Exposed: The Naked Portrait has brought full-frontal nudity to Newcastle. A bold move in the face of the icy winds that howl along the Tyne. I might be an adopted daughter of a city on the same latitude as Copenhagen, but the mere thought of getting my kit off here when there’s an ‘r’ in the month chills me to the bone. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, then, that the Laing’s latest offering left me – if heartened by its intentions – just a little cold.
We are a funny lot we humans. We invent all sorts of complicated ways to explain ourselves to ourselves and to each other. Among the more recent of these has been the concept of identity politics. This is a product of the internet and enables us to use an essentially binary technology to find any number of like-minded groups to belong to or loathe and ideas to believe in or despise and use the term non-binary to describe the subtlety of differentiation that creates their and our individual personas.
For a while now, Womanizer have been developing sex toys for women that do something a little different to the average vibrator. Their latest product comes in the form of Liberty: a cute thing that sits snugly in the palm of your hand — until you fit it snugly around something else instead.
“We just used an entire book of comedy to point out some of the ways in which women and other marginalised communities are expected to live up to society's impossible and often conflicting standards”. I am delighted to read this on p99 of a 118 page bookette. Otherwise I might have thought that it was simply a tooth-grindingly irritating collection of one joke, badly done and repeated like a menstrual cramp during a troublesome period.
Humanity has been pressing buttons for a long time now, but we’ve been having our own buttons pressed for much longer. From the Middle Ages to the AI debate currently raging in our own society, Dr Kate Devlin’s new book details the history of man’s (and sometimes woman’s) intimate relationships with their synthetic partners. What once reigned as pure fantasy is growing legs and edging closer to reality at the dawn of the robosexual age – but can a stimulation simulation ever replace the real thing?
Normal People is the second novel by young Dublin-based author Sally Rooney, closely following her memorable début in the form of Conversations with Friends (2017). With regards it stylistic and thematic concerns, the book recalls its predecessor; yet Rooney’s depiction of the short-lived ménage à quatre undergoes both dilation and condensation in the plot of Normal People, which traces a volatile, nebulous and not exactly conventional friendship over the course of five years.
Someone I knew in New Zealand once described their impression of the London tube system: ‘The stops all have ridiculous names—Bank, Monument, Piccadilly Circus. It’s like a bloody video game.’ In K.A. McKeagney’s Tubing gaming is no longer an illusion, though nothing as innocuous as a video game either.
If you’re ever stuck for conversation at an uninteresting dinner party and find yourself in desperate need of a supertanker-sized icebreaker, Embarrassing Sexual Misadventures: 1001 of the Most Tragically Hilarious Sexploits Ever might just be the perfect source material.
An author’s transition from children’s books to adult fiction cannot but arouse the suspicion that outgrowing a genre requires time. In other words, the initial attempts are almost inevitably hybrids, haunted by traces of fairy tales, toy monkeys and misplaced innocence. Joanna Nadin’s The Queen of Bloody Everything offers, if not a refutation, then a formidable self-justification which uses the accusation to her own advantage.
Samuel Johnson once wrote “No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.” I have to say that I’m rather with the good Doctor on that one: the concept of high life on the ocean wave may be a fine one, but when it comes to the realities of modern cruise ships, I’d rather be an armchair sailor.