Writing women (links)

I recently read this rather old interview with the estimable Graham Linehan (Father Ted, The IT Crowd, etc) in which he said,

I would probably be more comfortable writing just two men. I do find it hard to write for woman, as do a lot of male writers.

It reminded me of this article by Richard Warlow who is the only male writer on the BBC’s Mistresses who wrote about writing women in a way that irritated me mainly because he couldn’t resist sentences like,

But, well, women are beautiful, aren’t they? And mysterious and confusing.

The way I look at it is if you are writing sentences like that then you already failing. I’m not beautiful, mysterious or confusing. (Confused, yes.)

That got me thinking about the subject. If some men can say that they find it hard to write women then what does that say about the vast majority of literature ever written?

Not every man agrees. Steve Martin says,

I know the feelings, but I don’t know what’s interesting. So it was really hard to pick and choose. What needs to be known? … But it’s easy to be an observer and appreciator of the opposite sex.

which isn’t much different from Warlow’s,

Most men I know, even the gay ones, are obsessed with women. I think that gives us a compelling qualification to write about them.

but less tiresomely expressed.

I found an interesting discussion at Absolute Write (I guess there are dozens of these discussions around the Internet). Some random quotes:

Write a woman like she is a person first, a woman second. She is an individual person with her own hopes, aspirations, and importantly, flaws, and not just some member of a club called “women”. (Toothpaste and agreed with several times)

You have one thing in common with women… you are of the same species.” “Don’t watch sitcoms and dramas to try to figure out women… if I was a woman I’d be pissed about the way they are often portrayed on TV. Watch them in real life. (KTC)

(The discussion deteriorates from page 2 onwards.)

Finally, some great stuff from Marie Brennan,

We’re people. We’re individuals. We’re not Women, and we’re not types, either — the Cold But Brilliant Scientist, the Nurturing Mother Who Sacrifices All For Her Children, the Whore With A Heart Of Gold.

Seriously, I do have to read one of her books.

BBC News

I detest the phrase the BBC understands because what the flipping heck does that really mean? Surely every news report is a result of somebody understanding something either directly or second-hand. It is an unattractive and irritating shorthand method of saying we have been told by one source that is very reliable that something has or is going to happen but we don’t want to say that even though it doesn’t stop us when we use Reuters or AP.

And while I’m moaning, the phrase sweats on is also detestable along with the use of the word attack when criticises would do very nicely, thank you.

And I haven’t finished: the headlines can drive me mad too but this was the most recent: “Is it OK for disabled people to go to brothels?“. I’ll leave to the f-word and the majority of the comments to answer that one for you. Just a couple of hints: women have needs too and no it’s not.

Basking in reflected glory

I highly recommend a very readable book by David Jennings called Net, Blogs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. It is a look at how people use the Internet to listen to music, to find new music and to make new friends.

Andy wearing A Head Fullof Wishes t-shirtAndy, my husband/partner/spouse, gets a mention several times including a chapter that begins with his name. I’m feeling warm from all that glory. Seriously, he should be proud of what he has done over the years, I know that I am. David has posted this rather wonderful post profiling Andy and A Head Full of Wishes.

A random selection of things which have depressed me lately

“Once upon a time women were empowered to vote, empowered to enter the workplace, empowered to stand up to oppression. Now pole dancing is empowering.” Mind Your Language

“The gents, meanwhile, are more willing to accommodate each other’s ambitions, or at least to swallow their pride.” Girls just want to have a massive spat

I just put together a picture to illustrate my third item but I don’t think I want that sort of thing on my blog so you’ll just have to see the images of Huntress from Idealized women, fine, but whose ideal?. What Ami misses is how much the second Huntress’s belly button resembles a vulva.

Farewell 2006

It’s been a good year.Adam continues to be as lovable, funny, smart, sweet and gentle as ever and his achievement in passing his grade 2 piano exam with merit makes me especially proud. Andy and I have now been together for sixteen years since the Villiers House Christmas party…and, in a number of ways, I don’t think our relationship has been stronger. I like my work and I’m well paid for what I do. It’s not always inspirational but there aren’t many jobs like that that I am qualified to do (or can be bothered to do; effort and ambition not being my strong points). I have completed my sixth year of studying at the Open University and I could accept a degree if I wanted (BA/BSc Open degree). However, I think I would like to get a named degree but finding a course I want to do and finding time to do it in is getting harder. Here are some reasons that I have less inclination to study:

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – although we finished season seven in January, the rest of the year has been taken up with rewatching it (and in the case of some episodes, rewatching and rewatching)
  2. Firefly and Serenity – a Western in space is no way to sell a tv series but that’s what it is and it works very well indeed – the ensemble cast is perfect but I have a soft spot for Summer Glau who played River with serious mischievousness
  3. message boards
  4. blogs
  5. fan fiction – if I had been asked a year and a half ago what fan fiction was I would have had no idea and when told I would have snorted and sniggered with derision – however, I have surprised myself spending a lot of time reading the stuff – I admit that a great deal of it is poor (most of it isn’t even edited for spelling and punctuation) – and far too much of it has far too much sex (considering its early 70s roots as romantic fiction that isn’t surprising) but some of it is stunning; Bread by Tulipp is one of the best things I have ever read. And it doesn’t hurt to mention it again but Jet Wolf’s The Chosen which is a continuation of BtVS is an amazing body of sustained writing which is as funny and moving as the “real” thing. Jet Wolf loves Tara and brought her back and that leads to…
  6. Amber Benson – “In the end, I discovered that being the nice guy – when it’s really just a front for being a coward – eventually leads to you becoming the Spawn of Satan. It’s best just to be honest and forthright from the beginning – even if it means people call you names behind your back and don’t like you as much. Just ignore them. I do.” – I wish I was ever as insightful as that (and I am a coward).
  7. comics – or graphic novels to make it sound grander
  8. our ever expanding DVD collection – best films this year seen on DVD include Adaptation, Fight Club, Heathers, Twelve Monkeys, Doctor X, Serenity, and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  9. television – Ugly Betty, Life on Mars and University Challenge
  10. music – Audrey, Espers and Aimee Mann
  11. books – I do have time to read them, most of them unmemorable except We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Night Watch, Case Histories, and A Darkling Plain

