Talking to Women by Nell Dunn: a welcome reissue of a radical work

These interviews with accomplished women remain relevant more than 50 years later

It’s easy to understand how Nell Dunn’s Talking to Women had such a powerful impact when it was first published in 1964. In the foreword for the new edition, author Ali Smith describes it as “one of the first books to address the complications of the female self”. Smith views its common theme as: “The radical necessity of giving and having voice. Its interviewees admit and repeat both desire and difficulty in just, well, talking.”

And talking is exactly what happens, in a series of in-depth, far-ranging interviews with women, aged from their early 20s to early 30s. Authors, including Edna O’Brien and Ann Quin, artist Pauline Boty and six more women with voices just as vibrant and valid, occasionally sad and haunting, sometimes even anachronistic and grating, cover an array of subjects from men, marriage, sexuality, children, ...

Brave by Rose McGowan review – damn right she’s angry

The actor’s courage is palpable in this exposé that condemns Hollywood misogyny and the ‘monster’

Whatever else might be said about her, few could deny that actor Rose McGowan (The Doom Generation, Scream, Charmed) is brave. While recent explosive or erratic public appearances (shouting at a transgender heckler at a book event; babbling on talkshows) have disquieted even her supporters, McGowan’s courage is not in question. She’s the original woman who refused to shut up, whose rape accusation against Harvey Weinstein proved pivotal in felling the Miramax mogul and whose RoseArmy helped galvanise the #MeToo fight against systemic predatory misogyny within Hollywood and beyond.

Born in Italy, raised in the disturbing Children of God cult, then taken to America, where the then punk became homeless for a while (as detailed in this memoir/manifesto), McGowan, now 44, endured the kind of troubled background that merits respect just ...

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher review – Star Wars memories…

Covering her experiences on set and off in the sci-fi blockbuster, the actor’s last memoir finds her honest and witty as ever

Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, now available in paperback, was published shortly before her death last year, aged 60. As suggested by the title (Fisher always loved a pun), it mainly relates to her finding some old diaries from 1976, when she was 19 and had just won the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars. Fisher later reprised the role in two reboots, which felt to her “like an acid flashback, only intergalactic”.

The big reveal of The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s on-set affair with co-star Harrison Ford, a married father 15 years her senior. She labels the two of them “Carrison”. Fisher doesn’t actually reveal much, except inadvertently. For all her swooning over Ford, he comes across like an emotionally distant crashing bore. At ...

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco review – Obama, the White House and me

Barack Obama’s right-hand woman overshares details of her own life but holds back on everything you want to know about her bossThe title of Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir is taken from a question often posed by Barack Obama, when she was the White House deputy chief of staff (making it on to the list of “Washington’s most powerful, least famous people”). The cover photo features Mastromonaco sitting on Air Force One, with the first African American US president lolling casually beside her. However, what looks set to be an insider narrative on the Obama administration soon emerges as what Mastromonaco terms an “advice book/memoir geared towards women between the ages of about 15-25”. This is an approach that, while valid in its own right (Mastromonaco, now in her 40s, is an engaging, vivid narrator), is frustrating when it comes to delivering real insights on either the Obama presidency or the ...

In the Days of Rain: A Daughter. A Father. A Cult by Rebecca Stott; A Book of Untruths by Miranda Doyle – review

Two desperate childhood memoirs reveal girls at the mercy of patriarchal power

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott and Miranda Doyle’s A Book of Untruths are each powerful, distinctive memoirs in their own right, but they have threads in common, such as dysfunctional family, charismatic, flawed fathers, damage, loss, love, and how institutions have the power to destroy individuals.

Both books come with the blessing of key family members. In Stott’s case, her dying father asks for her help in documenting his own role as an influential (and intimidating) preacher in the Exclusive Brethren, the ultra-hardline Christian fundamentalist creationist sect (still active today) into which Stott was born.

