My feminist credentials have been called into question. Despite raising my daughter (admittedly with some help from my wife) and changing no end of nappies, sleepless nights, warming bottles, countless school runs, noping out of math homework at Primary school level because I was already out of my depth, endless half-terms spent walking around National Trust places, being a stay at home dad, a new man and now, no doubt, a fully paid up member of the Guardian reading, tofu-eating wokerati, I have been outed as a despised chauvinist of the old school.
What crimes against good sense and social justice have I committed? How did I end up on the wrong side of the culture war? The quivering finger of opprobrium has been pointed in my direction. Moi, a museli-knitter of unblemished wooly-liberal reputation.
I stand accused of not reading enough female authors.
Who is it that accuses me? Rabid libs of even more spotless reputation? Below the line trolls? Right wing talk show hosts? Randos of social media?
No. My daughter! My own flesh and blood. Et tu, apple of my eye?
What evidence is there to support such a reputation staining accusation? Who knows what I read and when I read it in the privacy of my own bedroom? Oh, well, um, yes…I post the covers of what I’ve read on Instagram.
As part of my exhausting quest for self improvement and obsessive list-making I have been reading a book a week for the past few years. I began by wanting to force myself off Twitter before going to sleep. Infuriating threads on comics minutiae are not conducive to regular circadian rhythms. I would find myself mentally drafting witty ripostes while staring at the ceiling in the dark, hours after the cavalcade of hot takes had moved on to an entirely new subject.
So much for weaning myself off the overweening socials. In my defence it’s not self-image projection/showing off if you have a memory like a sieve and want some kind of record of what you read a fortnight ago. Reading is good. Reading is stimulating. Reading sometimes sends me to sleep.
Now, let us refer to the evidence. I will check my Insta feed and attempt some rudimentary maths. It doesn’t look good. The record shows that out of forty-four books read so far this year, only nine were written by female authors.
A grim silence hangs in the courtroom of public opinion. Several (male) jurors stick out their tongues as they count on their fingers. The conclusion is indisputable. That is fewer than a quarter.
The judge peers severely at me over her reading glasses. Wait a minute, I recognise that hard stare. It’s my own daughter. She ignores my threats to share baby photos with the court and asks what kind of mitigating circumstances I can provide before sentence is passed. I meekly reply that I read fifteen books by women last year. The judge tells me I am not doing myself any favours. She places a plain back square of fabric on top of her wig, one of the four corners points in my direction.
How do I plead? Guilty, m’lud. Guilty in the first degree.
The gavel is struck. Send him down, declares the judge. I am lead away to the cries of, shame, shame, for shame, from the gallery.
At the dinner for my birthday my daughter gives me my presents. One of them is a book of short stories by Bora Chung. She wishes me a happy birthday and gives me a hard stare. I promise to put it at the top of my To Read Pile.
Follow me and my shameful reading habits at my patreon where I post a review of the book I have read every Sunday.
Paris, the fairy tale romance beautifully drawn by Simon Gane and written by me is out now from Image comics The handsome hardcover features twenty new pages of art and extras from Simon. If you enjoyed the book please leave a positive review online. That really helps us.
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Books signed by us both can be bought directly from Simon and from me.
Sunburn is the next book from Simon and me. Due out at the end of November. I have received a copy and it is a gorgeous book. Simon’s colours are amazing as is his design work. It’s a beautiful object to hold in your hand. And it even smells fabulous!
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I have a patreon which I update regularly. Tuesdays and Saturdays I post sketches and behind the scenes stuff such as Punycorn colour pages. Thursdays I post a one page comic story. And this year I am posting a review of the book I have read that week every Sunday.
I still have books out in the world, Kerry and the Knight of the Forest & the awards nominated The Book Tour. Support my efforts through my store – digital comics – patreon or by leaving a positive review online