Saturday, April 19, 2008

Book review time

So, I picked up some books recently, and since one of them is by one of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, I figured I'd throw up a review.

When I started reading her book, It's a Jungle Out There, I have to admit, my first feeling was disappointment. You see, for no particular reason, I'd been expecting a book of long essays. I'd been expecting to write a review that started off something like "Freed of the confines of short blog entries, Amanda Marcotte demonstrates her powerful intellect along with her wit...".

But life is never what you expect, and this book was nothing like that. So what was it?

You have to be careful here. Have you see Return of the Jedi, and found it to be an excellent movie? I did. But one day, the philosophy of it struck me. We're calling Darth Vader's action an act of redemption... but what did he do? He decided to kill the emperor, who had, just moments ago, been egging his son on to kill him. Was this redemption? It could just as easily be revenge! So, as a philosophical treatise on the nature of redemption, it was lousy, but as an action movie with a bit of emotional interplay, it was good.

Before you can judge something properly, you need to look at it from the right perspective. So, what is It's a Jungle Out There?

Thankfully, it tells you right on the cover; it's "(a) Feminist survival guide to politically inhospitable environments". It's a set of short bits of thinking, humor, and snark about dealing with various and sundry issues that a modern feminist will come up against, especially online.

It's well written, and just as sharp and as funny as you'd expect from reading Amanda Marcotte's entries on Pandagon. But it does take a certain readiness before you start to read it.

This is not a book for the timid feminist (or feminist-ally). This is not a book for the folks whose most common words are "oh, we shouldn't say that, it will upset people!" This is not a book for beginners who might feel overwhelmed and upset if they see snarkiness or anger or impatience.

No, this is a book for folks who've gone past Feminism 101, and probably past Feminism 205. This is a book for folks who accept that women have the right to be royally pissed off about how stupid society can be about a lot of issues. This is a book for folks who can listen to something, and keep listening, even if the speaker is willing to be not-nice, or even nasty, if the point being made is fair.

Please understand that I'm not saying she's nasty in this book. Nothing sticks out in my mind as "oh my god, that was such a terrible thing to say!" But... well, I've been learning to deal with in-your-face feminism and a lot of things that roll of my back might not roll of of someone else's.

It is exactly what it claims to be: a survival guide. It's based on the assumption that it's a nasty old world out there, and you have to be tough enough to handle it. And it's a good picture into the mind of a woman who most certainly is tough enough to handle it, and handle it well.

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