A tale of two genres.

While I will obviously say to impress people that I am big lover of Classics-adaptations on television and enjoy nothing more than being immersed in and challenged by political thrillers on the big screen, never let it be said that I do not possess the unbelievably guilty pleasure of watching trashy television too. And so what glee I found myself in when a couple of weeks ago I spotted the trailer for a show currently being screened on Discovery Real Time, Extreme Couponing. Until I sat down and watched my first episode I must confess I had no idea that it was set in the US, but oh – what fun it was to sit there with a cup of tea, made from tea bags, sugar and milk I had bought and worst still, paid full price for myself, whilst watching a show where money-savvy-to-say-the-least women were spending literally days scrounging and ferreting around every piece of commercial literature published in America like vultures to get their Edward-Scissorhands-hands onto the valuable coupons printed inside. For these aren’t just women who save a few coupons here and there in the odd copy of Woman’s Weekly to get ‘buy one, get two free’ on bottles of ketchup, we are talking women who have multiple A4 binders of hundreds of every coupon known to man, where they spend their time on Excel calculating and drawing up tables and spread sheets of how they are going to spend their coupons on – and this is of no exaggeration, by all means watch it if you don’t believe me – hundreds and I mean hundreds, of bottles of ketchup, or indeed any foodstuff or household item that is on offer. The sheer number of hours that some of these women spend in the week cutting and saving the coupons could arguably be spent having a real job, but it is if anything, undoubtedly impressive. There are tales on the screen of women spending as little as four dollars on a food bill of over a thousand, just so they can take it all home and store box upon box, bottle upon bottle, packet upon packet, of food, drink and household items in their store cupboards and basements. One can only sit there in awe as the long-suffering cashiers in the supermarket have to scan upwards of three hundred coupons into the register and watch the sum total numbers just drop off like something out of The Matrix.

And as you’re thinking whether you could do this, have a look at the money saving books I’ve researched for on Hive on the Books page, and see if you can be just as savvy as these girls.

Speaking of controversy, I found it interesting to learn Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s thoughts on the influences texting, Facebook messaging and tweeting have had on our current generation’s writing skills and the art of writing poetry. In the interview, Ms Duffy argues her case for the long debate about how the afore-mentioned three mediums of communication have affected the ways younger people write, and surprisingly champions the texting / tweeting / Facebook-styles of “writing”. She states the styles in which poets would write in so very few words, the equivalent of what a novelist would write in several pages when describing the protagonist in his novel for example, is akin to the “writing style” of sending a tweet in 140 characters – meaning that you are trying to convey what you are feeling in so short an amount of words and space. Given that Twitter’s main function, other than publicising products or following news & celebrities, is that it is enormously used as some kind of emotional soundstage by people either just seeking attention or wanting a faceless world behind a sheet of glass to know what latest woe life is unjustly throwing at them – all this in the comfort of knowing they don’t have to respond should someone challenge the constant tweeting of their misery – perhaps Ms Duffy may not be wholly off the mark in her opinions. This is the sort of therapy money can’t buy. If you want to read more about the interview and Ms Duffy’s argument you can do so here on The Guardian website.

Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong

Sex & the City - happily residing in 'Women's Fiction'.

I had to laugh to myself at the irony of the story about two women who went into a well-known high-street bookstore last week and found to their offence and distaste that the “Women’s Fiction” section in the shop consisted of nothing but “very light fiction, [with] lots of pink fluffiness and no classic authors.” I can understand from these ladies’ points of view, one being an English teacher, that upon seeing the female-fiction-equivalent of Salman Rushdie was Candace Bushnell in this controversial section they were slightly narked and felt the need to complain to the chief executive of the store’s company. Is this the calibre of what British women are reading? Or is this what was just being marketed to them, because of the success of shows such as Sex & the City? Is it to be believed men read titles such as Birdsong, when women don’t exert themselves any further than finding out whether Bridget chooses Mark Darcy or Daniel Cleaver? Must they be segregated this way, and surely a woman can read an Edward Rutherford book? It’s a very interesting point and not exactly a flattering comparison. But the ironic part of the whole story is that on the other hand, sales figures of Sophie Kinsella’s Mini Shopaholic, no doubt a firm resident on the “Women’s Fiction” shelves, are herculean compared to the figures of the Booker-nominated title The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Perhaps what needs to be addressed more here is why women are reading what they are, as opposed to what was upsetting to learn what they aren’t. Still, there’s always Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall or Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Presumably they were in the in the general “Fiction” section, safely being disassociated with anything of a similar ilk to Serena Mackesy or Jenny Colgan. Just no-one mention Mike Gayle.

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