Genevieve Valentine’s PERSONA (Saga, 2015)

So my brain is broken right now, right, on account of me finishing a PhD thesis. For the last several weeks, I have barely been able to make myself read: for the last fortnight, I really haven’t.

Except for PERSONA. I looked at the first few pages of PERSONA and found I could not stop. This is an excellent book. It is, so far, the only book I have been able to read since my brain broke. It is the book that signifies to me my brain might not be permanently broken, and the malaise that afflicts my every thought of reading will pass, because once I started reading it I just kept going.

Good book. Excellent book. Very different to Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club but just as easy to read. Recommend highly.

Brain broken. But maybe not forever.

In honour of submitting my PhD thesis

…I got a haircut.

I hadn’t had a haircut for several months. Here is a picture of me from Wednesday, prior to THESIS DONE:

Before.

Before.

Here is a picture of me from today, after submission and haircut:

After.

After.

It ended up a little more butch than I really meant for – this is what happens when you go into a barbershop and say CUT IT ALL OFF: they take you at your word, unlike most ladies’ hairdressers – but it will grow out fluffy-floppy again within a month, and meanwhile the lightness is delightfully freeing.

A significant chunk of my life has come to… well, not an end, precisely, because ahead there is still viva voce and the report of the internal and external examiners, corrections and – if I’m fortunate – commencements, before I get to call myself Dr. Me.

But definitely a sort of period.

It’s a weird feeling.

Bad practice from Reads Print and Design, Dublin

ETA: The matter was resolved to my satisfaction and I didn’t even have to argue. Good practice in the end.

I write this blog post to document my interactions with Reads Print and Design company, Dublin, in the matter of printing and binding four copies of my thesis.

Yesterday morning I went to the Reads website, filled out the form:

Reads thesis printing order screenshot take 1

Reads thesis printing order screenshot take 2

received the quote shown in the screenshot, E62.34, for the printing and binding of four copies of my thesis.

I entered my payment details and was charged that amount. At 1100hrs Thursday I received an order summary/confirmation number by email. At 1232hrs I received by email a confirmation of when my order would be ready to collect.

At 1234hrs I received a second email, the text of which was:

“Your thesis order went through for only one set of black and white copy.

So the other 3 sets were not paid.

You will have to pay on collection.”

My email requesting clarification received an answer:

“You have payed for the binding, handling fee and 4 copies of the colour pages and one copy of black and white.

The other 3 copies of black and white are not payed for.

Your total should have been €124.26

You payed €62.34″

This morning I returned to the Reads Thesis Printing and Binding order form on the website and discovered that an extra box to fill in has been added overnight.

But I have screenshots. From my screenshots, would you conclude, as a reasonable person, that I was misled as to the price of the service on offer? Would you consider that it might fall under the heading of a misleading commercial practice “likely to cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision that the average consumer would not otherwise make?”

So today I am going to go to the business premises to pick up my order. If they try to charge me more than the quoted sum initially charged – well, I’m almost looking forward to writing a formal letter of complaint (with supporting documentation) to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

I have finished my thesis and the really truly final deadline is still a month off. I have time.

Books in very brief: Gorey, Carr, Turner

Edward Gorey, The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes A Novel.

Because I’d never read it before. It is a delightful thing.

Viola Carr, The Diabolical Miss Hyde. Harper Voyager, 2015. Electronic review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. It’s pulp, and not particularly good pulp. But it will entertain for an hour.

Marc Turner, When The Heavens Fall. Tor, 2015. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. RUN AWAY THIS IS TEDIOUS AND TERRIBLE. ALSO IT HAS UNGRAMMATICAL EARLY MODERN ENGLISH.

Books in very brief: Zahn, Milan, Kelly, Abbott

Timothy Zahn, Cobra Outlaw. Baen, 2015. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

Reviewed at Tor.com. Fun, but shallow.

Courtney Milan, Trade Me. Ebook, 2015.

Contemporary romance. Normally not my sort of thing but it’s MILAN, so I went for it anyway and WOW IS IT GOOD.

I mean, I should have hated it. If you described it to me, logically. It has the thing I hate. (Billionaire.) AND YET IT IS BRILLIANT.

Lee Kelly, City of Savages. Saga Press, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Interesting debut. Read for review at Tor.com.

nonfiction

Karen Abbott, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War. Harper, 2014.

Narrative history. Title refers to the American civil war. Interesting and engrossing piece of writing, but needs to be contextualised better for people not familiar with that particular piece of history. Its focus on four different women and how they responded to the war makes for fascinating reading.

