Classic Spooky Reads that *Gave Me the Shivers*

spooktacular reads

Hello all! Just a quick post today to celebrate spooktober! In the last year (and beyond), I’ve been reading quite a few classic spooky read and some of them really hit the spot (and by hit the spot, I mean made my blood run cold, freaked me out and made me duck under my duvet for cover!) Here’s some books you may have heard of that really live up to the hype:

we have always lived in a castle

We Have Always Lived in a Castle– oh man, Shirley Jackson reallllly nailed the creepy vibes with this one. The mystery builds and builds and you don’t get total closure… which is exactly how it should be in the best scary stories! Speaking of which…

turn of the screw 2

Turn of the Screw– this is one of the *best* gothic tales I’ve ever read and there are multiple ways to read it. Ambiguous, brilliantly written and so terrifying I had to turn on my big lights so I could finish it!

the woman in black

The Woman in Black– ooh this one was freaky! This ghost story will definitely keep you up at night. An unsettling mist descends from the moment I turned the first page and doesn’t let up until long after you’ve turned the last. I’m just hoping she never makes an appearance in my life…

rebecca

Rebecca– on the note of enigmatic women, the titular character is too dead to make an appearance in this book, yet that doesn’t stop her making her presence felt 😉 This book has a hint of the gothic and is a wonderfully atmospheric read!

haunting of hill house

Haunting of Hill House– this was another solid book from Shirley Jackson and perfect if you’re too chicken to check out the Netflix version (like me 😉)

wieland

Wieland– this is a weird book… and yet isn’t that perfect for this time of year? A strangely captivating gothic tale, I was taken aback the first time I read it and it still haunts me to this day.

confessions

Confessions of a Justified Sinner– this mad little Scottish classic is a hidden gothic gem and guaranteed to take you to a dark place… which of course meant I had to include it 😉

frankenstein

Frankenstein– in many ways, this isn’t as scary as the other stories on this list. While it does venture into the subject of monsters, it’s more about humanity and hubris and the terrible things we’re capable of… so in many ways it’s the scariest book on this list by far.

jekyll and hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde– coming back to London, this classic tale is pure entertainment and a sign that sometimes the darkest creatures can be closer to home than we think…

And on that note, I’ll be bringing this list to an end… *MWHAHAHAHA*! Don’t know if that’s the most appropriate place for a “MWHAHAHAHA”… Moving swiftly on! Have you read any of these? Do you love any classic scary stories? Let me know in the comments!

Instagram Announcement!

Hi all! This is just a quick post today and yet I’m all kinds of nervous. As I mentioned in my Mid Year Resolutions post, I’ve been trying to do a bit more art lately, so I was considering starting Instagram for that annnd it’s only taken me three months to get on and do that 😉 At the mo, I’m just starting to share a mixture of old pieces and newer drawings. I’d say it should be a “pleasant” place to be- but when you see my Halloween theme for this month, you might disagree 😉

Without further ado, I now pronounce the Orangutan Gallery open…

orangutan gallery.png

I’m looking to follow some bookstagram accounts as well so hit me up!

Books for Gryffindor/Ravenclaws/Slytherins/Hufflepuffs- *ULTIMATE EDITION* PART 2

Hello all! So, a while back I did a massive bumper post recommending books for different Hogwarts houses- and even then I had many more books up my sleeve that I could’ve list… which is why today, as promised, I’m back for round two- with a slight twist later on in the post!

gryffindor

Gryffindor– Though this isn’t my house, this is by far one of my favourites to choose for, because so many heroes belong in this house. Let’s jump straight into it:

Percy Jackson– I always think that a lot of heroes make great Gryffindors and Percy Jackson is no exception! He’s not only kickass, he’s incredibly loyal to his friends and fulfils the role of the hero perfectly.

Bear and the Nightingale– Vasya is one of my favourite female heroines and a lot of that comes down to her bravery. And this is not just down to her riding horses and dressing like a man- it is a deeper sort of boldness to stand up for what she believes in and not be cowed by the social conventions. She has the bravery to be herself and it is that quality that I admire most of all.

Sadie– it’s really hard to talk about this book without getting spoilery (or teary)- but there’s a reason I love this book so much and that’s Sadie’s unwavering bravery in the face of hardship. She pushes through and goes through hell seeking justice- and what is that if not the actions of a true Gryffindor?

