Saturday, January 30, 2010

Faster than a Speeding Blog

I finished The Light Fantastic, and I'm now half-way into Equal Rites. I am reading faster than the speed of blog.

I don't have much to say about The Light Fantastic. It was good, it was funny, it made me want to start the next book in the Discworld series, and so I did.

I think I will have a bit to say about Equal Rites, especially regarding how it reminds me of Good Omens, the book that Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman co-wrote. Perhaps also regarding feminism, which has been on my mind a lot lately.

Specifically, Neil Gaiman was quoted, perhaps incorrectly, by the New Yorker as saying that he was "nobody's bitch". This resulted in him being accused of using a misogynist slur and of being a part of the "rape culture", which led to lots of emails sent to Gaiman explaining that "having used that phrase undid all the good I'd ever done by writing positive women, supporting RAINN etc, because it showed that I was minimising the horror of rape and revealing my underlying misogyny."

In the world of the Internet, it's a dead issue. It was talked about over a week ago, and in Internet time that's about 6 months. I bring it up now not in the hopes of you all rushing over to the apparent source of this mess to add your own comments, but because it's an intro to my own essay, titled What the Hell has Happened to Feminism?

Actually, "what the hell has happened to feminism?" is the title, the introductory statement, the full argument, and the closing statement of my essay.

I've used the "not your bitch" phrase a few times in my life, and I've never been accused of perpetuating the misogynist culture. I'd be really offended if I was accused of that. I don't think you can rightly accuse one person's words of determining another person's actions.

Mostly, I keep wondering if we feminists don't have better things to do. This seems like a classic example of a group being so busy arguing amongst themselves that they never accomplish anything. Here in America, women still don't always get equal pay for equal work. Prison sentences for rape are still ridiculously short. I think the important issues are the ones where you can actually change the way things are. I am also not into the whole "changing the dialogue" method of feminism, because that's just a touchy-feely way of saying "changing the way people talk," which is just a friendly way of saying "speech and thought control." Change laws, and hopefully a few people will stop to ponder why it was important that they be changed. Tell people what to think and say, and they will only get pissed off at you.

Not to mention, if feminism wants me to choose between them and free speech, they are going to lose me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Discworld: The Color of Magic finished, The Light Fantastic begun.

There's one big problem with me taking on this reading list; I am a slow reader. I always have been. I sometimes wonder how long it will take me to finish this list.

For that reason, and because of the holidays, it took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to finish The Color of Magic, which is the first in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Over a month.

Having said that, I checked The Light Fantastic (book 2 in the same series) out at the library one week ago, and I'm already half way through it. This is the equivalent of a normal reader getting half-way through a book in one day.

I really like these books. I tried reading The Color of Magic once before, and it didn't stick with me so I gave up. I think the main thing is I was distracted and reading it at the same time as a whole bunch of comic books. But I also think I expected the Discworld series to be the fantasy version of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and it is not. I'm actually very pleased that it is not, because there's no need for imitation here, and you might wonder why it took Terry Pratchett 37 novels (soon to be 38) to accomplish what Douglas Adams managed in 5.

Discworld is a comical adventure of unlikely heroes. In fact, "unlikely heroes" doesn't really cover it. Unheroic heroes? People who aren't really trying but keep ending up being heroes? People who have no desire to be heroes but keep having heroic opportunities thrust upon them, no matter what they do to avoid it? It is frequently a parody of fantasy as a genre, and the genre is ripe for both the satire and the silliness that Terry Pratchett delivers. And that's just at the halfway mark of book 2.

The Color of Magic read like a very good starting point for things to come. I read the first book thinking I might just read Discworld novels between other novels, as a little break. I finished the first novel wanting more, so I started book 2. It's nice to read a series where I am hungry for the next book, instead of just trudging through in an effort to get it all over with (Chronicles of Narnia, I am looking at you).

So more updates as I progress. Maybe I'll actually make time to update the blog before getting half-way into book 3.

Side note: Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's Disease. So does my grandmother. It's a bad disease. If you agree and feel like doing something about it, there are charities and funds out there that you can donate money to. You are intelligent people and you are on the internet right now, so I'm sure you can figure out the rest.

Friday, January 1, 2010

For Aunt Carol

My aunt Carol passed away earlier this week. In memory, I'd like to share a story about her.

When I was 12 or 13 years old, Aunt Carol got an MTV jacket.

This was in the 80s. MTV was, for someone my age at that time, the coolest thing on television. They actually played videos. The videos were amazing and creative, usually short stories acted out by famous musicians while they sang, as if it were a single scene from a pop musical. Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, Madonna - these were all new musicians. I watched MTV as much as I could. It was the best thing on TV.

So knowing someone with an MTV jacket while living this far south of New York City seemed like the coolest thing ever. You couldn't just buy them. In fact, she didn't. She knew a guy, he gave her the jacket.

Note: one thing about Aunt Carol is she knew lots of people. She knew a tour manager that handled major rock musicians. She knew Steve Wozniak back when he was working on creating his first personal computer (she had the prescience to tell him that no one would want a computer in their home). She once had a pub in England that Mick Fleetwood frequented - although she didn't know him, exactly. In typical fashion for Carol, she didn't recognize him. He was an odd stranger who would occasionally show up in her little country pub, and it wasn't until a friend of hers in the music business came in and said hi to Mick on his way up to the bar - which led her to ask him who the odd stranger was since everyone knew he wasn't from their town - that she learned that her mystery patron was a celebrity.

So she had this MTV jacket that some impossible and fabulous person gave her, and when I laid eyes on it I couldn't imagine a greater symbol of cool. I'd only seen VJs on MTV wear those jackets. I told her that I wanted one. She apologized and said that it had been given to her, so she had no way of getting another one. The explanation went over my head. If it were something that she'd bought for a ridiculous sum of money, I would have understood. If people were just giving them away, then how hard could it be to get another one?

For Christmas that year, she gave me a box set of books, which contained The Hobbit and the full Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember she included a card with the gift, which I no longer have, but I recall that it said that this was a better gift than an MTV jacket.

I'd like to tie this up neatly and say that Carol is the reason that I read lots of books - but that's not true. I'd like to say she's the reason why I often give books as gifts - but that's not true either. I do that because I like to read and I like to pass on books that I enjoy to others, which I'm certain is what she was doing when she gave me the Tolkien box set. Mainly, I want to say she was right; the books were a better gift. I'm glad I still have them on my bookshelf now, instead of the memory of an MTV jacket that I would have discarded years ago.