Pen & Sword Review: Carry on Regardless, by Caroline Frost

By Caroline Frost
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526774781
Published: 5th May 2022
Expected Re-release Date: 30th June 2022

Blurb

The completely updated story of Carry On, Britain’s largest film franchise, all the way from the gentle capers of the 1950s, through the raucous golden age of the 1960s, to its struggles in the years that followed.

We take a happy walk down memory lane to enjoy again Sid James’s cheeky chuckle, Kenneth Williams’ elongated vowels, Charles Hawtrey’s bespectacled bashfulness and Barbara Windsor’s naughty wiggle.

It all seemed effortless, but exclusive interviews with the series’ remaining stars including Bernard Cribbins, Angela Douglas and Kenneth Cope shed new light on just how much talent and hard work went into creating the laughs. For the first time, the loved ones of some of the franchise’s biggest names – on and off screen – share their personal memories from this unique era.

Was Carry On really as sexist, racist and bigoted as critics claim? Three of the films’ female stars explain why they never felt remotely exploited, plus we take a fresh look at some of the series’ biggest titles and discover that, in reality, they were far more progressive than their detractors would have you believe.

Finally, with constant talk about new films, fresh productions and tantalising speculation about a brand new era of Carry On, we ask – does this unique series still have legs?

My Review

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book. It came with my latest box of books from Pen & Sword. I have always enjoyed the Carry On… films, they are a fond memory from my childhood, where we collected the VHS tapes and then the DVDs. I still have the DVDs but got rid of my tapes when I moved out in 2014. I have always been fascinated by the personalities behind the films, especially the ensemble cast of the 60s who come to mind when I think about the films. I’ve been re-watching the films lately. They’re a nostalgic blanket on a wet Sunday afternoon.

I can also quote quite a few lines from most of the films.

This book is an overview of the films, the cast and crew, going from the earliest film, Carry On Sergeant, to the final film, Carry On Columbus. Over the series the films poked gentle fun at institutions, cracked jokes and threw out double entendre all over the place. Unfortunately, by the late seventies, they struggled to cope with changing social mores and the attempts at keeping up with the times fell flat.

Frost writes from a position of fondness and the author clearly enjoyed interviewing as many people as she could who had been involved, and using the auto/biographies of those she could not, to give a positive view of the films. However, she doesn’t give us many details of the actual production process, and she gets repetitive at times. We hear time and time again how much the cast enjoyed filming, and how it was ‘just like going back to school’ every time they went back to Pinewood Studios. It also gets a bit ‘Great British Humour’ at times, all a bit jingoistic.

I found the discussion of criticism of the films interesting. Certainly the sort of stuff they got away with wouldn’t happen now, such as the black face used in Carry On…Khyber and …Up The Jungle. The roles for women could be a bit limited, although as the author points out, many of the women characters were strong, determined women. Carry on Cabby is a fantastic early example. However, the cheap jokes at the expense of women’s appearances is galling, and actually contributed to Joan Sims’ possible Binge Eating Disorder. I thought that Frost’s attitude to the criticism of what she and others refer to as ‘Woke’ and ‘PC’ critics is a bit hypocritical. People have made valid points about the films and the attitudes they display, and you have to be a very canny viewer to realise there’s a bit more going on.

There is a discussion of the likelihood of new Carry Ons…end the book; there are some deluded people out there that think it could happen. I’m sorry, but times and humour have changed. The films are a snap-shot of a time and place, a period of social change that is reflected in the attitudes of the films and the tension between the past and present in the 1960s and early 1970s. The films also worked because they had an ensemble cast of comedic actors. As we saw with the rebooted ‘St. Trinians’ films, what worked in 1960 doesn’t work in the 2000s; social mores and humour have changed, and there is a dearth of the sorts of comedic actors who would be willing to work as part of an ensemble cast, or with the training on stage, TV and film that the cast had.

Over all, it’s okay, but could be better.