Resistance– this lesser known Holocaust book isn’t to be underestimated. Telling the story of the Norwegian resistance, this is a thrilling tale is not to be missed.

Alex Rider– like I said, action heroes make excellent candidates for this house. And while it may be a little silly that this spy wonderkid has saved the world quite so many times in a single year, I’d be remiss not to mention this for Gryffindors.

Crown of Feathers– I read this a while ago and don’t think I’ve done the raving this book really deserves! A book about phoenixes, set in an utterly unique fantasy world and with an amazing Gryffindor lead, this sensational new series is one to watch!

ravenclaw

Ravenclaw– Okay, as I said last time, choosing books for my own house is surprisingly tricky. Maybe it’s because us Ravenclaws always want to go for the clever option 😉 Let’s see if I succeeded…

And Then There Were None– if you are looking for the *smartest* mystery of all time, then look no further! If you don’t know the twist already, I guarantee you will not guess it. It’s the kind of *mind-blowing* ending that knocks most others out the park. Ravenclaws and other houses alike will have to stand back and admire just how good this is.

One Word Kill– this time travel book was nothing short of masterful! While on the surface it’s an entertaining, fun story, there are hidden depths here which make it so rewarding to the reader (especially if you’re like me and don’t tend delve much into science). It doesn’t hurt that Lawrence is a legit maths whizz, adding a little bit of that mysterious magic to the narrative 😉

Righteous Minds– I’m actually adding non-fic to a list for the change. The reason I recommend this one above all is because I think this offers something few books do: a chance to understand each other. This psychology book is all about why people have different political leanings and will open your mind to new ideas!

Circe– quick service announcement: Madeline Miller is a genius- that is all. In all seriousness, I don’t know a better retelling of any classic. Beautifully written and accurate and transformative, you cannot get better than this.

Master and Margarita– admittedly, this one is a little strange… but completely brilliant. There are so many layers to the story that it’s impossible to get to the bottom of- and that’s just one of the things that makes it so worthwhile.

Alice in Wonderland– this is the kind of book for the more Luna-Lovegood-type of Ravenclaw. Quirky and nonsensical on one level, it has hidden linguistic and meaningful depths that will take you down many-a rabbithole!

slytherin

Slytherin– this is unsurprisingly one of my favourite houses and basically the most fun to choose books for- cos who doesn’t like being a little bit bad sometimes? Just kidding- I really love this house cos it has so much more scope than that, as you’ll soon see…

Count of Monte Cristo– a story about a wronged man seeking revenge, this classic tale, with its dark and sweet notes, is the perfect pick for any Slytherin worth their salt.

Macbeth– sticking with the theme of ambition, this cautionary tale of rising and falling on the whims of fate is bloody good.

Vanity Fair– witty and yet admittedly full of unlikeable characters, there are pros and cons to reading this book, and yet I feel strongly that Becky Sharp is one of literature’s greatest Slytherin characters.

Cruel Prince– I fell hard for this fresh fairy story last year- and for good reason! Jude, the main character, isn’t your typical heroine. Admittedly, she has traits from so many of the Hogwarts houses: she can wield a sword, she’s wicked sharp and she’s loyal to her family- but the reason I recommend this to Slytherins above all is because it’s her unwavering ambition which drives her and makes her a match for any fey.

Young Elites– this is such an underrated YA fantasy series! Which is a shame, because it does a *frickin fantastic* job of portraying anti-heroes/heroines. Annnnd I don’t want to say more on it for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say you should prepare to get *EMOTIONS* reading these books!

Daisy Jones and the Six– a story about a seventies rock band, this is *GLORIOUS* book for anyone looking for a more modern tale of ambition. The best thing about this book by far is the intricate characterisation that Taylor Jenkins Reid is becoming famous for. And, with amazing performances, the audiobook is definitely the way to go for this one.

hufflepuff

Hufflepuff– Last time, I got a lot of feedback from Hufflepuffs that they hadn’t read my picks, sooo I decided to ask an *actual* Hufflepuff this time! I’ll be passing you off to the Monkey Baby! *SURPRISE*! Now if they’re not right, I get to totally abdicate responsibility 😉 Over to you Monkey Baby:

monkey baby final

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants– the perfect teen-y girly magical romance and friendship novel. Deserves the world’s supply of bananas.