Catching up with a whole new world

When I was a child I used to read The Beano, the Broons and Oor Wullie, and moved on to Tiger and Roy of The Rovers (The Safest Hands in Soccer was my favourite story: initially it was beautifully drawn and it was about a goalkeeper who was Scottish so…bliss) but as I got older I left that all behind except for a brief sojourn as a student to read Maus. In 2005, the tv showing of the film of Ghost World prompted me to get the graphic novel from the library which was absorbing but didn’t enchant me. Andy, who was a collector of Crisis as a younger man, remembered Watchmen so we read and enjoyed that but my interest had still not been excited.

As I have said before Buffy has ruined my life except what I actually meant was that Buffy has improved my life. And one of those improvements has been the encouragement to get further into the world of comics aka graphic novels aka sequential art. And it’s all Amber Benson’s fault and the fact that Ealing Libraries has a healthy collection of Buffy trade paperbacks. I slowly fell in love with Tara Tara in Entropyon BtVS and with Amber Benson: the more I know about her the more there is to admire.When I realised she had co-written a Buffy comic I had to get it. I liked it well enough but wasn’t that impressed. I have subsequently come to believe that the more sequential art you read the more you appreciate it.

However, it was Amber Benson’s afterword for WannaBlessedBe is the thing that did it for me:

“As someone unexposed to comics, I had no idea that there was such a plethora of genres out there. All I knew was the superhero. I think if I had been turned on to Promethea or Strangers in Paradise as a kid, my whole comic outlook would have been changed. Here are comics that deal with things that appeal to me as a female. As a kid, I could have so related.”

These are the comics I have read so far:

Buffy: The Death of Buffy – various (“Lost and Found” by Fabian Nicieza is excellent)
Buffy: Willow and Tara – various (the Terry Moore illustrated WannaBlessedBe has the classic line “My heart doesn’t stutter” but I thought Tara and Caitlin looked too much alike – in fact, my only criticism of Strangers in Paradise is the sameyness of some of the characters)
The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones – Alan Moore and Ian Gibson (it took a while for me to warm to this but by the time Halo got to Moab, I did not want it to end – the art work is dated which takes a bit of getting used to)
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Ghost World – Daniel Clowes (I need to read this and to see the film again – “Ghost World” by Aimee Mann is one of my favourite songs)
Maus – Art Spiegelman (the subject matter is unforgettable but what I remember most distinctly is that Volume 1 just ended and it cost me a lot of money)
The Plot– Will Eisner (the story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion told superbly)
Preacher: Gone to Texas – Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (oh my word, this is unpleasantly gruesome and, well, graphic – intriguing story but the style is just too much)
Promethea Book One/Two/Three – Alan Moore and J. H. Williams III (this started off brilliantly and then got bogged down in philosophical and metaphysical musing and, quite frankly, by Book Three I was bored – fantastic art work though, it looks gorgeous)
Shadowplay: Demon Father John’s Pinwheel Blues – Amber Benson and Ben Templesmith (this is graphic and gruesome but unlike the traditional look of Preacher it has an arty quality (you can tell I haven’t done art appreciation) which I liked – the story itself is intriguing and tantalizingly brief)
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Strangers in Paradise: Pocket Book 1 – Terry Moore (wonderful – worth a post of its own)
Strangers in Paradise: Love Me Tender – Terry Moore (I read this first and I just adored it – apparently I have been Katchoo’d but I do relate more to Francine)
Stuck Rubber Baby – Howard Cruse (I liked this but I couldn’t love it – Toland was too dull)
Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (I need to read this again)
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Let everyone debate the true reality

Deus by the Sugarcubes (and not Coldsweat because that video contains bacon).

While we were on holiday, Andy and I got to thinking about our Desert Island Discs, which is a pointless but intriguing exercise. It is difficult to cut down the many songs you love to a mere eight. I could easily have eight songs by The Beatles or Kate Bush or Aimee Mann or Paula Frazer/Tarnation, never mind just one.

I would definitely include Goin’ Back by Dusty Springfield (because you get Dusty and Goffin & King in a oner) and Simple Game by the Four Tops and most likely Save Me by Aimee Mann (the lyrics aren’t really relevant to me now but I have hardly forgotten what those 24 years were like) but otherwise it’s tough.

On the way home, we were listening to the Great Crossover Potential and I realised that Coldsweat or Deus had to be a DI disc because it was the Sugarcubes in 1988 that make me realise that I could like and did like alternative/different music (The Dreaming by Kate Bush was as radical as I got). Alison had bought Life’s Too Good because of Birthday but like its effect on so many others the overwhelming Einar factor put her off and I appropriated the album. I remember listening to a tape of it in the dark in my room (on a knackered old machine that needed a wedge of cardboard to keep the heads engaged on the tape properly or it sounded faint) and being amazed by the outlandish noise of astonishing vocals, rude lyrics, and mesmerising music; it was like nothing I had ever heard.

It didn’t completely change my life because I still like pop and my favourite record that year was Circle in the Sand by Belinda Carlisle.