Tag Archives: reading

The Crimson Petal and the White


 I am very uninspired today, so since I’m doing the whole NaBloPoMo thing, I thought I     might as well nip over to their website and check out the prompt of the day. Today’s prompt is:

“Which character would you most like to meet?”.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about the character I would like to meet. It would be Sugar from the über-talented Michel Faber‘s novel “The Crimson Petal and the White“.  Those of you who have been reading my writing for a while should know that I am a cynical, jaded miserabilist who’s impressed and excited by very little. Oh, but this book! It’s 894 pages long, and yet I finished it in two days.

If you only ever read one book again before dying, then it has to be this one!

I’ve also read “Under the Skin” by the same author , and I’m constantly amazed by his ability to write from the point of view of a woman and by the fact that he actually does it well. He understands women so well that I would easily have imagined both of these works to be written by a woman if I hadn’t already seen a man’s name on the front cover.

Why would I so much like to meet Sugar? Well, she’s a self-educated, feisty nineteenth century London prostitute. Those of you who know about me and my past will surely understand why this alone would appeal to me.

The following passage isn’t about Sugar, and the thoughts aren’t hers; this is actually Carolyn, another London prostitute’s point of view:

“Responsibilities, responsibilities. To get enough sleep, to remember to comb her hair, to wash after every man: these are the sorts of things she must make sure she doesn’t neglect these days. Compared to the burdens she once shared with her fellow factory slaves, they aren’t too bad. As for the work, well…it’s not as dirty as the factory, nor as dangerous, nor as dull. At the cost of her immortal soul, she has earned the right to lie in on a weekday morning and get up when she damn well chooses”.

As a former sex worker myself, I can relate to the above passage wholeheartedly. Now that I am no longer an erotic masseuse, I guess that I’m now earning my living “honestly”. People would consider it a “good decision”; that I’m doing the “right thing”. The only benefit I can see to having a regular job is that I’m guaranteed a regular income – that was something I could never be sure of with sex work, especially after the economy went pear-shaped. Apart from that, though, what’s good about it? I earn less money; I’m doing a dead-end job in which I’m not really appreciated; I have less time for myself; I barely make ends meet. And, oh, don’t forget that I’m a contractor, so I’m not entitled to any benefits (that means health insurance, my European friends) or any sick or holiday pay. I could be fired at any point, and once my contract is up next February, I will have to find a new job because the company can’t legally hire a contractor for more than a year – although they can wait six months, and then hire me back for another year of benefit-less joy!

If you’ve got the stomach for it, then, hell, sex work really ain’t that bad in comparison to that. Quite frankly, I miss it.

Bookgroup anyone?


Wow, I’m exhausted. My “lifestyle change” (# 4,127) hasn’t gone too well. I stupidly drank a strong cup of coffee around 10:00 p.m., which meant that I wasn’t ready to go to bed until 4:30 a.m. And, then, even when I was actually in bed, I didn’t fall asleep until around 5:00 a.m. I had to get up at 7:30 a.m. to get ready for volunteering in a middle school, so I’m pretty tired.

Today’s volunteering session went well without any of the 6th-grade students making a racial slur. Phew. I think one of the boys in my group did call me stupid at one point, though, which I couldn’t really do anything about – first of all, I wasn’t really sure and, secondly, the teacher didn’t seem to have a handle on discipline in the classroom herself. This is the crappy thing about being a volunteer or a class tutor. The teachers always say that we can discipline the kids if we want to, but the kids know that, ultimately, we have no authority over them and that they can pretty much say or do what they like with impunity. Sigh.

I actually thought it was pretty awful that the teacher allowed some of the students to get out of their seats while she was trying to talk to the class. They weren’t running around the classroom going crazy or anything, but their movements were still pretty distracting. I could tell it bothered some of the other volunteers, too, probably because they, like me, were never allowed to get off with that kind of shit in school. I have no idea if this is just an American problem, or if discipline has gone to the dogs in schools in Scotland, too, but I was flabbergasted the first time I set foot in an American high school and saw some of the things the kids are allowed to do. The worst thing is the constant fucking bathroom breaks. The wee fuckers are in and out of their seats every two seconds asking for a bloody bathroom pass. Some teachers are really strict about not allowing bathroom breaks during class time, but there are others who are far too lenient. Is there some reason for this? I’m assuming that most kids have day-time bladder control by the age of six, so can someone please tell me why a fifteen-year-old can’t sit in a fifty-minute-long class without going to the bathroom? Grrrrr.

However, I digress. Back to my geting called stupid…

This happened because one of the boys was being a naughtly little pain in the arse, and was talking gibberish about eating a “stick”. I listened to what he said, and nodded, believing him, because I thought he had said “steak” (he was Latino with a pretty strong accent). Between my accent and their accent, God knows what’s going to happen when we actually start discussing literature together.

