Tag Archives: book

Book Porn: Armpits4August Edition

15 Aug

Day 14: Not a lot to see here.

If you haven’t noticed the trend of underarm follicles blossoming into fruition this month, I wouldn’t blame you. Despite Dove’s marketing campaign to try and sell us the ‘beautiful underarm’ as a thing, we just don’t spend a lot of time looking at each other’s pits! Unless you’re Amanda Palmer or Julia Roberts, the sad fact of life is that nobody will pay very much attention to your underarm tresses if you do grow hair under there, and if you’re bare under there you probably haven’t ever given much thought to why you shave in the first place. But for some women and trans* men with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), the battle against body hair can be a complicated, emotional, and embarrassing experience.

A common symptom of PCOS is hirsutism (excessive hair growth). Inspired by this, Armpits4August began as a month long charity event in which participants grow underarm hair for one month and ask friends and family to sponsor them to raise money for Verity, the charity for people with PCOS. Armpits4August believes the shame a lot of people feel about their body hair is a consequence of living in a society which dictates that female-assigned bodies must conform to incredibly narrow beauty standards, and which upholds a rigid gender binary that deems body hair a ‘masculine’ trait.

These beautiful and bizarre book covers are my own contribution to the movement (as well as my participation in the event, of course). So without further ado, let’s take a look at the lovely limb locks! Continue reading

New Fiction Review: ‘Acorn’ by Yoko Ono

12 Aug

Frankie just finished reading ‘Acorn’, a book of instructional pieces by conceptual art extraordinaire Yoko Ono. S/he thought this:

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Yoko’s great. Really, she knows what she’s doing. Her ideas are interesting, she’s clearly quite well read and well informed, she’s an intense and acute observationist, and she’s as much a presence on paper as she is in person. She’s an extraordinary artist, and no one needs reminding. But she’s not my artist. She doesn’t speak to me, she doesn’t resonate, she barely inspires a ripple in my imagination.

And that’s not to say that I don’t have imagination; I make songs, I make collages, I have an investment in art-making and conceptual thinking. But I’m also a pretty standard young person: barely any money, still unsure what I’m willing to do as a real job, concerned about the way I look and how others perceive me, inspired by various Westernisms and very much an urbanite. I’ve been toughened by the city, toughened by a fairly working-class upbringing, toughened by having to deal with assholes on a near-daily basis, toughened by being an unsigned, unloved musician, toughened by club and drug culture, toughened toughened toughened, made bitter, twisted, cynical, unbearable, and pissed off to the max (and yes, that’s everyone else’s fault, actually). Continue reading

Ekaterina Panikanova Paints on Books

7 Jul

rabbit

Artist Ekaterina Panikanova creates paintings out of old books, and they’re pretty neat. The Russian-born Roman takes objects with existing meaning and translates them into works of art. The results are absolutely gorgeous; I especially like how the different shades and makes of paper add interest and depth to the creations.

A lot of these installations feature cakes, which I’m pretty pleased about. I also like her experiments with Rorschach-like ink blots, and I feel like her black centerfolds are something that Little Goth Girl could have painted.

black

What do you think? Personally, I’d like to see her try it with Kindles.

Book Porn: Rainbow Bookshelves

19 Jun

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From my Pinterest board ‘Sexy Bookshelves‘.

It could be practical if you can always remember what colour the spine is on your favourite books!

I think it could be fun to devote one or two shelves in a house to LGBT+ authors. And for sexist and homophobic authors you could try gently ripping off the covers and sort of tossing the book into some mud somewhere.

What do you think of the rainbow bookshelf method of organisation?Are you more of an alphabetical or organise-by-genre kind of reader? Or are all your books on a Kindle? Let me know in the comments!

Ten Books that Should Have be Written

17 Jun

I’m always saying how authors should be writing less alienating female characters, or improving their inclusion of minorities, or just generally writing, say, better vampire fiction. For his 100 Days project, graphic designer Tyler Adam Smith has come up with his own concepts for books that should be, or should have been, written. I’ve put together my top ten – publishing houses, take note.

Continue reading

Are Book Covers Gendered?

15 Jun

The answer is… probably. YA author Maureen Johnson set her Twitter followers the challenge of the ‘Coverflip‘ — taking a book that is marketed for one gender and then imagining it in reverse. She explains:

the simple fact of the matter is, if you are a female author, you are much more likely to get the package that suggests the book is of a lower perceived quality. Because it’s “girly,” which is somehow inherently different and easier on the palate. A man and a woman can write books about the same subject matter, at the same level of quality, and that woman is simple more likely to get the soft-sell cover with the warm glow […] This idea that there are “girl books” and “boy books” and “chick lit” and “whatever is the guy equivalent of chick lit” gives credit to absolutely no one, especially not the boys who will happily read stories by women […] I would love a world in which books are freed from some of these constraints.

It turns out that the results of Coverflip are a bit like the male pinup project Men-ups!, meaning that they’re a sad and absurd insight into how gender is represented, commodified and exploited… but they are also undoubtedly hilarious. Here are a few of my faves from Johnson’s Twitter followers (the original cover will appear first):

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The ‘Lord of the Flies‘ one just kills me.

Johnson (whose book appears in the slideshow above) notices that “lots of times the ‘perceived good’ stuff goes to male authors, with the female authors falling in that ‘let’s sell it as romance, which is soft and silly’ pile, when in fact romance is fascinating. And not all women write it.”

