Writerly

‘Like A Queen’ by Constance Hall – A Review

Usually I would persevere through a book, especially if I intend to review it. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to finish this particular book, or more so, skipped large parts of it as it wasn’t my cup of tea. Self help books have never been my thing. The striking feature of this book also being that it reads like a bunch of blog posts strung together; there is story, but it is jumbled and parts, I think, that should have been discussed more in depth, weren’t. So I will pass it on. 

I can see what Hall is trying to do and the message she’s trying to convey. It is a good message. But the way she words it in her book is sometimes contradictory and can be a bit dangerous. 
Mum called me her little princess when I was little; I hated it. But that’s because she would use it in a condescending way such as to suggest I was acting like I was too good. There’s concern now around calling little girls princesses as it puts a gendered stereotype on them, so why would a grown woman want to call herself a Queen? I guess I’ve always forged my own identity and enjoy being separate from the rest. But I found my crowd in the heavy metal scene which is increasingly inclusive of both women and men. But, as I enter motherhood, I’m in need of more. I was given this book as a baby shower present and I gave it a go. I must admit being a little reluctant to write this as it could be construed as ‘putting a Queen down’, but I believe in voicing ones opinion and sparking intelligent discussion about the points Hall has raised in her book. When you write a book and it is published, of course there should be discussion about it! It’s not like it’s the Bible, right?

There were parts I liked reading, such as Hall’s portrayal of her mother. She seems like an awesome woman. I think being able to, and putting into practice, the art of putting oneself into another’s shoes is an admirable quality. But a lifetime of it can send you a bit mad; taking on other people’s problems can have that effect. It’s a quality more people should strive to attain. This is a quality I don’t think Hall has been able to develop yet herself through reading her book. This became a concern when Hall wrote a blog post about refugees, children in particular, and included this in her book. Hall compared her own son to the drowned boy washed up on a beach in Turkey. I do not believe that little boy “would have been excited too, putting on his sneakers that morning, wondering what wonderful possibilities this new land might bring”. No. He would have, since the moment of his birth, being born into a war torn country, known fear. Adult fear. The kind of fear no child should ever have to go through. His parents would not sugar coat it, they can’t, when it is all around them! Trying to relate them to children born in Australia is a false image. It takes away the urgency and the understanding we need to acquire to see them as people in dire need. 

Another point I found to be contradictory to her unifying message was her belittling of men, namely her husband Billy. There are overtones of the ‘us and them’ mindset and a need to hang onto the ‘mother’s club’ mentality. This is detrimental to any effort to create equality among men and women, especially when it comes to their roles as parents. No one should be put down, man or woman, to raise the status of the other. It goes against any push towards a fluid identity or parental role. Hall seems to be of the opinion that men cannot do what women do when it comes to parenting. There is zero support offered to dads. There are no father’s groups or daddy clubs. There’s very little male/dad specific resources. All they have is the way their father’s were. We know their father’s did not have the pressure to be ‘equal’. 

Sisters no longer have to do it for themselves.

 The majority of men that I know are great fathers, partners and hard working examples and they balance all of it just like their female counterparts. They cannot, as far as I know, read minds so the only way to get across what you want them to know is to tell them! They might not have the same emotional intelligence as you do, but instead of throwing your hands up, learn how to communicate in a way that unlocks their own ability to express emotion. 

Women have beautifully complex brains. 

Put yourself in their shoes. Encourage and give men room to express their innate compassion and love for their children. Speak to them with respect if you want to get the same back. This, I thought, was just part of being a decent human being. Lead by example as well, that is, speak to him the way you want to be spoken to. They are not the enemy. Stop accepting gendered behaviour. There is no such thing as blokey behaviour anymore. If he does no work around the house and stays out all night, neglecting his responsibilities, ask him why because it is not normal behaviour. Children are smart and look to you for life lessons. If you set an example of mums do this and dads do that, they will pick that up and perpetuate it. Your daughters will sit by, complaining to her girlfriends while her husband’s out all night. Your sons will work too much and have little to do with raising his own children. That is neither going forward nor backwards. That is staying exactly where you are, in your “shitty space, but at least your best girlfriend will be there with two bottles of wine”. 

