Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sex, money, sex, money

We've had visitors again recently (in fact a couple of them are still here so I must be quick) and at the weekend we took some of them up the coast to Dunnottar Castle and Stonehaven (all good... sunshine, pipers... total tourist package). On the way there we stopped at Inverbervie and, though we've been past it numerous times, we took our first look at the Cutty Sark figurehead on the edge of this Aberdeenshire village (some info on it here, picture above). The ship's designer, Hercules Linton (what a name!) was born in Inverbervie, hence the connection. Obviously there is a Robert Burns (and hence poetry) connection too (Cutty Sark... Tam o' Shanter etc.). You have to get your poetry connections where you can!

On a very loosely related note I read an interesting interview with Scottish poetry and prose writer Kathleen Jamie in the Scottish Review of Books. It's interesting for many reasons... for what she says about how she forged her career in poetry (well, she has one and how many poets can really say that?), for what she says about younger Scottish women poets (not much really), for what she says about not being able to afford to live in Edinburgh. I have ordered her new prose book "Sightlines" (I loved "Findings" — wrote about it here).

And then to turn to a woman writer (E.L.James) who has made enough money to live in Edinburgh (and in fact by this time possibly enough money to live on Mars if she really wanted), I watched a TV show about the "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon the other day (the show is here for another 7 days, although I think you have to log in to watch it — it's mostly worth it). I haven't read the book yet (before you ask). I'd have to say it's the kind of thing I imagine I might read one night in a B&B when I can't sleep and there's nothing else to read... anywhere. My reasons for not reading it yet are numerous (though I wish the author well enough - she seemed like a fairly nice ordinary woman who got lucky from her appearances on the show). Here are some of those reasons:

1. It started out as "Twilight" fan fiction (so I read) and I watched one "Twilight" movie and thought it was like "Endless Love" with fangs (i.e. for teenagers... and I am not a teenager).

2. I have read in various places that is so badly written it is painful (and OK, some of it might be jealousy but I don't believe all of it is... some of it will be exasperation). And for heaven's sake, I can read my own bad writing if that's what I'm after. To read a good, no nonsense defence of the book by someone who has read it (Laurie Penny on how it is "porn, and porn can be quite fun") go here.

3. I think it was Kathy Lette on the C4 show who described it as "Mills & Boon with butt plugs". If this is accurate then it's definitely not for me. I read one Mills & Boon book (to see what it was like) and that was enough. Some people want their books to be fairly predictable — I like exactly the opposite (same goes for films). Call me awkward! Spank me!

4. If I wanted to read pages and pages describing sexual activity (and I don't — not right now*) I think I could find plenty of other books/websites. And if I was going to read it I certainly wouldn't pick something where she's a virgin at the beginning, gets spanked and tweaked beyond belief (though Laurie Penny in the article I linked to above says there is plenty of more "vanilla" sex in there too) and then (SPOILER) they get married at the end. This obsession with marriage and weddings... it's a sickness I tell you!

So, you see... it's probably not the one for me (though I imagine if I'd been 14 or 15 when it came out I would have, as it very much were, jumped on it).

A couple of other details from the show about the book:

1. Apparently places like Ann Summers (kinky underwear, aforementioned butt plugs etc.) are seeing record sales. There are going to be some very unusual charity shop donations as the months and years pass by, I can tell you. I imagine maybe Dettol may see some market gain soon too. Buy shares now.

2. There was some talk of how one of the greatest taboos (currently) is for a woman to admit that she sometimes wants to be told what to do by a man and that that is why the book is appealing to women so much at the present time. I would say this taboo (which probably does exist to an extent) is one of many problems with people's simplistic responses to feminist/equal opportunity ideas (and by people I do mean men and women). Those of us who've thought about such things know that a good relationship between a man and woman should allow room for variation, development, sharing responsibilities, taking charge and giving it up... most of all making it your own relationship — not the same one as your parents' or your friends' or celebrities' or anybody else. It doesn't really matter whether you're spanking each other or deciding who does the dishes — what matters most is that you sort your relationship in a way that suits the two of you (and really only the two of you). The couple on the show who did practise BDSM were absolutely adorable (with their spreadsheet — suitable choice — of likes and dislikes in the chamber...).

