SUNDAY #49 – Clothes Music Boys

“Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I’m both.”

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It’s always a treat when you discover a writer who has the ability to unfold a narrative which is equal parts funny, exciting, and excruciatingly honest. When I picked up Viv Albertine’s Clothes Music Boys at the beginning of January, I was presented with all of this, and more.

I watched the BBC documentary ‘Girl In a Band’ and she’d featured amongst the other talented female musicians on the programme. I knew she was the guitarist for The Slits, but after reading her memoir, I discovered she was much more than that; she was a grafter, a trail-blazer, a survivor.

Whenever I read a book, I ink small black stars next to lines I think are funny, useful, or poetic. Below are a small collection of lines I encountered in Clothes Music Boys. Enjoy Albertine’s words, and buy her magnificent memoir.

“At four years old I learnt an important lesson: grown-ups lie.”

On vinyl: “Now everything’s changed: I’ve found the meaning of life, hidden in the grooves of a flat black plastic disc.”

“I didn’t aspire to be a musician – there wasn’t that equality at the time, it was inconceivable that a girl could cross over in to male territory and be in a band.”

“Shitting and bleeding…any potential boyfriend, anyone who fancies me, please skip this bit…”

“Having periods changed my personality: from the first one onwards I was resentful and angry inside, I felt cheated and I knew to the core of my being that life was unfair and boys had it easier than girls.

“A burning ball of anger and rebelliousness started to grow within me. It’s fuelled a lot of my work.”

“Fantasising about Marc Bolan (or any pop star) was a great way to discover your sexuality, a safe way in.”

“Whatever its genre, a good song is a good song.”

“Every cell in my body was steeped in music, but it never occurred to me that I could be in a band, not in a million years…”

On Patti Smith: “I have never seen a girl who looks like this. She is my soul made visible, all the things I hide deep inside myself that can’t come out….I don’t want to dress like her or copy her style; she gives me the confidence to express myself in my own way.”

“Listening to ‘Horses’ unlocks an idea for me – girls’ sexuality can be on their own terms, for their own pleasure or creative work, not just for exploitation or to get a man.”

On John Lydon: “He’s sending a very powerful message, the most powerful message anyone can ever transmit. Be yourself.”

“I care what people think about me to the point of despair, am over-sensitive to criticism and lacking in self-confidence but I don’t let my negative feelings stop me from doing stuff.”

“Men look at me and they are confused, they don’t know whether they want to fuck me or kill me. This sartorial ensemble really messes with their heads. Good.”

“That should be written on my gravestone. ‘She was scared. But she went anyway’.”

“I’m not the nice, balanced, well-behaved grown-up they thought I was. I’m a nutter.”

“No matter how silly you feel or uncool you look, no matter how small that voice inside you is, that voice telling you something isn’t right: listen to it.”

“There are two kinds of people in the ‘punk’ scene. There are the psychopathic, nihilistic extremists and careerists, who are very confident because they have no fear, lack empathy and don’t care what others think of them. The second kind are drawn to the scene by the ideas…”

“I think you can get a bit addicted to people and often these piss-takers are good fun to hang around with. In the end, the ‘relationship’ isn’t worth the damage that’s done to your self-respect, though.”

On running: “With the salty wind on my face, feet pounding on the shingle, Kate Bush, The Hounds Of Love, on my iPod, new thoughts enter my head”

“This man can’t give me back my self. No man can. They can only reflect my anxiety, my confusion and my insecurity, straight back at me. I’ve got to rebuild myself on my own. Bollocks.”

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SUNDAY #47 – ANIMALS

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‘You know how it is. Saturday afternoon. You wake up and you can’t move.’

Oh, Emma Jane Unsworth – thank you for opening Animals with this universal, binge-drinking truth. Your book is equal parts painful and hilarious, and it should be compulsory reading for all women (especially for girls in their twenties who are prone to chronic bouts of panic about life/drinking/love).