So That Was Fun Until You Punched Me In The Face: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

I first wrote this at the beginning of August 2014. For various reasons, I’ve sat on it until now.

So let me just drop it into the Friday night news hole…

 


 

 

Imagine that you dearly love, absolutely crave, a particular kind of food. There are some places in town that do this particular cuisine just amazingly. Lots of people who are into this kind of food hold these restaurants in high regard. But let’s say, at every single one of these places, every now and then throughout the meal, at random moments, the waiter comes over and punches any women at the table right in the face. And people of color and/or LGBT folks as well!- Ann Leckie, 21 October 2013

It is good to once again be among friends. You, Quill, are my friend. This dumb tree is also my friend. And this green whore is also —

– Drax the Destroyer, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

So what I learned from Guardians of the Galaxy is that space is full of white people and blue people and green people and red people and red-blue people, but apart from cyborg Djimon Hounsou and one or two minor extras, space has no black people.*

*This is not okay. Seriously. Not okay.

I also learned that women will be called “whore” regardless of their behaviour. There’s nothing wrong with sex work, or with sleeping around. But when Drax, a character who (we’re told) doesn’t understand metaphor, refers to Gamora (a character who’s refused the only sexual advances she’s been offered, and whose characterisation is heavy on the badass killing-people skills and light on sex) as a whore, it performs a neat subliminal perceptual trick: it renders invisible any distinction between woman and whore as categories. This is, mind you, a perceptual trick that the sexist cultures we’re all swimming in have been trying to pull on you your whole life: women are, as a default position, assumed to be both sexually available to straight men and using sex for personal gain. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax (and thus Guardians’ director and writers) just makes it explicit. Gamora’s a woman (albeit a green one); therefore she’s a whore.*

This was the point in the film at which I stopped enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong: up to this point, I was perfectly prepared to trade a background nagging dissatisfaction with the film’s narrative (and costume, and casting) choices in exchange for a fun piece of nonsense spectacle filled with explosions, good CGI, and decent comedy.

And then whore punched me in the face.

It’s rather hard to get back into the swing of enjoying fun spectacle after that. The film’s just hit you over the head with the fact that you don’t matter, except as part of the sex class: that no matter what you do, you exist to be sexually available. Whore.

And all my nagging dissatisfactions marched up to the forefront, banners trailing and bayonets fixed, and I sat through Guardians’ conclusion in tooth-gritted silence, so as not to spoil the cinema experience for my mother.

Because I’ve seen two films in the cinema this summer, Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy. Both of them expensive pieces of fun explosive entertainment, but both of them place a bland, boring, pallid Everyman in the central narrative role, and focus on him over female characters who are, quite frankly, more interesting - and whose stories would make for less blandly predictable movie-going experiences. (Although Edge of Tomorrow, at least, avoided the face-punch of whore, and had a stronger narrative edge than Guardians.) Because let’s be honest: Gamora, the racoon, and Groot, are the most interesting characters in Guardians, and Gamora is shamefully underemployed.

Quill is blandface Everyboy with a tragic childhood, decent fashion sense, and complete sexual incontinence, who stumbles accidentally into Matters Of Galaxy-Destroying Import, while Drax’s character basically boils down to WOMEN IN REFRIDGERATORS MUST BE AVENGED – but in Gamora and her sister Nebula and their relationship with each other, with Ronan, and with their father-creator Thanos, there’s the essence of a really juicy story, one that arises from character and situation and could maybe make something of a thematic argument about abusive families.

Instead we’re supposed to believe in some sort of romance between Quill and Gamora The Badass Assassin, and substitute a couple of brief fight-scene encounters between Gamora and Nebula for any development or resolution of that character arc. I wasn’t all too keen on this as a narrative decision before WHORE.

After… Well, I’m pissed. I’m really, inexpressibly pissed. Because okay, half a loaf is better than no bread, and I’ll take a film with an underutilised Only Girl over no female characters at all – but I am so goddamned tired of going to Films With Explosions in them knowing in advance they will always be about the same type of person, and having to go braced for the reminder that hey, the people who made this film don’t give a shit for anyone who’s not the White Male Audience.

That reminder – the moment of WHORE – is always the moment where it’s brought home that not only will this never be your story, that not only will you never get to see yourself in the hero/wish-fulfillment role, but also that the most important thing about you is how guys see your body: something available, something to be used. Something – though Guardians of the Galaxy only goes here in mentions of Drax’s family and by implication with Carina, the Collector’s barely-named servant – to be destroyed or to be rendered abject to serve the purposes of the men around them.

Fuck that, guys. It’s boring.