Spies, mysteries and gender: this week’s reading

AN ACT OF VILLAINY: An Amory Ames Mystery by Ashley Weaver, is a decent retro mystery with a 1930s English sleuthing couple (though their marriage is less stable than detecting couples were at the time), poison-pen letters, plenty of suspects for the murder of a talented actress (a jealous understudy? A cheated-on wife?) and everyone gathered together for the big reveal. I enjoyed this, though the reveal the killer is insane comes out of nowhere — that’s the kind of explanation that needs some groundwork. While this didn’t have as much period detail as I was expecting, I give Weaver points for having all the characters act appropriately formal — Amory’s husband still refers to his mother-in-law as “Mrs,” for instance.

A DELICATE TRUTH by John Le Carré starts with a terrorist operation you just know is going to go terribly wrong (it involves an ambitious British politician working with a private Blackwater-type group), then focuses in on the minister’s private secretary, Toby. He knows something nasty has gone down and begins investigating, but that of course proves an extremely dangerous choice … I’m sympathetic to Le Carré’s scathing view of counter-terrorism and the way botched operations and innocent deaths rarely bring down any punishment. But by the same token, it’s hard for me to buy that the big reveal (innocent woman and child killed!) would actually be a career-ender for anyone. And in many ways, this felt more like a stock spy movie script (Toby struggling to get the truth out reminded me of Three Days of the Condor) than Le Carré’s best work.

YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL: The Blind Spot of Masculinity by former NFL star Don McPherson argues that society needs to throw a sharper light on men’s behavior (“We ask why an abused woman stays in a relationship — but never why the man stays.”) and find positive role models rather than just focusing on what not to do. While much of this is familiar to me, McPherson makes some sharp points, such as the difference between chivalrously protecting women and supporting and helping women.

GOOD AND MAD: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister looks at both the power for change that women’s anger can fuel change (it prompted a lot of women to run for office in 2018) and the way society has portrayed female rage as something they should be ashamed of, particularly when it’s directed at men.

Traister, who’s done a lot of reporting on sexual harassment (and has some eye-raising Harvey Weinstein accounts) does her sharpest writing on that topic. She points out, as others have done, that the issue isn’t sex but the damage to women’s professional lives (half of the women who experience harassment start looking for a new job within two years). And that contrary to anti-metoo writers, the issue is not weak women terrified of sex (as Katie Roiphe pretends) but “women in 2017 who had briefly believed they were equal to their male peers but had just been reminded they were not. [They were] women who had suddenly had their comparative powerlessness, their essential inequality, revealed to them.”

And that, she adds, is why even groping and leering comments that don’t rise to the level of Harvey Weinstein-class predation still deserve to be punished: they’re “professional harm and power abuse” and that needs to end.



Filed under Politics, Reading, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

2 responses to “Spies, mysteries and gender: this week’s reading

  1. Pingback: Cats, food and killers: books read | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer says his victims are the ones at fault. | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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