Review: Through A Vet’s Eyes, By Dr Sean Wensley

Gaia | £20.00 | 28th April 2022

Dr Sean Wensley is an award-winning vet and lifelong naturalist who has contributed to animal welfare and conservation projects all over the world. His debut book is about how we can choose a better life for animals, from the chickens we eat to the pets we keep.
As our societies become more urbanised, we are further removed from the reality of where and how our food is produced. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the humanisation of our pets is a risk to their welfare; with 60% of UK dogs being overweight or obese, we are effectively killing them with kindness. Through a Vet’s Eyes seeks to redress this imbalance so that we see all animals as thinking, feeling beings not dissimilar to ourselves.

There is high public and political interest in animal welfare, with current attention focused on high-profile topics such as animal sentience, humane and sustainable global agriculture and breeding pets, such as flat-faced dogs, for looks over health. To fully consider and improve the lives of animals, evidence-based information is needed to help us all understand these issues, what they mean from the animals’ perspectives and what we can all do to help.

A polemic with elements of memoir and nature writing, the book takes us through the years in which Sean trained to become a vet and shares his first-hand experience of how animals are treated and used for our benefit. It interrogates the different levels of welfare afforded to them and reveals
how we, as consumers and informed citizens, can reduce our animal welfare footprint through the choices we make every single day.

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TBR Review: Neuroqueer Heresies, by Nick Walker

Available from Amazon for £14.99

My Review

I’ve come across Nick Walker’s work before, seen neurocosmopolitan and Neuroqueer referenced by other writers, and used Walker’s list of definitions in my own work, particularly the heritage project I’m working on – many people are unfamiliar with neurodiversity, the concept, paradigm and movement, and the vocabulary tha to has developed around it – but I hadn’t done more than skim until someone suggested we read some of her work for a Narratives of Neurodiversity Network Salon. Since I like to support small presses, I bought a copy of Walker’s book.

I’m very glad I did. I’ve spent a decent amount of time reading and cogitating in the contents. I am slightly annoyed to find that the ideas I thought I had that were original have actually been thought before, and articulated more elegantly than I could have done.

Although the stars and constellations metaphor is still mine and mine alone. So far as I know.

Nick Walker has been part of the neurodiversity movement for the last couple of decades, and knows people who were there at the beginning when autistic people started meeting and building culture online. She coined a lot of the words, or knows the people who did, and gives difinative histories and meanings for the words. This book also goes on to explain concepts like neurocosmopolitan and Neuroqueer in ways that people can understand. With examples.

I’m donating a new, un-Rosie-marked copy of this book to the little autistic library I’m building at my work. I think it’ll be helpful in giving people a different way of looking at their diagnosis and understanding of themselves through the neurodiversity paradigm rather than the pathology paradigm.

TBR Pile Review: Walking the Invisible, by Michael Stewart

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 24th 2021 by HarperCollins
ISBN: 0008430187 (ISBN13: 9780008430184)

Blurb

Michael Stewart has been captivated by the Brontes since he was a child, and has travelled all over the north of England in search of their lives and landscapes. Now, he’d like to invite you into the world as they would have seen it.

Following in the footsteps of the Brontes across meadow and moor, through village and town, award-winning writer Michael Stewart takes a series of inspirational walks through the lives and landscapes of the Bronte family, investigating the geographical and social features that shaped their work.

This is a literary study of both the social and natural history that has inspired writers and walkers, and the writings of a family that have touched readers for generations. Finally we get to understand the ‘wild, windy moors’ that Kate Bush sang about in ‘Wuthering Heights’, see the imposing halls that may have inspired Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, and learn about Bramwell’s affair with a real life Mrs Robinson while treading the same landscapes. As well as describing in vivid detail the natural beauty of the moors and their surroundings, Walking the Invisible also encompasses the history of the north and the changing lives of those that have lived there.

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TBR Pile Review: Fat Activism, 2nd Ed., by Charlotte Cooper

Paperback, 312 pages
Published 2021
by Hammeron Press
ISBN13: 9781910849309

Blurb

Charlotte Cooper, a fat activist with more than 30 years experience, lifts the lid on a previously unexplored social movement and offers a fresh perspective on one of the major problems of our times. In her expansive, intelligent grassroots study she: – Reveals details of fat activist methods and approaches – Features extensive accounts of fat activist historical roots going back over four decades – Explores controversies and tensions in the movement – Shows that fat activism is an undeniably feminist and queer phenomenon Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement is a rare instance of fat people speaking about their lives and politics on their own terms. The book is the result of Charlotte’s community-based doctoral research.

