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Showing posts from April, 2015

Five scandalous women worth reading about

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When was the last time you heard of someone being ruined by scandal (speaking only of our rich Western nations, I hasten to say)? Unless a conservative institution - say, a bank, or the British Royal Family - is involved, the transgressor is more likely offered a book contract or a reality TV show.

Is that why scandals, and the scandalous, are so boring these days compared to those of previous eras? Because so little is at stake?

How much more interesting are the stories of scandalous behaviour of times past, the desperate need to escape the "boredom of convention", or to transgress a repressive code of conduct, and nearly always paid dearly. Small wonder too, speaking of repression, that it was practically always women who were scandalous. Men who caused public outrage became notorious, from the Latin notus, "known", but women who did the same were scandalous, from the Latin scandalum, "cause of offence".

Here are a few of my favourites among history'…

The wickedest author to author insults

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Is everyone up on the literary scandal du jour? The one where Salman Rushdie rated a couple dozen modern classics on Goodreads, and his clamorously low ratings for many of them (To Kill a Mockingbird, three stars out of five?! Lucky Jim only one?!) were shared with the 30 million members of the site, as is the wont of a "social networking website", resulting in a few shocked people and much media kerfuffle? Sir Salman claims he didn't dream they would be on public view and he was just playing around, which sounded a lot like saying he didn't inhale, but he did stick up for his right not to like Kingsley Amis books, which has to count for something.

Zero stars from me for The Independent, which described Sir Salman as having "sparked controversy with some trenchant opinions of some authors widely regarded as among the finest of their generation".

Star-rating a book is not a "trenchant opinion"! Trenchant opinions are, well, trenchant: from the Fren…