Tag Archives: literature

Female Audiences and the Male Universal

I am immensely excited to see Gravity tomorrow night, the new science fiction movie by Alfonso Cuarón of Children of Men fame. Sandra Bullock plays the lead role in this picture, alongside George Clooney, and I am thrilled to see another sci-fi production featuring a female lead in an otherwise male-dominated genre. According to the director, however, not everyone was this excited about the prospect as I am. During a press conference in July he indicated that producers were pushing for a male lead instead, as “science fiction is a male-dominated genre, with a male audience that wants to relate to a male lead.”

image via shakesville

image via shakesville

This is funny, because the majority of Hollywood productions features male leads, and in my over twenty years of moviegoer experience as a woman I still managed to enjoy myself quite often. My preferences didn’t really matter; I had to relate to a male lead and managed to do so, sometimes more, sometimes less successfully. Though apparently this is an impossible exercise for some… Continue reading

Book Challenge

If you don’t already read Clarissa’s Blog, I hereby strongly recommend it. She writes about feminism, academia and current events and always manages to place her own unique opinion in opposition to the mainstream. Sometimes I agree with her, sometimes I don’t, but she always makes me think. She also posts what feels like three times a day, yet remains informative and entertaining.

Just like her recent post titled “30-Day Book Challenge in One Day”. And because I love books and lists and anything that resembles a questionnaire, I decided to have my own One Day Book Challenge right here on this blog. Perhaps my readers can take away some nice recommendations, perhaps it’s just for my own pleasure…

1. Favourite book

That’s a difficult question to answer. For me, it changes over time and often depends on what topics and authors I’m dealing with in my studies. But I am going to go with a book that started my love for American literature, when I read it for the first time at 15 or so: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. I have read it multiple times and I’m still not bored by it, even though the narrative is anything but original or complex. To me it symbolizes the essence of American literature: fast, in your face, (post)modern, a perfect union of style and content, yet it still has so many flaws that are exciting to discover. The book is of course influenced by Joan Didion’s novel Play It As It Lays, which is also brilliant, but I only discovered it later in life.

2. Least favourite book

Anything that doesn’t feel authentic. That reads as though the writer is just desperately clinging to their fame and reputation. Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis was such a letdown. In fact, it felt as though someone had tried to copy his style and failed massively. The whole thing made me cringe.

3. Book that makes you laugh out loud

The Liar by Stephen Fry. He is so superior with words and I love his humor for kinky intellectuals. Which reminds me that I would love to read it again, but I gave my copy to an ex-boyfriend and he never returned it. Grrr…

4. Book that makes you cry

Books don’t really make me cry, but there are those that have a deep sadness in them. Try by Dennis Cooper is such a book, but it’s not an obvious choice, and if you’re looking for something melodramatic, don’t read this. I’m writing my thesis about Dennis Cooper, so my choice is probably biased.

5. Book you wish you could live in

I don’t usually read “nice” books, so I don’t think I would want to live in any of them. If I had to pick something, I guess I could go with The Garden of Eden by Hemingway. As far as I remember it is about newlyweds who travel a lot in the South of France, and it’s hot, and they drink a lot of Pernod. That sounds pretty good to me right now.

6. Favourite young adult book

Hands down, Die Mitte der Welt by Andreas Steinhöfel. I don’t know if it has been translated into English. I certainly hope so. It is beautifully written and features homosexuality, outcasts, bullying, first love, you know, the mysteries and banalities of being a teenager. I read it for the first time when I was thirteen and I believe it changed my life.

7. Book that you can quote/recite

I have a terrible long-term memory, so I don’t think I can properly quote anything.

8. Book that scares you

Probably Macht and Rebel by Matias Faldbakken. Because in many ways it portrays my generation very cunningly, and turns out my generation is a bunch of douches. The book is very clever, but it scares me because it’s so misanthropic and nonchalant at the same time.

9. Book that makes you sick

I read some pretty sick stuff, however, none of it actually makes me sick. What makes me sick are false interpretations of books, for example people claiming that Lolita is the most beautiful love story ever written. If you think that, you might want to take some literature classes and check your understanding of love.

10. Book that changed your life

Die Mitte der Welt, but I think I am going to explain that in a different post.

11. Book from your favourite author

One of my all time favourite authors I haven’t mentioned yet: Kathy Acker. After all, this blog is named after one of the illustrations in her novel Empire of the Senseless. I wrote an essay about it in a class on dystopian literature, and it was probably the most fun essay I ever had to write, and I’m pretty sure it blew my professor’s mind, whose understanding of dystopian literature didn’t exceed the likes of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

12. Book that is most like your life

My life is not that exciting at the moment, so if there is a book out there that is like that, I probably wouldn’t want to read it. Unless it’s called “10 easy steps to have a career when you have a cultural studies degree”.

13. Book whose main character is most like you

Anais Nin’s diary and short fiction. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood.

14. Book whose main character you want to marry

As I’ve said before, most of the stuff I read is pretty grim, so I doubt I would want to get married to any of the characters in them.

15. First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

I don’t remember. As a child I used to devour books. I read probably twice as much as I do now, so no idea.

16. Longest book you’ve read

The Bible? No idea. I have a dislike for long reads.

17. Shortest book you’ve read

I guess it depends on how to define “a book”. In Germany, we have these tiny yellow Reclam editions; they make everything look very short, but oftentimes they’re really not.

18. Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

I’m never embarrassed about reading. I’m more embarrassed to say “Oh, I haven’t read that.”

19. Book that turned you on

I used to read a lot of erotica by Anais Nin and Oscar Wilde. They were pretty kinky back then.

20. Book you’ve read the most number of times

Probably Less Than Zero. 

21.  Favourite picture book from childhood

My grandma used to have these fairy tale collections from the Eastern Bloc, translated for the GDR. Those books had the most beautiful and most frightening illustrations I have ever seen. Nowadays parents would think that they were way too disturbing for little children, but I found them fascinating.

22. Book you plan to read next

I still plan to finish Simone de Beauvoir’s Le deuxième sexe. 

23. Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

The Bible, though I did read large portions of it.

24. Book that contains your favorite scene

Now, that can only be answered by someone who reads like a book a year.

25. Favorite book you read in school

Lord of the Flies.

26. Favorite nonfiction book

In preparation for my thesis I have to read Enter At Your Own Risk a lot, which is a collection of essays about Dennis Cooper’s writing. When I first read it I was a bit annoyed, because it was about the exact same things I wanted to write about (and I thought I had some pretty radical new ideas). Turns out it actually is a great help to back my own ideas without making them redundant.

27. Favorite fiction book

See number 1.

28. Last book you read

ATTA by Jarett Kobek. It is about the life of one of the terrorists who flew a plane into the WTC on 9-11. It is also full of urban critique; it is disturbing and hilarious.

29. Book you’re currently reading

None, because I just finished Christian Kracht’s 1979 last night. And if you want to know what I think about it: I am completely indifferent.

30. Favorite coffee table book

Oh, you mean those wanky, large books full of pictures that people have lying around at home to seem really cool when they have visitors? I’m sorry, but I can only give you my least favourity coffee table book: that Banksy book that at one point everyone in Berlin seemed to own…

So there’s that. I’m sure you have noticed that I am not a fan of the classics, I am heavily biased towards 20th century literature, and I have a slightly disturbing preference for gay male authors. That is another blog post right there. I’ll get on to it asap.

Feel free to criticize me for my lack of women writers, but I wanted to answer as truthfully as possible. And the truth is, that for a long period in my teenage years, which is probably when I read the most, I hardly read any women writers. I blame publishers, my public library, and most of all patriarchy!