On a mostly unrelated note I'm thinking about attending the walking, writing, ideas festival in Aberdeen next week (much more my scene these days than fisting, I'd have to say) but every person on the panel is male and though I'm interested in hearing them if I'm really honest it does put me off just a little that I would be listening to male experts all day. Was there really no woman writer worth hearing on the subject? Was no-one available? To get to this event I'd have to sort childcare, pay a full entry fee, pay a very expensive train ticket... so I'm afraid an all male panel is the kind of thing that does at least makes me think twice about such an investment (though it wouldn't stop me buying their books and reading them at home, saving some time and money... I don't hate men or anything!). Interestingly Robert Macfarlane (who is featured on at the festival) also appears in the Kathleen Jamie interview I've linked to above. I enjoyed his TV programme a while back but found the recent radio series of his latest book "The Old Ways: a Journey on Foot" a bit... cringey (and now we're back to the Olympic closing ceremony of the last post..).

Anyway... must stop rambling! Must go and see to visitors... make sure child goes to bed... all that stuff.

*I read some porn in my teens, of different kinds... it was useful at first but it is a fairly repetitive genre (and as I've said above, repetition doesn't do it for me... I said "repetition doesn't do it for me"). And as for "erotic" fiction... I've never really seen the point (sorry, erotic fiction writers... I don't like lots of other niche writing genres either, nothing personal!). I just tend to think — isn't sex just part of a story?


The Bug said...

I used to be quite titillated by the sex scenes in the books I read as a teen & twenty-something - ooh la la! But now I'm impatient with them - please finish talking about going to the moon & get back to the REAL story! So I can't really understand the point of reading a book that's just mainly about sex - especially if the theme is so anti-feminist. It's bad enough that we're still calling each other "the girls." Sigh. (Although I'm not really rabid it makes me shake my head to see the giant strides backward women have made in recent years).

As to the lecture thing you're thinking about, I say don't go & let them know why :) (But read the books anyway)

Rachel Fox said...

Sounds like we're on the same page with the sex scenes really! And yes, it is disappointing that this is the sex book that makes it big, as it were, for women. Almost as disappointing as bad sex! And, whilst we're on the subject, almost as disappointing as stuff like this
...never mind the rape "news" story from the US this week...

I still haven't made up my mind about the lectures. So much else going on. I probably won't go. Might just go for a walk!


The Solitary Walker said...

Your second No 2 point: yes!

But putting Robert Macfarlane and that Olympic closing ceremony in the same category — oh no, no, no!

Back to bed now (to sleep, nothing kinky).

Rachel Fox said...

Did you listen to that radio series, SW? "Old Ways" was book of the week on radio 4 early in July. I thought I would love the series but it seemed really laboured and well, just so radio 4. I was a bit disappointed to be honest. As I said I enjoyed his TV programme about wild Essex a while back... but then that had some beautiful and unusual visuals too of course.

Rachel Fox said...

p.s. I just read a good piece on "50 Shades" this morning and added its link into the post. The article is by Laurie Penny and is here


The Weaver of Grass said...

I think you have hit the nail on the head, Rachel, in that last paragraph. Porn is usually so repetitive that after the first one or two readings one tends to think - oh not that again.
One of the members of our poetry group has read all three of the books. She is well in her eighties and says she enjoyed them but thought they were not particularly well-written.

Rachel Fox said...

I know.. another length, another dive into the unknown depths of her being (and that's the style this one goes for apparently... according to the TV show anyway). Some people do like the same thing over and over though (in sex and in books) - each to their own.

I love that story about your friend! What we endure to keep up to date with cultural trends... And that's one reason I watched the programme (to save me having to read the book/s.. I have lots of other books on the go/in a selection of piles). There was lots of interesting things in the programme too... I loved the Ann Summers time-to-stock-the-warehouses meeting for a start. Never mind the S & M spreadsheet, as already mentioned.


Rachel Fox said...

I do read mass market fiction... just not everything (there just isn't the time!). I have yet to read a word of Dan Brown, for example, and I don't feel a lesser person as a result!

Niamh B said...

I love Dan Brown...

sorry had to get that out.

Haven't read the fifty shades either, and in no major rush to, for similar reasons to yourself - I mean if in years to come I'm stuck in a b&b somewhere with nothing else to read, I deffo don't want to have read it.

Rachel Fox said...

Brown's books have never tempted me... not yet anyway!

B & B books I've read late at night..? I remember one night with a terrible throat infection in Northumberland... I read Graham Norton's autobiography... all in one go. Can't remember a thing about it now.


Marion McCready said...

not read fifty shades but then I was never one for mills an boon either! can't deny what a success it's been, women I know who *never* read books have been devouring the trilogy like crazy! each to their own but yes, it's been a bit of a disappointment from a feminist perspective but then, as you said, that's mainly down to a distortion of feminism. the idea of a fifty shades baby boom makes me laugh :)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes... though if a person needs a cheesey paperback to get them in the mood... maybe they just need a different partner/s... no? But then I'm an idealist...