Overall, this is a more diverse and interesting list than the safe ground of 2014’s longlist.
The longlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize was announced Wednesday at midday London time. It’s a 13-book list with some interesting omissions, and possibly (although this is arguable) some emerging themes of interest to the judges.
For cis viewers, I Am Cait is likely to be a hit. Trans viewers, on the other hand, should definitely take a pass, unless they enjoy gritting their teeth in frustration over Yet Another Trans After School Special.
On Sunday night, the US was treated to the first entry in the eight part docuseries I Am Cait, following Caitlyn Jenner’s first steps into the limelight post-transition. It’s perhaps not surprising to see the high-profile athlete and well-known member of the Kardashian clan taking advantage of her platform to sell a series revolving around herself, as your own personal reality series is a distillation of the American Dream. It’s also not surprising that the broadcast was a painful exercise in cringing under the cis gaze, complete with performative, heavy-handed drama — and cis people absolutely loved it, flocking to Twitter and other social media platforms to talk about how ‘inspiring’ it was and pile it with adulations and praise.
It will be interesting indeed to see if A God in Ruins longlists for the Booker Prize.
Kate Atkinson’s long-awaited companion novel to her 2013 masterpiece, Life After Life, was released in May this year. The book has met with a strongly approving critical response, and a generally positive reader reaction, although commentary has been less exuberantly enthusiastic and one-eyed than was seen when Life hit the shelves. It’s my view that this more subdued reaction is entirely justified; although Life was a hard act to follow for any book, I don’t think Atkinson sticks her landing in this story, and thus the companion novel is not a peer, but rather a poor cousin, to Life’s brilliance.
Dietland is a modern and edgier-than-average chick-lit novel.
Dietland, Sarai Walker’s first novel, is a filling read. Its premise – the journey of a young woman towards accepting her fat body and rejecting patriarchal beauty norms – should promise an up-to-date and nutritious political experience to readers. The cover quotes advertise an explicitly feminist book, and a fat-positive heroine is certainly a cutting-edge choice for a modern and edgier-than-average chick-lit novel. But – if you’ll forgive the overstretched analogy – Dietland is more like a 70s prawn cocktail than a gluten-free vegan Banh Mi. Whilst there is much for readers to enjoy, the politics underpinning the narrative could do with updating.
Plum Kettle is an endearing protagonist whose unassuming presence largely allows the reader to relax into the narrative. Through Plum, readers are taken on a tour of the kinds of experiences most fat, middle-class women living in the developed world could relate to. She wears black, shapeless clothes to hide her body. She regularly endures stares and sometimes outright abuse from strangers. She suffers from a dysfunctional approach to food and eating after years of dieting. And, importantly, she believes that her life – that is, her fat life – is not real. She is waiting for a thin body to transform not only her wardrobe but her social and professional abilities.
Some of the most poignant passages in the book come in the early chapters, when Plum’s long history of self-hatred is explored. She is excruciatingly constrained by her inability to accept her 300 lb body, and her sadness is sensitively drawn by Walker, who rarely slips into sentimentality. Instead, she maintains a dry wit which occasionally ascends to excellent black humour. Walker’s control of the material suggests a great depth of understanding of both the fat positive movement and the origins of the American diet industry. She is also an ambitious writer; in one particularly deft chapter, she explores the history of the fictionalised company Baptist Weight Loss using footnotes interwoven with reflective narrative.
Indeed, Walker seems to want to subvert stylistic expectations as well as provoke her readers ideologically. What begins as a fairly unthreatening chick-lit style exploration of Plum’s life becomes something darker. Journalistic passages are wedged between sections of narrative to enable dispassionate reportage of the events going on around Plum. A terrorist group called Jennifer begins commit acts of increasing violence in the name of fighting misogyny and violence against women. Comparisons have been drawn to Palahniuk’s Fight Club and it is easy to see why: this quite-seductive story, which draws Plum and the reader into a secret feminine world where revenge fantasies can bloom, taps in to pop-psychology, gendered anxieties and punk aspirations in equal measure.
Walker’s novel embraces the topical – she makes thinly-veiled reference to the Murdoch media empire, to real-life rape cases, to the once-popular TV show Felicity, and pillories a lingerie company clearly intended to be Victoria’s Secret. In some of the most satisfying passages, she draws a link between the American media and not only the oppression of women, but a possible solution to patriarchal control. Old ideas of consciousness-raising are echoed in Plum’s world as the attacks by Jennifer start to take effect. A Fox-news style TV presenter even dares to say “The fear of men is ingrained in us from girlhood. Isn’t that a form of terrorism?” When Plum discovers Calliope house, a kind of feminist collective, there are more opportunities for politicising the plot (including a literal bra-burning).
For most of the novel, I was happy to join Plum on her journey towards self-acceptance. Although Jennifer takes readers to dark places – plumbing the depths of violence against women in occasionally disturbing detail – there is an undertone of black humour to anchor the narrative. Ultimately, though, the novel’s dogged reliance on the tenets of second-wave feminism holds it back from a more nuanced exploration of both the origins of gendered oppression and violence, and the diet and beauty industries it sets out to expose.