The “stick eating” episode reminded me of my own days as an eleven-year-old in school. The girls in my group today were quiet, shy and seemed interested in me and what I was doing there whereas the boys acted up as much as they possibly could. There was a noticeable difference in maturity – both physical and emotional. This is exactly how I remember the first few years of secondary school in Scotland. I was there to work and learn, and I hated the way the boys’ behaviour took up valuable instruction time. To be honest, I’m still not wildly enthusiastic about boys between the ages of eleven to fourteen. Their childishness just annoys me, plain and simple. This is not a good feeling to be having, given that I want to be a teacher, so I guess I just need to repeat a mantra to myself again and again: “They can’t help it. It’s just where nature intends them to be developmentally. They can’t help it. It’s just where nature intends them to be developmentally”.

If you’re wondering how the above fits into the title of today’s post, well, it doesn’t at all… I never intended to write quite so much about volunteering. I have been thinking, though, that it might be nice to start my very own blogger bookgroup, the idea being that some (or all!) of my readers and I would pick one book to read a month (preferably one readily available in most English-speaking countries), then write down our thoughts about it in the comment section. To make it fair to all parties concerned, all members of the group would suggest a book they’re interested in reading each month, and I could put up a poll to choose the most popular. How does this sound?

If anyone is interested, I would like to suggest that we should have chosen, and finished reading and commenting on the book by the last day of each month (I would write a post that day, or perhaps a couple of days before that, outlining my own thoughts, and then the members could comment…or, better still, I could even have guest bloggers who write the post, so it’s not all about me). There’s not enough time to acquire and read a book by the end of this month, so our first online discussion could be on or around Monday November 30th.

So, whaddya think? If you’re interested, just leave a comment on this post and please also leave a book suggestion(s) for November.

Here are mine:

(1) First of all, there’s “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich:

ndcoverlg

(2) And, then, secondly, there’s “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss:

Love

I shall be awaiting your comments, and suggestions!

PMS


carrie Ever since dropping out of my teacher certification program, I’ve been feeling somewhat depressed. I’m probably always suffering from some kind of low-level depression, but now I’m starting to develop a sense of hopelessness. I’m an intense person, and unless I have some future goal to work towards and absorb my attention and energy, I tend to become self-absorbed, negative and obsessive about all the wrong kinds of things.

Today I thought I was having a major depressive episode because all I wanted to do was curl up under the covers and die. There is too much of the Calvinist in me, though, to let myself do that, so instead I forced myself to sit at my computer, ostensibly to answer “massage emails”. What I actually ended up doing was looking at pointless stuff on the internet. Today I learned all about male-to-female gender reassignment surgery. Damn! Those man-made vaginas look good! Better than mine!

I wonder how many lives Wikipedia and the google search button have ruined…

My period started a couple of hours ago, so I can probably just put today’s extra mood of depression down to PMS. Over the last year, I’ve definitely noticed that my mood is much darker the day my period starts. This is a strange occurrence for me, as I’ve nearly always had trouble-free periods. Barely a cramp, or even the tiniest of mood swings.

Financially, things are also a mess for me, and I don’t quite know how to get myself out of the black hole of debt and bills I find myself in. Things are not at a critical stage, but I am living a pretty hand-to-mouth existence, and it’s very, very tiring. I badly need new clothes, so much so that I can’t even bear to go out anymore because I know I don’t look as well put together as I could. I suppose stuff like that doesn’t really matter…but it does. Hell, even Otis Redding knew that: “Oh, she may be weary/Young girls they do get weary/Wearing that same old shaggy dress”

As for “trying a little tenderness”, Midwestern Man hasn’t been very good at that lately. I don’t really blame him, though. I just don’t have much to give right now, and I know he feels neglected. Like most men, he’s not very good at expressing his frustration and feelings of neglect, so they just come out in anger instead. He’s also a very angry, argumentative drunk (kind of worrying actually…his biological father was/probably still is an alcoholic) who causes small disagreements to escalate into horrific fights. I just wanted to hang out on Saturday night and watch “Deadwood” on TV, but instead we got into an argument, which involved him calling me “a whore”; me finally losing it and throwing a glass of wine in his face; him throwing a glass of wine in my face and, then, finally, as the dénouement, me lobbing the empty wine bottle at him as he fled into the bathroom. Luckily it missed, but I now have a huge hole in my bedroom door. OK, so I never said I was a great drunk…but, in my defence, I did try to avoid arguing until he called me a whore…

That night, and for most of the next morning, I was dead set on getting a divorce, but then I called him, and asked him to come round for cuddles…and all was good again.

