Hi, everybody! It's the fourth week of our pre-publication discussion of Caitlin Moran's upcoming novel, How to Build a Girl. Through the generosity of HarperCollins, Moran's publisher in the US, we've all been given access to the book, and if our blogposts (or accompanying GIFs) pique your interest, then consider pre-ordering the book here. Please beware that all of our posts will be spoilerific.
I dog-eared more pages in this book than any other book I can recall reading. In fact, I took a photo of my book to share with you. And those are just the top edges. Often there were parts on the verso/recto of the same page, so I dogeared the bottom pages for those circumstances. I also made lots of pencil brackets in the margins for the parts I liked best, and many pages have multiple brackets.
|I don't usually abuse my books this much|
There is definitely something about Moran's book that lends itself to the humourous gifs that we've been using each week, but I almost don't want to use any because I fear they will distract from its importance. You see, this is a book that fills a gap that has been open in literature for a long time. This is coming of age like we've not seen in a long time, if ever -- it's the equivalent for older teens of Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, the book that set the bar for the genre in 1970 when it was published, but which has become all but irrelevant for the last two decades. But because Moran is writing for adults, there are no holds barred, which is not always the case in the world of YA, and therefore gets down to the nitty-gritty. The fact that it's interlaced with social commentary about the class system? Well, that's pure gravy.
It's the story I wish I had been able to read when I was in my early twenties (I was a much later bloomer than Daisy/Johanna), and it's told in a language and style I wish I was brave enough to use myself. And if it had been available to me when I was a teenager, I think there's an excellent chance my life would have taken different direction. As it is, reading this book in my forties is still an utter revelation. In other words, this book is 100% my jam.
|You betcha. It's also a fucking book.|
Johanna spends this section still in love with John Kite, honing her skills as a writer, learning how to have sex, and learning how to be mean and snarky in print. We follow
Caitlin Johanna/Dolly through her first kiss, her first sexual experience, and the various levels of professional self-assuredness that she climbs. She spend quite a lot of time on an episode when she sleeps with a man with a large cock and the recovery thereof. Lots of puns in this section, but it also left me curiously prurient. I mean, just exactly how big was this Big Cock? Are we talking length and girth here?
In the end, she learns the difference between cynicism and just being plain mean. She tries for so long to be edgy and hard that it takes a disaster to make her realize that
"It is a million times easier to be cynical and wield a sword than it is to be open-hearted and stand there, holding a balloon and a birthday cake, with the infinite potential to look foolish. Because I still don't know what I really think or deel, and I'm throwing grenades and filling the air with smoke while I desperately, desperately try to get off the ground: to get elevation. Because I haven't learned the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind."
Amen. Be kind, indeed. I don't believe I'll use any more gifs, because that's the note I'd like to end on. This book is so damned funny that it's easy to forget the hard truths that it drives home.
P.S. Swashfuckler. That is an excellent word. I will never not laugh when I see it or think it.
P. S. Please don't forget to leave a comment here and when you visit other bloggers' pages. It's fun to keep the discussion going that way, and I've noticed that not everybody comments on every participant's post. Basically, please readalong well with others!
|Just like that. But with a different kind of sword.|
I guess I lied about not using any more gifs.