Tag: book reviews

Reparative Reading & Recent Reads

Reparative Reading & Recent Reads

Spending a lot of required time on classic literature and literary theory, contemporary fiction and recent releases have become my literary haven. I turn to them when I need to cleanse my mind, when I need a break, and maybe most importantly of all, when […]

What Diantha Did and What Olivia Thought

What Diantha Did and What Olivia Thought

“I’m reading about a novel about a 1910 Martha Stewart!” I told Home & Family Editor Lee last week and then promised her I would share my read, What Diantha Did, with all of you.  Working on early twentieth century women’s fiction, I read a lot of […]

Rory Connects to Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words

Rory Connects to Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words

There are some books that change your life, that stay with you after the last page. We have all heard this, it’s an old adage. There is a very good chance that all of us has experienced it. However, you do not necessarily expect it to happen often; in fact, despite knowing that books can change your life, you almost never expect it. Every time is like the first time.

I promise, I am done with the clichés.

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Olivia Tackles Elif Batuman’s The Idiot

Olivia Tackles Elif Batuman’s The Idiot

Picking up Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, I had two motivations: one, I knew that I liked Batuman’s writing because of the 2010 The Possessed; two, I knew that Batuman was a Turkish-American writer who wrote for The New Yorker. Being Turkish-American myself and having been […]

Home

Home

As nice as it is to read about characters and places I recognise, it is novels that detail societies and landscapes completely different to mine which I find the most fascinating. The work of Marilynne Robinson is so much about location that it simply would […]

The Rules Do Not Apply

The Rules Do Not Apply

I have a tendency to pick up any memoir, novel, or essay collection that promises to be harrowing but ultimately haunting in an oddly refreshing way. It isn’t that I find joy in these books or enjoy in reading about suffering – I don’t. I tend, if anything, to get upset by books that don’t have happy endings these days. And yet, I find myself reading reviews and saying “I must read this” because I know these books are the ones that are uncomfortable to read but that ultimately stay with you and make you question what you know.

Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply was one such book. A memoir based on a short piece Levy wrote for the New Yorker in 2013 on a horrific miscarriage she suffered while traveling, the book looks back on the time leading up to and following this trip. I read a tweet before ordering The Rules Do Not Apply saying it was one of the top ten feminist books to read at the moment, and – neither having read “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” nor knowing anything about it – it made me think, okay, I need to try this then… not because I feel the need to read whatever “feminist” book is important at the moment, but because I hope that I’m finally going to pick up another volume that actually is feminist; not because it claims to be (Levy’s book doesn’t), but because it challenges the patriarchal values that are hiding behind every corner in an inclusive, thought-provoking, and even haunting way.

The first half of the memoir, I was worried I was reading something that wasn’t really any of those things. It was an uncomfortable read because Levy clearly was talking about her own discomfort. Everything she seemed to disdain, she then seemed to pursue. I absolutely hate reading feminist narratives where the writer or narrator makes “even I” claims and implies that she’s somehow better than other women. It seemed for quite a while, that Levy was heading down that path. Yet, in the week since I finished reading her memoir, I’ve decided that wasn’t really what was going on. In my need for every “feminist” narrative to be a Feminist Narrative, I was being the judgy one. Memoirs are human narratives, and Levy’s book is first and foremost a memoir. Her blunt honesty is, in fact, what makes her story a powerful one. Her writing is uncomfortable to read because reality itself is uncomfortable. We’re all imperfect and flawed, and we’re all capable of thinking we’re especially enlightened. And then life tends to come after us and tear everything apart.

Everything is torn apart in The Rules Do Not Apply, and that, ultimately, is what the memoir is about in a stunningly honest and chilling way. We may do things because we think we’re better than the norm, we may conform to the norm because we know it’s easier that way. We can play by the rules or upset them. Yet nothing we do will protect us from life itself. Horror can strike anyone at anytime, and there’s nothing we can really do about it but cope and enjoy the moments we’re given in the day to day. It’s simple and it’s straightforward and it’s somewhat cruel and maybe even somewhat trite, but it’s life.