Thank you also, to my friend Rachel, who gave Animals to me as a Christmas present. Her ability to know exactly what a girl needs – Mac Demarco, books, alcohol – is always greatly appreciated. Rather than analyse/reveal plot spoilers, I’m going to share my favourite quotes from the novel.

Buy Unsworth’s Animals and enjoy ricocheting between bouts of raucous laughter, and tears of visceral reality.

‘There were rules that had to be obeyed in order to guarantee a horror-free hangover: no news, no parental phone calls, some fresh air if you could tolerate the vertical plane. Sitcoms. Carbohydrates.’

‘There’s nothing more attractive than someone who knows who they are, especially when you’re – well, a fucking shambles.’

‘The point of intoxication for me was not to create but to destroy the part of myself that cared whether or not I created.’

‘The Night. With its deals, promises and gauntlets, by turns many things: nemesis, ally, co-conspirator, master of persuasion.’

‘Such is the inner sanctum of bed: when you’re in there with the person you love the rest of the world can go to hell.’

‘This is the way it is with me, I don’t know whether I want to be the life and soul or the mystery.’

‘London was a jungle full of lonely hunters and I felt old in it – gummy, declawed.’

‘These things you treasure, how often they’re somebody else’s trash.’

‘Well, what else is there to do sometimes except fall back on politeness and get the fuck out?’

‘Bliss, there, for a second, in the unsullied alcohol. I felt my blood being exchanged for vodka and was glad.’

‘These drunken indiscretions, how often we mistake them for intimacies.’

‘The great tragedy of not being remembered is the time you waste worrying about it in advance.’

‘Catalysts, that was how I categorised those briefless encounters, confirming to me that things had changed irreversibly from love to not-love.’

‘I’m a writer. Guilt helps analysis.’

“Fear of Failure – is there a word for that?” – “Normal.”

‘Make the most, young hearts. Run fucking free.’

‘Fear – it’s an aphrodisiac.’

‘When the end comes you know it’s real because it isn’t remotely cinematic.’

‘As my cab pulled away, I felt the smallness of myself and everyone I knew, even the city. The appalling humanity of it all. These mundane things we do to each other, these miniscule effects we mistake for epic at the time.’

‘Wherever you are, infinity stretches away equally in every direction. Whether you’re under someone’s fingernail or straddling Saturn, infinity stretches away from you equally in all directions.’

‘She was her own hero.’

SUNDAY #35 – Kim Gordon ‘Girl In A Band’

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Girl In a Band was the first book I read after I finished my final university assignment back in June. I’d been waiting to read Kim Gordon‘s memoir since I’d scanned through extracts of it online, and the wait was entirely worth it.

Her writing stirred me. As I made my way through her recollections of childhood, art school, and the music industry; I felt like the luckiest fly on the former Sonic Youth bassist’s wall.

Below are some of my favourite quotes from her memoir:

‘Extreme noise and dissonance can be an incredibly cleansing thing.’

‘I always hated making mistakes, hated getting into trouble, hated not being in control.’

‘Art, and the practice of making art, was the only space that was mine alone, where I could be anyone and do anything, where just by using my head and my hands I could cry, or laugh, or get pissed off.’

‘I was immersed in art, but unformed and trying anything and everything.’

‘They say you always learn something from relationships, even bad ones, and that what your last one lacked, or you missed out on, is what you’re primed to find in the next – unless, that is, you insist on repeating the same pattern over and over again. The codependent woman, the narcissistic man…’

‘Culturally we don’t allow women to be as free as they would like, because that is frightening. We either shun those women or deem them crazy.’

‘I was, and still am, more of the push-everything-else-under-and-let-it-all-out-in-the-music kind of girl. Otherwise I’d probably be a sociopath.’

‘A band almost defines the word dysfunction, except that rather than explaining motivations or discussing anything, you play music, acting out your issues via adrenaline.’