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Review: Cultish – The Language of Fanaticism, by Amanda Montell

55338982
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 15th 2021 by Harper Wave
ISBN: 0062993151 (ISBN13: 9780062993151)

Blurb

The author of the widely praised Wordslut analyses the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power.

What makes “cults” so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .

Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day.

Through juicy storytelling and cutting original research, Montell exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities “cultish,” revealing how they affect followers of groups as notorious as Heaven’s Gate, but also how they pervade our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds. Incisive and darkly funny, this enrapturing take on the curious social science of power and belief will make you hear the fanatical language of “cultish” everywhere.

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TBR Pile Review: Fearing the Black Body – The Racial Origins of Fatphobia, by Sabrina Strings

Book Cover
Format: 283 pages, Paperback
Published: May 7, 2019 by New York University Press
ISBN: 9781479886753 (ISBN10: 1479886750)

Blurb

In her first book, sociologist Strings (sociology, Univ. of California, Irvine) explores the historical development of prothin, antifat ideologies deployed in support of Western, patriarchal white supremacy. Beginning in the aesthetic ideals circulated by Renaissance thinkers and artists and bringing her narrative up into the 1990s, Strings charts how white Europeans and Anglo-Americans developed ideals of race and beauty that both explicitly and figuratively juxtaposed slim, desirable white women against corpulent, seemingly monstrous black women.

The work is divided into three sections. The two chapters in the first part consider how Renaissance white women and women of colour were depicted as plump and feminine, separated by class, yet belonging to the same gender. The second part of the work charts the rise of modern racial ideologies that yoked feminine beauty to Protestant, Anglo-Saxon whiteness. Later chapters and the epilogue consider how Americans normalized the “scientific management” of white women’s bodies for the purpose of racial uplift, a project that continued to situate black women as the embodied Other.

My Review

I’ve been reading this book on and off over the last few months as other commitments permitted; I found it fascinating and always picked up some new information every time I went back to it. I finished it last night with a feeling of disappointment that it wasn’t longer, but also interested in reading more by the author and on the topic.

BMI is, as I have said many times, bullshit, made-up and irrational. That it is still used by the medical profession is a travesty. Historical attitudes to fatness have varied with time and place, but scientific evidence does not support the vilification of fat people. In fact, Ancel Keys, who essentially invented the BMI and pushed for it to replace actuarial tables for insurance and medical purposes, admitted he found fat people ugly and assumed they were unhealthy. You cannot tell anything about a person’s health from a ratio of height to weight, or their appearance.

This book covers Europe and the U.S., because the author is USian, and the U.S. wouldn’t exist without European colonisation, so it covers the period from the Renaissance to the last years of the twentieth century. Five hundred years and three continents it a lot of space and time to cover.

When European’s started Othering people to justify slavery, weight was one of the things they chose to stigmatise. It coincided with Protestant disgust with bodies, with anything that might be fun, and later with changing ideas about ‘polite’ behaviour. By accusing African people of being lazy, gluttonous and dishonest, they could link that to intellect and justify colonisation and enslavement. And of course, to keep Europeans on top of the heap, the same rules had to be applied to Europeans, especially middle and upper class women.

Later still, eugenics came into play and whole new fields of scientific racism and sexism opened up for those white men determined to hold their places at the top of society. In the U.S. one of the ways they did this was to racialise Jewish, Irish, Southern (particularly Italian) and Eastern Europeans as the different groups migrated to the Americas across the 18th and 19th centuries and into the 20th century. They used the same lazy propaganda that earlier European ‘scientists’ had used to racialise and other Africans and then the indigenous populations of the Americas and Australia.

Body size and shape was used as a stick to beat people with. A ‘too thin’ rich white woman was a danger to the nation (whichever nation it was), a ‘too fat’ rich white woman, equally so, at different times. A fat black or African woman – signs of laziness and greediness – moral incontinence and hypersexuality. Because reasons.

Racist shitbags don’t actually have logical reasons, they take their beliefs and make up pseudoscience to support it. Fat hate is the same. It doesn’t matter how much evidence you have to show that ‘normal weight’ doesn’t exist, and that weight variation is just a normal part of human diversity (like the levels of melanin in the skin), they’ll still scream that fat kills.

