Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Build a Girl readalong: In which I finally join the conversation


Or, sure, finger guns.

I joke, though. How to Build a Girl is its OWN gold star. So. Joanna begins having sex, and lots of it, and this brings up So Many Issues. Like female sexuality being primarily mediated through the male gaze. Or how Joanna has to address herself as 'massive slag' in order to feel better about feeling like a massive slag, or as a preventative measure against feeling bad when others will (inevitably) point out her massive slagness. Also, the word 'swashfuckler' is involved.

And what I love most about this book is its ability to address these things HEAD ON in a way that should feel overly teachy and messagey (didactic? Am I trying to say didactic?) but doesn't. Partially because it usually comes in the middle of a pile of hilarity, and is itself written with WIT and HUMOR, but also because the things she says feel simultaneously eternal and fresh. Like, I always knew this thing, but here is a way of articulating it that is so spot-on that I feel like I never knew what I meant.

Me, the entire book.

Like about how teenagers default to cynicism because 'it's a million times easier to be cynical and wield a sword, than it is to be open-hearted and stand there, holding a balloon and a birthday cake, with the infinite potential to look foolish.' Which makes me want to be nicer to teenagers even when they are making it sooooo difficult. But she also points out that 'when cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible. Cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas.'

GROOVE to that truthiness.

Every time anyone posts a quote I'm like, YESS. YES, THAT. Because every sentence in this book is crafted, and not, like, Booker Prize Shortlist crafted (shut up, you know what I mean), but JOYOUSLY crafted. Like, language is such FUN and you can make it do so many THINGS and it is evocative as HELL and BEHOLD MY POWER, AS I MAKE IT DANCE TO MY TUNE.

So I leave you with this: 'I haven't yet learned the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind.'

And hey, how difficult was it to stop at the end of this week's section, because of THAT THING SHE SAYS? (Completely non-subtle attempt to get you to pre-order the book. But for real, good cliffhanger.)


Kayleigh Murphy said...

Yay, does this mean all your cable and expiry issues are resolved?

Your post is spot on ma'am, I absolutely undersand what you mean about it not feeling didactic even though it probably should given the subject matter. Writing for/about teens is so hard because when you're in your 30s/40s you're too far away to really remember how hard even the simplest things are but when you're a teen you're too wrapped up to really see what's happening. So I think Caitlin should get all the gold stars for managing to write about teens in a way that feels authentic while also giving a little bit of distance from the situation.

Red said...

I am impressed (and very happy) that Moran manages to deal with topics that could EASILY go after school special and totally doesn't let that happen. Probably because she's amazing. I'm sure that helps.

Ellie said...

I've basically underlined about 40% of this book because SO BEAUTIFULLY PUT, EVERY TIME. Every few pages I want to drag Caitlin Moran off Twitter and into my living room, give her a biscuit and wring her hand enthusiastically. That came out creepier than it sounded in my head, didn't it?

In other news, that Sherlock GIF is doing funny things to my insides. SAVED.

Laura said...

You're SO right about the writing. Like, I think Caitlin's amazing, but it's not the kind of writing that wins fancy awards, it is just putting some genuinely exciting and awesome sentences together and then just doing that ALL THE TIME. Yes. Very good stuff.

Jen said...

this book is on giveaway on Goodreads till August 17th? I think if anyone feels so inspired to enter the drawing...(maybe I shouldn't be watering down my chance to win by telling others about it, hm ;0)

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