Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland

I hated this book. Plainly put this book is PWP (porn without plot). It’s the story of a young girl who loses her virginity to the love of her life, loses of the love of her life, uses her body to survive and ends up being reunited with the love of her life.

I read this book over the summer and it was a struggle. First of all there is no plot. Second of all there was a lot of rape in this book and there was a lot of people justifying that rape which made me so angry. I kept an angry journal which I will now include some of those thoughts with you, my audience.

May 20, 2017

“I’m curious to see how explicit this novel will be considering it is about a prostitute and is the most famous banned book of all time according to the cover on my copy.”

“Can men write about women’s sexuality?”

“Can a man accurately represent a woman, or vice versa?”

“Can I as a woman trust Cleeland’s interpretation of Fanny Hill?” (Basically can I trust him to write an accurate account of the life of a prostitute)
May 24, 2017

To give this a little context I was thinking of the novel Memoirs of a Geisha and how it too was written by a man and was not an actual memoir.

“What is it about prostitutes or women of pleasure that entitles men to write stories about them? What do they know of female sexuality?”

“Even my brother thinks that it’s weird that a man wrote a book about a prostitute.”

“They [the people in the brothel] are literally making Fanny feel as if she wants to be a prostitute and join this little club of theirs. That is their job but when you think about it, it sounds so evil. She’s so young and easily manipulated. She’s being bullied into accepting this life because she’s afraid of being turned out. She doesn’t know any better because her parents never expected this kind of life for her. Prostitution for some girls is a way to survive. That’s not the case for all girls especially those tricked or forced into prostitution. It’s awful but a fact of life.”

“If you make the prison comfortable enough why would anyone want to leave? She was content and happy. She was cared for and she really had no idea of what was in store for her. The book almost makes it seem as if being a prostitute is a happy life full of pleasure and while these girls may have got some pleasure from sex, I just don’t see that kind of life as being happy.”

May 25, 2017

“This man took her virginity so of course she is looking at him like he is a Greek god.” I was questioning the reliability of Fanny as a narrator in the way she described her first lover simply because he was the man who not only took her virginity but showed her love and care.

May 28, 2017

“Mrs. Jones is evil. She saw an opportunity and took it but how evil do you have to be to take advantage of a poor girl who lost her lover, and her baby and promise her to another man?”

“The female version of Casanova.” (I don’t know if I quite agree with that statement now)

May 30, 2017

pg. 80 of my version “Was the maid really resisting or did she just give up in the end because she knew it was pointless to fight? Did she resign herself to being raped because he was the master of the house or did she want him to have sex with her? It’s hard to tell what she was feeling because from Fanny’s perspective it didn’t seem like she was putting up much of a fight but that could be because the girl didn’t feel as if she could put up a fight.”

June 1, 2017

“It’s interesting to read a book about a woman that seduces a young man. It’s almost always the other way around even when the author is female. This Cleland man is an interesting character to have written such a book. It’s also interesting to read about a man who loses his virginity. These just aren’t topics brought up very often.”

June 5, 2017

“These girls are giving accounts of losing their virginity and all of them sound ridiculous and not at all normal experiences. They are overly sexualized and so far the first thing I have come across in this novel that sounds like it was written specifically for a erotica novel.” (I don’t necessarily know if I agree with that now either)

“Harriet was raped by a man and because she felt it was her fault that she put herself in this position she forgives him! (rape culture). It’s crazy to think this kind of thinking has been going on this long. I am sure some people who read this novel when it first cam actually listened to and believed this. She put herself in that situation by FAINTING and the man took advantage of that and chose to rape her. I cannot for the life of me imagine a woman reading this and agreeing with it and be happy that Harriet forgave her rapist and claimed to love him.”

“His passions overcame him and clearly she must have been asking for it. BS!”

July 4, 2017

“This book makes my skin crawl because of everyone’s attitudes about sex. He is pleased he hurt her in the act of taking her virginity and that shouldn’t be the case. I really do not like this book to because of the content, I admit I have read worse, but because of the attitude towards women, sex, virginity, and even rape. No one falls in love with their rapist unless they are seriously mentally unstable.”

 

I didn’t write any notes over the last part of the novel but honestly by that point I was so frustrated and angry I’m not surprised I didn’t keep any notes.

