I just finished reading Murder is Cheap, which was originally called The Scarlet Button. It was published in 1945. I bought the book because it has a dramatic cover and it says in smaller letters above the title “Only suckers pay blackmail!”
I was hoping for a great noir story full of phrases I wish I could use in every day conversation without sounding like a tool.
“Hey Brad, how’s your Thursday?”
“The day is all aces and eights. Not good enough to play. Not bad enough to fold.”
“Uh … Ok.”
Instead, as I was reading the book, which was written by Anthony Gilbert, I couldn’t help but notice blatant sexism everywhere. At first I took it in stride because the book was written in 1945 and life was different then … But the sexism came at parts where it didn’t even make sense.
Mr. Stout thought that if he used that expression again he’d go womanish on him and scream.
I decided to mark some of the sexist lines just to see what they add up to in the end. I sat down today having finished the book, all ready to write a post where I have looked up this Anthony GIlbert character and dive into what made him so sexist when … Oh, it turns out Anthony Gilbert was a pen name and the real author was Lucy Beatrice Malleson. In other words, a lady.
Malleson wrote 51 novels with Arthur Crook in them (a lawyer with dirty hands but a pristine record when it came to his clients).
My claims of sexism then were probably misplaced (gee, ya think). Malleson could have written the sexist lines with a smirk on her face, a Stephen Colbert approach of heavily agreeing with the opposition and seeing how far she could push it to show just how absurd they could be. Thinking about it, the insults to women were given by men while the two female characters were strong, independent, helpful (though one seemed like an overbearing mother figure) and the men in the books relied upon them all the while saying nasty things.
What’s my point? I suppose it’s that I’m too quick to judge, or that authors are crafty devils and (almost) every book deserves a re-read. Imagine now if I went back and read this book knowing this tiny bit about the author. Sometimes when I read what is considered a “great” book I can’t decide if I want to look up hidden meanings, symbolism, themes, etc before so that I can look for it and see it in action while I read … or wait until after I’ve read the book to see if I discovered for myself some hidden meaning(s).
The main thing to know is: No matter how you cut it, no matter how you read it or how much you know about the author, Fifty Shades of Grey was still awful. (Read my review full of amazingly bad quotes from that book! Or my mock version, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4! Self-promotion, yay!)