Seeing as I have 45 library books stacked in my room while I write a presentation on fictocriticism (in fact while I attempt to write something of my thesis at all), I thought it would be apt to write about some of the things I’ve been reading. Naturally, since a professional student achieves nothing without perfecting the art of procrastination, many of these things are completely unrelated to my research.
I finished another Daphne – her collection of short stories, Don’t Look Now – which was disappointing. When she can keep her sinister overtones under control, like in Rebecca, she’s superb, but when it tips into melodrama it just doesn’t work. Before that, though, I read the utterly brilliant The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. Such superior characterisation, setting, writing and structure, and the sex scenes were excellent (and if someone tells you women can’t get turned on by two men getting off, they’re lying; it’s no different from men finding two women together appealing). Plus Hollinghurst had many more interesting things to say about beauty than Zadie Smith in her hugely overrated On Beauty.
After a conversation with M- at the Gay Hussar, a Hungarian restaurant situated precariously close to Soho Square (how can these people run such a place without irony?), I’ve been trying to find rape statistics on the Guardian website. M- had said that, if you include the prison population, more men are raped than women. I’d looked at him askance and he said, ‘What, prisoners aren’t human?’ and I conceded that that was a pretty stupid thing to think. Then I read a whole lot of articles about rape while trying to find this statistic and got so depressed I had to stop reading. Since I doubt many will be interested in reading the articles (for what are we if not an apathetic society that prefers to turn the cheek?), here are some facts:
• One in 20 women over the age of 16 have been raped; one in 10 have experienced some kind of sexual victimisation. These aren’t crazy men jumping out of bushes and randomly attacking women – they’re “normal” guys like friends and boyfriends.
• A survey found that one in three people in the UK believe that women who behave “flirtatiously” are responsible for being raped. More than 25% think that women are at least somewhat responsible for being raped if they’re wearing a sexy outfit. Not only is this statistic appalling, but it’s offensive, I’m sure, to most of the men out there who can keep their dick in their pants.
• If you report your rape in the UK, there’s only a 5.6% chance that your rapist will be convicted. My word, I am glad that I live in England.
Just in case you do want to read this article, the link is here.
There are definitely more men raped than women within prisons, but whether this equates to more men raped within society as a whole, I couldn’t find out, and now I can’t bear to read any more about it.
However, I do have to mention that at the evening’s close at the Gay Hussar, one of the waiters handed us – unfathomably – two red peppers on a plate. Following on from a conversation we’d had about H and our sister travelling in Hungary (in which the family they’d stayed with offered H 15 goats, 5 sheep and some chickens in return for R’s hand in marriage) M- thought this may have been some obscure means by which the waiter was asking us to become his betrothed.
More Guardian reading (and how I am going to miss this paper when I go home, particularly the Unsettling Animal Picture of the Week in the Saturday edition): in this week’s Society Guardian I read about the UK Miss Deaf World pageant, which was set up to help young deaf women make it in the modelling industry. However the girl who organised the show made a shambles of it, yet she was doing deaf studies and had worked with the deaf community for 10 years. I’m wondering if she was just completely stupid, or if the problem lay with a lack of experience in events organization. They’re screening a doco about it on telly, but as since we don’t watch telly (AND THEREFORE DON’T PAY TV TAX) all I had was the article to go on. But if you have a stylist shouting at a deaf person (and believe me, that’s never a good way to make yourself heard – try just speaking clearly, you idiots), things can’t be going very well. And the gem was the MC trying to get the mostly deaf audience to sing along to a Frank Sinatra song. I have to admit, when I described this to H, I started to laugh – after all, if you can’t laugh at yourself when you’ve got a disability you haven’t got much hope of a happy life.
On this note, however, check out this site which T (who was clearly doing less work than I) sent me the link to: How to Insult Someone Using British Sign Language. It’s hilarious.
Still on the subject of newspapers – H brought home a copy of The Sun for my edification. I had never read a copy before, and never intend to again. Our environment is disintegrating at an alarming pace, and all they can write about is Prince William’s next sheila?
Oh, and how can I not mention my first love, to whom I am returning after God knows how many years: Virginia Woolf. I struggle to enjoy her fiction, but her essays are exquisite, and they make me laugh. I urge anyone with a moment up their sleeve to read A Room of One’s Own. It isn’t a feminist rant, but a delightfully dry and shrewd examination of what makes women write the way they do (if at all). Take this passage as a taster:
‘Currer Bell, George Eliot, George Sand, all the victims of inner strife as their writings prove, sought ineffectively to veil themselves by using the name of a man. Thus they did homage to the convention, which if not implanted by the other sex was liberally encouraged by them (the chief glory of a woman is not to be talked of, said Pericles, himself a much talked-of man) that publicity in women is detestable. Anonymity runs in the blood. The desire to be veiled still possessed them. They are not even now as concerned about the health of their fame as men are, and, speaking generally, will pass a tombstone or a signpost without feeling an irresistible desire to cut their names on it, as Alf, Bert or Chas must do in obedience to their instinct, which murmurs if it sees a fine woman go by, or even a dog, Ce Chien est a moi [‘This is my dog’] … It is one of the great advantages of being a woman that one can pass even a very fine negress without wishing to make an Englishwoman of her’ (p. 65 Oxford UP, 1992).
Meanwhile, writing my thesis is like trying to get blood out of a stone and I’m wasting an inordinate amount of time shopping for lingerie on figleaves.com. I don’t understand what’s happened to me. I used to be such an eager little bean while I was doing my undergraduate degrees; I drove myself so hard that I got a university medal and while I was writing my novel I was scribbling down 3000 words a day. I seem to be getting old, tired and disillusioned and I’m not even 30 yet. It doesn’t bode well.