Tags: cold comfort farm

20 Aug 2006, Comments Off

Book meme

Author: Helen

Help. I’ve been tagged by Tigtog and Susoz at once. Better get cracking. I’ve been asked for

1. One book you have read more than once

Oh, lordy. I’m an inveterate rereader and my favourites are many. Which one to pick? OK: Jane Eyre. I love the Victorians. I’ve only read it about a billion times but I still can’t get the fourteen year old girlchild to read it.

Interesting that Pavlov’s Cat and I had the same answer to (1).

The rest of my picks are also on the “read more than once” list.

2. One book you would want on a desert island
Image from Amazon.com
Everyone is cheating by nominating multiple-volume novels, so I’ll pick the Gormenghast trilogy. I’m normally so not a fantasy reader (unlike 99% of bloggers, it appears), so why is this such a big favourite? Maybe because it’s like a piece of Victoriana, more Dickens than dragons. It’s a comedy of manners but with a perfectly realised alternative landscape and society. The people and their architectural and social setting provide all the weirdness you’d ever want without the need for elves and things. Also on the “read more than once” list.

(Mind you, having said all that, I read and enjoyed LOTR.)

3. One book that made you laugh

Like Cold Comfort Farm (which of course also made me laugh), The Poor Mouth, by Flann O’Brien (Myles na Gopaleen) is hugely funny even if you haven’t read the po-faced rural novel or autobiography these books are poking fun at. Angela’s Ashes meets Yorkshiremen. A paper bag in the middle o’ road would have been loooxury to Bonaparte O’Coonassa and his family.
The Picador edition has illustrations by Ralph Steadman, too, which has to be a bonus. Get it and laugh till you weep with Napoleon, the Old-Grey-Fellow and Ambrose the foul-smelling pig. I think that their likes will never be seen again!

4. One book that made you cry

I have a few books from my childhood which I still refuse to give away. One is February Dragon, by Colin Thiele, about a farming family whose house is destroyed in a bushfire.
A few months ago I pulled it out and had a look, as you do, reading while standing because you’re doing housework and so there’s the need to procrastinate. The book has survived well – it was published in 1966 but its colloquial dialogue lets it stand up quite well among today’s junior novels. There are a few clunky bits, like the cardboard-cutout baddie, the evil townie aunt who inadvertently starts a bushfire, the February Dragon of the title.

The aftermath, with the family returning to the burnt-out farm where animals have died, is a shocker. It only dawns on Turps, the little girl, as they approach the place, that she forgot to let her horse out of the stall that morning.

5. One book you wish you had written

Any one of David Foster’s three novels featuring the postman D’Arcy D’Olivieres: Dog Rock, The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover, or The Glade Within the Grove. Foster’s a rightwing crank, unfortunately, but then again so are or were many great novelists. To me, he evokes Australian culture and speech rhythms (with a bit of room for satire and slapstick) better than anybody else does. He manages to combine an encyclopaedic knowledge of history, religion, mythology and a mountain of detail about anything and everything with a sense of humour and wit that stops the overloaded narrative from getting bogged down. I feel a bit of a twit saying that, not being a book critic or an academic, so feel free to disagree.

These books are high on the “make yer laugh” and “read more than once” list, too.

6. One book you wish had never been written

The f***ing Da Vinci f***ing Code.

7. One book you are currently reading

Mother, Missing by Joyce Carol Oates. The subject matter’s interesting, but the writing reads like she’s churned it out to a deadline. Some of it looks completely unproofread – such as, where she uses slashes as punctuation, which looks really sloppy and School Newsletter-ish.

8. One book you have been meaning to read

Lots. One of them is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It’s in our library, but is always on loan; obviously really popular. I’m interested in stories touching on the Autism spectrum (Temple Grandin is also on my to-read list).

9. One Book That Changed Your Life

Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. I read it in 1975 and immediately became vegetarian for three years. I lapsed afterwards, more’s the pity.

10. Now tag five people.

Barista – Ampersand Duck’s already tagged him, but I thought I would, just to give him the shits.
JahTeh, if she can find the time, being a full time carer ‘n all.
Heck of a Guy Another blogger who can pick up just about any ball and run with it. Also because there seems to be some unwritten rule about not going outside your national boundaries with these memes, so I’m doing it just to be difficult.
Inner Curmudgeon, because he’s obviously been doing too much real life lately.
Armaniac, to see if he’s switched to baby manuals yet.