I recommend The Rules Do Not Apply to anyone wanting to read something that is, above all, challenging and honest. I do not, however, recommend reading it to anyone who suffers from anxiety and is currently pregnant or planning on having children anytime soon.

I give it 4/5 stars.

 

Difficult Women

Difficult Women

Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women (2017) is a collection of short stories portraying – as per its title – women who are supposedly difficult. The stories explore a variety of different topics, looking at super-connected twins, northern Michigan towns, female fight clubs, and women literally made […]

The Gap of Time

The Gap of Time

Like many British schoolchildren, my first introduction to the work of Jeanette Winterson was during my GCSE English Literature lessons when I studied Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. When I told my parents that it was one of the texts I was reading for […]

‘Your Beauty Mark’ by Dita Von Teese

‘Your Beauty Mark’ by Dita Von Teese

The first thing you should know about me is that I am always looking for role models, women that can inspire me and light the way. I have mentioned my love for Dita Von Teese in my previous piece so it is only right my first ‘real’ beauty article is about her.

At a first glance, one would think Dita Von Teese is probably not the best fit for me, considering that I suffer from second-hand embarrassment every time someone even only kisses on the telly. Summers spent with the nuns as a child, what can you do?

However, many friends and fellow bloggers seemed to love her so very much and I was intrigued.

Her style and elegance are without discussion. Her devotion to aesthetic is something I especially admire. I myself long to live the perfect aesthetic life but, as a wannabe academic, that is not always possible. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly lucky! My origins are humble so I have learnt to get by- I clean my own place, do my own laundry, iron my own shirts, cook my own meals, as we all do.

Having said that, I try to appreciate the beauty around me as much as I can, and I try to make the space around me as beautiful as I can. And I love makeup, I love to make myself beautiful. That is to say, I would never compare myself to a Victoria’s Secret Angel- the idea is preposterous, but I like myself well enough and I like to think I can make myself look as the best version of me. With a little help, of course.

The first thing you need to know about Your Beauty Mark is that it is the kind of book you cannot rush into. The text in itself is simple- it would make for a rather quick read were it not for its staggering sincerity as well as for the incredible amount of wonderful pictures.

Secondly, Dita Von Teese is not after creating an army of beautiful women who look like her. Sure enough, she offers instructions on how to arrange your hair in 50s styles, or how to apply red lipstick the way she does. However, as the title says, this is all about finding your beauty mark. All of the techniques she offers can certainly be followed to the letter, but their ultimate goal is to inspire you to find your own style and aesthetic.

“I say, enhance what others might deem less wow and make that your beauty mark.”

You see, when I was little I was bullied a lot. As were many people, of course. One of the reasons for which I was bullied was the way I looked- well, it goes without saying that the main reason anyone is bullied is because bullies are insecure little creatures, but let’s pretend. As I was saying, one of the main reasons, then, was the way I looked. Especially my eyebrows. I was born with a unibrow, like Frida Kahlo, but thicker. I tried to go to a beautician when I was eleven but it was so very painful, my eyes would get puffy because of the tears, and I would scream quite loudly; it was just the most pitiable scene you can imagine.

Fifteen years later, my eyebrows are my strongest point. They are sharp as a blade and I can move the right eyebrow so high up, it can communicate my disgust and disappointment to anyone standing miles away from me.

So you see, I relate. That quote touched me quite deeply and I will store it in a little corner of my brain alongside all those quotes I love (maybe someday, I’ll tell you more!). I made my eyebrows, the target of those bullies’ cruel jokes, my best feature. Now, whenever I look myself in the mirror, I can see that same little girl, now smiling with confidence, ready to go out and offer disdain to any bully that might come her way.

Dita Von Teese is all about body positivity. To this day, she fights for her right to look like she does, to be who she is. She is an example to follow in determination and, yes, sincerity. Through artifice she became who she wanted to be. Dyed hair and heavy makeup do not cover her, they make her.

At end of the day, it is her face, her body, and she should do with them as she pleases.

And so should you.