Jul. 10th, 2017

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Today's featured book is Kameron Hurley's engaging essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution. Originally a series of articles and blog posts, a number of which have taken on a life of their own, the collection draws them together and puts them alongside other pieces which address similar issues. The tone is impassioned and polemical, rather than dry, closely argued philosophy, Hurley focuses on the person and political, challenging the reader to examine their own preconceptions and privileges.

The book starts with an excellent overview of the nature of writing and eviscerates some of the most common myths — such as the notion that talent is a sufficient condition for success; hell, in some cases, it doesn't even seem to be a necessary one! The second part delves into culture — mostly geek culture — and skilfully takes it apart, often from a feminist perspective, to show its inbuilt assumptions and biases. Hurley's essay on the first series of True Detective, focusing not on the supernatural but on what makes the lead characters monsters, is particularly good — and particularly disturbing, given that much of the perspective comes from first hand experience.

The last two sections of the book deal with the wider world — the justifiably famous and deeply horrifying The Horror Novel You’ll Never Have to Live: Surviving Without Health Insurance should be required reading for politicians of every stripe. The final section, which focuses on revolution and change picks apart moments in history and, although the ideas may not be original — the notion that default views are not apolitical reminds me of, I think, Felix Holt where being a Tory is considered to be apolitical! — they're expressed with clarity and an enjoyable sense of brio.

If the collection has a weakness, it is that all the pieces were originally written as standalone articles. Thus they include slightly more throat-clearing than usual, with Hurley setting out various facts that we've just read about in the previous essay. But that's a minor quibble with a easy solution: simple spread out the essays rather than reading them in one sitting, or dip into them out of order.

(As an aside, I particularly like the llama on the cover which, amusingly, appears to be a slightly modified version of the one the cover Schwartz and Christiansen's Learning Perl. My copy, now 20+ years old, notes that this particular llama comes from a 19th century engraving in the Dover Pictorial Archive, perhaps explaining how it came feature on both covers)


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