Psychological Thrilla, Not Plain Vanilla – You Should Read This Book

I just read the review copy I have of How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (fairly late, since the book was released in October 2013), and my initial reaction? Wow. A very good wow.

good wifeHow to be a Good Wife is the title of a nonfiction book Marta was gifted by her mother-in-law on her wedding day. She has lived by the directions in this book for years, and knows every word by heart. But lately, Marta’s not as happy in her marriage as she was at the beginning.

Or was she ever happy in her marriage?

You see, Marta’s been seeing things.

Her husband claims she hallucinates without her pills, and she hasn’t been taking her pills. With her son grown, at his own apartment relatively far away, it’s only Marta and her husband Hector in the house now. & Marta is ready to see what happens when she does not take her pills…

This book was great. I devoured it; if I wasn’t so set on actually passing the courses I’m taking this semester, I might not have stopped reading to come up for air. I like books with unreliable narrators. Can I believe what I’m being told? How objective are the other people interacting with the narrator?

I know what my opinion is of the veracity of Marta’s conclusion about her marriage, but one of the best things about this book is that it could be interpreted in many different ways. Or at least, in two.

I don’t want to give too much detail regarding the book, but I will say I really, really enjoyed it. 4.5 out of 5 stars – and the loss of half a star is really simply because I don’t think I will read it again.

Chapman has a spare style of prose, which I found delightful. I like prose that sparkles in its’ simplicity, that feels like stepping on fresh, crisp snow. This book talked about potential insanity in a way that was easily comprehended, which is a very difficult thing to do. This novel is Chapman’s debut, and it was a great first book. I will definitely be on the lookout for any future work of hers that is released.

You should read this book.

Please, recommend a book you have enjoyed in the comments below!

Please, recommend a book you have enjoyed in the comments below!

Links that I Like, & Think You Might, Too

  • ‘Tis the season for colds and flus! I’m pretty sure I’ve been ill more days than I have been healthy. Ugh. Yet perhaps that is about to change, now that I know about this fun remedy. (It’s worth a try anyway, right?)
  • If you don’t like the Toast, then I’m not sure we can be friends. (In particular, pretty much everything Mallory Ortberg writes makes me chortle.)
  • If Hermione were the main character in “Harry Potter.” (Replete with feminism and gifs, you will not regret reading this article.)
  • What Kristy Thomas (yes, of The Babysitters Club Kristy Thomas) thinks of the Sweet Valley Confidential series.
  • One Dimensional Female Character from a Male-Driven Comedy. (Because sometimes, SNL gets it right.)
  • I’m a sucker for an infograph, and the classics. This link provides both.
  • A guy wrote a mystery novel with teddy bears, and got extremely irritated at what he perceived to be a negative review.
  • Men are from bacon, women are from lemons. Read.

Bad Feminist Quotes

I just read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and strongly, strongly recommend this book. It will make you think, it might make you intensely uncomfortable, but Gay brings up many good points, and even if you don’t always agree with her, the fact that she’s talking about so many important conversations and will make you think about those conversations makes this book well worth reading.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed. For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always make the best choices. When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.”

-“Introduction” p. x

“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers…trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world…while also being myself: a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible for women and who sometimes plays dumb with the repairmen because it’s just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground.”

-“Introduction” p. xi

Really, the entire Introduction is amazing.

“In many ways, likability is a very elaborate lie, a performance, a code of conduct dictating the proper way to be… Unlikable is a fluid designation that can be applied to any character who doesn’t behave in a way the reader finds palatable.”

-“Not Here to Make Friends” p. 85

“In literature, as in life, the rules are all too often different for girls… An unlikable man is inscrutably interesting, dark, or tormented, but ultimately compelling, even when he might behave in distasteful ways… When women are unlikable, it becomes a point of obsession in critical conversation by professional and amateur critics alike… Why aren’t they making themselves likable (and therefore acceptable) to polite society?”

-“Not Here to Make Friends” p. 88

“This is what is so rarely said about unlikable women in fiction – that they aren’t pretending, that they won’t or can’t pretend to be someone they are not. They have neither the energy nor the desire for it.”

-“Not Here to Make Friends” p. 95

“This is a baffling statement because there is imply no reality where the phrase ‘strident feminist’ can be reasonably compared to the N-word. I am fascinated by the silence surrounding this statement, how people will turn a blind eye to casual racism for the sake of funny feminism.”

