Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Bibliophile's Dream Vacation, New Martian Trailer, David "Ducky" McCallum Interview, Dietland by Sarai Walker and I'll Have What She's Having by Rebecca Harrington

Airbnb: 'A New Bookseller Every Fortnight'

Now THIS is my idea of the perfect vacation! I have longed to be a bookstore owner since childhood, and I've loved Scotland since I was a teenager and developed a crush on David McCallum and Sean Connery (and later, Ewan MacGregor and Gerard Butler). Unfortunately, this is a somewhat costly venture, including airfare, so this trip will have to remain on my "Bucket List" for the time being.

"Nestled into the pristine lowlands, the Open Book is a charming
bookshop with apartment above in the heart of Wigtown, Scotland's
National Book Town. Live your dream of having your very own bookshop by
the sea in Scotland... for a week or two."

This is the Airbnb pitch for the "first ever bookshop holiday/residency
experience <>," sponsored by the Wigtown Festival, during which guests can "play-bookshop for a week or
two. We'll give you your very own bookshop, and apartment above,
supported by a team of friendly volunteers and bookshop sellers to make
your trip as lovely as possible....

"Residents will be expected to carry out all the normal duties of a
bookseller including:

* Opening/closing the shop during normal working hours.
* Welcoming visitors
* Selling books (stating the obvious)
* Staffing, stocking, creating awesome window displays and basically
putting your own stamp on the shop."

Recently, Lee Miller spent two weeks as proprietor of Wigtown's Open
Book; read about his experience here

My son and I loved this book, so we're eagerly anticipating the film's release, right before my wedding anniversary on October 5!
Two new trailers are out for Ridley Scott's The Martian
based on Andy Weir's novel, Indiewire reported. Matt Damon, Jessica
Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara,
Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis
and Chiwetel Ejiofor co-star in the movie that opens October 2.

Nifty article on David McCallum’s Role in Man From UNCLE:

It was a complete coincidence that I read Dietland by Sarai Walker and I'll Have What She's Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington one after the other last week. That said, though they both are about dieting, they're opposites when it comes to POV and message. 
Dietland is a brilliant novel about a young woman Alicia "Plum" Kettle who is fat and full of self-loathing, so much so that she tries to be invisible in society as much as possible, with a work from home job and very little social life. Society humiliates and shuns fat women constantly, while sending out messages that no woman, no matter how thin, is ever good enough just as she is. Women and girls are expected to pay into the billion dollar diet and exercise industry and worship at the altar of the "beauty" industry, which sends out its message of impossible standards through women's magazines like the one that Plum works for as an advice columnist pretending to be her boss. Kirkus Reviews provides the blurb: Hilarious, surreal, and bracingly original, Walker's ambitious debut avoids moralistic traps to achieve something rarer: a genuinely subversive novel that's also serious fun. At just over 300 pounds, Plum Kettle is waiting for her real life to start: she'll be a writer. She'll be loved. She'll be thin. In the meantime, she spends her days ghostwriting advice to distraught teenage girls on behalf of a popular teen magazine ("Dear Kitty, I have stretch marks on my boobs, please help"), meticulously counting calories ("turkey lasagna (230)"), and fantasizing about life after weight-loss surgery. But when a mysterious young woman in Technicolor tights starts following her, Plum finds herself drawn into an underground feminist community of radical women who refuse to bow to oppressive societal standards. Under the tutelage of Verena Baptist, anti-diet crusader and heiress to the Baptist diet fortune (a diet with which Plum is intimately familiar), Plum undertakes a far more daring—and more dangerous—five-step plan: to live as her true self now. Meanwhile, a violent guerrilla group, known only as "Jennifer," has emerged, committing acts of vigilante justice against misogynists. As her surgery date nears and Jennifer's acts grow increasingly drastic, Plum finds she's at the center of what can only be described as a literal feminist conspiracy—and she's transforming into a version of herself she never knew existed. But while it would be easy for the book to devolve into a tired parable about the virtues of loving yourself just the way you are, Walker's sharp eye and dry humor push it away from empty platitudes and toward deeper and more challenging turf. Ultimately, for all the unsettling pleasure of Walker's splashier scenarios—and there are many—it's Plum's achingly real inner life that gives the novel its arresting emotional weight. Part Fight Club, part feminist manifesto, an offbeat and genre-bending novel that aims high—and delivers.
I'm not quite sure why nearly every review I've read of Dietland compares it to Fight Club, which was, in my opinion, a deeply misogynistic movie that I loathed from an author who seems to despise women, but if it is because of the radical "Jennifer" who kills a bunch of rapists and serial killers in Dietland, I don't think that is the same thing as a bunch of men beating the crap out of each other in secret because they feel it makes them more "manly." Oh, and the main character is also suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder and blows up the credit card industry in his town to get out of debt. Again, not the same thing as bringing a bunch of slimebags who rape and murder women and girls to justice.  As someone who has been fat for most of my life (and then dieted my way to being "normal" sized for several years), I knew exactly where Plum was coming from. I empathized with her pain and anguish over never feeling like she'd fit in, and wanting to disappear because of the way people, mostly men, treat larger women with scorn and cruelty. I understood Plum's depriving herself on all the various diets, knowing after awhile that they are never going to work, but being unable to go off of them because that's how she's lived her life, in a state of self deprivation and starvation, offset by binges when her body was desperate for sustenence. I just found myself wondering why it seemed to take so long for Plum to realize that fat is a feminist issue, and that she is beautiful and worthy of life just as she is, with all her kind hearted generosity and courage (and many talents) intact. I cheered when she began to talk back to the dirtbags who harrassed her in restaurants, and when she started to wear clothing that was bright and suited her physical form, curves and all. I found myself wishing that there really was a Calliope House to help women learn to value themselves, and that there was a real Jennifer to right the wrongs against women/girls that go unnoticed or are dismissed because there are too many misogynistic men in positions of power in this world who prefer to think of females as disposable. Walker's prose is clean and muscular, and her plot forthright and fast. I give this novel an A+, and if I were able to do so, I'd hand out copies of Dietland at every high school and college in America, and make it required reading. 
I'll Have What She's Having is a much lighter non-fiction book, in which the author goes on the diets that celebrities have publicized either on their websites/blogs or in book form. Harrington glibly comments on these weird and wacky food plans, and while most of them are completely unsustainable, just imagining these women eating these bizarre foods day in and day out is amusing, if sad (Sad because it is ridiculous that women are expected to look a certain way, be a certain size and if they aren't, they're ridiculed and brutalized by the media and the public). It is a shame that a number of the older celebrities mentioned used bad fad diets and cigarettes to maintain their figures, which lead to disease and death. But Harrington doesn't focus on that, she's too busy writing about how awful most of these diet foods taste, and blathering on about her worship of Gwyneth Paltrow, whose blog "Goop" is often lambasted as shallow, stupid and ego-driven. While I admire Paltrow as an actress and singer, I find worship of her lifestyle and her blog just bizarre and sickening. At any rate, Harrington doesn't answer the question posed by anyone with a brain reading her book, which is "WHY would anyone eat this crap and subject themselves to a life of deprivation and pain just to look like a celebrity?" But she does allow a peek inside of celebrity culture and lifestyle, and does it with humor, which is a plus. I'd give this book a B, and recommend it to those who find snarky articles on celebrities good reading.

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