Magazine article The Spectator

'The Hot Topic: A Life-Changing Look at the Change of Life', by Christa D'Souza - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Hot Topic: A Life-Changing Look at the Change of Life', by Christa D'Souza - Review

Article excerpt

As someone who managed to move from enfant terrible to grande dame without ever being a proper grown-up, I must say the menopause passed me by. I make a practise of having mostly much younger or male mates so I don't have to hear old birds banging on about it, but occasionally my bezzie (who seems to have been undergoing the unfortunate process since the EU was the EC) will start feeling hot -- then the next minute, she's moaning about the British weather and pining to go somewhere warm. Women! My main thought as I pushed, tank-like, through mine was that as a broad who has lived her life in a bid to show that arch-bitch Mother Nature who's the Daddy, defying her at every turn, I was damned if I was going to cry 'Uncle!' at the eleventh hour. But all those women who thought they'd be forever young -- the same ones who thought their teenage idols were immortal, and who have formed an ever-mutating sob-leading squad in response -- are going through it now, and so here come the books from the Media Menopause Mob.

You know those volumes you occasionally find which aren't just books but precious things, that you just want to sit quietly somewhere holding, or even better take out and be seen with because they're just so damn gorgeous as artefacts, let alone art? The Hot Topic is not that -- it's an UnBook, like a vampire is an UnDead rather than a living being. All we hacks have a moment or 12 when we've finished a sizeable piece of writing, had a good response and thought 'Hmm, I bet I could make that into a BOOK!' -- well, don't, or you could end up producing a monstrosity like D'Souza's. Smeared with what we in the trade call screamers -- pulled out pieces of text, hopefully sensationalist stuff that will get the idle newsstand peruser interested, which I've never seen in an actual book before -- this is a magazine piece with ideas above its station in every way, including asterisks instead of proper swear words (she calls her son 'a little s***' -- why not just call him a rotter?), sucking up to one's sycophants by calling them 'super-intelligent, super-switched-on, super-strong women out there' (what, all of them? Not a weedy, needy ass-hat among them?), and having a hectoring tone which imagines it is pleasingly matey: 'Listen...' 'Look...' 'Another thing...' 'Funny this...' 'And then there is the old sex thing...' 'My children are hugely sweaty, while my other half barely sweats at all...' 'Phew -- so I'm not such a nutter...' It's like having a mad old lady come and sit next to you on the bus, albeit a bus going to South Kensington. In true magazine style, there's a full-length photo of D'Souza on the back looking do-able -- she's obviously meant to be a Hot Menopauser, in the mode of the equally irritating Hot Feminist and Hot Widow books published recently. If men did this -- Hot Doctor, Hot Hipster, Hot Grandad -- we'd make vomit-faces, and quite rightly. The only people who should be allowed to tout themselves as hot are firemen.

If D'Souza's book is a magazine piece in all but name, Marina Benjamin's is not just a book -- it's a tome, an opus and a treatise. It's equally up itself (literally, at times) but whereas D'Souza cackles with her coven in the kitchen, Benjamin is quiet-in-the-library, though easily as profoundly smug as D'Souza -- the NW/SW mirror image of each other, media-ocrities under the skin. 'We are a household of writers,' she purrs at one point, and one's mind wanders towards the likelihood and logistics of an entire family of scribblers being beaten to death with a giant Moleskine notebook. …

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