‘Girls with guns, girls in control, girls as revolutionaries, girls acting out – why is that such a perennial turn-on to people?’

‘The most heightened state of being female is watching people watch you.’

‘If you’re at all anxious, the city acts out your anxiety for you, leaving you feeling strangely peaceful.’

‘An Unending kiss – that’s all we ever wanted to feel when we paid money to hear someone play.’

‘The best kind of music comes when you’re being intuitive, unconscious of your body, in some ways losing your mind: the Body/Head dynamic.’

(Image courtesy of: https://33.media.tumblr.com/42544f7ab0a26f843221e663ea1ede67/tumblr_n7mfpj3pgX1syobvco1_500.gif)

Interstellar Live, Letters Live & Caitlin Moran at The King’s Head

WARNING: This blog post contains excessive name dropping and shameless gloating. I have seen and heard some amazing things in the last few weeks and I want to share them with you. I would’ve blogged sooner if I hadn’t been studying*

*staring at the pages of my workbooks, trying not to have a break down.

On Monday 30th March, my friends and I went to The Royal Albert Hall to see Interstellar Live. When Christopher Nolan released Interstellar in 2014, it completely changed my perspective on sci-fi cinema (and Matthew Mcconaughey). The mind-bending plot and exquisite soundtrack blew my mind right out of my ear holes. I jumped at the chance to see the film a second time, accompanied by a live orchestra and introduced by a panel of geniuses.

Physicist Stephen Hawkings was the first of many brilliant men to grace the stage. He welcomed the audience and introduced the panel: Professor Brian Cox, composer Hans Zimmer, director Christopher Nolan and physicist Kip Thorne. They discussed the science behind the plot of Interstellar (which still manages to escape my understanding – tesseract, anyone?) and of course, the incredible soundtrack. After a brief interval, Michael Caine fed the audience some anecdotes about Christopher Nolan before the film and live orchestra began to play. The musicians played flawlessly. Impromptu applause followed several pieces and echoed for what seemed like eternity once the credits had rolled. I cried. Science and music are just spectacular. Honesty Level: 100% (TARS!)

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On April 4th, I went to Letters Live with my friend Rachel. She’d purchased the tickets in the knowledge that Benedict Cumberbatch would be one of the many speakers at the event, reading out letters of note. No other speakers had been announced. Tom Odell opened the ceremony with musical renditions of his chosen letters; Matt Berry read Elvis Presley’s letter to President Nixon, Cumberbatch read Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, Tom Hiddleston‘s impersonation of Marlon Brando was uncanny, Juliet Stevenson’s Marge Simpson was impeccable, Tobi Jones gave new life to words from Ted Hughes, and Kylie Minogue (yes, KYLIE MINOGUE!) read Nick Cave’s letter to MTV. Each time a speaker was announced, I turned to Rachel and excitedly exclaimed expletives before focusing all of my eyeballs on the stage. We were star struck and spellbound by the words and the presence of such talent.

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On Friday 10th of April, Rachel and her family friends Mark & Francis invited me to see Caitlin Moran at The King’s Head. The pub was tiny and due to lack of seating/feeling confident on gin, I sat right at the front. Rachel & I had been fortunate enough to briefly meet Caitlin at The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction last year when she was a judge, so the privilege was slightly re-lived as I sat inches from her Dr. Marten’s and fabulous hair. She gave stellar life advice for young women and read some excellent extracts from her new book How to Build a Girl. She also re-enforced the ‘what would Courtney Love do?’ mantra that I’ve been attempting to emulate for the last 6 months. What a woman.

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Ultimately, it’s been an absolute pleasure to witness these events and share oxygen space with some of the country’s finest minds and mouths. I look forward to the next cluster of cultural celebration!

