Archive for May, 2009

fairersexRambling around town the other day, I picked up a brochure for a new initiative by The Abbey Theatre. Next month, they’re running a series of six 20 minute plays by women. Ask most people to name an Irish female playwright and if you’re lucky, they’ll say Marina Carr, so this is a brilliant idea and one to be applauded. It highlights new voices and gives a space to Irish women dramatists – something which is seriously needed – so fair play to the Abbey. But does it really have to be called The Fairer Sex? The title seems to take away from the empowering impetus provided by running these plays. According to the free dictionary The Fair Sex is defined as “attractively feminine”, which seems to link physicality with worth, so in the context of promoting female playwrights, does this not undermine the message a little? To my mind, the phrase has always had connotations of weakness and/or of being somewhat lesser than the testicle-owners on the planet.

Name aside, it’s still a very admirable idea and you can support it by going along. Public readings of the plays will take place in the Peacock Theatre over two evenings next month. Wednesday June 10th will feature Ribbons by Elaine Murphy, Salad Day by Deirdre Kinahan and Nineteen Ninety Two by Lisa McGee. On June 17th, the featured plays/writers are Meeting Miss Ireland by Rosemary Jenkinson, Blue Light Flashes by Claire Kilroy and Birdsong by Ursula Rani Sarma.

The Fairer Sex at The Abbey Theatre

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You might be forgiven for thinking that we Anti-Room ladies are obsessed with childish crushes. We’ve talked about the shameful crush (nothing, absolutely nothing, will beat my friend J’s childhood love for Paul Daniels). We’ve talked about role-dependent crushes (hello, Don Draper!).

Look at Sydney Carton posing moodily on the far right! What angsty teen could resist?

Look at Sydney Carton posing moodily on the far right! What angsty teen could resist?

And now, my friends, we’re going to talk about one of the most mysterious crushes of all – the literary fictional character crush. This is a crush on a man or woman we have never seen, apart from in our own fevered imagination. There are the obvious ones for those who fancy boys – Darcy and Mr Rochester, although I have to admit that those arrogant, obnoxious blokes never did anything for me. Although it’s not like my literary crushes are anything to boast about, as you can see below. Nor do they resemble, in any way, the men I have actually gone out with (and indeed married) in real life, who have been cute boys in bands who made me laugh. But in fiction, it’s apparently another story. Very mysterious…*

Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I’m re-reading A Tale of Two Cities at the moment, and remembering one of my greatest teenage fictional crushes, Sydney Carton. For those unfamiliar with the (excellent) novel, it’s set around the time of the French Revolution in both London and Paris (the, um, two cities of the title), and Mr Carton is a debauched, drunken, moody, tortured lawyer who is also incredibly noble when it really counts. He is, in fact the ultimate Tormented Boy (tm Sassy magazine circa 1993). I was 14 the last time I read this book, and fell madly in love with Carton and his habit of standing around moodily, despised by all, who are ignorant of the true nobility of his nature. Needless to say, I wept buckets at the “It is a far, far better thing that I do now…” bit. To my immense surprise (and despite the fact that, unlike when I was 14 and had never even kissed a boy, I now know that tormented surly drunken boys are usually not secretly noble and are actually just arseholes), he is having the same effect on me now that he did nearly 20 years ago. Stay away from that boring Lucie Manette, Sydney! She’s not worth it! Sigh.

Sebastian from Lorna Hill’s Sadler’s Wells books.

I know I was not alone in my 13-year-old love for Sebastian, the eccentric, charismatic and witty musical genius who befriends and later falls in love with future prima ballerina Veronica. Mere words can’t describe how much I adored these books when I was 12 or 13, but although I still find them extremely entertaining now, Sebastian himself is, alas, a bit of a smug, arrogant arse. I can remember why I worshiped him once but now, nstead of loving him, I find him a little bit irritating.Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Lord Peter Wimsey.

Oh, Lord Peter, hero of Dorothy L. Sayers’s wonderful crime novels, how I still love you. There are so many appealing things about you. Your silly, dandy-ish appearance and manner that conceals your razor-sharp brain. Your recovery from shellshock after your valiant service in the trenches. The way that you triumphantly solve crimes but are traumatised by the fact that you are sending a criminal to the gallows (you don’t get Poirot giving a toss about that, do you?). And of couse, the fact that you marry a sassy feminist novelist and, we are told quite clearly, are very good in bed. Alas, in your two major screen incarnations you were played by the profoundly unsexy and frankly irritating Ian Carmichael and the less irritating but still not exactly foxy Edward Petherbridge (Harriet Walter, on the other hand, made the most perfect Harriet Vane imaginable). Nothing can top the version of you in your fans’ imaginations – it’s not surprising that you were voted one of the top three most attractive fictional heroes by Radio 4 listeners. Oddly enough, however, my favourite Sayers book, Gaudy Night, barely features Lord Peter at all, but it is all about Harriet, who totally rocks.

So ladies and gentlemen, what about you? What fictional fantasies float your collective boat?

*I must admit to having a soft spot for Henry Tilney in the wonderful Northanger Abbey, who is indeed funny and charming and, much as I love her, the only Jane Austen hero I’ve ever found attractive.

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Spoonful of Zucker

Whether you can understand German or not, you’ll appreciate Frl. Zucker’s cute blog, and in particular her lovely zine/art project My Girlgang, a celebration of female friendship in both Deutsch and English. frl zuckerFrl. Zucker, aka Maren, and her chums love Chuck Bass, small animals, Bjork, and lots of other things. Most of the blog is in English, and it’s all full of cute, strange artwork – it’s a sweet little slice of youthful German indie feminism (more of which in a future post), and I’ve already bought one of her bags

ETA: The bag arrived from Berlin this morning and it is already my favourite mála. Which is saying something, because, as my spouse can confirm, I have a LOT of bags.

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Is anybody there…..?

Guilt really is a great motivator. l_8cd285eb1e8140e1add2a53993ac45b3Last night three of us Anti-Roomers headed out to the launch of Lash Back, a fantastic new feminist zine from the Lash Back Collective. It was great to see so many people in a cool space celebrating a feminist project, but we couldn’t believe our eyes when we looked through the zine and saw, in the recommended websites page, this very blog. And then we felt really, really guilty for not updating in, like, two months. Which is why we are back, with lots of plans for interviews and guest bloggers and lots of other things. So thanks, Lash Back ladies, for inadvertently guilting us into action! Thanks also for the wine and delicious snacks, which we ate quite a lot of. And congratulations on the zine. As someone who put together one issue of a zine called Projecto Jane (the name came from a bizarre Mary Poppins-related sisterly in-joke) back in 1993 with my sister, and never did anything with it, I am very impressed by your successful foray into DIY publishing.

By the way, the first page of Projecto Jane featured a list of Things We Love and Things We Hate. I remember that in the ‘Love’ section we included both Hancock’s Half Hour and ‘Her Jazz’ by Huggy Bear. A combination which still kind of sums up my cultural tastes.

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