Monday, April 06, 2015

Random Book Review(s)

I spent the last week visiting 1974. Tough place.

I was a high school sophomore in 1974, and wrapped up in my own teenage world and the misery of my mother's depression and my father's lack of dealing with it, both of which made my teenage years a living hell, and my memories of the era are somewhat skewed, to say the least. Someday I should write about how my mother's delusions made the Watergate scandal part of our daily life, but that's not relevant to this.

The first book I stumbled across on Amazon:

The Misremembered Manis a small gem. Set in rural Ireland in 1974, it's the story of two people whose small, hard, narrow lives were shaped by their circumstances, until they both decided, for different but similar reasons and mostly on a whim, to attempt something to break out. They each answer a "lonelyhearts ad" in the back of a small Irish newspaper, and the rest is just delightful, alternately comical and heartbreaking, and wonderfully written. (I did figure out the ending a bit early, but enjoyed the trip very much.)

I also listened to:

Cop Town: A Novel as one of my Audible downloads. I like Karin Slaughter's Will Trent series very much, so I didn't hesitate to drop a credit on this. I questioned my decision in the first paragraph; as an Amazon reviewer says, the first page or so may be one of the worst openings of a novel ever. It's not a light read: it's violent, angry, and there isn't a single redeeming male character in it - just a couple who aren't as bad as the rest. And as another reviewer said with tongue in cheek, it's not exactly a brochure for Atlanta tourism. But it's 1974 Atlanta, not today. It's the story of two young female cops breaking the gender barrier on the Atlanta police force, and the battles they fought just to do their jobs, as they deal with the loudly sexist and vile behavior of the male colleagues who resent their presence and struggle to overcome their own conditioning to quietly defer to the menfolk, even when they're assholes and totally in the wrong. I nearly gave up on it in the first 10 minutes, but didn't have anything else queued up for my long slog to and from work, so I stuck with it, and eventually got sucked into the story.

The weirdest part wasn't the over the top sexism of the male cops, it was the random cultural tidbits dropped in as flavoring, like how in 1974, women had to get a male (husband, brother, father, uncle, it didn't matter as long as it had a dick and therefore deserved to make the decisions) to co-sign for many financial matters. Like getting a credit card. I'm not sure my daughter, who just bought a new car last week, making the decision and financing it without needing help from her husband, realizes how it was just 40 years ago. I remember maybe 20 years ago, taking her father along on a car shopping excursion just so he could experience Car Shopping While Female. It was hilarious! I would introduce myself, tell them I was looking for a car, and they would talk past me to him. He'd tell them flat out that I was the customer, I was buying the car, he was just along to kill time, and at dealership after dealership, I was asked, "Oh, what color do you want?" and "Of course you want an automatic!" while they talked the Serious Car Stuff with a man, because he was obviously there to help the little lady. (Eventually I bought a stick shift convertible VW Cabrio from the only salesman who didn't have to be told which one of us was buying the car, and spoke to ME, and left him drinking coffee in the showroom while we took it for a test drive.)

Being old enough to remember that Cop Town isn't fictionalizing how it was for women within my lifetime is just another one of those, "Oh shit, I AM old!" moments.

In other news, my new glasses arrived, and I love them.


Anonymous said...

Just over 20 years ago, I made an appointment to see the bank manager about the feasibility of a loan for whatever it was the business needed - Ernst and I were equal partners. As soon as I walked in I smelled trouble ahead - our old, helpful manager had been transferred.
Remember, this was just an enquiry, and Ernst hated sitting through that sort of meeting, and I knew the business's figures, he didn't. The new manager wanted to know if I had my husband's permission to make the flaming enquiry!! I went VERY quiet, counted to 10 and asked him if he was aware that he had just broken the law ?
The old manager was an 'old Aussie', this one was of Middle Eastern appearance and accent, name of Ibrahim. Rapid back-pedalling ensued.

Gae, in Callala Bay

Brenda B said...

I bought a car two years ago, and I have to say things haven't changed much. It wasn't an emergency---my old car was 12 years old and I just wanted a new one, so I spent about a year looking. I finally bought from the only lot in town that had a female salesperson. There is a huge, multi-make "car store" in town, and I have finally decided that they simply do not sell to single women unless you are willing to take nothing for your trade and pay full sticker price for their car.