(Gloating over*)

*for now

Images Courtesy of:

http://www.nolanfans.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=12466

http://www.tumblr.com/search/kylie%20minogue%20gifs

http://aroundandupsidedown.co.uk/lifestyle/book-reviews-moranthology-how-to-be-a-woman-and-how-to-build-a-girl-by-caitlin-moran/

SUNDAY #4 – The Runaways

 

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In between panicking about assignment deadlines, trying to be funny at comedy class, and drunk-dancing under the strobes on a Saturday night; I have been reading Cherie Currie’s biography Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway.

‘Cherie fucking Currie, the Queen of Hate.

Currie’s book documents the time she spent as the lead singer of the all-girl rock group, The Runaways. The group was fronted by Cherie, with Lita Ford on guitar, Jackie Fox on bass, Sandy West on drums, and the amazing Joan Jett on guitar and vocals. Cherie joined the band when she was fifteen and transformed in to the Cherry Bomb on stage, wearing raucous outfits and promising to ‘have ya, grab ya, ’till you’re sore!’ Together, they proved to the world that girls could rock.

‘There was a point when I realized that you could get away with just about anything so long as you do it with enough conviction.’ 

Neon Angel was adapted for the silver screen in 2010, appearing under the name of The Runaways. The film was directed and co-written by Floria Sigismondi, and starred Dakota Fanning as Cherie, and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. After watching the film, I had two immediate desires:

  1. Join an all girl rock band and become a Cherry Bomb.
  2. Read Cherie Currie’s memoir to see if being a member of The Runaways,really was as wild as the film suggested.

Whilst Sigismondi’s film is faithful to the spirit of Currie’s book, it blends and overlooks some of the more personal aspects of Currie’s biography (which makes sense from a commercial, film-making perspective). Cherie was an identical twin, which is not addressed in the film, and the brutality of The Runaway’s manager, Kim Fowley, was also diluted on the screen. The severe trauma(s) that Cherie Currie experienced are also left on the pages of her biography.

Before she had reached the age of seventeen, Currie had been raped by her sister’s boyfriend, sexually assaulted by several men, and had to terminate a potentially wanted pregnancy. Add to this the pressures of cutting records with a successful rock band, and a heightened exposure to drugs and alcohol; and it’s hard to not regard Currie as a phoenix rising up out of some truly hellish ashes.

‘I realized that I had spent most of my life as a slave to something. I grew up as an emotional slave to the rotten kids in school, to my parent’s bitter fights. Then, after Derek came along, I became a slave to something else: I became a slave to my own hatred and rage. It was on the road with the Runaways that I came to the conclusion that all of that was finally behind me. I was free to do whatever I wanted. I would never be a slave to anything again.’

Below is a clip of Dakota Fanning performing Cherry Bomb in The Runaways film. Read Currie’s book and watch Sigismondi’s film, and prepare to feel the explosion of The Cherry Bomb.

 

**The edition I’m reading/quoting from: Currie, C. (2010), Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, Tony O’Neill (ed.), New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Girl Meets Bard – Shakespeare & Hamlet

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I am not alone in my adoration for Hamlet –  love for William Shakespeare‘s works has never been in short supply. Shakespeare’s plays have endured centuries of criticism and remain etched on the hearts and minds of scholars and spectators. Why? That’s easy; behind the iambic pentameter and intricate language there sits something everyone can relate to: anxiety about our place in the world.

If you’re as uncertain as I am about life and love, get your teeth in to some of Bill’s scripts. They’re filled with remarkable, ageless moral insight. Below are just a few of my favourite quotes from Hamlet. Shakespeare’s Sweet Prince himself has a few corkers, as do Gertrude, Polonius and Ophelia. Enjoy:

‘…all that lives must die’

(Gertrude, Hamlet, Act I Scene II)

After King Hamlet’s death, Queen Gertrude marries his Brother, Claudius, in order to secure her position in the monarchy. Her son, Prince Hamlet, is repulsed by her decision; but it shows how practical and forward-thinking she is. Lines like this can be simultaneously applied to mortality and romantic relationships; Gertrude knows that all good things must come to an end.