Unfortunately, I misunderestimated the emotional effect our huge fight had had on me. When I went to my first ever book group yesterday afternoon, I sat down with my cup of coffee in the circle of readers and my hands couldn’t stop shaking, probably from sheer emotional exhaustion. My hands were shaking so much that I spilled the coffee all over the place, which made me flustered, which made my hands shake more, which made me spill more coffee, which made me flustered and made my hands shake more etc etc…I was also sweating like a pig because I’d cycled there, in the heat. I also felt weak and completley on edge, and I must have looked as pale as a ghost. I felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown, and I was stuttering.

All of this would have been OK if it hadn’t been an African-American Literature bookgroup, with only one white member (me!). I knew I was probably going to be the only white person there, and that didn’t bother me, but the other members must have thought I was having some kind of whitey meltdown. It’s ironic because I was actually pleased that there probably wouldn’t be any white Americans because the ones in this town are often entitled, spoiled fucks, and I can’t relate to them. A case in point: why am I the only white person in the group?! It clearly says on the public website that the group is open to everybody. Surely I can’t be the only white person in the town interested in African-American literature?

In the end, everything was fine…everybody was really welcoming to me, and the leader of the group said she really enjoyed my input. I might also ask the woman from Montréal to accompany me next month, as her parents are from Trinidad, and there was a Trinidadian at the group. I’m sure they’d like to meet each other, and this way I have a safe, non-desperado, non-stalkery activity to suggest doing together.

Distracted by Larry Brown


So much for my new routine of getting up early, feeding the pets, writing in my journal, blogging and then going for a run – all before starting a day’s work. This morning I decided to read a “little bit” of the novel “The Rabit Factory” by Larry Brown, which had been sitting on my bookshelf for ages. I think I got it years ago for some book group I never ended up going to. I’m not sure why I never read it. It was possibly because the main blurb on the back of the book was from the local “newspaper”, which I find very provincial. I must have thought, snobbishly, that nothing championed in that rag could possibly be any good.

How wrong could I have been! What a bloody good read. A total fucking page-turner, and it has absorbed me the whole day. How rare it is to find a novelist who’s an amazing storyteller. I’m all for experimentation in literature, music and the visual arts but, goddamit, I want to be entertained as well!

Now that I have five cats and have officially earned the “crazy cat lady” moniker, the first sentence even had me grabbed:

“The kitten was wild and skinny, and its tail looked almost broken, kind of hung down crooked”.

There’s also a (male!) pit bull called Jada Pinkett! Oh how I laughed out loud when I read that!

Speaking of stray kittens, the new addition to my family is doing better, as his eyes no longer seem infected, but they do still seem to be ulcerated. I thought they would heal better than this, so I’m taking him to the vet again on Thursday. I really hope that they can save his vision, even if only in one of his eyes. Cats are just such amazingly resilient animals. I doubt this kitten can see very much, as his eyes are pretty fucked up, and yet he still scoots about the floor chasing a little ball! I once had a cat with no eyes (he had to have them removed because they had also been attacked by the feline herpes virus, but they were too badly damaged by the time I found him) and you would never have known he was blind unless you looked at him very closely. He did all the things my other cats did, and only very, very, very rarely bumped into a piece of furniture, and usually because I would have moved it from its normal location.

Just how do cats do that? I’m just in awe of them. God, just listen to me. How many times can I blog about cats? I just got an email from Blogcatalog telling me that my blog had been approved for inclusion, or whatever, and guess what the google ads are on my blog page?! There’s one about sex and another about fucking cat litter! Sometimes I think Google doesn’t only scan the content of my emails and blog, but also has a window into my soul.

Something weird has happened to me ever since finding this fifth cat, though. It really does feel like I’ve been initiated into some kind of cat hoarding club. I can’t stop looking at my cats, and admiring their beautiful feline elegance and independence. God, I love them.

You may be glad to know that Midwestern Man and I finally fucked today. I’m nearly always too tired at night to have sex, so I decided to tell him to hurry back from work and fuck me in the middle of the afternoon. I didn’t really want to, but I know it’s not fair to deprive him of sex. It was really lovely, though, and I feel closer to him again. He says that I’m “like a man”, in that I’m only nice to him after we have sex. There is, sadly, definitely some truth to that. Today, one of my new favourite bloggers, Pandabox33, commented on yesterday’s post and said “I found that just doing it sometimes helps”. This resonated with me a lot because, yes, I find that iif just grit my teeth and force myself to have sex that I actually enjoy it…and then I want more of it. Unfortunately, we then have a small lull in our sex life and then I forget all about how much I like it. Sigh.

Well, must dash, as I’m attempting the Nablopomo challenge this month, and I have to post every day in September. It’s nearly midnight, and I don’t want to miss a day. Sweet dreams everybody.