Blog

punk planet

  • Punk Planet; Book Review; Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs

    The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs
    Written by: Irvine Welsh
    Review by: Gretchen Kalwinski

    In Bedroom Secrets, Danny Skinner is a rakishly handsome, carousing restaurant inspector living in Edinburgh, plugging away just fine until Brian Kibby arrives as his co-worker. Kibby is seemingly unthreatening--quiet with "cowlike" eyes and a bit of a mama's boy, but generally inoffensive. However, Skinner immediately hates Kibby with an intensity that even he doesn't understand. Via his contempt and competitiveness, some of his long-languishing problems, long-clouded by booze begin to rise to the surface and throw his whole life into upheaval and disarray. He begins to pester his formerly punk-rock mother about his father's identity, (which she'll only jokingly give as Joe Strummer of The Clash), and throws away whatever was left of his relationship with Kay, a beautiful dancer who's been finding his drinking bouts increasingly tiresome.

    Skinner eventually puts a curse on Kibby that results in the Star Trek and model train-obsessed boy beginning to suffer the damage of Skinner's abusive lifestyle. This sets in motion Kibby's declining health and Skinner's gleeful indulgences in even more booze, drugs, fighting, and sexcapades. Simultaneously, Skinner's search for his father's identity takes him to San Francisco and back via information he learns in a book penned by an obnoxious TV chef. Once he returns home, Kibby starts approaching death and begins to learn the ins-and-outs of the curse and how he might be able to reverse it.

    This is Welsh's eighth novel centering around gritty, urban environments and one common critique of his work is that he's never departed from stock characters and themes from Trainspotting. It's true that the ho-hum-by-now grit is Welsh's schtick, but he's also got substance in spades. For all of his stock use of transgressive
    content -- booze, drugs, orgies, sickness (and gratingly flagrant use of the c-word, by the way) -- Welsh knows how to tell a story in the old-fashioned sense of the word, a narrative that subtly builds tension in increasingly complex characters, delivers unexpected plot twists and resolutions, and conjures a reader's genuine investment in outcomes. Few writers handle the-beauty-of-ugliness themes as well as Welsh and the warm humanity of his deft language coupled with his insights into ego and the dark side of human nature makes Bedroom Secrets a compelling read.

    --Gretchen Kalwinski

  • Punk Planet; Book Review; We Don't Need Another Wave

    We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists
    Edited By: Melody Berger
    Publisher: Seal Press

    Editor and founder of The F-word zine Melody Berger compiled this collection of essays to critique the ways that contemporary feminism is discussed in the media. “We don’t need another wave,” she writes in her introduction. “We need a movement.”

    The foreword is by Bitch Magazine editor and founder Lisa Jervis, who says that the “wave” terminology has outlived its usefulness and is often used by the mainstream press to position 2nd and 3rd wavers as “anti” one another, (i.e., 2nd Wavers reject humor and sex; 3rd Wavers aren’t politically active). Jervis’ take is that the idea of a simplistic generational divide serves no one, and that we should keep discussing the main point—gender justice—while retaining myriad voices and opposing perspectives that move in the same direction: forward.

    Topically, the essays run an impressive gamut—covering everything from Latina reproductive rights activists, a critique of the GLBT wedding industry, the organization of sex worker rights, one woman’s reclamation of sexuality after abuse, and the inherent issues of being one-half of an interracial lesbian couple. One of the contributors is Jessica Valenti, who runs a blog called feministing.com, and writes with intelligent passion about the image problem of the word “feminist” and why women shouldn’t shrink from it, in her piece, “You’re a Feminist. Deal.”

    Another stirring essay is by Kat Marie Yoas, who grew up in a trailer park, and later ended up in academia. Yoas grapples eloquently with the complexities of living simultaneously in two disparate worlds, including identity-confusion, class-anger, and insulting assumptions made and spoken by her colleagues. In “Steam Room Revelations,” writer, teacher, and filmmaker Courtney Martin tells of coming to term with body issues and self-consciousness via a raucous group of older women who frequent the steam room at her local YMCA.

    What’s thrilling about the collection is how firmly grounded in activism the contributors are. The diverse bylines are made up of educators, artists, poets, filmmakers, founders of non-profits, students, performers, all who live and breathe the issues they’re writing about. I’d nitpick that several of the confessional poems embedded in the collection don’t serve it well, but mostly this is a gaggle of brash, fun, enlightening, fearless, and on-point essays by people working in the trenches of contemporary feminist issues, and for that it’s well worth your lunch money. ---Gretchen Kalwinski