regarding gender. The Guardian used to be one of my quick links but recently I removed it because I was fed up with being sucked into a Comment is Free blog full of mutual hatred just because I was looking for some news to read. I still have their arts blogs feeds set up in Netvibes because they are interesting. However, this piece by John Sutherland is mind-bogglingly stupid. He asks whether women can write about war by going on about joysticks and shrivelling balls when he hears a woman’s voice coming from a cockpit and, without irony, uses an article by Pat Buchanan to illustrate a point. (Hang on, maybe, the whole thing is ironic! And maybe it’s meant to be funny!) It is painful to read because of sentences like this

Can a class of writer so institutionally and historically disengaged from a subject write a classic (or even a good) novel on it?


Why, with all those “women’s subjects” at her disposal, did Kennedy venture into this most exclusive of manly enclaves?

I shall certainly read Can Jane Eyre Be Happy? and Is Heathcliff a Murderer? in a different light now.

But still, a good thing has come out of it – I actually quite fancy reading Day by AL Kennedy now.

PS Even it is written in humour this type of article is all over The Guardian these days and they are serious.

I do read books

Literary criticism is hard for me so here is a list of the recently read:

  • The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. Stef came in for a hard time because she has never been to Canada and yet wrote a book about the place. I guess she has never been to 1867 either. Stupid, stupid criticism of a moody book which has maybe too many fascinating characters with their all too brief stories. Recommended and I am looking forward to her second book already.
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Ah, speculative fiction or sf as it is usually known. Despite Atwood’s lack of commitment to the genre, this is science fiction and very well written too, unlike:
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy which I could not get into due to the liberal chucking around of obscure words. I don’t know how it ends, I returned it to the library.
  • Carol (aka The Price of Salt) by Patrica Highsmith. Apparently first published as pulp fiction. What a treat to read pulp this good. Trademark unsympathetic characters but entirely gripping.
  • As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. Slash fiction. Jacob is a pig of a man but I loved reading his story and his love for Ferris. Impeccable Civil War detail. Someone else whose next novel I am looking forward to.
  • 1984 by George Orwell. First read at school, I read this every few years and never tire of it. It always seems particularly revelant. He was a genius.
  • Observations by Jane Harris. Written in Scots and Northern Irish dialect, this was really easy to get into. However, despite the thrilling feeling that it was going to all Fingersmith on us, it didn’t and just ended poorly. Nice try though.