Sense and Sensibility– classic Victoria sponge! Delicious and enrichingly teaches you about relationships in the best way.

Little Women– The feels!!! You will fall in love with this family! You will!

Captivate– what better than to learn a few tricks on how to connect better with people. Such a great and helpful read. Monkey baby approved.

Before Happiness– want to be like Tigger (or at least less like Eeyore)? This book is essential to teach you how to always have that monkey grin.

Lucky Star– one of my faves! NUFF SAID! I read it so many times! So cute and smushy- the love and friendship will make you melt!

Well there you go- I hope you enjoyed that different take at the end! That’s all for now! This was more fun than I expected! Plus, I had so many more books up my sleeve that this easily could’ve gone on a lot longer! Do you agree with any of these? Do you have any additions I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

The I Dare You Tag

orangutan tag 2

Phew- I feel like I’ve been pretty daring this week, so I thought I’d chill out… by doing the dare you tag 😉 Seems quite appropriate now we’re in the heart of the *SCARY SEASON*. Thank you so much to the marvellous Mary Drover for tagging me to do this- she’s got such a fascinating blog, with so much on writing, books, yoga, food and so much more! You’d be mad not to check it out!

Now, you’ve done that, let’s get into the tag!

(warning, may contain controversial opinions…)

What book has been on your shelf the longest?

I have the same answer as Mary for this, cos hello, I’m a millennial:

my harry potters

What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

At the time of writing this post, I’m currently reading the Dispel Illusion (so far soo not been able to catch my breath!!), just read Bone Witch (eh s’alright) and up next is p-r-o-b-a-b-l-y Small Spaces… or Vanishing Stair… or maybe something else equally Halloweeny (what? You wanted an actual answer? I’m a mood reader!)

What book did everyone like, but you hated?

Okay, I’ve got a lot of these, so I’m gonna list a few like Mary did. Time to piss everyone off I guess…

  1. The Fault in Our Stars– I’ve made no secret of the fact I didn’t like this book. For me, the narrative was a flatline of continuous despair and the pretentious prose felt absurd. Also, I will never think the callous use of Anne Frank was okay, okay?
  2. It Ends with Us– on a completely different note, here’s one I’ve never talked about before, but… oof this one still hurts. Lots of people love this book because of the way it boldly handled the sensitive subject matter, and I can respect that, BUT I hated it for its soapy, simplified, inauthentic approach.
  3. The Bronze Horseman– ugh to the cheating, ugh to the gross love interest and ugh to the dishcloth protagonist. Ugh ugh ugh.

I’ve actually realised I have *a lot* more of these. Maybe I’ll do a follow up post if I’m feeling brave…

What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?

ulysses joyce

Well, I kind of know my reading tastes by now and I figure it’s suuuuper unlikely I’ll want to attempt another steam of consciousness novel. I’ve never finished a Virginia Woolf book or ploughed through Joyce’s Ulysses– and I probably never will. That didn’t stop me from downloading all the free ebook versions though….

What book are you saving for retirement?

Gosh, I don’t know, maybe some of the above? I have a number of challenging books on my tbr as well- such as the works of Jung, Dante’s Inferno, Swann’s Way etc- but I like to think I’ll get to them before I retire 😉

Last page: read it first, or wait ’til the end?

Wait till the end! What do you take me for?! I’m not some uncivilised, well, ape.

Acknowledgement: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?

Oh, I quite enjoy them. Maybe I’m sappy, but I find so many of them written with warmth and charm and lovely expressions of gratitude! (okay, yes, I’m very sappy)

Which book character would you switch places with?

emma movie

I’m gonna go with Austen’s Emma, cos has a lovely lifestyle and also she gets Knightley- what more could a girl desire?

Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life? (place, time, person?)

Hmm I think many books have the power to transport you back in time and place.

Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.

Ahhh this is embarrassing. I once soaked my school library copy of Little Women (by accident!) so rather than giving back the damaged version, I pretended I’d lost it and paid to replace it. I think I still have the mouldy and kinda disgusting version somewhere in storage.

Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?

woke

Since it’s nearly Halloween and I apparently want to scare people off, I’ll go with Woke– which I gave to my brother for his birthday and just wrote a (satirical) review for.

