The Gender Genie

Here’s an interesting link: http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php. This site takes whatever you’ve written – fiction, non-fiction, or blog entry (presumably they think these tend to sit somewhere between the first two options) – and then deduces whether you’re male or female.

Fortunately my first two posts here both came back as having been written by a male. The first got a male/female score of 299/236 and the second (being longer) a score of 656/496.

The site uses an algorithm that looks for certain words and tallies up the number of times you use them. Apparently the most masculine words include “what”, “more” and “many”, whilst the most feminine words include “me”, “myself” and “hers”. No further comment necessary.

Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years

In 1999, Sue Townsend’s latest slice of Mole pie, Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, was the first book I got as soon as it came out, in hardback, even though it cost over a week’s wages from my little Saturday job. It was such a titter-free mess of a book that I didn’t buy another first edition of any book for most of the next decade, and didn’t bother reading the 2004 follow-up, Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, until years after it was published and I found a cheap paperback copy somewhere.

Of course, Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction turned out to be possibly the pinnacle of the whole Mole saga, a righteously furious satire that released Townsend’s wrath upon the Iraq War via the story of a hapless guy (our Adrian) with a son in the army who believed Tony Blair’s every word. It was the perfect counterpoint to the Blairite triumphalism of The Cappuccino Years, and involving as it did Adrian finally attaining some degree of self-awareness, it felt like a fitting end to his story.

So I put off reading Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years until well into its paperback days too, because I knew it wouldn’t (couldn’t) compare. And it doesn’t, not to The Weapons of Mass Destruction, though fortunately it’s far from the schadenfreude fest against an increasingly Job-like Adrian that The Cappuccino Years ended up being.

Adrian is now on the cusp of 40, living next door to his parents (in a converted pigsty), watching his second wife Daisy getting fat, and finding his sleep increasingly disturbed by frequent nocturnal trips to the lavatory. Yes, Townsend has given Adrian prostate cancer. Up until it’s diagnosed the book is the usual catalogue of disasters that Townsend has used in all of the post-adolescent Mole diaries – his parents running amok, his relationship crumbling, etc, etc. Those tropes were worn out by the time The Cappuccino Years was written.

But when he gets his diagnosis the story shifts tack. Just as he’s finally given a good reason to be so self-pitying, Adrian discovers some hitherto unknown well of positivity. Against a backdrop of everything else falling apart (from Northern Rock to his siblings’ lives), Adrian turns out to be something of a trooper after all.

His teenage sweetheart Pandora is given more to do than in the last two books, and has ceased to be the caricature Townsend let her become. Adrian’s younger half-brother Brett, who was introduced to be Adrian’s antithesis (educated, successful, rich and lucky in love), loses everything in the credit crunch, and slowly the comparisons with Adrian swing in the older brother’s favour.

Townsend doesn’t cure her boy’s cancer by the end of the book, but it’s probably safe to assume he survives, if only because the surprise news on the penultimate page seems setting up for an inevitable continuation. Who knows, I might even be tempted to buy that one in hardback.

First post

The site’s not quite ready, but I’ve just uploaded the header image above and it feels only appropriate to post something, if only to get rid of the default “Hello world!” entry.

The header image shows a selection of my favourite books because the theme of this blog is going to be books – writing as well as reading, hence why both of mine are in there too. Seeing as most books aren’t written by me, however, the emphasis of the blog will probably be weighted in the direction of reading rather than writing.

I once reviewed fiction for a London newspaper and writing negative reviews of books I didn’t like became a juicy task I started to relish far too much. So here I’m going to try* to only review books I like, books that I think you, anonymous internet reader, should also give a chance to.

Anyway, I have to thank Simon Levitas for his help (and patience) in getting the site off the ground. Visit his site to see his graphical design work and to learn some inconvenient truths about eating meat.

* Of course, if I read another book like Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, I’ve got a stock of choice words that are antonymous to superlative. (They toned that review down a bit.)