Thursday, April 08, 2010

Thursday Fluffery: On Light Reading

My reward for writing this blog (sendmoneytoseeitstop) are the fluff posts where I go on and on about me and my problems and expect sympathy or advice or adulation.

This time the contents are not quite so heavy. Take fast food books: those you read because you truly need your fix right now (hands shaking!) and the hell with how important the topic of the book is and how few layers of meaning it has!

I have a long list of authors for that very specific need, though I must admit that my favorite short-order cooks writers are also mostly excellent writers and the books are not really fast food; only that I use them as such when my psychological hungers rise too high. For instance, I read Terry Pratchett's fantasy when I'm fed up with politics. He makes me laugh. I read Sheri Tepper when I need an anti-misogyny vaccination in a hurry, and I read Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers when I want to escape modern society altogether.

My fast food books are largely fantasy, science fiction and detective novels. What are yours?

I have recently read Kerry Greenwood's detective novels, set in the late 1920's Australia. They are not that good as detective stories but the heroine in the books is fascinating. She has a large sexual appetite and uses it in a way which we associate with characters such as James Bond. How credible she might be as a woman of her era doesn't matter to me. It's more fun to try to figure out if I could ever have acted like she does and what it means that a woman who goes to bed with any man she happens to fancy must be tremendously rich to get away with it. Not that she would really have gotten away with it because all she had was that diaphragm.

Laurie King is another recent favorite (recent only to me, of course). I love The Folly. It is a deeply psychological book about how to recover and explicitly feminist.

I'm currently reading her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. The Monstrous Regiment of Women. The book takes its name from John Knox's 1558 misogynistic treatise, aimed against Mary Tudor (the word "regiment" means "regime") and King provides quotes from that treatise and other woman-hating sources (St. Augustine) as prefaces to the book chapters. To remind us all how ingrained the contempt towards women really is, I guess. An example:

For who can deny that it is repugnant to nature that the blind should be appointed to lead and conduct such as do see, that the weak, the sick and the impotent shall nourish and keep the whole and the strong, and, finally, that the foolish, mad and frenetic shall govern the discrete and give councel to such as be sober of mind?

And such be all women compared to man in bearing of authority.
John Knox

A fascinating coincidence is that after reading the book I put it on the shelf next to Terry Pratchett's The Monstrous Regiment! That one is also well worth reading when you get the shakes.