Which book has been with you most places?

songs innocence large

Okay, time for a weird confession (that I’ve probably made before 😉) I sometimes like to take my copy of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience around with me like a talisman. Partly cos it’s small, partly cos it’s pretty, mostly cos even if I have my phone/kindle I need at least one physical book with me at all times.

Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?

This is probably the hardest question! The only things I really remember hating from school was the contemporary poetry- most of which I still hate. I have, however, developed a deep respect for Seamus Heaney after reading his terrific translation of Beowulf recently. Sooo don’t know if that counts as an answer, but moving on…

Used or brand new?

I get most of my books used, but would probably prefer to get them new, cos if I could shower authors/publishers/booksellers with wealth, I would.

Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?

da vinci code

Unfortunately, yes. The Da Vinci Code was one of my first (non classic) adult books. Suffice to say I wasn’t impressed and it took me many, many years to go back to adult books after that.

Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?

stardust

A few times. I not-so-secretly prefer the Stardust movie, for instance (though the book is still good!)

Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?

feast hogwarts great hall

Of course! I get hungry at just the mention of food- in fact this question has just made me so hungry I can’t think of an answer right now! Maybe the extremely obvious answer Harry Potter– which made me wish Hogwarts was real all the more! Rainbow Rowell is pretty good at making me hungry too. As is Jacqueline Wilson.

Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

Two of my friends, who both vigorously recommended Discworld to me- obviously they earned my eternal trust with that tip 😉

Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g., outside your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?

the martian

The first one that springs to mind is the Martian- which was a surprisingly delightful read- especially for a newbie to the sci fi genre like me!

That was fun, now I dare: No Reads too Great, Jennifer, Mim Inkling, Embuhleeliest, Meghan, Corner of Laura, Rivermoose Reads, Journey into Books, Zezee and Naty

So have I shocked any of you with my opinions?! (probably not, if you’ve stuck around this long, you’ll know I’ve said worse  😉  Really curious though, do you have any shocking opinions on books everyone loves, but you hate? I dare you to let me know in the comments!

All the *WARNINGS*!!!

thoughts orangutan

Once upon a time, back in my more edgy days, I drafted a post called “triggered by trigger warnings”. The reason I never posted that BEAST-OF-A-POST was because it ended up being 15,000 words of research and incoherent ramblings… so it’s probably for the best that I lost that post when my old laptop, the Mad Hatter, passed away in February (#RIP). Besides, since I worked on that post there’s been even more discussion in the scientific community on the topic- making this more fortuitous timing to have a chat about it. Don’t worry though, this post won’t be 15,000 words 😉

cracks knuckles batmanOkay *cracks knuckles* before we get started, I know this is going to be a sensitive topic for some people, so I may as well begin with a little self-defence and state for the record: I’m not going to get personal. I’m certainly not writing this post for any nefarious purposes. And I would ask those who disagree with what I have to say not to assume/attack/jump to conclusions about me ta-very-much… except that’d likely be a pointless request, since most people don’t need to be told not to be dicks and the people that do need it will likely ignore the request anyway 😉

So, we’re already at an impasse, where all I can say is that I understand the perspective of those who use trigger warnings and can sympathise with their intentions. Arguments range from protecting children from inappropriate books to helping those with PTSD/mental health issues avoid topics they don’t want to read. Personally, I believe that all readers should be able to self-censor, or to use a more common term CHOOSE, what they read. That’s a huge part of why we review books in the first place. you chooseAnd I will say, so we’re clear, if you want to put trigger warnings in your reviews, that’s entirely your decision. Reviewers should feel free to review in whichever way they see fit. But I do think there should be more discussion around this, since there are reasons bloggers like me do not use them. And, spoiler alert, it’s not cos we’re evil 😉

The main issue that I’ve always had with the use of trigger warnings is the consensus from a large swathe of the scientific community that trigger warnings are not only ineffective, they’re also counterproductive. Most recently, a study by Harvard PHD student Payton Jones, linked below, discovered that trigger warnings increased anxiety for those with severe PTSD. His findings were that trigger warnings “countertherapeutically reinforce survivors’ view of their trauma as central to their identity.” Other trauma psychologists, such as Metin Basoglu, previously stated “Most trauma survivors avoid situations that remind them of the experience. Avoidance means helplessness and helplessness means depression. That’s not good. Exposure to trauma reminders provides an opportunity to gain control over them.” Regardless of whether an individual can seek help or not, I would question whether it is wise to adopt a practice which can worsen an individual’s symptoms. This is not as cut and dry an issue as many are led to believe.

