Audible – October ’19

I’d let my Audible subscription go off the boil, I get a new credit every month and had accumulated three credits to spend.

Audible is a bit of a fiddle, because if I were to decide to halt my subscription, I lose these credits (even though I already bought them). Like many services, it is easy to subscribe but if you want to unsubscribe, some care is required.

I think I can spend every credit on a book (now), then halt the subscription, then read (i.e. listen to) each of the books, at my leisure. But it’s a bit of a pain that I can’t just stop buying new credits and cash them in one by one, whenever I feel like a new read.

The jury is still out on whether I keep the subscription, especially as I don’t use it so much any more. I’ve thought a few times about canning it, but after all it is only quite a small amounteach month. However I have decided that I need to do more than just sit on this growing pile of credits.

So, I’ve just spent my three. I thought I’d share my choices.

Straight in at #1 (actually, I’m not doing this in any particular order), I found a book on an interesting subject. A subject that interests me, in any case.

A book by Canadian (I think) author Naomi Klein, about the conflict between making money and the environment. I think we’re pretty adept at paying lip service to the environment in order to make a fast buck, but ultimately we’re headed for a crunch of some kind, so I was interested in what this woman had to say. It was written in the early 2010s, I guess, so we have a few more years of data to go on. I wonder if anything will have changed?

So, I’m about 2 baths into that book. I only really listen to Audible when I have a bath.

In at #2, still waiting to be opened, is a book by Louis Theroux.

I’ve got to love Louis Theroux. Seriously. His subject matter is, er, not what I’d choose myself, but nevertheless I enjoy his documentaries, and will usually record them if I see that they’re on TV.

I’m not even sure what this book is about, but figured it would be worth a read.

My last choice – I have no more credits until next month – was the one book that I really wanted.

It was only released a few weeks ago, and only on Audible for the last few days.

I know little about Renia’s Diary, save for a little of the back-story. Renia Spiegel was Polish and Jewish, and from 1939 she kept a diary about life – and ultimately, death – under Nazi occupation.

I don’t read paper books any more, because they are difficult on my eyes, and Audible is easier, but Renia’s story is exactly the kind of book that I used to read – an auto-biographical book by a first-time writer, somebody who’s had an experience worth sharing, and who’s not making a living by selling books. You can keep your “actor” and “sportsman” nonsense, I’m not interested, give me a real story any day. So I have high hopes for Renia, that’s why she’ll be last.

Audible (23 May 2019)

I mentioned the other week about my last Audible read, with some hope for the new one. A report so far…

This one is called Outlander, and I’m only about a third of the way through it. It starts just after WWII, when an English couple are on holiday in the Scottish highlands. She is miraculously transported back in time 200 years, with the highlands full of the old clans and the countryside interspersed with Redcoat forts.

She’s a fish out of water, very English in very Scotland, so regarded with suspicion by the Scots although taken to live with a clan. In the Forties, she’s meant to have been a war nurse, so has a smattering of French and some healing knowledge. That she has French makes her suspicious to the English too, but that she has nursing makes her a bit useful.

I mean, at that point, it was kind-of interesting. I thought there were a few ways in which the story could go, not least how to use her 20th-century knowledge to try and help people (whilst presumably managing not to be burned at the stake!), trying to explain how she’d got there in the first place. You can imagine that she might have wanted to get back home, but how on earth do you explain “home”? And so on.

But actually the direction that the book has taken is not so interesting, for me anyway. She’s taken in by some Scots but is wanted by the English. To try and protect her, she’s forced to marry a Scot, After just a month or so. Thereafter, there’s a lot of time spent describing the many and varied times they shag as newlyweds. I mean, I was a bit surprised because I tould assume that these sex scenes would titilate a man rather that a woman, and the book was written by a woman. Maybe it is written like that purely because men would appreciate it, and maybe buy the book?