‘More matter with less art’

(Gertrude, Hamlet, Act II Scene II)

What did I tell you? Gertrude’s a practical woman. She wants it short and sweet, don’t mess her about.

‘The Lady doth protest too much methinks’

(Gertrude, Hamlet, Act III Scene II)

The Lady Gertrude doth get it right every time, methinks.

‘Do not as some ungracious pastors do / Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, / Whiles like a puffed and reckless libertine / Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads’

(Ophelia, Hamlet, Act I Scene III)

This is Ophelia’s cracking comeback to her brother Laertes. She graciously calls out his sexist, double standards with some delightful floral imagery. It’s a shame Shakespeare drowned her so early in the play – she had so many patriarchal values to dismantle!

‘Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind’

(Ophelia, Hamlet, Act III Scene I)

What did I tell you? Ophelia had some cracking comebacks. If someone seems too good to be true, they might have an ulterior motive, so be cautious; think like Ophelia. (She does eventually drown from sorrow, so exercise more emotional/physical caution than she does. Or purchase a lilo?)

‘Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice’

(Polonius, Hamlet, Act I Scene III)

This is part of Polonius’ lengthy, fatherly advice to his only son Laertes; but his words can extend to daughters too. Basically, absorb a multitude of ideas before you start to spit out all your own good stuff.

‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’

(Polonius, Hamlet, Act I Scene III)

A sensible financial and emotional outlook from Polonius here!

‘A dream itself is but a shadow’

(Hamlet, Hamlet, Act II Scene II)

Oh Hamlet, you are a dream! It’s important to have aspirations and to dream big, but don’t let the shadow of that dream blind you to the smaller, potentially more precious things in your life. Shadows can stretch far and wide, but they can also disappear within an instant. Make sure you’re prepared for when the sun goes in.

‘What should fellows such as I do crawling between earth and heaven?’

(Hamlet, Hamlet, Act III Scene I)

Oh Hamlet! This is the question most twenty-something’s ask themselves on a daily basis (I imagine most 30/40/50/60 year olds ask it too). There’s no concrete answer to this internal quarrel, but I wouldn’t recommend ‘doing a Hamlet’ (aka feigning madness, procrastinating all the time, and ultimately, committing murder.) You don’t have to know the answer to everything. You just need to keep an open mind.

‘I must be cruel only to be kind’

(Hamlet, Hamlet, Act III Scene IIII)

Oh Hamlet! How accurate you are! I was recently dumped on a train by an ex-boyfriend, in front of half a carriage of strangers (apologies for the pity-party here, but I think that’s a good example of a ‘cruel’ situation). However, there’s nothing quite like public humiliation to help a girl get her life in order! Some cruelties are kind because ultimately, they allow the casualties to reassess their options. I would advocate kindness above cruelty any day (and definitely don’t dump someone you’ve been with for 3+ years ON A TRAIN), but cruel actions often benefit the casualty, not the inflictor.

‘…What is a man / If his chief good and market of his time / Be but to sleep and feed? / A beast, no more.’

(Hamlet, Hamlet, Act IIII Scene IIII)

Oh Hamlet! You’re right! There is much more to life than what we do on a daily basis. Yes, we have to work the 9-5 to keep us steady, but from 5:00pm onwards: BE WHOEVER OR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE. LET THE BEAST OUT OF THE CAGE. EMBRACE BEING HUMAN. It might be great, it might be horrific; but you won’t know until you’ve tried it!

Fifty Shades of Disappointment – Revisited

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To mark the release of the infamous film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, I have re-posted a blog I wrote about my experience of reading E.L James’ novel. I’ve updated the post to include the extra paragraph that featured in the version of the blog I submitted to Belle Jar (and because for a literature student, my grammar is sometimes appalling.)

