Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sunday Salon: Are you a pancake person?

The Sunday

(Copyright: Hironori Akutagawa)

From time to time I indulge in the guilty pleasure of reading 'women's magazines.' I developed the addiction whilst working in a call centre. There was a lot of down time on the shifts I work on and a lack of admin work to process. Colleagues used to bring in magazines that included stories of the 'I had sex with my mother's brother's sister in law's dog' or 'I force feed men cake for money!' ilk. I felt like I was part of a reading circle; we'd take turns reading out stories and shriek 'I can't believe someone did that!'

The habit continued after I left my job. I'd buy the cheap and nasty magazines to consume whilst I was on my lunch breaks. As time went on I realised how miserable some of these magazines were making me. The publications aimed at my then age group (18 – 25) could be especially despressing. They made me wonder if I should be more interested in fashion, make up, celebrities and sex. Was I boring for preferring staying in on a Saturday night once I hit my early twenties? Should I be spending more money on eyeliner?

Last year I decided to ditch those magazines. Occasionally I would pick up a glossy, high end magazine such as Company or, the good old favourite, Cosmopolitan. Then I would start feeling miserable again ('I'm 25 and still a student. Am I failure?!') so I would stop buying the magazines.

Then I spotted Psychologies on the news stands last summer. I was heading off to Prague for a mini break and could not resist W H Smith in the departure lounge. The articles looked interesting – they appeared to be about improving physical and mental wellbeing, not which new crappy handbag you should buy. I try not to buy Psychologies every month but I've been travelling around for work. Once again, I could hear the siren call of the magazine stands.

This month, Psychologies had “pancake people” as their word(s) of the month. I read the definition and I felt myself identifying with the words. The emphasis is my own:

These are people who read widely but not in depth. They can tell you about everything – the latest films, the next big fitness craze or the subject of last week's Prime Minister's Questions. But ask them to explain any of these in detail and they struggle to find an answer.

I do have a reputation as a bit of a 'know it all' amongst my friends. As I read I pick up tid bits of information and tuck them away for later. However I am also a 'scanner' which means I can read fast but I don't always take everything in. Do not confuse this with speed reading: that is a useful technique and a skill to be admired. As I read the article, in depth for once, I realised that I was a pancake person. Sometimes I can struggle to recall events that happened in works of fiction, even though I remember reading the books. This perhaps does not matter as much when reading fiction but it can impact on my personal study.

The article ends with

It's OK to be interested in different topics, but try picking a few that really interest you and read around them.

And that's my problem. I'm interested in so many topics: feminism, sociology, history of the world, politics, easy economics, cooking, veganism, animal rights, media representations, information rights, creative writing, poetry, most 2.0s you can shake a stick at, films, pop art, the changing status of China, North Korea, zines, graphic novels, spoken word art, Scottish nationalism... and that's a list that I came up with after just five minutes! Furthermore, I know that I don't have a deep knowledge of any of those topics above. I can bluff my way through feminism, sociology and certain eras in history. I could tell you my method of draining tofu, why I don't eat eggs or how much I love the pop art exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Art. However ask me to explain in detail the pop art movement and I'd be stuck, rattling around Elizabeth Taylor and tins of tomato soup.

The next question is: what topic(s) do I choose? That's something I'll need to ponder on and, hopefully, reflect by my reading choices.

Are you a 'pancake person'? Leave a comment below.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sunday Salon: (Late) April Check In

The Sunday

A somewhat belated check in for April. Below is a list of the books I read in April, including the books I read during the readathon:

The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite – Beatrice Colin
Tamburlaine Must Die – Louise Welsh
Woman on the Edge of Time – Marge Piercy
Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay
The Tenderness of Wolves – Stef Penny
The Equality Illusion - Kat Bynard 
The Second Coming – John Niven (library read)

which comes to a grand total of nineteen books read in 2012 – so far. I've found that the readathon has re-ignited my passion for reading which has been sadly lacking this year. In unrelated news, Him Indoors and I are flat hunting which has become an incentive to read as much of Mount TBR before we move. The last time we moved, almost two years, we had eight boxes – sixty of those boxes contained my books. Oh and I forgot to mention we were moving from a second floor flat to a top floor one. I really don't want to have to go through that again.

One of my recent reads have been borrowed from my local library. For all Glasgow's faults, the library system really is fantastic. It is free to request any books from the circulation stock and you can have as many active requests as you like. There is a cap of nine requests if you're using the online catalogue but I can live with that. The acquisition librarians seem to be good at ordering multiple copies of books and maintaing the stock at realistic levels. As a result I never usually have to wait more than a month for a book.

I have been keeping an eye on the reads at A Year of Feminist Classics. I'm still ploughing through April's read Whipping Girl which I'm loving and disliking in equal measure. It has been a while since I've read a book classed as 'feminist theory' and it has been tough to wade through some of the academic language. It has also confirmed my suspicions that British and American feminism can be two very different stances. My experiences of British feminism has been very action based, such as the fantastic Fawcett Society, whilst American feminism is very concerned about definitions. Semantics and linguistics are important however actions can engage people more than a debate laden with 'new' words. The two can clash, such as the Slut Walks which took place in Britain and North America last year. Feminism itself is a loaded word for many women I encounter, let alone introducing terms such as cissexist or trans-mysognotis.

Today is a dreich day in Glasgow so I'm going to spend it catching up on some reading. What a surprise.