9 Feb 2006, Comments Off

No woman gets an orgasm from polishing the SUV

Author: Helen

Picture from www.picturehistory.com/find/p/14892/mcms.html

Betty Friedan‘s The Feminine Mystique is part of the remembered landscape of my childhood.

From the time I learned to read, the spine with The Feminine Mystique jumped out at me from the bookshelves. The interesting title gave it, well, mystique. I had a bad habit, back then, of guessing at what words meant from context, instead of going to the dictionary. I imagined the book would be about how women think– the mystery behind it. Because as Friedan herself pointed out in the book, Freudian cliches- such as “what do women want” – permeated society then, trivialised and distorted through the lens of popular culture. Hmmm, plus ca change… When I was old enough to read the book, I discovered something quite different.

My mum was a passionate, dreamy literature buff with an offbeat sense of humour. While my father populated the shelves with Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling and nonfiction, my mother was the source of titles like Cold Comfort Farm, books by Ogden Nash, James Thurber, modern poetry and novels. In the way of the postwar period, she’d graduated with a BA in English Lit and then moved to the role of a faculty wife and stay-at-home mum.

An old friend described to me a visit to our house in about 1961, when my brother and I were very little. “There were dishes up to there,” she said “and your mum had forgotten we were coming. She was deep in a book at the time.

“You children were very much wanted – they just weren’t sure what to do with you when they had you.” A common situation, I think, in those days when motherhood was supposed to be “instinctive” and Dads weren’t supposed to be involved in working it all out.

I’m not saying her whole identity was subsumed by her domestic role; she was too spirited for that. But even as a kid I felt our mum needed something more than domestic science and sherry parties in her life. Betty Friedan spoke to people like her about that phenomenon: the problem that has no name. I wish I could talk to her now to ask her what she thought of it as she read, which ideas appealed to her.

My mum would have flowered in the Whitlam era. I imagine she might have returned to study and who knows what kind of employment. she would have regained her autonomy, not just as wife-of and mother-to, but something else: herself. But what you get from life isn’t necessarily what you deserve. In 1969, as the old patriarchal order began to crumble – at least around the edges – she died of an agressive cancer.

Betty may have been a flawed feminist (I’m sure she cringed in later life remembering the “lavender menace”) but her measured, authoriative writing did the job for me. We need to remember these older feminists with thanks. They really did change the world.

3 May 2005, Comments (0)

Readings (with Pitchers)

Author: Helen

jackrabbit.jpg

Why is it that so many good bloggers are also cartoonists? I’m thinking of Ampersand (Barry Deutsch), Sedgwick the G-G (Hot Damn! will you look at this one), Tom Tomorrow, and Invisible Shoebox, to name just a few.

Lately I’ve stumbled on BAGnews notes, where cartoonist/psychologist/writer Michael Shaw dissects photos in the news.

I remember reading John Berger’s Ways of Seeing when I was younger, and loving it. BAGnews notes mines news photography for its meanings as Berger does fine art. A photograph which, at first sight, would have limited interest for me, becomes fascinating under this treatment–for example, this picture of a California freeway.

Look at his take on picture editors’ attitudes to the environment, the Terry Schiavo case and other images which might pass unnoticed by someone with a less practiced eye. Be prepared to spend hours.

I’ve been wallowing in some excellent bad writing; it’s very cheering, somehow. Tim Lambert pointed me to Matt Taibbi’s review of Thomas Friedman’s new book, The World is Flat. Disclaimer: I haven’t read Friedman myself, but the review is very funny. One of Tim’s commenters directed me to The Datsun and the Shoe Tree, spoofing The Lexus and the Olive Tree. (Apologies to any Friedmanites who think this is a bit unfair. I suppose you could ask how I could find a spoof funny when I haven’t read the original, but I cacked myself reading Cold Comfort farm and I’ve never read much of the kind of fiction being mocked there, either. Go figure.)

Visiting Making Light I noticed Theresa Nielsen Hayden is enjoying the Taibbi Friedman review, too. In the process she points to heaps of other enjoyable bad stuff as well: William McGonagall, Amanda McKittrick Ros, and Petley studio postcards (the stuff of nightmares!)