‘Like a Queen’ wasn’t helpful for me on my journey into motherhood. But this is because I prefer to read factual evidence and sourced writing to get my information about pregnancy and motherhood so I can then form my own opinion. Rhea Dempsey and Sarah Buckley are two Australian authors and mothers who have helped me develop. Hall’s offering fell short for me.

Remembrance

Whenever Remembrance Day or ANZAC Day comes around, I get a little more jaded. 

Honouring and ‘remembering’ the dead becomes increasingly hollow. But why? When it is such an ‘Aussie’ thing to do. I don’t understand it, now, as an adult. As a child, it was easy to comprehend a minute of silence. It was sobering and new to me. It taught me to reflect. But then I learnt about those wars we remember fellow Australians fighting and dying in. It was a superficial learning of facts and dates. My imagination filled in the blanks. Plus that movie, Saving Private Ryan, put the horrifying and brutal picture of war into my head; scarred me, not for the gore, but for the futility and non-sensical waste of life. 

Why I find these days of remembrance more and more laughable is because we are missing the point. We remember the heights of mateship etc. etc. And the sacrifice. But are ignorant to the point that those brave men and women gave up their lives, over an over again, so we wouldn’t have to. Today. But we do. Always choosing the path of war rather than adhering to the warning signs. Making these days, like today, full of ignorance and farce. Because we haven’t learnt from their sacrifice of life. But we go on remembering in ignorance. 

Credit Where Credit’s Due

The other day, a couple of Jehovah’s witnesses showed up at my door. I already had a technician round installing our super fast cable internet, so I assumed this was the Universe telling me, “Hey! Here’s a spanner into your day!”

Being a polite human, I greeted the two ladies and went along with their disjointed small talk. She asked me how I coped when things got stressful. Without hesitation, I replied that my music (I didn’t go into the fact that it is of the Heavy Metal variety because that was a conversation I didn’t want to have, again. I nor anyone else should feel they have to justify their love for any kind of music…over and over again) and my writing were great sources of happiness and therapy. They seemed to agree and even said she had not thought of those things before. Now that we had a supposed common ground, she dove into something about a creator. I’m afraid I stopped listening. Until she said she was going to read me some scripture. 

Woah. Stop right there.

That’s where I draw the line. I politely explained to her that I did not want to waste anymore of her time and made the point that I do not go round to her house and start reading from science journals. Then she got all passive aggressive saying she didn’t want to intimidate me. (I’m sorry, what?) 

So, to finally get to the topic the heading suggests. She stated that the house I’m living in was designed by an architect and that we rely on “smarter” people than ourselves to do these kinds of things. I had lost patience. I stated, yes, indeed it was designed and built by people. Before she could insult all the architects, builders and the technician diligently working to give the gift of internet, I bade them go on their way…somewhere else. 

But that got me thinking. If you attribute everything around you, ultimately, to God, does that leave you blind to the miracles of nature? And the creations of people? If all the answers you need are contained within one book, do you miss out on discovering and learning everyday? When I write something that I think is not so bad, I credit myself. There’s no shame or selfishness in that. If I read or hear something amazing, I credit that to the person who created it and hope they credit themselves for the work that they have done. 

‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins – A Review

I had no pre-conceived notions when I picked this book up. I haven’t seen the movie nor read it before. It was published after my time at high school.

Although it had overtones of that Japanese cult movie Battle Royale, I don’t think the Japanese were trying to convey messages of identity and society quite like Collins is. But I can’t say I looked too deeply into that movie! The most important point I want to make, however, is that I thought this book is far superior to the Twilight series. Primarily because Katniss has more depth of character than Bella. The way Collins weaves character into narrative is done in a more satisfactory way. That is, using personal anecdotes of Katniss’ to highlight different facets of her personality rather than resorting to other characters to give an impression of her. 

There were parts where I thought Collins was floundering to write enough words such as when the Tributes spend time in the Capitol before the Hunger Games get underway. But what do I know what it’s like to write a whole novel for a publisher?

I would personally have teenagers read this over Twilight. Katniss’ struggle to grow up in a far out setting just seems more real to me. 