-“How We All Lose” p. 104

“We talk about rape, but we don’t carefully talk about rape.”

-“The Careless Language of Sexual Violence” p. 132

“You’d be amazed what people are willing to do when they are given permission, either implicitly or explicitly.”

-“Some Jokes Are Funnier Than Others” p. 179

“The thing about fairy tales is that the princess finds her prince, but there’s usually a price t pay. A compromise is required for happily ever after. The woman in the fairy tale is generally the one who pays the price. This seems to be the nature of sacrifice.”

-“The Trouble with Prince Charming” p. 193

In fact, the entire essay “The Trouble with Prince Charming” is great. Amusing and poignant. #readit

“We hold all people to unspoken rules about who and how they should be, how they should think, and what they should say. We say we hate stereotypes but take issue when people deviate from those stereotypes. Men don’t cry. Feminists don’t shave their legs. Southerners are racist.”

-“The Politics of Respectability” p. 257

“…even in this day and age, the rights of women are not inalienable. Our rights can be and are, with alarming regularity, stripped away.”

-“The Alienable Rights of Women” p. 273

“Then, of course, there is the problem of those women who want to, perhaps, avoid the pregnancy question altogether by availing themselves of birth control with the privacy and dignity and affordability that should also be inalienable.

Or, according to some, whores.”

-“The Alienable Rights of Women” p. 274

“We are having inexplicable conversations about birth control, conversations where women must justify why they are taking birth control, conversations where a congressional hearing on birth control includes no women because the men in power are well aware that women don’t need to be included in the conversation. We don’t have inalienable rights the way men do.”

-“The Alienable Rights of Women” p. 275

All quotes are derived from the following work:

Gay, Roxane. Bad Feminist: Essays. First ed. New York: Harper Perennial, 2014. Print.

Thoughts on a Book I’m Not Done Reading

I am currently wending my way through the book The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, an older novel from the eighteenth century which is very rambling, but which I find very amusing.

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At the moment, I am reading about Mr. Trueworth’s courtship of Miss Harriot, who, to be honest, seems pretty boring when you have to imagine, rather than see, her hotness. She’s highly moral, so Mr. Trueworth, who is truly worthy (bet you would have never guessed that), thinks she’s great wife material, particularly when contrasting her with that coquette Betsy Thoughtless, who is virtuous, but does not always appear so – because she’s thoughtless (noticing a theme yet?).

There were a few scenes in which Miss Harriot’s siblings (brother and sister) are trying to persuade her to encourage Mr. Trueworth’s courtship, so that she can get married and pop out babies. Oh, and also, Mr. Trueworth won’t immediately demand a dowry, which is helpful to Miss Harriot’s brother’s (Sir Bazil’s) situation. Sir Bazil is in love, but cannot marry his beloved without a bit more capital, so it seems like his sister’s marriage to Mr. Trueworth would be win-win for everyone, right?

Show me the money! #SirBazil

Show me the money! #SirBazil

Well – Miss Harriot begins to go on about how she’s not interested in marriage right now and might not ever have those feelings for a man.

My response to this was: “Cool! Eliza Haywood wrote a lesbian. I like it.”

Except it turns out Miss Harriot is really just shy, which is totes more boring, and also means that poor, deserving Mr. Trueworth won’t get to have sexy times until marriage, and even then, she might not be the “naughty librarian” kind of shy. He might just end up marrying a frigid bitch. & mistresses can be expensive, yo.

This could be what you're marrying, Trueworth.

This could be what you’re marrying, Trueworth.

In general, I’m not much of a fan of Miss Harriot, but I did like when she says this:

“‘…it is an ill judged policy, methinks, in you men, to idolize the women too much, you wish would think well of you; – if our sex are in reality so vain as you generally represent us, on whom but yourselves can the fault be laid?'”

She makes two excellent points:

  1. Being idolized never fares well for the subject being idolized. You can’t live up to it. Also, it’s usually annoying to have someone idolize you.
  2. Men convince women to think about themselves in a certain light (I’m looking at you, media run by rich white men), and then belittle women for thinking about themselves in the manner they have been taught.

Hypocritical males just got owned.

I’m still not a fan of Miss Harriot, but I did like her slightly empowering remark, and I liked her when I thought she was a lesbian.

I prefer Miss Harriot as a Sapphic beauty.

I prefer Miss Harriot as a Sapphic beauty.