Sticking to the topic of mental health, I believe there is an alternative way to approach the issue. Logically speaking, it’s no wonder that trigger warnings can be counterproductive. They prime the reader for an adverse reaction. Starkly putting the words “trigger warning: rape” is far more shocking than explaining gently in the review that “there are sensitive topics in the book, such as sexual assault, so readers who don’t want to read this content may want to bear that in mind”. This is aside from the fact choosing the correct warnings in the first place is tricky if not nigh on impossible (I am not joking when I say that I’ve met a person with an intense fear of buttons for instance). Rather than picking out from a carefully cultivated list, readers are usually better at determining for themselves where the line might be. A good review will always facilitate that, letting you know important aspects of the content.

Here’s where the other issues come in. Chiefly, the spoiler issue… and yes this is an issue for a lot of readers. Not everyone, obviously- many people don’t care about spoilers and some even (*shock horror*) flip to the end of a book before they start to find out how it turns out! Yet, even for those who want to avoid certain topics in books, reading trigger warnings is a no-go because they are laden with spoilers. Given that people put in *every* detail into the warning section, from plot twists to endings, it is unsurprising not everyone wants to know the entire journey in advance. Thus, some reviewers prefer to explain any content issues in the body of the review- which most reviewers endeavour to do tactfully and in depth. This is the *purpose* of a review after all. I understand the desire to give people the information quickly- which is why trigger warnings are so popular in the age of immediacy- yet the words without context aren’t just spoilery. They can actually have other consequences for a book.

Think for a moment what the label “racism” does to your preconceptions of a book. Now if I tell you that trigger warning can be applied from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Invisible Man to Gone with the Wind to Huckleberry Finn, it should raise alarm bells- because these are v-e-r-y different books. Out of context, the word “racist” is off-putting- which is why a full review, with examples, explanations and in-depth explorations, is so important. Just sticking a label on a book is unhelpful if we actually want to examine the issues it contains- especially if its critiquing said issues. I’d argue it’s potentially censorious, except that labels like these have already been used to slam cancelled books. In fact, people often aren’t even allowed to have this conversation without getting cancelled (anecdotally, I saw Erika Sanchez getting serious blowback on twitter for daring to have an opinion on this). And it’s no secret that “triggering books” have been used widely to self-censor at universities (which, given the role of academic institutions, is rather different to self-censoring when reading for pleasure).

All of this- combined with the fiery-career-ending conversations around this topic- gets in the way of free and open debate. And that is what I am most concerned about. We need to have real conversations, not resort to “here’s what this book is about in 140 characters or less!” Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the quickfire culture is right- but personally I’d rather take my time figuring things out.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Before I go, I’d like to share a couple of fantastic posts from other bloggers having this conversation and presenting their own views:

Drew @The Tattooed Book Geek https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/lets-talk-trigger-warnings-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers-blogpost

Confessions of a YA Reader https://confessionsofayareader.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/are-we-policing-books-too-hard-or-not-enough-are-we-helping-books-get-banned-controversial-book-discussion-post-massive-warning-for-triggers-and-hot-topics-throughout-the-whole-blog-post-do/

And more recent research that I’ve done:

https://osf.io/axn6z/

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-03-15/do-trigger-warnings-on-tv-do-more-harm-than-good/

https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=13462

https://slate.com/technology/2019/07/trigger-warnings-research-shows-they-dont-work-might-hurt.html

https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/12/trigger-warnings-from-the-feminist-blogosphere-to-shonda-rhimes-in-2013.html

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/study-trigger-warnings-are-basically-useless-even-if-youve-been-through-trauma/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/03/do-trigger-warnings-work/585871/

https://themedium.ca/features/going-too-far-with-trigger-warnings/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11106670/Trigger-warnings-more-harm-than-good.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/20/trigger-warnings-college-campus-books

Sooo time to turn it over to you- am I going to hell in a handbasket for my opinions here? Do you agree or disagree with my stance on this? Let me know in the comments!

Woke by @TitaniaMcGrath is the most important book of our time

wokeWhat a STUNNING and BRAVE and MAGNIFICENT creature Titania McGrath is. It is an absolute pleasure to bask in her tweets that liberate us from reality and hear to her shrieking *ahem* spoken word poetry. We are all blessed to breathe the same air as her (except that we probably shouldn’t do that cos that is stealing air from minorities). We, the undeserving, are fortunate to merely be able to listen to this goddess of progressivism preaching how much better she is than us. Her wisdom is undeniable.