I will probably crack and go and see the film, because: JAMIE DORNAN. I just want it on record that I really wish everything about Fifty Shades was fifty times better. Here’s my updated rant:

I would like to begin this post by stating that naturally, I admire anyone who has taken the time and energy to produce a novel. I appreciate that it takes an immense amount of courage and bravery to write and publish your own work. It’s something I hope to achieve in the future and the idea of someone picking up my work and ripping it to shreds, breaks my tiny walnut heart. I am about to criticise E.L James erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. I now sound like a complete hypocrite (especially as I didn’t finish the book, I only read 178 pages) but rather than just shouting ‘I HATE IT! I HATE IT! I HATE IT!’ I thought I’d explain why I couldn’t finish reading it.

You might be thinking ‘Ugh, Bob is clearly just over-sensitive/easily offended and should get over this mildly pornographic novel’. If you think that, then you clearly don’t know me very well. I am not offended by graphic descriptions of sex in literature – it’s 50% of the reason I love books so much. You can be as filthy as you like in the most intelligent of ways! The library scene in Ian McEwan’s Atonement gives me tingles, Emilé Zola’s Germinal makes me do a sexy shudder, and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is still rocking my world. I was hoping Fifty Shades would provoke a similar reaction.

I’d spoken about the book with friends, and my old school teachers. They had all come to a similar conclusion: that it was terribly written soft porn. Some of them liked it, some of them dismissed it. I wanted to read it out of curiosity, but didn’t want to actually pay for it (just in case it really was complete trash.) Fortunately, I was in a charity shop one day and I saw it on the shelf at the tempting price of 75p. I handed over my pennies to the smirking, yet sympathetic cashier, and hastily left the shop as if I’d just committed a terrible crime. I started reading the next day, and I was generally impressed with the way E.L James established the characters of the young literature student Anastasia Steele, and the intimidating businessman Christian Grey. (Obviously, with the turn of every page I was waiting for some sexy bits, but that didn’t happen until about page 100.) I continued reading and started to become aggravated with James’ persistent repetition of specific phrases. The words ‘holy hell’ appeared before, during, and after every awkward, sex-free encounter Anastasia had with Christian. She also reused the phrase ‘damn my clumsiness!’ too many times to count. I wanted to scream in to the page: ‘I GET IT! SHE’S CLUMSY!’ If James cut half of these phrases the novel would flow smoothly. However, this isn’t what disappointed me the most…

Before they engage in sexual activities, Christian Grey busts out a hefty, sexy contract for Anastasia’s consideration. It states that Christian wants to be ‘the dominant’ and control all aspects of Anastasia’s sex life, therefore making her ‘the submissive’. There’s a very important bit about consent, discretion, physical well-being, and personal limits, but you get the gist, right? Well, the amount of pages James dedicates to the explanation of this ‘contract’ is one of the most excessive, boring things I‘ve ever had to read (and I’ve read Middlemarch.) Her repetition of ‘the dominant’ and the ‘submissive’, nearly caused me to rip the book to shreds. I don’t ever want to see those words in print again (…oops.) However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…

The character of Christian Grey is cringe-worthy. From the reviews I’d read and the facebook statuses I’d seen, I assumed he was a Demi-God. Quite frankly, I’m not turned on by his helicopter (the one he physically flies, not the penis trick), his entrepreneurial success, or fundamentally anything he does or says. I don’t like the way he keeps talking to Anastasia’s vagina about its ‘intoxicating smell’, and I especially hate the way he calls her ‘baby’. Don’t even get me started on his ‘sexy’ Red Room (weird/inappropriate allusion to Bluebeard and Jane Eyre there? Another reason why the book infuriates me!) I’m surprised Anastasia didn’t out-right laugh in his face when Christian showed it to her, gave her a sexy contract and said ‘think about it, yeah babe?’ (THAT’S BASICALLY WHAT HE DOES!) However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…

