Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

I have just finished reading “Earth” by David Brin.

“Earth” by David Brin (via Goodreads)

The blurb reads:

“Time is running out. Decades from now, an artificial black hole has fallen into the earth’s core. As scientists frantically work to prevent the ultimate disaster, they discover the entire planet could be destroyed within a year. But while they look for an answer, others argue that the only way to save the Earth is to let its human inhabitants become extinct: to reset the evolutionary clock and start over.”

This book was an impulsive buy in Waterstones a few months ago, and it took me a fair while to read it, as I kept getting bored and reading other books. This month, I was determined to finish it once and for all, and after a few sessions, I finally finished the 624 page monster.

The idea of a black hole falling into the centre of the Earth sounded a little bit ridiculous, but I was intrigued by the possible annihilation of human life and how people could deal with this.

It is good in the respect that it presents a future Earth where the planet is struggling to feed and shelter its species, mainly due to the impact of human activity. It’s horrible to see that the state of affairs means that many species of animals are dying out as their habitats are destroyed by the changes in the atmosphere and the weather. The humans are given water rations and are forced to leave their home countries due to climate change. Technology has become a way of life, with people able to find out anything at the touch of a button and privacy becoming less common.

There are lots of excellent ideas in this novel, but the characters sort of ruin it because there are too many of them which we follow the progress of. It does add to the novel by giving a more rounded impression of how different humans are affected but there is just a bit too much noise from these characters.

I didn’t find it to be as exciting as it could have been, at least not until the last few chapters where things suddenly get more interesting!

It is a well-written novel, with interesting themes and a horrible vision of the future for the Earth, but it’s just a bit too long and laborious to read. It makes you think seriously about the issues which we are only just contemplating now, and which could potentially shorten the human species’ lifespan on Earth if we don’t do something while we can. I give it 7/10, and might even have given it more if it hadn’t been so long.

Fashion magazines are not realistic. I treat them like they are fiction books with pictures. They are all fairytale dresses and Mad Hatter’s Tea Party-type outfits perfect for a good story, but morally wrong.

No-one can kiss a frog and return it to its human state, and even if they could, there’s no guarantee that they would be a handsome prince.

Frog (via Disney’s The Princess and the Frog)

The same idea can be applied to fashion: you can buy a fancy dress and wear it but there’s no guarantee that it will make you look and feel good, no matter how much you pay for it.

Those perfect shots of beautiful, skinny models with absurdly good facial bone structure and wearing diamond-encrusted, shiny, well-fitting clothes with a killer price-tag too? They took a long time to make: the right model with the right look/hair colour/eye colour/skin colour, the right outfit, the right lighting, the right make-up, the right hairstyle.

Chanel advert (via femalefatal.com)

Dressing up was fun when we were children: you could be Batman but also wear Superman’s cape at the same time; you could be a princess with fairy wings; you could dress up in your mum’s clothes and wear as much of her makeup as possible; you could go food shopping with your mum while wearing Spiderman costume and no-one would care.

Now, everything you wear has to “work”, otherwise people will judge you. If you don’t fit the clothes sizes in clothes shops, you feel ostracised by the fashion world (and by society). You envy thinner people, even if you are yourself skinny. You might have dieted everyday of your life since your teens. You might push the desire to be skinny too far and exercise compulsively, purge yourself or starve yourself, just to fit into clothing made for a shop mannequin.

Years ago, people made their own clothes to fit themselves or their loved ones, because you had to, or because you wanted something unique. Every item was hand-crafted lovingly. And it was part of everyday life.

Old sewing patterns (via Pinterest)

Now, paying someone else to make clothes for you is commonplace and we don’t have to time to make our own. We let others dictate what we wear, when to wear it, or how to wear it. It doesn’t matter how much you spend: if it makes you look better than anything or anyone else, then the cost is worth it.

But is it?

With the fashion world as it is today, the odds are that our clothes will be out of fashion in a few months, or even weeks. Then we find ourselves back at the beginning again.

I buy one or two key items in each season which will work with anything and which can be adapted to any season, that way I spend less money but feel comfortable in the clothes which I picked carefully.

Fashion is like a story: you pick out the most important bits which are useful to you:

  • In fashion, you can pick a leather jacket which will work with most outfits, maybe in black or brown.
  • In fiction, from Cinderella, you can pick out the message in the story: If you pretend to be something you’re not, it will inevitably backfire on you, so being yourself is usually the best thing to do, if you’re lucky, you might be appreciated for that.

Cinderella’s transformation (via Pinterest)

The spell wore off at midnight… (via bplusmovieblog.wordpress.com)

Fashion magazines are beautiful stories about that tiny percentage of people who look “perfect” but who have their own flaws underneath the image which they portray.

Remember:

Life is too short to worry about fully conforming to the standards set by the fashion industry – be healthy and happy the way you are.

Reality is more beautiful than make-believe.

This post is related to my trip to the London Book Fair 2014 (see my earlier blog post), and covers my notes and though from when I attended the seminar:

Where are the Women in Translation?

I thought this was a really interesting discussion between a 4 woman panel, watched by a mainly female audience! Important points were made:

  • Gatekeeping seems to be keeping female translators from getting into the market.
  • Only 2 women were on the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year and 1 got to the shortlist.
  • No female authors have won the IFFP but 9 female translators have shared the prize with their male authors.
  • Apparently some women are sexist against women in translation (?)
  • Women are not as assertive as men – female translators have more things to do (day jobs, raising a family, etc) and have less time to pitch books.
  • Some people think it’s OK to not publish women’s books, but if they were gay, black, etc, there would be a riot!
  • There’s a “chicken and egg” situation: women are not being published because they don’t pitch books, and there’s an anecdotal belief that women don’t sell, so they don’t do it.
  • Men only read men’s books, but women will read anything.
  • Women might be of high regard in their home country, but they’re struggling to get into foreign book markets, even though the men have no problem anywhere!
  • Men’s books are still being studied more in universities, and there’s few women’s books on academic booklists.
  • Good books may be coming out but they disappear immediately because there are no reviews of them, whether good or bad!

There was a discussion about the situation in Korea, and Krys Lee pointed out:

  • A few decades ago it was all male translators, and now there are lots of women.
  • More women are winning prizes.
  • The staff in the Korean publishers may be women, but the big decisions are still being made by men.
  • Korean literature is supported by the government, with translators being funded from a young age.

The panel suggested ways to solve the problem with the lack of women in translation:

  • Boycott the London Review of Books because they don’t feature enough books in translation by women.
  • Start a manifesto.
  • Demand diversity.
  • Vote with your feet: people need to read more books by women in translation.
  • Raise awareness.

There was also an interesting bit about covers on books by women, with them being given stereotypical covers with naked women on them and marketed as “chick lit” when they are not that genre. It was felt that people should “let books be books” (like in the recent campaign against gender-biased covers in Children’s books suggests -see the Guardian for more info), and get rid of the naked women on the covers because they are not like lad’s magazines, but maybe such covers should be covered up so people only judge them by their title not their cover! (After all, there have been campaigns to put blank covers over the fronts of lad’s magazines in shops to hide the photos of naked women on them because they are inappropriate.)

I really enjoyed the seminar, and learnt a lot from it! I’m determined to find some of these great female authors and translators and get their books the attention they deserve!