Following My Whimsy (The Blue Castle, Domino Book of Decorating, and A Return to Modesty)
Day One of my new reading without constraints is done, and I’ve started and completed two three three-ish books! Woo-hoo! When I got an e-mail telling me that an ILLed copy The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery was waiting for me at the library, I couldn’t even be bothered to shower before I threw on some clothes and ran to get it (this whole being-too-excited-to-shower thing is beginning to become a theme, isn’t it? I did wash my face, if that makes you feel better about my hygiene). In the process I might or might have brought another 20 home with me. ;) I know, it’s a disease, but gosh darn it I have the shelves for them, and as long as I return them in a timely fashion, who am I hurting by having 50 library books out at once? (This is me sticking with my guilt-free, rejoice in my individual foibles philosophy.)
I pretty much read The Blue Castle in one sitting, with a significant pause when my mom and niece got back from their trip and when I thus ended up reading to my niece and putting her to bed. I lurved it, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage to return it to the library: I wants my precious. Also, I now want to revisit some of the Anne books, and while I know I own them all, they’re not on my shelves! So I’ve downloaded the audio version from my library’s e-branch. Anyway, it had a bit of the flavour of I Capture the Castle, but with more of a fairy tale feel…in fact, it almost felt like something Anne Shirley herself would have written (violet eyes! the heroine named Valancy! a Lovers Lane!). On the one hand, I can’t believe this managed to escape my notice for so many years, but on the other hand I’m so grateful to have had such a treat…now y’all should just tell me that they’ve finally discovered Jane Austen’s seventh completed novel and it’s about to be published. That’s about the only thing that could bring me more joy. :) I especially loved how Valancy’s life was on pause until she was 29, but in the end it didn’t matter. As someone whose 20s are slipping by thanks to a chronic illness, stories like that give me hope. I know that this is a bit tricky to get your hands on, but it’s worth the effort.
Then I picked up Domino: the Book of Decorating, recommended to me by a few (very perceptive) blog readers. I’ve been in a decorating frame of mind since the news about the house came through and have spent hours online looking at pictures and gathering ideas and mulling things over, so this book felt like a complete treat. I was delighted when I grabbed it from the holds shelf and saw that the cover was in the very colour scheme I’m planning on for my bedroom! So I had fun flipping through it…it’s kind of a hybrid between a magazine and book (it reminded me of The Lucky Shopping Manual), so I can’t say I *read* it so much as enjoyed it. Such pretty pictures! As I’m only planning two rooms, though, I didn’t get a lot of solid advice from it (plus…there wasn’t a lot of the lush Victorian neo-gothic kind of look I’m aiming for in my reading room, which I’m finding tricky to pin down and find visuals of outside of the film Penelope). It did make me really sad that the magazine is no more, and I want to check with my library if they have back issues I can get my hands on.
Finally I was in the mood for something a bit girl-y and style related so I grabbed A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit. Oh dear; this was so awful, and yet I felt compelled to keep reading! It was like a trainwreck, in that her flaws and generalisations and ridiculous gender assertions were so bad I couldn’t help but be fascinated and wonder how this ever became published (because the writing reminds me of a college freshman composition class). It was like after each chapter, I thought it couldn’t get any worse, and then it did! I did pity her a bit…she wrote this fresh out of college, and now that she’s a decade older, I bet its existence makes her cringe. I thought it was going to be about *clothing* modesty, but it’s really about sexual modesty. Now, I read a marvelous book on this very issue, Unhooked, which I highly recommend. But this one? Her argument boils down to: women should stop having premarital and extramarital sex and they should socially coerce each other into being ladies again which is what evolution has programmed in us anyway because then men would be gentlemen and treat us right or at least save their bad behavior for the prostitutes who get paid to deal with it (no, I’m serious, she said that) and then life would go back to being the wonderful fairy tale it was before the women’s liberation movement and ‘the feminists’ who talk about things like ‘patriarchy’ as if it’s a bad thing had to mess everything up. And goddamn it if the crazy liberals aren’t passing out condoms to kindergarten students, which turns boys into sexual predators, and here’s some more quotes from Cosmo to serve as evidence of my deep analysis of mainstream America.
While the book had a ton of problems (lack of research, romanticism of the past, gross generalisations combined with anecdotal evidence), it really all came down to one huge one: Shalit seems to have swallowed the main premise of rape culture hook, line, and sinker. Women are the ones responsible for the sexuality of both genders, and if we’d just start behaving ourselves, men would have to follow suit. And they wouldn’t be oversexed and women wouldn’t make “postcoital claims” of “date rape” due to regret at their general licentiousness. Because you’re either a virgin or a slut, and you’ll get treated the way you act. But at the same time that she buys into these rape culture ideas, she seems to think that feminism has ‘won,’ and that our current society, far from being steeped in rape culture, is actually a feminist paradise of equality….and of course, if you believe that, it becomes obvious that the goals of feminism must be responsible for increasing sexual predation. And of course things like “date rape” never, ever happened before the feminist movement…it’s not as if the absence of discussion before then related more to cultures of silence, shame, and respectability. Nope!
I haven’t decided which book I’m going to pick up next…I’m almost done with Samba, which I reading pre-slump and am truly enjoying in small-ish doses. I had thought I’d go for one of the classics, but now the historical romanticism in A Return to Modesty has left a bad flavour in my mouth, so we’ll see what ends up calling to me. :) On the audio front, I’ve put The Secret Scripture on pause (I was beginning to dread listening to it) and began The Murder of Roger Ackroyd last night, one of my favourite of Agatha Christie’s. But now that I’ve got Anne of Green Gables calling my name, Poirot’s got a bit of competition. ;) And it would appear that my decision to shake things up is just what I needed (though I have no desires to make it a permanent change)!