Hemorrhoids, the miserable malady

My husband suffered from hemorrhoids recently, and the result was months of marital turmoil as we negotiated doctors, hospitals and pain management.

We just weren’t prepared for the emotional rollercoaster.

Fortunately, treatment was successful, but there was some lingering anxiety about how we had responded to the challenge. We decided to write it all down and publish it to help others. It was a very cathartic process.

So here it is: Hemorrhoids: A wife’s story, now available as an ebook from amazon.com or your country’s Amazon store.

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Book review: Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown

I found this book when I was doing research into cozy mysteries. This is the first book in a series called The Cycle Path Mysteries. Who could have imagined such a thing existed? And with such a fabulous cover?

This wonderful little story is set on Mackinac Island on Lake Huron in Michigan, a peaceful tourist island where there are no cars. People get around in horse-drawn vehicles or on bicycles, unless something goes wrong.

And since this is a murder mystery, something does go wrong. A much disliked local resident ends up stored in the back of the general store, sharing the freezer with a large number of tourist snacks.

Evie Bloomfield is the protagonist. She is on the island to curry favour with her boss, but instead she becomes very attracted to the lifestyle, and even more so to the local cop, Nathan Sutter. Evie negotiates her way through alien cultural practices that would be unheard of in her hometown of Chicago, and survives many attempts on her life to solve the mystery and achieve a happily ever after.

Events move at a frenetic pace and it’s impossible to put the book down. If you want to read a cozy mystery with a fascinating cast of eccentric characters and a real sense of place, this is the one for you. And I’ll be looking for the next in series, Braking for Bodies.

Changing times, changing pronouns

1097793I’m reading Carr’s What is History?, an interesting exploration of the philosophy and practice of history, written in 1961. I’m having big trouble with the pronouns. It’s all “mankind” this, “man” that, and “his” the other.

Reading this now just feels WRONG. Every time I hit one of these words my brain rejects it. My brain wants to substitute gender-neutral words and sentence structures.

Of course I know that this usage in theory meant all of us, of whatever gender or none (if such a concept could be acknowledged in the nineteen sixties). And I remember the ructions when this convenient assertion came under challenge in later decades, because the intention never seemed to translate into practice in the real world.

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Some authors play with gender pronouns. One example is Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, a book about an artificial intelligence turned human. The protagonist doesn’t really understand gender, so uses feminine pronouns for most individuals, unless there is direct evidence that the individual is male.

People have complained that this makes the story really difficult to read. I didn’t find it so, but I didn’t finish the book either. The pace was slower than I like, and I didn’t care about the characters, perhaps because their gender wasn’t clear? I don’t know. Ancillary Justice is an award winning book, so other readers must have felt differently.

22544017Alexis Hall is another author who plays with language and gender, especially in the wonderful Prosperity series. In Hall’s stories, the characters draw me in, and revelations of their gender add to their interest and complexity rather than defining them.

So why is the history book really annoying, while Leckie’s  or Hall’s works are just intriguingly different? I guess because Carr is following a convention without questioning it, a convention that ignores more than half of humanity, while both Leckie and Hall make use of the convention as part of their storytelling.

Language changes around us, and rewrites our brains without us noticing. Recently I needed to write the word “fireman”. A perfectly acceptable word for describing a man, and in the context of what I was writing at the time, appropriate. But my brain complained, and insisted that it wanted to use “firefighter” instead.

I prefer “firefighter” for regular use. I prefer to use language mindfully. I prefer not to exclude people accidentally. And if I want to set a story in a misogynist and backward world where all the firefighters are men, I will use “fireman” instead, and over-ride my twenty-first century brain’s objections. It may take some time, and not a little discomfort.