Jodi Picoult weighed in over Twitter:

Why is it ‘domestic fiction’ if a woman writes about family/relationships, but if a man does that, it’s Pulitzer-worthy? … what would happen if a woman submitted a book under male pseudonym to a publisher? Would it be treated differently?

And Amanda Hocking blogged:

more women read books than men, more women write books than men, but only a small fraction of books that win literary awards are written by women. Women are the publishing industry’s bread and butter, we are the backbone of the damn entertainment industry, but we are constantly demoted to ‘fluffy’ to ‘light’ to ‘meaningless’.

So, question time! Is the publishing industry inherently sexist when it comes to women’s fiction? If so, do we only think this because we think that “girlie things” are considered inferior by default? Do you judge a book by its cover? And what would a nongendered book cover look like? Does such a thing exist? Will this argument become moot when the Kindle takes over the world and the last book has been used as kindling? Is that why they named it that? Let me know in the comments!

New Fiction Review: ‘The Academy: Game On’ by Monica Seles

12 Jun

gameon

Author Monica Seles is a retired tennis champion. She won the French open at sixteen and went on to become the number one ranked woman in tennis, winning a total of nine Grand Slam titles before retiring from the game in 2004. I know this only because I read her biography in the back of ‘The Academy: Game On’, which I won through a Goodreads First Read competition. ‘Game On’ also has another author in very small print on the title page, so I’m guessing it was ghost written – not that it really matters.

It turns out that ‘Game On’ is your typical rags to riches plot, set against the backdrop of a very exclusive sports academy. You know, “17-year-old tennis superstar in the making gets the scholarship of her dreams… and more than she bargained for”. It’s sort of like Mean Girls meets Bend it Like Beckham, with a touch of The OC (‘cause they’re all so super rich).

The girls were fairly interesting, and this novel definitely passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours. There’s the protagonist, Maya, who is fairly likeable, punk Cleo, rising star of the ultra conservative golf scene, Renee, a girl rich enough to buy her way in to the Academy, and Glamazon Nicole, Maya’s heroine – and competition.

‘Game On’ is filled with all the hot guys and frenemies you’d expect. I haven’t read a lot of teen romance, but I imagine the romantic interests are fairly typical of that genre as well (bad boy vs. shallow stud). There are so many twists and changes of heart that my eyes were flicking back and forth across the page like I was witnessing a tennis match. Some of them were predictable, some of them I didn’t see coming and they struck me with the force of a tennis ball hurtled from a malfunctioning ball machine. (Are these tennis metaphors going a bit too far?)

This novel had a slow start but picked up the pace very quickly. It was genuinely funny at times, and although I never found myself laughing aloud I did find myself smiling a lot. The author does have a tendency to spoonfeed the reader a bit with her descriptions and there are a lot of instances of wishing she’d show instead of tell. This sentence on page two we probably could have gleaned for ourselves: “Finally, she had done it. This sixteen-year-old have-not from central New York with absolutely no connections whatsoever had somehow made it into the most exclusive club.”

Some of the description made me wince a little bit, like calling Cleo “an Asian girl with a towel wrapped around her head” the first time we see her, and

“You will be able to pick a Russian from a Belarusian from a Czech at a hundred yards in three seconds flat. Facial features, skin color, clothing, hairstyles […]”

feels borderline racist and wasn’t really necessary to the story or plot at all. ‘Game On’ also has a very “feel sorry for the poor beautiful rich kids” feel. For example, this quote:

“The only things Maya had ever heard about the way she looked were how freakishly tall she was, how creepily blue her eyes were, how plain blonde her hair was.”

Like, you can’t really just add an unflattering adjective to a word and make it so it seems like she doesn’t fit society’s idea of the perfect woman. Come on, Seles!

Also, after a dad says something offhand to his son:

“Jak and Maya found each other’s eyes. The pain was almost physical. Certainly worse than anything the kid he injured was feeling.”

I kind of disagree, considering that the character in question had just broken a fellow football player’s arm so hard that he’d let out a scream which sounded “primal, like a wounded animal”!

The whole novel offers an interesting commentary on class divides. I know it’s never going to happen in a million years, but a spinoff series about Cleo and her life as a Chinese immigrant who is also a lesbian would be A-MA-ZING. I really liked Cleo and it was super inclusive of them to put a lesbian in BFF role, but they really skimmed over her romance with Svetlana. Like we didn’t even meet the girl. I’m hoping to see more of baby dyke Cleo and her radical undercut in the sequel – although, speaking as a queer girl with an undercut, Cleo is pretty misogynistic for a queer girl with an undercut.

I have to admit that I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. And what I mean by that is that when the sequel comes out, I’m prepared to spent actual, real money on it. Nice serve, Seles.

Happy Birthday Maurice Sendak!

10 Jun

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Google marks what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday with a delightfully interactive tribute to his most famous work, ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘.

Sendak is pretty much the coolest picture book writer of all time, even if he had a bit of internalised homophobia going on. He didn’t believe in fairytale childhood, and while my favourite story of his has a very clear moral (“care”), most of his work didn’t. He simply believed in telling the truth. Sometimes the truth involved man-eating lions, sometimes it involved death, sometimes it involved a penis or two.

This bluntness was the central message of his documentary with Spike Jonze, ‘Tell Them Anything You Want’. If you’ve never seen it you should make time for it today. Right now, actually.

Come on. It’s only forty minutes long!