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Jenny Slate: ‘Ivanka Trump is a fake feminist and should be ashamed’

The US actor, standup and author on her new film, Gifted, rescuing her career after being fired from Saturday Night Live, inspirational women and the terrifying situation in the White House Jenny Slate, 35, is an American comedian, actor and author. The middle of three sisters, with a ceramicist mother and poet father, she was raised in Milton, Massachusetts. While at Columbia University, Slate performed standup and improv. Moving to Los Angeles with then-husband, director Dean Fleischer-Camp (they’ve since amicably divorced), Slate joined Saturday Night Live in 2009, but accidentally swore in her first episode and was fired after one season. A stop-motion short animation made with Fleischer-Camp, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, became a viral hit, leading to New York Times bestseller children’s books and plans for a feature-length movie. With her distinctive voice, Slate featured in Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets. On television, she ...

Jenny Slate: ‘Ivanka Trump is a fake feminist and should be ashamed’

The US actor, standup and author on her new film, Gifted, rescuing her career after being fired from Saturday Night Live, inspirational women and the terrifying situation in the White House Jenny Slate, 35, is an American comedian, actor and author. The middle of three sisters, with a ceramicist mother and poet father, she was raised in Milton, Massachusetts. While at Columbia University, Slate performed standup and improv. Moving to Los Angeles with then-husband, director Dean Fleischer-Camp (they’ve since amicably divorced), Slate joined Saturday Night Live in 2009, but accidentally swore in her first episode and was fired after one season. A stop-motion short animation made with Fleischer-Camp, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, became a viral hit, leading to New York Times bestseller children’s books and plans for a feature-length movie. With her distinctive voice, Slate featured in Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets. On television, she ...

Little Labours by Rivka Galchen review – a stimulating curio

The acclaimed US writer marvels at a whole new way of being interrupted in these witty, smart essays about motherhoodBrooklyn-based author Rivka Galchen (American Innovations; Atmospheric Disturbances) was one of the New Yorker’s “20 under 40” writers to watch in 2010. On the front of her first nonfiction book, Little Labours, there’s a puma, representing Galchen’s baby daughter, whom she refers to as a “puma” throughout most of the book (“A puma moved into my apartment, a near mute force”). Galchen, who says she’d never been particularly interested in motherhood and babies, who was “repelled” by the thought of writing about them, reflects that once her child arrived “the world seemed ludicrously, suspiciously, adverbially, sodden with meaning”. It soon becomes clear that this slim, elegant volume of essays couldn’t be filed away as mere maternal navel-gazing (You know the kind of thing: “I’m the ...

Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars by David Hepworth – review

Hepworth’s lively study of rock’s greatest stars, from Little Richard to Kurt Cobain, underlines how much the music industry has changed In Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars, music writer, presenter and author of 1971: Never a Dull Moment, David Hepworth, not only pronounces “the rock star” dead, he traces the time of death to around the mid-1990s, with Kurt Cobain described as “a genuine rock star, possibly the last one”. While Uncommon People is full of death (Presley, Lennon, Bowie), the most significant is that of the industry as it was Continue reading...

Gone by Min Kym review – one prodigy’s passion for her violin

The theft of Min Kym’s Stradivarius made worldwide headlines – but her autobiography shows that wasn’t all she’d lost in lifeIn 2010, violinist and erstwhile child prodigy, 31-year-old Min Kym was with her partner in a Pret A Manger at Euston station, when her 1696 Stradivarius was stolen from under the table. Kym was so devastated at the loss of “her” instrument, that she descended into a depression and, for a while, couldn’t bear to play. Three years later, the story hit the headlines again, when the Stradivarius was recovered. Seemingly, it was a wonderful fairy tale ending, though, as Kym details in this powerful bruising memoir, the reality was far more complex. Her entire identity seems to be wrapped up in it, her dark symbiotic twin – she calls it “the One”, her “soulmate” Continue reading...

