How to read a Jonathan Franzen novel, stage by stage

Characters are being described in detail over the course of several pages. You can’t quite picture their faces, but you feel as if you definitely empathise with the overwhelming emotions they are experiencing as they perform small and mundane household tasks. As they watch a kettle come to the boil (800 words) you feel your face settle into an expression of restrained despair.

A character in the book feels very uncomfortable with their expensive, liberal arts college education. They take a horrible job to feel better about it.

You quite enjoy a scene tinged with humour, centring around two old people performing a mundane household task (something like cleaning a bath or replacing a tyre on a car). The scene is witnessed blankly and unemotionally by the younger person with the expensive liberal arts college education, who is picturing having sex with someone inappropriate. By the end of the scene, at least one character will have privately and violently pictured causing serious physical harm to one of the other characters. You check your emotions and find that you don’t really care.

There is an excellent, soul-wrenching passage examining some emotions experienced by a character having a solitary bowel movement. Continue reading


Life changing advice (and DCI Barnaby)

*spoiler alert: formatting is f**ked up in this post, but you don’t care, and neither do I.


I loved this post at Knowable which gathered up 21 Reddit users’ contributions on the theme ‘things people said to me that changed your way of thinking’.

My favourites from the list include:

“Next year, you’ll wish you had started today.” – so true! And in five years time, you’ll wish you started ten years ago.

“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm”. – yes, especially when those people probably need more fire than you can ever provide and you’ll just end up burning out. I think this one applies equally well in toxic workplaces AND relationships.

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4 ways to use birds to convey your sexual potency on Tinder

You would not believe the number of men who photograph themselves with large birds (usually birds of prey) on Tinder.

I haven’t kept all of them, because they’re not actually funny; and I am considerate of your feelings.

But after seeing it a million times, I’ve started to wonder what is going through these guys’ heads when they consciously select the ‘large bird’ picture for their Tinder profiles.

So, just to get it out the way so that we can get back to Tinder Top Trumps: here is a selection of the common ‘large birds’ shots, with some best guesses of the subtext.

1. The Standard: I’m a Nice Guy with AN EDGE

The tried and tested falconry shot. Continue reading

5 steps for saying no to ‘life-suck’ invitations

I belong to a group of women that regularly get together to discuss our life goals and share personal achievements, drink wine, and give each other advice on stuff we’re struggling with. (I know, that’s quite the opener, right? Try to remember that at least I don’t belong to a local branch of an anarchist network, or regularly knock on doors to ask people if they’ve found Jesus yet, and you might hate me a little less. I promise I’m only telling you because it’s relevant.)

Since it’s January, we spent our last evening together reflecting on 2015 and trying to devise our 2016 goals by working out what  uses of our time we’d got the most and least out of last year.

As we went around the room, I noticed a pattern in what was being said. Essentially, all of us wanted more time to do the stuff that mattered, like spending time with children or significant other, learning something,  growing our own businesses, fixing up our houses, getting better at our favorite sport or hobby, discovering new music, walking in the country, or hosting dinner parties for close friends.

What was getting in the way of a lot of this? Well, quite often, stuff we were doing we didn’t really want to be doing. I’ve started asking around about this, and it seems to be a common theme in our lives, particularly with women.

Examples of the stuff the women I spoke to collectively didn’t want to be doing but were nonetheless spending precious time on include:

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Tinder Top Trumps is back

Tinder Top Trumps kicked off on this blog with the difficult category “People who have taken a photo of themselves next to something far more visually arresting or exciting than they are, rendering themselves the least interesting part of the photo.”

This week, I’m bringing you “People holding something weird in a weird way.”

Let the challenge commence.

Sub-category of honorable mentions #1:

Dudes holding babies

A surprising number of men tend to grab a baby as a prop for their Tinder shots, which I find disturbing in the extreme.

You do understand the point of Tinder is to hook up, right? The entire purpose of the picture is for women to look at it and make a split-second, hormone-driven decision as to whether she wants to be naked with you.


However, in the mess of many, many dudes holding babies I’ve swiped, there were some contenders for this category’s winner, including one woman. Just because looking at them makes me feel…sort of….weird.





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Charles Saatchi lists his six favourite books and everyone is weirded out

Thanks to The Week magazine, I have given more thought to Charles Saatchi today than I’ve given him in the rest of my life put together.

“The advertising guru Charles Saatchi, founder of the Saatchi Gallery, picks his six favourite books.”

  1. The Famous Five series, Enid Blyton. “I very much wanted to join up and for it to become The Famous Six”.

We all did, Charles, but most of us tend to look back on it with an involuntary shudder. Remember Anne and how annoying she was, always playing with those damn dolls and needing rescuing from small enclosed spaces? Remember that patronising little shit Julian, always buying icecreams for everyone with his own money and acting so magnanimous about it?

Remember Dick?


2. Bleak House, Charles Dickens. “Dickens’ daunting indictment of the British legal system […] I have re-read many times over the years. The BBC television series, starring Gillian Anderson, was so very poor, thankfully very few people would have watched it.”

A few things on this:

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Teen heart-throbs I had the hots for in the 90s, in order of how much they give me the creeps now

I went through a phase…OK, maybe more than just a phase… of putting up the posters of teen heart-throbs, from the teen magazines I used to buy.

These man-children hung on my walls, pouted benignly over every waking moment of my utterly unremarkable and unattractive adolescence… until the blu-tack dried out, and they fell face-first into my plastic model ponies. (Always a sad day). I’m not sure what made me think of it today, but I was, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

Disturbingly, it seems that in my teenage years, I swung from fancying guys who looked somewhat man-like, to those who don’t actually seem to have reached puberty. It’s weird to think that adult women and men collected up some of these pictures and marketed them to me as sex symbols. I mean, I was young enough to still be attracted to someone whose voice was not yet broken, and they knew about it. Bleurgh. Imagine that being your job. Presumably, someone still does this stuff now (although I can’t imagine with smartphones and all that new-fangled whatnot, that today’s teenage girls are putting up with the rubbish quality snaps and articles we used to get our kicks to- they’re probably all watching X-rated home sex videos of the dudes, or something).

So. Anyway. We’re rating the hotties for their creeps-giving qualities in reverse order, starting with the least creepy:

Callan Mulvey (“Drazic” in Heartbreak High)

DRAZIC-heartbreak-high-3175304-218-300To be honest, after googling Callan Mulvey for about ten minutes, I have come to the conclusion that I still would.

Putting this poster on my wall might be one of the least creepy things that I did at 13, in fact.

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