If you are the type who likes to put a pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard, as the case may be – you’ll often find that your first thought after finishing a really excellent book is wishing you had written in. My writer’s envy goes off pretty often; set off by writers such as Bill Bryson, Chuck Palahniuk or Marion Keyes, or by individual books such as deliciously filling and wonderfully waspy Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, or by This Is a Call by Paul Brannigan, his biography of Dave Grohl (partly as I do like his writing style, but mainly as he got to hang out with Dave in all sort of awesome rock and roll venues, and I am a huge screaming fangirl for the Foos.)
This month Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman rocketed straight to the top of the that list. Caitlin writes about many subjects so very dear to my own heart – feminism, religion, pop music and pornography – with a spectacular lack of reserve and respect for her own dignity, and brilliantly blasphemous sense of humour. It’s fun, it’s funny and it is bang on at making points I usually struggle horribly to explain at about 1am and after my eight beer.
“Because the purpose of feminism isn’t to make a particular type of woman. The idea that there are inherently wrong and inherently right “types” of women is what’s screwed feminism for so long – this belief that “we” wouldn’t accept slaggy birds, dim birds, birds that bitch, birds that hire cleaners, birds that stay at home with their kids, birds that have pink Mini Metros with “Powered by Fairy Dust” bumper stickers, birds in burkas, or birds that like to pretend, in their heads, that they’re married to Zach Braff from Scrubs, and that you sometimes have sex in an ambulance while the rest of the cast watch and, latterly, clap. You know what? Feminism will have all of you.
What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be.
Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.”
In short, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re both in committed relationships (with me getting married next month), I would be completely in love with her. As it is, I just want to be able to write her next book.
Also on reading list was Ben Elton’s Meltdown. Elton was a writer I wanted to be like in the early 90’s, when he released books like Stark and Gridlock; funny, sarcastic and challenging all wrapped up in an excellent read. As the years wore on though, I found he was losing me, culminating with the preachy and over-laboured Blind Faith (which might have been a good short story, but certainly didn’t need a whole book to thrash its point out). So it was with a little trepidation I picked up Meltdown and found to my delight it was an excellent return to form.
Published in 2010 against the backdrop of a world still reeling from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC, not KFC as I keep thinking) it follows the changing fortunes of a group of friends brought high in the good times and dashed against the rocks of their own hubris. Anyone can handle success, Elton points out, it’s how you handle failure that really matters. Meltdown is funny, touching and relevant, political and personal, and a return to the books that I wanted to see Elton writing – and to the books that started me writing myself back in my late teens.
And lastly on my list of reads this month is Yann Martel’s Booker-prize-winning Life of Pi. I wasn’t reading this one so I could finally shut up all those people who react like I have just said I hate puppies to when I tell them I haven’t read it (tempting and all as that is) but instead as this month’s Book Club book. What did I think of it? Well, this blog post took a little longer than planned (I got lost once again giggling at How to Be a Woman) so I’ll have to tell them first, as I think I can hear the first of them – clinking wine bottles in hand – at the door.