Earlier this week the Irish Times published a review of writer Dolly Alderton’s debut novel Ghost. The review was negative and its tone caused some major controversy on social media. There were plenty of people who believed the review shouldn’t have been published and was overly harsh. Something that was deemed even worse considering the novel was her first fictional release. I wasn’t planning on discussing it all because I haven’t read the book in question. In fact, I’ve not ready anything written by Alderton so I wasn’t exactly emotionally invested in the saga. This week, something happened to change my mind. Something that wasn’t linked to this story in anyway but certainly got me thinking about it.
Not long after Donald Trump became President of the United States, there was a massive increase in sales of 1984. The George Orwell dystopia received a boost after Kellyanne Conway uttered the phrase “alternative facts” in a TV interview. Everywhere you looked, people were turning to social media to make sure the world knew that they knew how Orwellian it was. That’s the great thing about social media. Thousands of people are having the same original thought at the same time. Just think about what Orwell would have made of Twitter. But I digress. The point is, it seemed that everyone had suddenly decided that we were living in a time that was just as awful as the one Orwell had imagined. In the same way that people had started to see the world as mimicking Gilead, we were suddenly living in a version of Airstrip One. It’s a fun idea but, let’s be honest, it’s total bollocks.
In his essay The Death of the Author, Roland Barthes argued that the only way to read a book was to separate it from its author. According to Barthes, authorial context and intent wouldn’t provide insight into the meaning of the text. Instead, it would limit the amount of meaning a reader could take from it. Giving a text an author before you analyse it was nothing more than a convenient and simple way to understand it. For Barthes, the meaning of a book wasn’t dependent on who the author was but on who the reader was. As we can never really be sure of what an author intended, trying to understand a novel based on who they were as a person would always be flawed. The author, thus, becomes not a God but merely a “scriptor”. They aren’t imposing meaning but merely translating putting the meaning on paper for the reader to untangle themselves.
A few months back, I did Google search and was presented with a warning reminding me that child pornography is illegal. You might be asking what the hell I was searching for that brought me face-to-face with this. It was simple “Lolita as a love story”. I’d seen an article on Twitter a few days before but couldn’t find it when I went back to read it. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it, who wrote it, or what the title was. So I used a vague search term in the hope of finding it. Clearly, Google thought I was up to no good. After all, Lolita isn’t a love story. It’s the story of a predator who uses romantic language to justify grooming of his stepdaughter. It’s part of the genius of the novel and the genius of Vladimir Nabokov. It’s also one of the main reasons that Lolita is one of my all-time favourite books. But I understand that saying this to certain people can bring about the same warning signs as my earlier search did with Google. Even after all this time, there is still such a mystique about the novel because it deals with such a distasteful subject. But I find all the arguments citing the story as immature. What is the point of literature if not to tackle some of the worst aspects of humanity? And anyway, I bet the majority of the people who whine about Lolita are the same people who buy countless psychological thrillers about serial killers.
Twitter is a pretty horrible place to be. All you need to do is look at the Twitterstorm that hit Yorkshire Tea a few weeks ago. On the plus side, it gave us the immortal phrase “Sue, you’re shouting at tea!” On the minus, it showed us how fucking crazy people can be. I used to work for the company that owns Yorkshire Tea and met one of the people on their marketing team. He was a nice guy. He was a really good copywriter and really liked his job. As I’m sure everyone at the Yorkshire Tea marketing team is. Definitely not the kind of people who deserve abuse being hurled at them for something that was beyond their control. But that’s the kind of world that we live in. That a politician can be seen drinking a specific tea and then a whole host of people demand a boycott of the brand in response. Despite the fact that the original post wasn’t an advertisement. The real issue with social media is that it’s fooled people into thinking that their voice deserves to be heard. It’s changed the idea of what freedom of speech means to so many people. It no longer means having the power or right to express your opinions without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty. It means saying whatever the fuck you want and not thinking there are any moral, social, or emotional consequences to them.
As I’ve said countless times already this week, I didn’t get a lot of reading done over Oscars week. I just couldn’t find the time between writing so many posts and watching so many films. Yet, I’ve been determined to continue writing 2 book reviews a week. For one thing, it pushes me to read more and, for another, it gives the blog a better balance between films and reading. In order to catch up, I listened to 2 more audiobooks this weekend. The first was The Child which I reviewed on Monday. The second was a dramatisation of Winnie The Pooh. I was all set to post a review of it today but, instead, I wanted to talk about something that’s been bugging me recently. I was out with some friends last week (none of them are big readers) when I mentioned how many books I’d read last year. They were impressed, which is how you can tell they’re not overly bookish people. Compared to most of you buys I’m an amateur! But, they’re encouragement was quickly displaced with disbelief when I mentioned how useful audiobooks had been in helping me get there. Apparently, it doesn’t count. I know they were joking but, in the bookish world, this attitude still exists. And I’m not here for it.
After finishing my latest read on Sunday, I knew that there was only one option for my Throwback Thursday film this week. I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I watched View From the Top but it must be about 15 years. It was one of those late nights at my friend’s house. I’m not sure why we picked it but it was an experience that I never forgot. Seriously, Gwyenth Paltrow in her purple and orange uniform, shiny purple boots, and massive hair are really difficult to get out of your head. Although, after reading Ayoade’s fantastic analysis, it does worry me that I’m tackling this film too. There is no way I’ll be as shrewd or as funny as he is. I should have done something else. Watched Airplane or something. Maybe a different Gwyenth Paltrow film? Sliding Doors? He does mention Sliding Doors in the book too. Although, I have a bit of a soft spot for that film and I wouldn’t want to have to admit it’s rubbish.
Do you remember when Ricky Gervais was doing interviews about Special Correspondents and decided to lecture everyone about what comedy is? And then it turned out to be dreadful? Yeah, pretty awkward. Well, this week director Martin Scorsese has decided to use an interview discussing the release of his film The Irishman to deride comic book movies. Actually, he didn’t even do that. He simply dismissed them. In an interview with Empire magazine, Scorsese told them he didn’t bother watching Marvel movies: “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema”. Now, of course, Scorsese is in a much stronger position than Gervais was to tell people what’s what but that’s not to say he deserves the final say on what is and isn’t cinema. After all, what is cinema? According to Google, “the production of films as an art or industry.” The MCU sounds like it’s the exact definition of cinema.
It’s been over two weeks since the third season of Stranger Things came out and I finally think it’s okay to rant about it. Especially after seeing a few posts on Instagram this weekend. It’s something I’ve been feeling since I watched the show the weekend it came out and, thankfully, I know I’m not the only one. So, in lieu of my normal Monday post, I’m doing this instead. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good rant though. It’s been nearly 2 months. That’s quite a lot of rage to keep inside. It was bound to find an outlet eventually.
So, you may have noticed that this isn’t a book review. And that’s only partly because I haven’t quite finished Machines Like Me yet. I say partly because I’m trying to convince myself that I haven’t been rubbish at reading this week. That’s not the reason. The real reason is that I needed to talk about this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. Or, more specifically, the reaction to it. Cause this season has divided opinion quite dramatically. And the last few episodes have left a particularly sour taste in people’s mouths. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve found the final series of Game of Thrones to be disappointing. The writing has gone downhill and the storylines are being rushed to fit into the shorter episode run. The focus has been on spectacle instead of the story. Character development has gone out of the window in favour of more CGI dragons. Now, it should go without saying but spoiler warning guys.