Plum works online and spends much of her time on the internet; extraordinarily, she never encounters queer politics or sex-positive feminism, nor does she find fat acceptance online. The world Walker creates for her includes only the unenlightened – those who slave and shill for patriarchy (one character declares, ‘all makeup is drag’) – and those who take pride in eschewing ‘fuckability’ altogether. There is no acknowledgement that fat men are also preyed upon by the diet industry, and very little recognition of queer identities. Chillingly, the guerrilla group Jennifer is willing to condemn women it sees as aligned with patriarchy to the same fate as violent men, even resorting to the murder of a female porn star. Reading this novel, I couldn’t help but sense a discomforting closeness to the kind of radical feminist politics which excludes sex workers and trans women and feels, frankly, outdated.
Nevertheless, it is refreshing to find a novel that not only confronts gender politics head-on, but that features so many female characters, many of whom support each other and strive for community. The collective approach to activism taken by women in the novel is not only an homage to second wave feminism, but a glimpse of what might be possible now. Writing that engages with feminism, even in a flawed way, deserves an audience – whilst many will read Fifty Shades of Grey just to pull it apart, few will bother will an explicitly feminist novel such as Dietland, and that is a shame. I didn’t comfortably swallow the ideology of Dietland but I can’t argue with its big, fat heart.
The Eye of the Sheep is a book that manages to be both compelling and heart-breaking.
Australian author Sofie Laguna’s second novel for adults, The Eye of the Sheep, won the Miles Franklin Award on 23 June. It was a well-deserved win of Australia’s richest literary prize by a book that manages to be both compelling and heart-breaking within a potentially unprepossessing frame.
“Slow West” is an elegantly paced Western, comically revisionist and suitably deadly.
Former Beta Band member turned director John Maclean’s debut feature, “Slow West” looks and feels like a random train of thought, a glorious meandering diversion from “The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.” Uncomfortable in the saddle is 16-year-old Scottish noble Jay Cavendish, drawn to Colorado in 1870 by matters of the heart and class superiority cunningly masquerading as humanity and decency. The West to Jay is a surprisingly lush land filled with glittering blues and vivid greens. This is a young country feeding a younger heart, pumping the poetic and romantic notions around a body never built to suffer the hardship or deprivation facing mortal settlers or outlaws.
For Hannibal, a revival makes sense, but other programmes may be better left dead.
Word broke this week that NBC’s Hannibal won’t be returning for a fourth season, much to the dismay of the show’s small but extremely dedicated fan base. Everyone’s favorite cannibal stirs strong emotions in fans, with speculation about the cancellation already swirling — two likely explanations are a rights issue or the show’s low ratings. Producer Bryan Fuller says he felt supported by NBC throughout the run of the show in a public statement stressing an amicable decision, though he was backed into a bit of a corner, as no one wants to be seen biting the hand that feeds them. (Except, possibly, Hannibal Lecter.)
The only real way to help prevent more fraudsters is to keep reporting them.
As the summer approaches there’s always a scramble for tickets to the hottest festivals over the summer. However, last year my enthusiasm got the better of my reason and I sadly got scammed. The bright lights of Glastonbury looked so tempting after all the press coverage, and I am without a doubt not alone in getting scammed. Just last month the BBC reported that
Two men from Anfield have been charged over an alleged ticket forging operation for Liverpool FC matches. Police launched an investigation after fans from all over the world never received tickets bought online, while others received fake ones.
And just last year
Hundreds of Beyoncé fans were left disappointed after discovered they had been sold fake tickets to the star’s concerts as part of a scam worth at least £28,000” and were turned away at the door.
So, let me recount my tale of woe, in the hope that knowing how I got scammed might help others in similar positions.
As a singer, I had been dying to go to Glastonbury for years but somehow I was never organized enough to get there. My great friend Valerie suggested that we go together. However, the only snag was that all the tickets were sold out. Nevertheless, we were determined to find tickets so I posted on Facebook, twitter, and finally called a PR company who I knew often had tickets for exclusive sold out events behind the scenes for sale. They had two tickets–but it took me three days to call them back, only to find they also had sold out. I even called a friend who was a PR for Glastonbury.
No luck there, unless I wanted to spend 5,000 on camping. I even contacted Shangri-La and various tents and arenas that were showcasing dance music acts, and offered myself for free as a singer, I so badly wanted to go. We tried everything, but no luck there either. I was too shy to ask a DJ who I often work with if I could sing one song during his set as a way in; I thought that would only annoy him and wouldn’t help our working relationship.
