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A Short Book About Drawing
A Short Book About Drawing
by Andrew Marr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.94

7 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I didn't enjoy this book, 10 Nov. 2013
I didn't enjoy this book. i found the writing style and quality of the actual drawings to be low. Everyone is writing a book these days, people should not try to write about things they aren't qualified in.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2014 10:19 AM GMT


Sterling Silver Small Bali Style Endless Hoop Earrings for Cartilage, Nose and Lips
Sterling Silver Small Bali Style Endless Hoop Earrings for Cartilage, Nose and Lips
Offered by Revoni
Price: £29.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well made, but bold, 25 Sept. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I got these to use as nose rings. The ring fastens far, far more easily than the last ring I had--fastening that would be a quest of epic silliness inside my nostril, but this one just clicks into place with hardly any icky nostril-diving at all. Very good!

They're a tiny bit larger than I expected. Also, the textural patterning, while pretty, feels distracting round my nose, and little bits of fluff seem to get caught in them so I keep panicking and thinking there are spiders on my face. They'd be very subtle earrings, but quite bold nose rings.


The Twyning
The Twyning
by Terence Blacker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Rat lovers, beware, 21 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Twyning (Hardcover)
I think I've noticed a trend in the other reviews here. Those who score it highly seem to be unfamiliar with rats, and they're intrigued and surprised by the appealingly complex social creatures who emerge from Blacker's portrayal of rat society, which combines good research and rich imagination. Those who score the book low, however, already loved rats, and were thus repulsed by the amount of violence that Blacker unleashes on them. As a long-time owner and lover of rats myself, I found the book terrifically upsetting and painful...compelling, absolutely, but also a cruel depiction of a cruel world which has been made even crueller than necessary.

Literally thousands of rats are torn to pieces by dogs in the endless succession of rat-pit scenes. There's also the vivisection of an elderly rat dying of cancer and the slow, detailed rat-on-rat torture scenes. It's strong stuff. Blacker's human protagonists also suffer greatly: the two children at the heart of the novel have been abandoned and abused, and they live a rat-like existence in a trash-heap burrow. There's a striking difference in Blacker's approach to dealing with rat and human pain, however. When the girl, Caz, is made to endure a nightmarish ordeal, Blacker sketches it with a few spare details and then deliberately draws a veil over her trauma. It's a delicacy that contrasts strongly with the unblinking stare that records the horrors visited upon rats. A comment on animal realism versus human sentimentality? Combined with humanity's gigantic capacity for visiting destruction upon other creatures? Aye, perhaps, but hard going nonetheless.

The Twyning gives us two visions of fascism, rat and human. In both, people's desire for security is turned into a weapon by those seeking power. Human violence allows the rat kingdom to be pulled into fascism, with vicious courtiers scheming while being squished in a big rat pile (a paradoxically adorable scene), and old warriors being tortured to death in the name of unity and security. Just as a note, Blacker inserts some genuinely odd gender politics into his ratty fascism, with his gentle doe dictator and the matronly female torturer who specialises in sexual humiliation. He doesn't develop these ideas further, and it's hard to know what to make of it. Up in the world above, opportunistic humans are whipping up fear of rats and orchestrating mass exterminations to further their own petty ambitions. Every crowd is a potential mob--generally bored and cynical, but with an unpredictable capacity for hysterical violence. Particularly interesting here is the examination of those who become the footsoldiers of such campaigns, forced into doing the dirty work by poverty and a habit of ducking blows.

Tenderness and love develop in the cracks of these societies, in the bond between the lost children, a pet rat, and the wild rat exile who loves her. The relationship between Caz and her rat Malaika is rather lovely, although I wish Blacker had imagined it more fully. Malaika tends to sit passively on Caz's hand, which sounds like none of the rats I've ever known: surely she should be scrabbling up her dress, perching on her shoulder, nesting in her hair and nuzzling into her ears? It is their relationship which forms the book's hopeful heart, yet for all its intensity, it remains strangely inert and almost uncomprehended. For while (slight spoiler) it is Caz and Malaika who write the story, they have written it from the perspective of their boys, leaving their own interspecies sisterhood unspoken--because, of course, it's *not* written by them, but by Terence Blacker, who has interesting ideas about love and loyalty and togetherness, yet seems more comfortable describing dismemberment.

My guess is that Blacker has not known any rats, or not known them particularly well. Surely if he had known and loved rats, the interactions between rats and humans would be more lively? The interactions between rats themselves would also, presumably, be deeper, more convincing, and more compassionate. The point which strained my credulity the most was his repeated insistence that rats do not mourn their dead or feel any sadness at their loss. I have known many rats who have lost their companions, and they have all grieved. They snuggle against the dead bodies to say goodbye, and their character often changes dramatically after they suffer such a loss. Really, rats do grieve.