-A

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Something New: Tales From A Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley

This last couple of weeks has been rough and I have been slacking in the graphic novel department or reading at for that matter. I did read Thornhill by Pam Smy the other day in under an hour but I feel like if I wrote a review it would spoil it. Seriously though it is an amazing book and you all should find it and read it.

I love Lucy Knisley and that’s pretty serious only after having read two of her books but I have her other two awaiting me. She is fun, quirky, and it is really fun reading about her life.

I loved this graphic novel because it tells the story of Lucy getting married and honestly I have no idea how she did it. She literally wrote this graphic novel and planned out the graphics all the while planning her actual wedding. I seriously have no idea how she did it. I don’t have a boyfriend nor I am even thinking about marriage but I know when it happens I will beyond stressed out so kudos to you Lucy!

Lucy not only draws fun pictures to illustrate her wedding planning adventures but she includes real pictures including her dress, which spoiler alert has POCKETS!!! I own two dresses that have pockets and if I could find more I would. Sometimes the only reason I will wear a cardigan is so I can have some pockets. I’m also really tempted to sew my own wedding dress just so I can sew in pockets.

Lucy highlights some really important social issues surrounding marriage, questions some of the more traditional stuff and reached back in her family and John’s family roots as well to bring in some of their traditions. It’s just so neat to read about what Lucy and John chose to do for their wedding and how they made it their own. I love the idea of making your wedding your own.

This book made me burst out in laughter and giggle all the while reading about Lucy’s antics as a stressed out bride ,some of the crazy things she did in the name of love (stealing a cat), and her ultimate realization about marriage.

-A

Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

First off Mom if you are reading this, don’t cry.

It’s the most unexpected books that you end up loving the most. I didn’t know what to expect when I pulled a 500 page graphic novel off the shelf at Barnes and Noble but I knew I wanted it. I really didn’t know what to expect other than it was a memoir about a girl who dealt with anorexia. That is not the only thing Katie Green dealt with and my heart broke again and again as I read her book. Not only because of what Katie dealt with but because I saw myself many times in her drawings and it breaks my heart to think I will have students like me, like Katie, like countless other students who never got the help they needed.

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My anxiety started around the 8th grade and Facebook has been so kind to remind me of that dark phase of my life. In a way though it is reminding me of how far I have come and how even though that scared little girl is still part of me she no longer defines me.

Katie doesn’t know exactly when her eating disorder started but she thinks it was around middle school. Middle school is a rough time and for me that is when it all started as well. She was looking for control and sometimes eating is the only thing people have control over. She controlled how she ate, how many calories she ate and what she ate. Sometimes she just didn’t eat because she had already eaten too much for the day. This continued for a long time until her parents found out and after several failed attempts with doctors, specialists, dietitians her father took her to a rather unconventional therapist.

It would take Katie years and one incident to reach into her subconscious to remember what was really happening during those sessions but that is when her road to recovery really started. She experienced new problems along the way including binge eating, attempted suicide and depression but she never let those stop her from recovering.

I love the pictures in this book and how Katie depicts her illness like a black cloud hanging over her. It’s a hard book to read but one that is worth it because mental health isn’t something people talk about. So many people have mental health issues that it should be talked about more but sadly it isn’t. I know for me at least I never wanted to burden people with my problems, especially my parents. I would just hide myself in my room and cry for no reason at all. I constantly compared myself to my friends and asked myself why I couldn’t get my life together like them, be more outgoing; be more outside myself.

Being an introvert with anxiety can be extremely difficult sometimes.

Katie constantly looked in the mirror and saw herself as fat, disgusting and spinning out of control.

The road to recovery is long and hard and full of a lot of setbacks but don’t let your problems define you because they are not you. You are not your problems, they may be a part of you but they are not you.

It took me a long time to figure out who I am as a person but the minute I started accepting that I am introvert with anxiety who hates the sun, snow and would love to live in Seattle because of all the rain I started to accept the not so parts about myself as well. I started to notice when anxiety was preventing me from doing something and I started to notice I stop letting anxiety run my life.

I’ve been writing poetry about my anxiety and being able to see it in words and on the page helps. It makes it real and not just in my head. Katie Green drew. She went to Art College and then she wrote a graphic novel. She admits she isn’t perfect either, but she doesn’t have to be. We all have demons we deal with everyday. For Katie Green it was an eating disorder that lead to other problems ( I just don’t want to spoil the book) and for me it is anxiety and insomnia.  We just have to learn to not let them define us.

