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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

"Acts of Undressing" by Barbara Brownie

This is a fascinating book about something we do every day which can be regarded as extreme: taking our clothes off. The author covers (or should that be uncovers) public changing places; striptease and burlesque; clothes designed to reveal such as slashed jeans, skirts with slits and fishnet stockings; the sounds of zippers, poppers and Velcro; streaking, mooning and flashing; St Francis of Assissi (!); undressing as protest; denuding for dominance; sociofugal places; abandoned clothes as territorial markers; shoefiti and pseudocide.

Absolutely fascinating and easy to read.

Great quotes:
  • The human body is born naked, but moments after birth the body is clothed and begins a lifelong cycle of dressing and undressing.
  • The institutionalization and ubiquity of the nude body have prompted striptease performers to seek new means of delaying gratification, and so in contemporary burlesque the focus of performance is the undressing, not the nudity that results.”
  • The burlesque striptease is ... intermittent: punctuated by the removal of each part of the costume. There is typically a pause for celebration between each removal, as the audience is given time to appreciate the sight of the freshly unveiled area of skin or costume.
  • Fasteners cry out to be unfastened. They provide visual cues to how a garment may be removed from the body
  • As had been so well illustrated in Brave New World, the zipper’s sexual connotations arose largely because of the speed and ease at which it permits disrobing.”
  • "Zips, poppers and Velcro all have distinctive sounds ... Some kinds of fastenings make sounds only during unfastening: poppers can be significantly louder when unpopped than when popped, and Velcro is virtually silent when stuck together but generates clearly audible sound when pulled apart. Consequently, the sound of fastenings is more readily associated with undressing than with dressing.
  • Flashing, mooning and streaking straddle the fluid line that separates erotic and hostile gestures.
  • In Dunedin’s annual nude rugby game ... ‘reverse streaking’ occurs in which clothed spectators run onto the pitch.
  • The sporting arena is, and always has been, a venue for thinly veiled eroticism ... the sports spectator’s gaze is both respectful and erotic. Spectators’ viewing habits are based partly on the perceived sexual attractiveness of particular athletes, even when an athlete is not explicitly a subject of his or her erotic fantasies.
  • Sports practices have always straddled the boundary between athleticism and eroticism, and ancient civilizations ‘acknowledged and celebrated the erotic element in sports’.
  • In a sports setting, clothing has special value as an indicator of team brand loyalty. Sports fans are visibly marked tribes, and clothing is an essential part of the expression of one’s fandom ...The removal of clothes in this context therefore acts in part to neutralize the streaker.
  • "Nakedness has been imposed (through persuasion and force) to reinforce the perception of natives as primitives. Among European and American slave traders, nakedness was imposed to keep perceived savages in their place, as a sign of their status as chattel.
  • For those at the very top of human hierarchy, denuding is a means of stripping signs of power and status, as when regalia are torn from those condemned to execution
  • Class differentiation [is] ... one of the driving forces of fashion”.
  • ‘sociofugal’ spaces, such as libraries, in which ‘people typically try to avoid one another’. ... users accept and reinforce their isolation by marking a large territory around their immediate location. This may involve placing coats and scarfs on neighboring chairs
  • One anonymous caller ... describes tossed shoes that once belonged to gang members who have been shot dead. He describes a local ritual of removing the shoes from a fellow gang member’s feet before the police arrive to claim the body.
  • Graffiti frequently appears in apparently inaccessible spaces is evidence of ‘spatial conquest’.
  • ‘Place hackers’—urban daredevils whose aim is to reach the most inaccessible locations they can find ... There is an element of skill in accessing an apparently inaccessible site, which attracts admiration (or envy) from fellow artists and audiences.
  • ‘The conquest of territory ... is always an act performed for an audience.’ There is a primary audience who directly view the act of territorial marking, and secondary audience who learn of an individual’s presence by observing the marker afterward.
October 2018;

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