Monday, October 18, 2010

Boston Book Festival, Full Frontal Feminism and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It's a busy post so let's get started.

Bill Bryson at the Boston Book Festival
Saturday was the Boston Book Festival and who was there by Bill Bryson! I know, exciting.  I've mentioned before that he's one of my favorite authors and one of my go-to's if I want a quick read that I know I'll like. Earlier in the Spring I heard he had a new book coming out soon but it wasn't out just yet.  At Home is available now, though like Fforde's Shades of Grey I'm waiting for it to come out in paperback.  Bryson read a couple excerpts out of the book and talked about how little we know about the little things that are all around us.  Why is it "room & board", why is it salt & pepper that are always on the table?

I know Bryson is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and that he's lived in England for years but his accent still through me.  It's a mix of the two of them but after years of reading his book and not hearing what he sounds like I guess I made up my own version of what he sounds like.  He is a riot and he writes like he talks.  I was starving during the talk so roommate and I got linner instead of waiting around for book signing.  As I said I'd prefer the paperback version and while I like autographed copies of books I decided I didn't want to buy a hardback version and fight the crazy line while my stomach was crying for a sandwich.  But overall fun, windy times at the Boston Book Festival!

Update!: Both Brother and CurlyGeek04 pointed out that Bryson was on The Colbert Report so I found it on OnDemand.  If you're a fan of Bryson, or want to be, check this out.  It's pretty fantastic

Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti
I first heard of the book on The Broke and the Bookish blog, so this is the second case where I read a book I heard about on a book blog.  (The first book was This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.) I was going to use the quote "Keepers of the all-powerful hymen" (86) as the title of this post but because this is about more than just FFF so I went with my planned subtitle.  I laughed out loud when I read the quote, which was a little awkward seeing how I was sitting in a Texas airport at the time.  I read in public often so you'd think I'd be used to this by now but I still end up laughing and then fake-coughing.  It's pathetic, I know.  I was already getting odd looks from the guy across from me when he saw the cover so who know what he was thinking when I started laughing.

Anyway, this book is wonderful and I want to share it with everyone.  Feminism gets a bad rap when, as a past professor explained it, it really just means equality between the sexes.  It doesn't mean anger or that men are awful.  It's things that most people seem to agree with but the backlash against feminism prevents people from self-identifying as such. Valenti addresses stereotypes as well as problems within the feminist movement, goes into topics such as women in politics, beauty and media, reproductive rights and the "rape schedule".  There's nothing completely new and groundbreaking but the book serves as a wake-up call that things are better than they were but they aren't fixed and there is still more to do.  I want to reiterate that everyone, especially young women, should pick up this book.

My initial thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
*There may be some spoilers.  Not about the mystery in general but I will discuss certain plot points. So if you don't want to know them, I'll see ya next time! I'm on page 332, version details below*
I understand why the original title was Men Who Hate Women. That is a theme throughout obviously the Lisbeth Salander's encounters with her new guardian and even the stories of marriage in the Vanger family.  Parts 2 and 3 include statistics such as "Forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man" (139) and "Thirteen percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault outside of a sexual relationship" (299).  And I don't like rape scenes.  I can deal with ridiculous violence; I read American Psycho and while I disgusted by a lot of it (like the rat) I didn't want to throw the book down at any point.  But I don't like rape scenes, violent or otherwise.  On top of that I, so far anyway, don't care about the mystery.  I don't feel like the character of Mikael Blomkvist is well developed and I don't actually care about the mysterious disappearance of a women over forty years prior to the story.  I heard the story is slow in the first 100-150 pages, but that it really picks up after that.  It's not a hard read and I'm making it through but I'm hoping it picks up and I start to care soon.

Larsson, Stieg.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Vintage Books, New York.  2008.

Valenti, Jessica.  Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Seal Press, Berkeley. 2007