I mean, all of that is harmless enough but it turns the book more into romance than sci-fi. I can obviously handle the sci-fi aspect – hence starting the book in the first place – but I’m not so much interested in the romance. We all have our own experiences of romance so, to me, other people’s are not something I’m particularly interested in.

It is a bit more sinister than that though. I don’t know whether this is just the story being faithful to the time, but I’ve picked up on this woman behaving very deferentially to the husband. In the scene I just read, this guy wallops her – that’d be enough for me to walk. I mean, you maybe don’t have a choice about the walloping, but you do have a choice about the dynamics of the ongoing relationship. In my world it is very simple – men and women are just 50:50, so I tend to notice when one partner becomes dominant. But as I say, that might just be the author’s portrayal of 18th-century Scotland.

Brave

After that Ken Clarke book, I’ve got back into listening to my Audible subscription. I tend to start work quite early, but by late morning I’m ready for a soak in the bath – and of course I listen while relaxing.

Anyway, I saw a News article a month or so ago. Somebody had an autobiography out, they were one of the people who’d been part of kicking off the #MeToo campaign, so for that reason I thought it might be an interesting read.

So I have been listening to a book by somebody called Rose MacGowan. (I’m afraid anybody who knows me won’t be surprised to learn that I just needed to look the name up!) I used to read a lot more than now, I used to like factual books, including biographies, but tended not to be interested in the entertainment or sport industries. I mean, of course these people entertain me, but let’s not lose our perspective, it is just something that transports me to a fantasy world for a short while, but after that….well, there’s enough going on in the real world, isn’t there? I suspect that most stories by successful/famous actors or sportsmen are not really any more than “I have a talent, and got a good job because of it”. Great, I’m pleased for you. So do I, just not in the same sphere as you. But obviously, when somebody is talking about abuse, that is real life, a whole level more serious.

I must admit to being a bit naive about how abuse happens. Naive is the wrong word, it is more really that I don’t understand what the turn-on is, if the other person is not a willing participant? It’s not even “what is the turn on?” but more “why is it a turn on?”. OK, it boils down to a “power” thing, but why is having power over somebody a turn on?

This woman – it sounded like she’s six or seven years younger than me – had quite a heart-wrenching childhood. I know from being a father myself that the one thing you try and do for your child is to provide some stable environment in which the child can feel secure and loved, but it is fair to say that she had little of that, and had a spell homeless before getting parts in movies almost by accident. She must have been quite successful at things before the abuse, because she says it happened at the Sundance Festival one year – something I have heard of, although I’m not exactly sure what it is. I don’t know whether she’s talking about Weinstein or not – she doesn’t use the name – but in any case, that’s just a detail. Her abuser was supported by other people who enabled the abuse to happen. So I get the feeling that the whole scenario is reflecting something more institutional than a lone wolf opportunist. Which means that it is the institutions which need to change – it’s not acceptable for someone to say “he’s the boss, so it is ok”. But that’s what the #MeToo is all about, I think. Plus, of course, she talks about the fallout, the blacklistings as soon as she opened her mouth – the punishment for daring to blow the whistle.

It’s a desperately sad story, and as a result, her book sometimes goes into a rant, which in turn made it difficult to read. She sees a lot of this as men vs. women, but I think there’s more to it than that. It might be true within her world, but I think it is probably more subtle than that. Especially as you get older and past child-bearing age, the male/female distinction is more blurred – to me, it doesn’t matter, although I do think we process things differently.The things that my wife picks up from something, say, are different from those that I pick up. I can only speak for myself but I was horrified by her story – as a white male. From my own experience, I know that when I was able-bodied I never consciously discriminated against disabled people, but now that I am disabled, I know that discrimination happens, so how do you square the circle? As far as I am aware, I have achieved what I achieved based on merit – no-one ever did me a favour – but there again I’m a white male, so perhaps I’ve just taken it for granted?

Still, all of this is food for thought. The only real point to any of this is that it improves the situation for people going forward, and in that I hope she succeeds.