Jeanette Winterson is probably the most quotable author I have ever read, especially for those of us who live passionately, love obsessively, and believe that art can (and will) change the world. If you ever want a cool literary tattoo just read one of her books—you are sure to find some kind of quote that resonates. With the release of her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? in October (in the U.K—official U.S release date is March 2012), the harsh reality of Winterson's upbringing stand out even more starkly against the layers of her non-linear, heavily metaphorical, fictional work.
Sometimes the best books about sex simply state the obvious: masturbation feels good, most women require direct clitoral stimulation to orgasm, fat people have and (gasp!) enjoy sex (and with all kinds of partners!). Hanne Blank's newly released edition of Big, Big Love is a prime example of how sex shame can be fought hardest by basic acknowledgment and normalization, sending us the big, big, loving message that no one should be deprived of a pleasurable, healthy and satisfying sex life. The second-coming (har-har) of Big, Big, Love (first published in 2000) is more of a total overhaul of the old version, complete with new illustrations, modern gender- and sexual-identity inclusion, interviews that tackle everything from "fatshion" to the carnal joys of flesh-folds, and a current resource list that makes it clear that Blank isn't the only one having, promoting, and writing about hot n' heavy, sexy, sexy sex.
Critic and poet Wayne Koestenbaum has written a new book that is not what I'd call a "feel-good read." I could call it some other things instead, like "queasy" or "discomfiting," or I could take Koestenbaum's sentiments and try to protect myself from the inherent humiliation of the written word by not writing anything about it at all. Except if I didn't write anything it would make for a very boring Bibliobitch post, so I guess I'll take a deep breath, aware that I'm risking exactly what this book discusses, and tell you a little bit about Koestenbaum's Humiliation.
Dorianne Laux's fifth book of poetry, The Book of Men, was released earlier this year. Spoiler alert: It is NOT ACTUALLY A BOOK OF MEN. It is a book of earth, and sex, and war, and food, and even a book of Cher. Yep. Cher. After reading The Book of Men I immersed myself in Laux's other books, and have emerged remembering what is best about reading poems.
Inside This Place, Not of It: Stories from Women's Prisons is the ninth book in the Voice of Witness series, which carries the Studs Turkel torch by using oral history to share stories from the margins of America. Inside This Place has thirteen accounts from people who have been—and several who remain—incarcerated in women's prisons. Editors Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman and a team of nineteen interviewers conducted over seventy interviews with thirty individuals over the course of ten months.
The latest book to grace the shelves of Bitch's virtual bookstore is Who is Ana Mendieta?. Part comic book, part eulogy, and part social critique, this book is a unique graphic retelling of the life and legacy of conceptual and land artist Ana Mendieta by artists Christine Redfern and Caro Caron.
"Our life here is just like an old horror movie," muses the loquacious, inscrutable Raquel Motherwell near the end of Rebecca Wolff's debut novel, The Beginners. "It's like the skeleton of the horror novel hanging in the closet with all the suits and dresses that we never wear. Young couple moves to small New England town. House drafty, locals suspicious. Strange friends, omens of doom. Unreliable narrator. Cows lowing in the fields, arcane pagan religious festivals."
The Beginners does play tantalizingly on Raquel's friendly and familiar formula for a hair-raising tale, though the reader learns early on that one shouldn't trust any story Raquel's telling. We also can't trust her husband, Theo. And to make matters worse, the unreliable narrator that Raquel so self-referentially mentions is actually neither Raquel nor Theo. That distinction belongs to Ginger Pritt, the precocious fifteen-year-old who guides us along her dreamy and sometimes sinister path of awakening in the tiny Massachusetts town of Wick.
What if the Rapture happened, but it wasn't like anyone had expected? In fact, what if "Rapture" might not be the right word, considering that the millions who vanished were of numerous different faiths and the date didn't align with anyone's holy texts? How would the people who lost everyone they loved live with their grief, and how would untouched families manage their guilt?
The Kirkus Review hails The Leftovers as Tom Perrotta's "most ambitious book," a claim that at first seems obvious for a writer whose previous works have centered on realistic suburban angst. However, despite its more imaginative set-up, The Leftovers is about exactly the same things as Perrotta's other novels: struggling to find contentment, doomed love affairs, and growing up.
Mary is not happy. Simply put, her husband, Joel, is a slob: He leaves garbage, wet towels, and dirty clothes around and ignores her (or, worse, tells her to "chillax") when she brings these habits up. At the start of the story, Mary decides to keep a tally of the times that Joel annoys her and the times he pleases her, with the goal of reevaluating their relationship after six months... and possibly ending it.
Despite the dodgy politics of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Lisbeth Salander is an interesting character from a feminist perspective because she is a rare detective on the outside, with no faith in the system to produce a just result.