“It is no exaggeration to say I would rather be living in a Soviet gulag than a capitalist country”

Of course, it can come as no surprise that Titania experienced *horrendous* abuse from an early age, being brought up by wealthy parents and privately educated (the horror, the horror!). Worse still, she recently faced a twitter ban by the evil Nazi capitalist overlords over in Silicone Valley! I now thank my lucky stars that I have never experienced such inhumane treatment!

“That’s the wonderful thing about identity politics: you never have to explain yourself, or even develop your thoughts into what right-wingers call a “coherent argument””

Are we not all oppressed though? Titania teaches us that anything can be a form of oppression if shouted about loudly enough. I for one would love to share my invisible disability of extreme laziness but I’m afraid I’d have to get out of bed early to do that (#slovenlypride). But really, I recognise that my biggest obstacle in life comes from being a woman (obviously) and that even my cartoon depictions of myself are oppressed by the patriarchy (obviously) since no one recognises I’m a woman unless I put on a dress!

orangutan in dress

“When women are valued more than men, then and only then will we have achieved equality.”

Althoughhhh when I say everyone is oppressed, I’m not really talking about everyone. Straight white men don’t count. Even if they’re living in a dumpster, they have privilege. I mean, that goes without saying. I actually bought a copy of this book for my brother’s birthday because he needs to feel SHAME for being born male and having the audacity to stay that way. Maybe he’ll learn his lesson from our Great and Glorious Saviour, Titania McGrath! And on that note, given that I don’t have the power to award this book a Nobel Prize, I shall have to give it the equally prestigious award of 5/5 bananas:

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

Okay, I think I might have blown my cover by engaging in the imaginary free market with that endowment 😉 Of course, *disclaimer time*, this book and my review were satire. I’m afraid I must break character or you’ll all think I’ve gone totally bananas. Surprising as it may be, Titania McGrath is a fictional character invented by the hilarious Andrew Doyle. Having said that, if you’re worried about authenticity, this was replete with plenty of bonkers things real-live-people have actually said. Woke was an amazing antidote to some of the barmy media out there- I was belly laughing and chuckling throughout- so job well done! (and yes, I did actually buy this for my brother’s birthday and he thought it was brilliant too!)

Alright, did I fool you? Did you think I’d lost my marbles? Do you think you’ll pick this up? Let me know in the comments!

Calling Out Call Out Culture

thoughts orangutan

What with freedom of speech week coming up, I thought now would be a good time to start pissing people off *ahem* saying all the *controversial things* I’ve ever wanted to say. Starting with the fact that I HATE cancel culture… which I guess means I’m going to cancel myself with this post 😉

Just kidding- I know that the blogosphere is basically the sanest place on the internet and I’m probably just talking to an echo chamber of people who agree with me 😉 But you all know what I mean by cancel culture: those dumpster fires that rage online daily and seem intent on destroying everything in their path.

two minutes of hate
And people call 1984 too far-fetched 😉

I’m referring to the fact that many ordinary people are walking on eggshells for fear they’re about to receive their FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME! I’m talking about the way people try to cancel YA for being too dark or daring to cover a controversial topic or the author saying something that strays from a rather niche-and-ever-evolving hymn sheet. Many of the articles I’ve included in my sources will give you examples, yet the one of the most striking is the curious case of Blood Heir, where critical advanced reviews promoted the incorrect idea that the reference to slavery in the book must inherently refer to the Slave Trade and therefore this was cultural appropriation (gosh, so many things wrong with that view, not least that slavery is endemic across history and an ongoing global issue). There was good news on that front recently, with the book now being scheduled for release in November (after people came to their senses and realised Zhao did *nothing wrong*), but not everyone that comes under fire lives to tell the tale.

Most authors can easily have their career ruined by these actions. No one is immune- I’ve seen the most famous authors and virtual unknowns attacked. And I’m often ASTOUNDED by how blasé so many creative people are about it (sometimes even being ringleaders in this regard). Too many seem to be kidding themselves that “oh well I believe all the ‘right’ things so they couldn’t possibly come for me”- when in reality I’ve seen the goal posts change a million times in the last few years. I’ve seen some books praised for covering difficult topics… and the next one condemned. The perceived *target* seems to be as guilty as the next person. All at the whim of select reviewers, social media activists or journos.