-A

P.S. If you haven’t watched To The Bone on Netflix yet you need to.

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Shamela and Anti-Pamela

As much as I struggled to read Pamela reading Shamela and Anti-Pamela was not that enjoyable either. First of all both stories were written to warn young men of conniving maid-servants who would extort them for money. It totally ignores the abusive relationship, the rape that happens, the rape culture and in fact the authors of Shamela and Anti-Pamela almost seem to be encouraging rape culture. They take the scenes where Mr. B- assaulted Pamela and turn it around so it was Pamela’s idea in the first place. I have read and watched too much about women getting assaulted to just ignore it and be like “Oh, she must have encouraged it” because that is rape culture. Clearly Pamela was bringing that on herself because she was secretly seducing Mr. B- this whole time. It can’t be the man’s fault because in this society and time period it was never the upper class man’s fault.

I laughed at some parts but overall I was angry and disgusted. Not that I really liked Pamela either because it too seemed to be encouraging rape culture by saying Pamela’s reward for defending herself was marrying the man who was assaulting her. However, I feel like Pamela was sending a much different message than Anti-Pamela or Shamela was sending. The story of Shamela basically said Pamela was a farce and it really was a story about a girl who seduced Mr. B- for his money and was sleeping with Parson Williams on the side. It made it out to be Pamela’s fault and so all the sexual assault that went on in Pamela wasn’t real and in fact she was encouraging it because she wanted Mr. B-‘s money. Anti-Pamela is the story of a girl who goes around sleeping with various men for money basically the opposite of the virtuous Pamela but all in all it sending the message that all young servant girls are out to seduce young wealthy men and you must be aware of them. It glossed over all the sexual assault in the book and only addressed it as Pamela’s fault. It is very frustrating to read and not very enjoyable except for when Mr. B- was called Mr. Booby because that is funny.

I can see the critique being made by these authors but as someone in the twenty-first century I can see how these parodies perpetuate rape culture. Not that Richardson was doing a better job but at least he was acknowledging that young women do get assaulted unlike Fielding or strangely Eliza Haywood. I would have thought Haywood, as a woman, would have at least addressed that but she seems more focused on the scandalous tale of a mistress and her “adventures”. There is questions of rape in her novel “Love in Excess” but it is also questionable if those are better defined as rape fantasies. I don’t know what critique Haywood was making because it almost seems as if she is just making fun of Pamela whereas Fielding is making a specific critique which I disagree with wholeheartedly.

Both these parodies bring up really interesting questions about the times they were written in, why they were written and what they are possibly saying about love, rape, seduction, and the overall marriage game.

-A

#IMWAYR Page by Paige and Ghosts!

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This weekend between readings of Pamela I read Page by Paige and today I read Ghosts! Page by Paige written by Laura Lee Gulledge is literally the graphic novel of my life. Just like Paige I was quite and lived a lot of my youth in my head, writing out stories in my case, and not really branching outside the pages of my notebook. It wasn’t until I got to college that I really started to bloom and it took Paige moving to New York to find herself outside of the pages of her sketchbook.

I love graphic novels because A) they don’t take long to read at all and B) the illustrations are always so beautiful and bring the book to life!

Page by Paige is a powerful coming of age story that uses pictures to tell the story and the  pictures are just beautiful. After Page moves to New York with her parents she finds herself using her sketch notebook as a way to cope. She has a list of rules and as the months go by Paige finds applying those rules to not only her drawings but her life as well.

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I also read Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier just today and I loved it! The drawings are adorable, sincere and might make you cry.

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When Caterina has to move to Northern California for her sister’s health she thinks the world has ended. When she discovers the town where she moved to is full of ghosts she wants to run away and never come back. When Caterina finally meets the ghosts she freaks out, a lot, but her little sister Maya convinces her that maybe there is more to them than just whisps of air.

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What happens though when Maya gets too sick to go the Day of the Dead Party and Caterina must face the ghosts alone?

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This story made me laugh and cry and laugh again. Caterina’s little sister has cystic fibrosis and the way the family dynamic is written is amazing. It’s a great story that deals with loss, death and the fear of losing someone you love. It’s an amazing graphic novel that everyone should read.

-A