In Therapy: How Conversations with Psychotherapists Really Work by Susie Orbach – review

The dramatised format isn’t perfect but this companion piece to Orbach’s Radio 4 series offers a real insight into the ‘talking cure’ A psychotherapist for more than 40 years, Susie Orbach ranks among the best known in her profession. Famously, she advised Princess Diana (if ever there was a woman who needed advice!), and also wrote such tomes as Fat Is a Feminist Issue, which placed body image firmly at the centre of feminist debate. More recently, she aired views on young women facing a mental health crisis (a theme she further explores here). With In Therapy, a companion piece to the recent Radio 4 series of the same name, Orbach attempts to explain the process of psychotherapy – how it works, why it helps people, and whether it’s beneficial for everybody. At once there’s the question of whether In Therapy’s central premise is somewhat niche. ...

Girl Up by Laura Bates; Man Up by Rebecca Asher – review

Two valuable books positioned on either side of the gender divide have more in common than you might expectIt’s a case of similar titles, different subject matter, with Girl Up by Laura Bates (the Everyday Sexism project), and Man Up, by Rebecca Asher (Shattered: Modern Motherhood And The Illusion of Equality). The former is primarily aimed at the youth-feminism market; the latter, while not unsympathetic to feminism, asks: “We live in a man’s world, so why do so many boys and men fail to flourish?” Indeed, ironically, the titles flag up the differences: while Girl Up is a play on “man up”, Asher might argue that the very phrase “man up” is a judgment on perceived male weakness and thus part of the problem. In the case of Girl Up (“Part manifesto, part girl guide”), while it is youth-oriented, Bates doesn’t deliver a sanitised ...

Stars, Cars and Crystal Meth by Jack Sutherland review – high times indeed…

Jack Sutherland’s account of his descent into addiction working for the A-listers of Hollywood is unflinchingly honest

Academic, author, and newspaper columnist John Sutherland “ghosted” this uncompromising account of his adopted son Jack’s descent into drug-addled, sex-addicted psychosis (while working as a chauffeur/personal assistant/bodyguard to Hollywood celebrities) and, after reading it, you can understand why the process made him “like Jack a little less and love him as much as ever”.

The book kicks off with Jack being fired as a PA, and dubbed “the biggest fuck-up I’ve ever met” by actor Mickey Rourke (“from him, a compliment of a kind”, notes Jack drolly). This book is an account of how he ended up there, with occasional wry comments from his father in the footnotes.

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A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of the Columbine Tragedy by Sue Klebold – review

The mother of one of the Columbine school killers shares her shame of her son’s crimes in this harrowing and brave book On 20 April 1999, Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, took guns and explosives into Columbine high school, Littleton, Colorado, and killed 12 students and one teacher, wounding 21 others. In this book, Dylan’s mother, Sue, relates her grief, horror and shame, trying to work out how her beloved son came to carry out one of the worst school shootings in US history. Now a suicide prevention activist, Klebold will contribute the profits from her book to mental health charities and research into links between “brain health”, depression and murder-suicides such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. Related: 'The guilt I feel is huge': Mother of Columbine killer Dylan Klebold breaks silence Continue reading...









Life Moves Pretty Fast review – a funny, absorbing study of 80s Hollywood

Hadley Freeman casts a keen eye over the films of her youth – and their underrated treatment of feminism, teen angst and male bonding

In Life Moves Pretty Fast, Hadley Freeman sets her stall out early. The book’s title is a partial quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the cover art is of a video cassette evoking the video shop she was addicted to as a bookish New York child and her cover quote is: “I know people who have changed their entire lives because of a line of dialogue from When Harry Met Sally… and when I say ‘people’ I obviously mean ‘me’.”

Although Freeman acknowledges the potency of generational cultural nostalgia (in this case, for a generation that’s not technically her own), she not only likes “fun, mainstream” 80s films, she reveres them for being “sweetly specific in their references and completely universal in ...