Category Archives: Virginie Despentes

King Kong Theory – Virginie Despentes

It does seem that non fiction seems to be something that I can turn to when I having a bit of a problem with reading and ‘King Kong Theory’ which is a set of autobiographical essays by Virginie Despentes was just the thing I needed. Though I have to say it’s not for the faint hearted and you might not want to read my thoughts if you are offended by certain language as Virginie Despentes tells it how it is from the very first paragraph of the book… you have been warned.

“I am writing as an ugly one for the ugly ones; the old hags, the dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckables, the neurotics, the psychos, for all those girls that don’t get a look-in in the universal market of the consumable chick. I’m making no excuses for myself. I’m not complaining. I would never swap places, because it seems to me that being Virginie Despentes is a more interesting business than anything else going on out there.”

Virginie Despentes became one of the most notorious women in France because of her rape-revenge novel, and then film, ‘Baise-Moi’ which I have neither read nor seen – though of course I now want to so I can see what all the fuss was about. In these essays, with titles such as ‘Your Arse or Mine’, ‘Porno Witches’ and ‘She’s So Depraved, You Can’t Rape Her’, she looks at the rape that she endured, her life in prostitution and pornography and how society today doesn’t allow feminists to be true feminists and what should change.

This isn’t a misery memoir and nor does it feel like a book written to shock and sell copies it does read as a true account of a rather notorious woman’s life told with a bluntness and candour that you cant help admiring whilst occasionally wincing at. Its also isn’t a book that is only for women to read, and in fact I would recommend a lot of men give this a go because of the openness of what’s discussed. Despentes isn’t a man hater despite all she has been through, she does look at how male dominated the world is.

“But women still feel the need to say that violence is not the answer. And yet, if men were to fear having their dicks slashed to pieces with a carpet knife should they try to force a woman, they would soon become much better at controlling their ‘masculine’ urges, and understanding that ‘no’ means ‘no’. I wish I’d been able to escape the values instilled in my gender that night, and slit each of their throats, one by one. Instead of having to live with being someone who didn’t dare defend herself, because she’s a woman and violence is not her domain, and the physical integrity of the male body is more important than that of the female.”

It’s hard to say too much more on this book because it’s a short collection of 131 pages of essays and they really need to be read to be believed. If you’re a fan of feminist works then you might find this quite a new, emotionally honest and distinctive voice filled with sadness, anger and courage. Its quite something and it’s a book that will make you uncomfortable and yet change your thoughts about the world all in one and books like that make important reads. 8/10

I was sent this book from the publisher.

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Filed under Review, Serpent's Tail, Virginie Despentes

Latest Reading Arrivals…

I thought as I have gone a fair few book reviews in the last two days that I would put up some pictures of the latest arrivals here in Tooting Towers. I have had some lovely parcels (some people call them promotional items – I call them presents) from some of the publishers which I always greet with great excitement. You can see these below…

The First Person & Other Stories – Ali Smith (Penguin)

I had the pleasure of reading Girl Meets Boy earlier in the year and so far its still one of my favourite reads in ages, I also loved The Incidental when I read that a few years ago. A collection of short stories that are “always intellectually playful, funny and moving’ should be a joy to read.

Mr Toppit – Charles Elton (Penguin)
The cover (or covers… more when I review) of this makes it look like a gothic mystery novel and I adore those. I have high hopes for a debut which seems to have a massive marketing campaign going and took fifteen years to write. The line “and out of the Darkwood Mr Toppit comes, and he comes not for you, or for me, but for all of us” sounds deliciously dark. I have to admit I have started this it just looked to good to savour.

Netherland – Joseph O’Neill (Harper Perenial)
Another one of the Richard and Judy Books of 2009 for which I am doing the challenge. This one is the one that in all honesty (and I will always be honest) has the least appeal to me initially as it seems to be about cricket which I am not a fan of. However its also a book about ‘belonging and not belonging’ which sounds unusual plus it was longlisted for the Man Booker and didnt win which is a good sign. I am more of a fan of the longlisted or shortlisted than the winner.

The Devils Paintbrush – Jake Arnott (Sceptre)
I meant to re-read his novel The Long Firm earlier but didnt manage to get round to it (don’t worry though I will) which is part of his trolgy about gangsters. This scandalous tale is set in Paris in 1903 and is Arnotts first foray into ‘historial fiction’.

The Dog – Kerstin Ekman (Sphere)
Dovegreyreader reviewed this recently and I would never have heard of it if not for her… and the people at NewBooks Magazine who have asked me to review it. It sounds a bit sad though, a puppy getting lost in the wild and having to fight for its survival. However this may actually make the dog loving Non Reader pick up a book after I have finished one for once.

The Prophet Murders – Mehmet Murat Somer (Serpents Tail)
A crime which has the wonderful subtitle of ‘a Hop Ciki Yaya Thriller’ – I am already sold.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon (Harper Perennial)
I cannot count the times that people have told me ‘you will love that book’ its huge so I will be saving it for some very long train journeys I have lined up in a few weeks. The fact its a “heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic” does sound like quirky brilliance so I may very well love it.

King Kong Theory – Virginie Despentes (Serpents Tail)
This book has caused quite a lot of controversy of late (well in the broadsheets at the weekend anyway) and has made me want to read it and from the chapter titles (oh its short autobiographical stories) which I shant print just yet I can see why. Its also very short and short reads are the way forward after Mr Toppit I think.

I also went second hand shopping yesterday and found…

The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff (Phoenix)
After the thought provoking The 19th Wife it seemed like fate when I saw this for 50p. The story is again based on real people this time the “story of Danish painter Einar Dresden, this is a strange and eerily haunting novel about a very unusual love affair between a man who realizes he is really a woman and his remarkable wife” sounds unusual and is currently being made into a film with Nicole Kidman and Charlie Theron in it!

The Leopard – Giuseppe di Lampedusa (Vintage)
I have seen this book listed in so many ‘books you must read’ lists and the like that again for 50p how could I say no? I had no idea what it was about but apparently its a materpiece “is set amongst an aristocratic family, facing social and political changes in the wake of Garibaldi’s invasion of Sicily in 1860” time will tell I sometimes have issues with masterpieces. Love the old Fontana edition I got will feel cultured andretro reading it on the tube.

The Secret River – Kate Grenville (Canongate)
I had been out shopping second hand especially for this. It’s for this reason that charity books are brilliant, money to a good cause and also when your unsure of an author its a good way of trying them before you become addicted and buy everything they do th moment it comes out… or never read them again. I heard Grenville on the Guardian Book Group podcast and despite the fact it pretty much gave everything away (I shant dear readers) I thought I should try it. It is another Man Booker nominee that didnt win so the signs are good I will like it.

As for what I am specifically reading this week after Mr Toppit… mainly short reads including The Dog as mentioned. After a few heavier novels I want some faster fiction plus I had a readers block for a while and short reads are the best medicine for that. I might recah for another Capote maybe. I have also promised Novel Insights (who is on a world tour so wont be blogging till the summer now – selfish) I will read The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood for our mammoth Rogue Book Group and shes stared already!

Any short read recommendations out there? What are you all reading?

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Filed under Ali Smith, Book Spree, Charles Elton, David Ebershoff, Jake Arnott, Joseph O'Neill, Kate Grenville, Kerstin Ekman, Virginie Despentes