Covering for Suzanne Moore again this week in the Mail on Sunday, with a column on JK Rowling’s freakin’ swearfest in The Casual Vacancy. Lots of the reviews have centred on the themes being too gritty. I didn’t mind that as much as the preachy message – and the expletives in every paragraph. Plus: why Downton’s the real winner at the Emmy’s, the scandal of midwifery numbers in London and banning Borat’s mankini.
Click here for today’s Mail on Sunday column, where I’m standing in for Suzanne Moore this week. There’s the woman who unmoored a Dartmouth passenger ferry, shouting, “I’m Jack Sparrow!” — before hitting a £70,000 catamaran. Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz as Obama’s fund-raising marshmallow twins. The Litvinenko case six years on. And why I’m much more sorry than Nick Clegg could ever be. Sorry I ever voted for the Lib Dems.
Old women are not hideous! No matter what this rather fascinating 16th century portrait of a “woman” (really?) may be trying to prove. (I love it, though.) Writing in the Independent about Mary Beard, Fiona Bruce and the BBC’s many excuses about why there are no silver-haired women reading the news. Or very many older women doing anything much at all. Shame on you!
Portrait of A Grotesque Old Woman or The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys (1513). Black and white pic by Ann from Detroit.
Downton’s back! And so is the series blog! Click here for review of Series Three, Episode One. Verdict: promising. Not quite as trashy as Series Two. But not as polished as Series One either. And I am still trying to work out whether they actually, technically, properly got married.
Hurrah! It’s back! Great excitement about the return of Downton Abbey. Click here for pre-match analysis (no spoilers). The new Guardian series blog will go up 30 seconds after the end of tonight’s episode. And at the same time every Sunday thereafter. The comments usually get heated on Monday morning. Just like Mrs Patmore’s soup.
Writing in the Independent about a study reported in the New Scientist linking Alzheimer’s and junk food. “Health warnings are having no impact on behaviour. “Look! Now you won’t just deteriorate physically, you’ll deteriorate mentally, too!” As a motivating statement, it’s not going to work.” My strategy? Ban BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Free). Because I cannot resist them.
Doughnut pic by Anna Maj Michelson. Pancake pic by Joshua.
The Book of the Month in Red’s October issue is Deborah Copaken Kogan’s The Red Book. With that title it was a bit of a shoo-in. It’s like Sex and the City crossed with Cold Feet. But at Harvard. The Red Book is an actual Harvard thing: an update of everyone in your university year, published every five years. This novel follows four university friends who have taken very different paths in life and usually ones they didn’t exactly intend to follow. The Red Book makes them face the lies they’re telling each other and the lies they’re telling themselves. It’s good.
A reader wrote in recently to ask about a book she had seen featured in Red which was like Sex and the City. It was weird because I knew we were about to feature The Red Book so her question felt clairvoyant. I realised after thinking about it for several days that she was actually thinking about The Group by Mary McCarthy, mentioned in Red on a regular basis by me and also by editor Sam Baker. See review here by Elizabeth Day in the Observer. It’s set in the 1930s and is a favourite novel for a lot of people.
Candace Bushnell once described SATC as “a modern-day version of The Group.” There are parallels too with Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything, set in the 1950s, and Meg Wolitzer’s The Ten-Year Nap, set in the early 2000s.
Elsewhere in October issue, I’ve written a piece linked to Red’s latest survey into attitudes towards parenting: Emotional Infertility: What Nobody Tells You About Modern Motherhood. What a bumper bonanza.
Writing in today’s Independent on Sunday about Naomi Wolf’s book Vagina: A New Biography. Read here. Dubbed “the crocodile’s mouth” by the Munduruku tribe of the Amazon basin and “the gate to hell” by theologian Tertullian, now the source of life is now re-branding itself via genitalia cupcakes, anatomically-correct armchairs and, in the US, an invitation to “Knit Your Congressman a Vagina.” (In protest against healthcare cuts, keen craftswomen send crocheted depictions of female body parts to politicians.) Cupid Stunt would be proud.
Naomi Wolf pic by David Shankbone.
Writing in today’s Guardian (here) about the physical experiences described in Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography, out next week. Following an operation to repair her lower vertebrae, Wolf likens her “sexual reawakening” to Dorothy finding herself in the technicolor Land of Oz. Bad news for anyone who doesn’t need back surgery. If birds fly over the rainbow, then why, oh why, can’t I? Away above the chimney tops, at the osteopath’s. That’s where you’ll find me.
Naomi Wolf pic by Thomas Good, Next Left Notes.
The story of poor Lady Gaga and her off-stage sick bucket. She said, “I went backstage and vomited and I did not want you to see this. It happens to me sometimes.” “Sometimes”? In that dress surely “most days”? Also in today’s Sunday Express column: teenagers and GCSEs. First they’re told the exams are too easy and count for nothing. Now it turns out they’ve been marked down in an attempt to curb grade inflation. Who’d be sixteen again? Plus: Bad news for old fathers from Nature magazine. Architects’ floor plans uncovered for Friends, Mad Men and Sex and the City. And an instruction to Prince Harry to put on his missing pants and watch The Hangover. Because what happens in Vegas never stays in Vegas.
Gaga MonsterBall Tour pic by TamTam.