Strings is a professional, and writes like one, unlike me; I’m just blunt and don’t mind swearing if I think it’s appropriate. I’ve seen other reviews that claim the writing is dry; I disagree. I found it clear and precise, although I would have been interested in more analysis and references from African and African American sources, but I doubt they were available given the systemic erasure and silencing of Black people in the last five hundred years.

The structure of the book puts the different strands of evidence into context and builds on Strings’ argument in a structured and organised way. Strings draws on popular and scientific literature, art and cultural movements to explore the topic and build her arguments. This is not ‘popular history but rewards careful reading and consideration.

Review: What Lies Buried, by Kerry Daynes

Kerry Daynes, leading forensic psychologist, takes us into the murky world of psychological investigation to uncover what lies buried. Each of her clients is classed as a ‘mentally disordered criminal offender’ whose psychological problems have contributed to them breaking the law.

Whether she is dealing with a young murderer who says he has heard voices telling him to kill, a teacher who daubs children in red paint and threatens to abduct them, or an aspiring serial killer who faints at the sight of blood, Kerry’s quest is to delve beyond the classic question asked of forensic psychologists: ‘Are they mad or are they bad?’

In her new book, Kerry provides an unflinching, enlightening and provocative insight into the minds of her clients, shedding light
on the root causes of their behaviour.

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TBR Pile Review: Gender – A Graphic Guide, by Meg-John Barker & Jules Scheele PLUS BONUS GIVEAWAY

45014042
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 7th 2019 by Icon Books
ISBN13: 9781785784521
URL
http://iconbooks.com/ib-title/gender-a-graphic-guide/

Blurb

Join the creators of Queer: A Graphic History (‘Could totally change the way you think about sex and gender’ VICE) on an illustrated journey of gender exploration.

We’ll look at how gender has been ‘done’ differently – from patriarchal societies to trans communities – and how it has been viewed differently – from biological arguments for sex difference to cultural arguments about received gender norms. We’ll dive into complex and shifting ideas about masculinity and femininity, look at non-binary, trans and fluid genders, and examine the intersection of experiences of gender with people’s race, sexuality, class, disability and more.

Tackling current debates and tensions, which can divide communities and even cost lives, we’ll look to the past and the future to ask how might we approach gender differently, in more socially constructive, caring ways.

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TBR Pile Review: Intuitive Eating for Every Day, by Evelyn Tribole MS, RDN, CEDRD-S

54818111
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 16th 2021 by Chronicle Prism
ISBN: 1797203983 (ISBN13: 9781797203980)

Award-winning dietitian, bestselling author, and co-founder of the intuitive eating movement, Evelyn Tribole, offers an inviting and practical introduction to intuitive eating—which Parade calls “the anti-diet to end all diets.”

Intuitive Eating is a life-changing path to cultivating a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body. Intuitive Eating for Every Day breaks it down for you with daily guidance. This book will be your ally and solace against a world steeped in diet culture. It will illuminate and encourage your Intuitive Eating journey, with 365 practices and inspirations to help you:

• Nurture the ten Principles of Intuitive Eating with 52 Weekly Intentions
• Connect with your body in the here and now with Grounding practices
• Cultivate gratitude for different aspects of nourishment with Meal Meditations
• Identify self-trust disruptors and awaken inner knowingness
• Strengthen your mental, emotional, and physical health by setting boundaries
• Reflect on emotions and cravings
• Practice self-compassion, body appreciation, and self-care

These daily readings—read on their own or as a companion to the author’s bestselling Intuitive Eating—make it easy to integrate this revolutionary program into your life. Intuitive Eating for Every Day offers constant support to help you make peace with food and reclaim and reconnect with the pleasure of eating.

The perfect book for:

• Anti-dieters
• Fans of Intuitive Eating and The Intuitive Eating Workbook
• Anyone looking for daily guidance on a happier and healthier way to eat
• Wellness enthusiasts looking for healthy habits
• Nutritionists and other health professionals
• Mindfulness and meditation practitioners
• Certified eating disorder specialists and anyone in eating disorder (ED) recovery

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