It was an interesting book, and while some of the essays were so-so, some of the essays were really inspirational and made me reconsider what reading is all about. There are contributions from authors (Zadie Smith, Mark Haddon, Jeanette Winterson, Michael Rosen and Blake Morrison), publishers (Carmen Callil, who set up Virago), non-fiction writers (Nicholas Carr and Tim Parks), psychologists (Dr Maryanne Wolf and Mirit Barzillai), and charity founder Dr Jane Davis MBE, Director of The Reader Organisation.
However, I can’t help but feel that it’s preaching to the converted; I wonder if anyone who doesn’t like reading would ever pick it up. I’ve done a full review on it at our book blog, here, including more about my favourite essays in it.
I loved this book. I first heard about it from Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency videos, and it seemed to be well-known in feminist circles, so I thought I’d try it.
Most of it was inspiring. Every time she smacked down some self-righteous commenter on women, it was so satisfying. Sometimes it’s easy to think “Well, maybe I am just a prude to be offended by Playboy and Anne Summers and fake plastic sexiness being shoved in my face all the time”, but reading this made me resolute in my convictions and reassured me that it isn’t just me. In fact, it even offers compelling evidence about why nobody wants to argue against raunch culture: it’s because to question it at all is to be a prude, to be ugly, with no sense of humour and no sense of fun. It is the reason it’s so hard to argue against lads’ mag style BANTER – as I’ve just been reading in Gender and the Media, “discourses of laddism and sexism together with feminism and equality are purposely reconciled to rebut critique” (215). Irony means never having to say you’re sorry.
I found the middle a bit confusing, as Levy introduces a lot of different factions of the gay subculture in America that I didn’t know about, and I’ve found the same views echoed in other reviews. I’m not sure whether this was because Levy was not so knowledgeable about this subject, or because it is so unknown to me that I had to learn a lot as I was reading through, but the ending was really hard-hitting and inspiring. I lent this book to a friend who loved it as well and we spent a whole afternoon talking about it and all the issues it brought up. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone.
I found this book in a charity shop in Edinburgh (children’s books are always a good find in a charity shop because they tend to be even cheaper than the adult books), and as I started reading it I realised that I’d read a couple of the stories before. When I was younger I had a large hardback book full of illustrated extracts of children’s stories. One of them was an amazing illustrated version of The Happy Prince and The Remarkable Rocket. The stories are of course full of Wildean wit. Some of them are pretty brutal, such as the last paragraph in the ending of The Star Child. In some of them, such as The Selfish Giant, he seems to use the language of the King James Bible. Many of the stories are satirical, with a humour that children would understand – for example, the water rat in The Devoted Friend who thinks he’s a literary critic and storms off when he is informed that the story has a moral. I think that adults and children alike would love these stories.