Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “media”

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #101: Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis

This is a tricky novel to review, as it had elements I both loved and hated. I know it has generated some strong reviews on both sides of the divide, and I would recommend that people read it with a measure of open-mindedness, a sense of humor, patience—and perhaps a dictionary of British slang in hand. And if you are easily offended, this book is not for you.

This is the story of the title character Lionel, an amoral thug from a low-class dystopic London (dubbed Diston in the novel) who rampages his way through the novel causing the reader to cringe at every turn. He makes his living as a “debt collector” with the help of two alcohol-and-Tabasco-fueled pit bulls, earned his anti-social behavior order (ASBO; get it?) at the tender age of 3, and views his regular stints in jail as moments of calm where “at least you know where you are.” Women are an unknowable source of angst, friends can’t be trusted, and the future doesn’t exist for the likes of Lionel. Money is all.

Our anti-hero is the youngest of 7 dysfunctional offspring from a variety of disappearing fathers, whose promiscuous mother Grace finished her baby-making by age 19, and then began a slow slide into dementia. Her daughter Cilla is dead at the start of the novel, and Cilla’s 15-year-old mixed-race son is being “raised” by Uncle Lionel, just six years his senior. The best advice “Uncle Li” can offer his nephew Desmond is to learn to use a knife and to choose porn over sex. However, Des yearns to find true love, to go to college, and is teaching himself languages and philosophy in between driving cabs to help defray costs.

The lonely Des gets seduced into having sex with his 39-year-old “grandmum,” and the rest of the novel is overlaid with his terror over how the murderous Lionel will respond to this when it ultimately comes out. But before that can happen, Lionel hits a lotto jackpot, winning himself a vast fortune which both gives him license to  gratify his every low desire and simultaneously takes away his raison d’etre. Lionel disappears into celebrity nightmare, is captured by a gold-digger smarter than him, and is pursued and mocked at every turn by the sensationalist media. We follow Lionel’s descent into hell—hysterically funny at times and yet painfully sad and often horrific at others—along with the simultaneous evolution of Des’ relationship with his lover Dawn into marriage, and eventual fatherhood.

Amis’ novel has been described by some as a sort of Dickensian commentary on the decline of the social order in which we live, and I found that when I managed to decipher the sometimes unintelligible British slang and get past the sometimes unnecessarily grotesque scenes, there was penetrating satire here definitely worth the slog.

Mandazon’s Cannonball Read #CBR4 Review #2: Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a great book to read if you are new to media analysis and feminism, or want to gain an elementary understanding of the challenges in raising a daughter.  I appreciated Ms. Orenstein’s personal look into the gives and takes of raising a media-conscious daughter in a sex and body conscious society, but I was disappointed in the dearth of statistical evidence to back up her claims.  I would also not recommend this book to anyone who has taken an Intro to Women’s Studies class – you already know everything in this book.

Cinderella At My Daughter focuses on the animated and manufactured Disney princesses  (everyone from Cinderella to Miley to Mulan), our culture’s obsession and pressure for girls to associate with the color pink, consuming, make-up, dieting, and performing, and the virgin-whore dichotomy.

My favorite chapter in the book, “Just Between You, Me, and My 622 BFFs” focuses on the problem of living your life already through your next tweet or your next profile picture or funny status update.  As Ms. Orenstein summarizes, it’s “processing daily experiences as they occur, packaging life as you live it. ”   I started a Facebook account when I was a Freshman in college, when it was still known as “The Facebook” and it was only open to select four-year universities.  We had the option of posting a single profile picture, and there were no status updates, no photo albums, and no chat features.  Still to this day, every new status update I make or picture I upload makes me stop and pause – will this come back to haunt me in a professional or political future life?  What would my friends think of me if I post this?  Every part of my social identity is on display, and I am well past my anxiety-ridden adolescence and I still get concerned.  Ms. Orenstein explains that young girls are already so adequately primed to experience their sexuality and their emotions through how they look, that they are primed to consume and take part in these social networking sites that make every part of their identities on display: “Six hundred twenty-two people can witness everything she writes, every picture she posts.  Six hundred twenty-two people can pass that information on to their 622 friends.  Six hundred twenty-two people are watching her, judging her, at least in theory, every hour of every day.  How does that influence a child’s development?”

As I stated in the opening paragraph, this book has a lot of excellent qualities, but I do wish the author provided more statistical evidence to support her ideas.  I gave this book 3 stars – a good piece of non-fiction if you are new to media analysis or feminism, but I would also suggest this book to anyone who has a new daughter, niece, sister.

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