Finally, after much Internet searching a good friend found a site that had tickets for sale via their website. In our other enthusiasm we bought then very quickly so not to be left out yet again. It seemed like a genuine site and a well made website. My friend had even bought a flight (she lives abroad) and we had everything planned and set. But then suddenly 3 days before Glastonbury started, Valerie got an email saying, “sorry the tickets are no longer available” and how she would be refunded. But three weeks later, the website owner a “Harry Fitzgerald” vanished into thin air and stopped answering any emails or calls. We even got a lawyer friend to pose as an interested party in the Wimbledon tickets – he had for sale on his site… but they somehow recognized his number he was calling from, the same area code, and didn’t answer.
In the world of forgery, there are numerous ticket sales on fake websites luring innocent people in, and there is little protection against fake ticket fraud. Ukviptickets used a fake postal address in Geneva. It also lists a fake address in London as 21 Bond Street–21 New Bond Street is the Burberry store and 21 Old Bond Street is a luxury apartment building. So another fake address – another dead end.
The fake supplier Harry Fitzgerald was not reachable over the phone. So it’s very difficult to sue him directly. Even trying to find the correct name was hard – typing Harry Fitzgerald into Google doesn’t amount to very much. It’s a common name, so it’s very hard to know who the liable person is behind the fake company or if he’s operating under a fake name. So it’s hard to know what to report as a fraud offence to the police who would ideally start an investigation and find those responsible and prosecute them. But since there are no leads, it’s hard to know where to begin. Another option was asking PayPal to cancel their payment to ukviptickets. However, PayPal just say, “send us an email and we will look into it” but it seems that PayPal neglects liability for tickets purchases according to their general terms.
But there is one clause saying, “You did not receive the item you paid for with PayPal” and to them write them with an explanation, so far PayPal have not responded.However, I have heard via friends that PayPal are good at honoring their polices of protecting the consumer.
Initially I thought canceling the payment through MasterCard would only make myself liable to PayPal and they could sue me, but in the end credit card insurance covered this type of fraud because the card issuer is liable for a failure for series to be provided as long as the price of a single ticket is more than £100. Thank God. I may have got my money back but I never got to Glastonbury and wasted a lot of time trying to find out how to get my money back.
However, there are many other pitfalls that can happen when buying scam tickets to be aware of. Always make sure the tickets are delivered to you – what could happen is that the company selling you the tickets might tell you a company representative will be you at the venue on the day only then nobody shows up. Or you might receive the tickets via email or in the mail and when arriving at the event the organizers tell you the tickets are fake.
However, in some cases you just have to swallow your loses – and be less keen for tickets. We all know the cliché to only buy from the venue box office, official agent or reputable ticket sites but sometimes that’s not possible when the most sort after events sell out in minutes. It’s still possible to buy from smaller Internet companies, however you must just be more wary.
In the end, it hardly seems fair. Hopefully governments will make stricter laws against people who commit Internet fraud, the same way people give away free songs over the Internet. If I could give any advice to anyone searching for sold out tickets to amazing events, it would be: first check the website payment pages are secured by a padlock symbol in the address bar and make sure the website starts with https. Ask the company questions; for instance, where are they based? Where is their office? Make sure they have a landline number in the UK and a proper address. Check the company is actually at the address that they say they have their offices at and avoid all companies that only have PO box addresses. It can be a pain, but make sure you read the terms and conditions, some websites might state there are no refunds… And google, google google–I later found there were several people on facebook complaining about Ukviptickets.
So what’s the future for scam ticket fraud? The main issue is a lot of frauds aren’t reported because victims often feel blamed for being defrauded, as people feel ashamed or embarrassed for being conned.
However, the public are more increasingly aware of threats, which is an essential step in helping individuals protect themselves from fraud. Online frauds are being tackled by the police through better systems and controls in our businesses. Victims are now better supported, and fraudsters and enablers are being targeted. The Uk government have invested more to improve response to computer crimes as part of the “national cyber security program” and banks and payment institutions are joining to strengthen their industry wide abilities to tackle frauds’.
But in the end, the only real way to help prevent more fraudsters is to keep reporting them. So don’t be shy, step forward and tell your story, too.
This is a violent, cruel, awful world, and it’s filled with people who do terrible things to each other in an ever-creative series of ways.
Game of Thrones aired another predictably bloody and explosive season finale on Sunday, sending the internet into a tizzy and leading readers of the books to note that finally everyone is in uncharted waters — the series has officially caught up to George R. R. Martin’s epic, which raises some interesting questions about what will happen next season (spoilers for the next book, perhaps? Finally, the tables will be turned…). This has been a rough season for Game of Thrones when it comes to internet commentary on the show, and in the dissections of the season rolling out this week, complaints about the extreme violence seem to be a bit of a theme.
Sense8 marks the first time a trans character has been played by a trans actress and been directed by a trans woman in a major television series.
The Wachowski siblings have taken to an unusual new medium: Netflix. In Sense8, a Netflix Original science fiction series, the two are illustrating that the streaming giant has the ability to command serious Hollywood names from behind and in front of the camera. This drama isn’t just a victory for Netflix, though. It’s also a major breakthrough when it comes to diversity, representation, and exploration of identity in Hollywood, as it marks the first time a trans character has been played by a trans actress and been directed by a trans woman in a major television series.
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