Now, far be it for me to criticise negative reviews! You all know I’ve defended them at length. No, I’m talking about targeted campaigns to get a book cancelled because of something (usually) one individual disliked about it. Which to me is a bizarre attitude- as Angela Carter said “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms”– no two people will read a book the same way (I know, very death of the author 😉). And I think we all experience this with reviews. I know I can’t be the piles of booksonly contrarian that’s read a negative review and thought “huh but that thing they’re complaining about really appeals to me- ADDING IT TO MY ALREADY INSANELY LONG TBR!” (#bookwormlogic) That might even be why some authors seem to thrive off a little healthy debate.

let it goOf course if you had a problem with a book *wrestle with it, examine it, dissect it to your heart’s content*, but also LET IT GO! Because, not only are we all individuals who experience books differently, but it isn’t a healthy attitude to have such a visceral reaction. You know why I write negative (and to some extent positive) reviews? To get it out of my system. I think the thing, say the thing, move on from the thing- never have I thought “I’M GONNA GO ON A CRUSADE AND RUIN THIS AUTHOR’S LIFE!”

Shockingly, there are people who do think like that. Annnd this is the part of the post where I’m going to throw some real shade. Cos the agitators behind this know *exactly* what they’re up to. They think they’re getting good publicity and that no one could possibly think they’re the jerk. They think that the cover of social media grants them anonymity- and yet I’ve spotted a pattern with repeat offenders. While they may be happy to destroy careers on a whim, they like equally problematic things in other books (cos it’s pretty easy to have a little looksie at their goodreads 😉). Hypocrisy aside, there’s nothing wrong with them liking some books over others- the problem arises from them trying to act as the moral arbiters here. Because who the hell crowned them the king or queen of taste?! Most people rightly realise opinions are *SUBJECTIVE*.

Being the worrier that I am, I fear I’ll get a chorus of “name names” and “tell us who’s doing this”- but that is the antithesis of why I’m doing this post in the first place. I don’t see how turning the mob on these individuals will help calm things down. Besides, too often we’re so fixated on the named “criminal” we forget what we’re even talking about. Recently, I’ve written articles in response to some statements by famous authors and, rightly or wrongly, I chose not to include names. While I don’t want to rely on hearsay, I personally think it’s usually better to focus on their ideas and avoid the possible (totally unnecessary) author-bashing. Especially since the one time that I did name an individual for off the cuff comments, it ended up being a distraction to the point at hand. Naturally, this isn’t to say every journalist or commentator is wrong to do so, I just think sometimes it is possible to argue your point without making it personal.

As much as I hate call out culture, I know not everyone who gets caught up in it is an awful person. We’re all human (or in some cases monkeys) and we all make mistakes. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop liking those tweets from people saying “let’s end so-and-so’s career”. Maybe we can stop posting and reposting the angry diatribes directed at individuals. It might just be a little too late in some other areas of life, but we can do better in the bookish community at least. Or else, all art will be dictated by the mob and books can be nothing more than drab, colourless, lifeless autobiographies. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? 😉

Other blog posts on the topic…

Katie @Never Not Reading – Book Twitter is Kind of the Worst

Nicole @Sorry I Am Booked – Bookish Thought Sensitivity: Cancel Culture in Literature

And elsewhere around the internet…

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/15/torn-apart-the-vicious-war-over-young-adult-books

https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/in-ya-where-is-the-line-between-criticism-and-cancel-culture

https://slate.com/culture/2019/01/blood-heir-ya-book-twitter-controversy.html

http://www.papermag.com/cancel-culture-doesnt-work-2602364106.html

http://www.womensmediacenter.com/fbomb/the-problem-with-cancel-culture

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/17/opinion/sunday/cancel-culture-call-out.html

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/04/228847/own-voices-movement-ya-literature-impact

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/05/writers-blocked-even-fantasy-fiction-is-now-offensive/

Phew- that was a big topic to get through! And now I’m terrified of what everyone is going to say! Even so, this has always been a platform for free speech and I want to know your thoughts on the issue. So, do you agree with me that cancel culture goes too far? Or should I just head off to the gulag? 😉 Let me know in the comments!