Sunday, November 8, 2015

What, not even a little dribbling?

I was rather disappointed to find not even a little dribbling in Bill Bryson's latest offering (though there is some drivelling). Call me old fashioned but when dribbling is promised I expect dribbling, if only a little. And Bill doesn't even bother to explain why no dribbling, not even a little, which seems the least he could have done.

That said, I generally liked Bill's latest book despite this glaring omission and despite the fact that he insists on celebrating countless obscure 'great' men of history on almost every page, whilst insulting women at almost every turn, including at one point imagining beating one to death with his walking stick and burying the body in the marshes. Her crime? Letting her dog poop on a path.

He's a funny writer and funny excuses much in my book. However on the subject of women, from Katie Price to Meryl Streep - the latter of which he goes to the trouble of including on his list of fifteen 'reflex loathings' that he thinks everyone should be allowed to have without having to explain themselves - he is typically and tediously unfunny, snide and puerile. Katie Price he loathes for her '30kg-a-piece' breasts, Streep for 'being adorable'.

In 2015 this is unhelpful at best, shameless propaganda for the patriarchy at worst. Bryson, like most men, clearly holds mankind in greater esteem than he holds womankind and makes no apology for this bias in this, as in all of his other books, with few likeable female characters appearing amongst a multitude of worthy males. But as a fellow humorist I keep hoping for a maturing of this knee-jerk sexism from a writer of his general wit and intelligence and so was genuinely disappointed to find it hasn't happened yet, not least because the wider world in 2015 is beginning to wake up to the depth and breadth of male misogyny and its widespread destructive consequences.

Instead, Bryson continues to thank his wife for being 'patient'. How does she stand it! Aristotle liked his women 'patient' (read obedient and self-sacrificing) and perhaps so will it ever be with most men, wanting to keep for themselves the business-end of living. If this is the case, however, to put it bluntly, we are all fucked. Women will never be patient enough for men, while impatient men will ever make arrogant, cruel and incompetent rulers - and writers, too, ultimately. And what a damn shame that is.

Still, the hardback first edition cover of little dribbling is a visual and tactile extravaganza and I will miss caressing it while the book rests weightily in my lap and I hope that elusive dribbling will appear around the next bend. All women are patient, Bill, but that's far from all we are. The world will ever be at war with itself as long as it fails to understand this.

And on that impatient note, Bill, I'll leave you to your dribbling, little or otherwise.          

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