‘The North Water’ by Ian McGuire – A Book Review

Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

I recently read this book after seeing it reviewed on that Book Club show on ABC. It seemed like my kind of book.

It was just as gory and gruesome as the book clubbers made it out to be. Quite disturbing at times. So I would recommend you refrain from eating or drinking a good hour before, during and possibly after reading. Apart from the disgusting imagery, what appealed to me was being reminded about the way an author can comment, quite poignantly, about current human fads and fancies. 

Forget self help books and those ‘reality’ shows, reading a good book like this can impart useful knowledge about the human condition. While making your own life seem fantastic compared to those men trapped on the whaling ship with a man who defines insanity on a whole other level. So (re)discover reading today. Ok, that was a bit lame…

The Tightrope Walkers

Imagine you are walking the tightrope, up 30 feet and with only a pole for balance. Below are two bottomless pits to either side. And they are labelled thus: ‘Good Girl’ and ‘Bad Girl’. The spotlight is on you. You make your ungainly way towards an end that is shrouded in darkness. One foot in front of the other, hoping not to fall.
But weight is dropped onto the pole you hold. Sometimes on the left side and sometimes on the right. Then one side is favoured over the other as you reach the quarter way mark. And you fall. You fall forever and there is no way to stop. 
Demonised, stigmatised and sexualised, there is no net. There is no middle ground. There is no room for you to just be you. 

Monster

Frankenstein’s monster symbolises Adam in a dystopian world, where life is created from death; a man, not a woman, gives birth to a ‘monster’ with childlike sensibilities.

Dr. Frankenstein is incapable of having any parental attachment to what he deems to be an abomination. He rejects the Thing, which leads to the monster rebelling against his perceived father and demand payment for his suffering caused by the lack of guidance and love from his creator. The monster tries to exact his payment by destroying all the good in his father’s world. But neither unnatural parent nor monster feel they owe the other anything, instead each think the other owes them everything for the pain the other has caused them.

Bigot?

Are we but a bunch of bigots that strut and fret our hour on the stage?

Yep.

Myself included ie. my post entitled ‘And so on…

Have we all become that which we hate? All the writing that mocks religion, what is the purpose now? Like, right now in this point in time, what good is it doing? How is it progressing the cause? What is the cause? I don’t know anymore. I think it’s just to allow us ‘intelligent’ fellows feel superior to those still practicing religion. Of course those who are religious do not and would not look at things that mock their way of life.

Have we become like those religious types that force their opinion on others? Well, the internet is now saturated with (yes, they’re funny and hold truth in a condescending way) bible bashings. Why do we waste our time (and brain cells) tearing religion apart? For the amusement of people with the same exact mentality?

We are just pigs wallowing in our own shit while the rest of the farmyard crumbles around us.

Life

At the time of writing this, I am 8 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

Surprise!

I feel that I have a purpose and am welcoming a new perspective on life. It feels so right. I want to give the world a part of myself; for a long time, I believed that to be through a piece of writing (hey, it still can be!) but to have the chance to give life to a new person? Perfect!

Along with my changing perspective on life, I have been quite harsh on the topics of religion and history. I believe both of these vast areas of knowledge need to be rethought. Reassessed. Religion and philosophy are forever intertwined. I look at religion the same way I would approach Plato or Sartre. 

History, as I have learnt it, is rigid and no one stops to ask whether or not they are being fed truth or lies. History should fascinate because of the open ended questions that are abound as soon as you start looking. It should be taught through discussion. Because you are free to question. Everything. 

Death

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
John Donne, ‘Holy Sonnets’
I fear Death; I fear it because I have been conditioned to fear it. This conditioning isn’t to do with Death itself, but my own sense of individuality. What I fear the most? Losing myself. And so, because death will strip me of my individuality, it scares the hell out of me. So I learn to let go of any idea that I will be me after death. I can then realise that I will be part of the whole; Death will be respite from Life where I will be no more.
I don’t fear Death, I don’t welcome it nor do I want it to go away. It is as it should be, the ultimate rest. And so, that means I will strive to earn that rest until the time comes when I cross that threshold.
Until I go to join the great Optimus Prime in the sky. Yes, the Transformer. We are all but Bumblebees, Ratchets and Ironhides fighting on until well…