It’s balls hot in New York City this week. I’m told it’s going to get hotter, which leaves me shrinking inside. Yesterday was high 80’s, low 90’s, humid enough to thunderstorm in the evening. What sort of madness is this??
And now for something completely different:
Braverman’s Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube might be the newest book that I’ve “reviewed” on this blog, as it was published just last year. Crazy times. And, yes, this is another deviation from my scheduled travelogue reading. I should be in “old guys traveling” (AKA: “classic male travelogues”), but my books are still in boxes in the kitchen because… we have no bookcases.
I weep for this tragedy.
Anyhow, I picked Ice Cube up because it had profanity in the title and, man, I cannot turn down a book that is ballsy enough to do that. I mean, even Mark Manson’s bestseller bleeped out part of the word “fuck,” which is key in its title. Just by bleeping it out, it takes away from the book’s impact.
Again, if you want to read a summary of Ice Cube, please attend to the Amazon link three paragraphs above and read the summary therein. For those who do not wish to read a summary with complete sentences, here are some key phrases:
Cold as balls.
In fact, if I was Braverman, those four phrases would be my elevator pitch. (Clearly, she doesn’t need an elevator pitch, as her book was reviewed by everyone.)
What struck me most about this book…
While the focus is supposed to be on dog-sledding and “carving out the strength required of her,” the main nerve running through the book was aggressive male sexuality and her own passive sexuality and lack of knowledge of how to handle someone actively stomping across her boundaries.
Which was difficult to read. I wanted to grab young Braverman and go, “HEY, IF YOU DON’T WANT HIM TO TOUCH YOU LIKE THAT, FUCKING DON’T LET HIM TOUCH YOU LIKE THAT. YOU ARE AN ABLE INDIVIDUAL WITH STRENGTH TO HOLD YOUR OWN. YOU ARE NOT A HELPLESS PILE OF LAUNDRY,” like at least eight times.
Men just kinda happened to her and, it seemed, never in a good way.
I wanted to read about her adventures on the ice, about dogs and bears and fighting off rabid salmon. I wanted to read about a woman that went full balls out and commanded the north. Part of this, yes, was because of the give-no-shits title of the book. It’s a tough-girl title. And, in her own way, Braverman is tough. She learned Norwegian. She lived in a (very) foreign country. She learned how to dog-sled.
But, in this book, all of that seemed to be second fiddle to Braverman… see, I wanted to write “dealing with men,” but “dealing” is an active word and she certainly wasn’t “dealing” with them. She was being a passive recipient of their dealings.
And that’s what this book left in my mouth after I was done reading it. I liked her, yes, and her voice and adventures, but what I remembered most was the men, and her just sitting there, shrugging about it all. Not enjoying it, but not stopping it.
Quotes for your reading pleasure…
“The truth was that when it came down to it, the land here seemed kind, and that kindness seemed to be the great secret of the Artic, at least on the mainland. All its dangers distilled into one crisp feature: cold. And what was cold but a call to the moment? Cold couldn’t creep or consume, stalk or drown. It necessitated only insulation. The things that survival demanded–covering our bodies, keeping them separate from other bodies–were things that I already wanted to do. In extreme cold, nobody thought of any body but their own. Nobody would think about mine, wrapped in its layers upon layers.”
“I wondered what I’d done to make him think I was nice. I guessed that I’d smiled a bit. I thought then that I could probably become quite mean to Svein, and that if I smiled the whole time he wouldn’t even notice. That maybe nice was a word men called women they didn’t bother to get to know.”