"The Twyning" is a good book, but it's not a great book, and it's probably not going to be particularly enjoyable for those who you might expect to love it most: those who need no convincing that rats are mavels. For such a person, I'd recommend Terry Pratchett's beautiful book, "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents." It treats many of the same themes as The Twyning, but with a witty bouyancy that seems to suit rats better.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SPOILER ALERT: Tropes vs Women in Gone Girl, 27 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gone Girl (Hardcover)
I devoured this book in two days flat, reading while I cooked tea, reading while I climbed the stairs, and staying up until 5am to finish. The plot's jackknifing twists, the characters' slippery transformations, the text's constant reinterpretation and deconstruction of itself--it was a lot of fun. Flynn does wonderfully chilling things with the landscapes of economic collapse: the eery silence of a never-inhabited housing development, or a shopping mall turned feral.

********SPOILER************

As excellent a thriller as this is, however, it is also working within a strangely regressive vision of feminism which looks surprisingly like August Strindberg's Miss Julie--that is, once men and women cast off their artificial gender roles, they will be left with a raging, murderous hatered of each other. A hatered which can only be surpressed--barely--by a deliberate return to those gender roles, to the nuclear family bound together with all the violent tension that nuclear now suggests. Yet, while Nick is arguably a believably flawed man, Amy is never a 'real' woman: when she drops her Cool Girl mask, it's to reveal a Psycho Bitch. The opening of the novel's second section, as Real Amy replaces Diary Amy, gives us a rather wonderful deconstruction of the Cool Girl trope, a raunchy post-feminist doormat along the lines discussed in Female Chauvinist Pigs: Woman and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Amy goes on to riff on Oliver!, adverts aimed at women (Clean! Bleed! Clean! Bleed!) and porn culture's confusion between sexual liberation and degredation. Yet all of this feminist wit is coming from a diabolical sociopath: it's a classic case of the Straw Feminist, making valid critiques while displaying extreme, malicious behaviour. What Flynn has given us, in fact, is the deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope via the even more insidious Straw Feminist Trope. For extended discussions of those tropes (and many others), see Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency videos "Tropes vs Women" on YouTube. Amy is the incarnation of men's fear and hatered of women, inseperably connected to an unrealistic and idealised love for fralse women--yet the demonic extremes and deep roots of her behaviour make it clear that she is not a creature to be satisfied with mere equal humanity; she is the nightmare feminist who will stop at nothing short of total domination of her man.

Flynn takes pains to make Gone Girl's world very much mid-America in mid-2012--and yet, as the mass media and the blogosphere becomes increasingly important in determining the outcome of police investigations into the disappearance of Nick's wife, Amy, we might start to notice a strange difference between Flynn's 2012 and the one in which we are living. Instead of Rush Limbaugh and Todd Aikin and the general assault in women's rights (to contraception, abortion, and consent), Flynn gives us a TV show devoted to violence against women, a show which employs all the worst tactics of sensationalist Fox News style 'reporting'...with a 'man-hating' bias. In this imagined climate of male vulnerability to harpy media hate campaigns, Amy elaborately fakes two rapes and domestic abuse resulting in in murder. Her falsifications have all the demented attention to detail of a God hiding dinosaur fossils, as she attacks herself with bottles to fake the appropriate vaginal injuries. Flynn is using--and carrying to its extremes--the trope of a vindictive woman making false rape accusations in order to exact revenge for petty slights. This is a trope which haunts almost all discussions of rape (including, of course, allegations against Assange)--and it is a dangerous trope, used to derail discussions of rape by reversing the roles of victim/victimizer. Nick begins to suspect that Amy's earlier rape accusation was faked when he sees a photo of the alleged attacker: a dorky, physically unprepossessing humourist. Because, as we know, there is only a certain type of man who rapes, and 'nice guys' or 'funny guys' would never violate a partner's consent. The idea of rape falsification is a story which ignores the feelings of shame and self-accusation experienced by many victims of sexual assault; a story which ignores the humiliating contacts with police and the justice system which many women experience if they DO report attacks; and a story which obscures the fact that the vast majority of sexual assaults are never reported. By the end of the novel, however, we can imagine nothing more sane or appropriate than for Nick to murder his wife.

Gone Girl is a witty, exciting and interesting novel which I thoroughly enjoyed, but which also disturbed me by the ways in which it participates in the current icky climate of misogyny, rape denial and anti-feminist attacks on women's rights. As Kate Beaton will tell you, there's nothing scarier than waking up to a Straw Feminist in the closet! (Please see the Hark a Vagrant! comics on Straw Feminists)


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