I cannot handle the way Anastasia Steele does not call her vagina what it is: A VAGINA! She refers to it as ‘my sex’. James will write graphically about oral and penetrative sex, but she refuses to use the word ‘vagina’? She doesn’t even use a playful word like ‘p***y’, or something blunt like ‘c**t’, she constantly refers to it as ‘my sex’. Perhaps she thinks this displays Anastasia’s consent and ownership over her body? Perhaps it is, actually sexy? Over 70 million copies of the book have been sold, which means other people seem to really enjoy this kind of thing. I appear to be alone in my loathing of this newly coined, vaginal terminology. However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…

Finally, I am about to reveal the real reason that I had to stop reading Fifty Shades of Grey. The first time E.L James referenced Thomas Hardy’s tragic nineteenth-century novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I knew I was destined not to reach the finish line. It is Anastasia Steele’s favourite book, it also happens to be one of mine. James uses the novel’s title as a motif; a classic reference that could potentially give her novel a sturdy, credible backbone. I am about to smash that backbone right up. For those who haven’t read Hardy’s novel, seventeen year old Tess Derbyfield is raped by her ‘cousin’ Alec D’Urberville. There are many literary critics who have tried to dismiss this rape by arguing that Tess is a passive, but consenting sexual partner. To summarise: their argument is BULLS**T. It is horrifically clear that Tess does NOT consent to Alec’s advances. She is a seventeen year old girl, completely unaware of how to defend herself in a society where she is deemed a sinner, even though she is the victim of horrific sexual harassment. Tess’s appeal to her Mother after she has been raped surely proves that she was not an active, consensual partner in her encounter with Alec D’Urberville:

‘How could I be expected to know? I was a child when I left this house four months ago. Why didn’t you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn’t you warn me?’

I feel that James uses references to Hardy’s novel incorrectly, and as poor justification for male dominance and female submission. How does Tess’ story compare to Anastasia’s story? Anastasia is ‘warned’ by Christian’s ‘contract’ about what he would like to do to her. She wholeheartedly admits that she desires him in every way. Not once does Tess admit desire or consent to sex with Alec. Tess is raped, Anastasia is not. I find it baffling that E.L James thought this would be a valid reference for her novel. Even in terms of ‘the dominant’ and ‘the submissive’, it is still a completely misused reference. This is why I had to stop reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

I am open to the idea that James’ novel isn’t supposed to be taken seriously (it is fan fiction based on the characters of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from the super successful Twilight series.) I like to think that readers are potentially more interested in the emotional relationship between Anna and Christian, than the sexual relationship, but I find it disappointing that such a badly written novel with such inappropriate references, has gained such popularity. If like Oscar Wilde famously said, all art is ‘useless’, then Fifty Shades is harmless, but if all art is ‘propaganda’ like George Orwell suggested; what kind of message is James trying to convey? She is exploring elements of female sexuality, which is commendable, but her characters are so unsatisfying (and highly unrealistic – I don’t know any women who managed to climax whilst losing their virginity), I could only read 5-10 pages at a time before the disappointment turned to despair. I’m genuinely confused as to what kind of message this novel sends to women and men, about the role of sex in a relationship? The only thing I can praise is the discussion about consent, but even that was portrayed in the unrealistic medium of a ‘contract’.

I fully accept that it’s not the best idea to judge a book by its first 100 pages (178 to be precise). However, I have researched the plot online and can happily say that I would‘ve gained nothing but another rage-induced headache from continued reading. I also fully accept that I have repeated the phrase ‘However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…’ four times, thus committing the same literary sin as E.L. James. Oh well, I doubt she will take offence at this blog post for the following reasons:

  1. I only have about 5 regular readers
  2. She’s one of the best-selling authors in the world, why would she care what one disgruntled reader thinks?
  3. Jamie Dornan is going to make even haters like me sort of want to see the film (DAMN YOU DORNAN, YOU CHARASMATIC BASTARD!)