DRMacIver's Notebook

Book Review: Rewriting the Rules

Book Review: Rewriting the Rules

I have a major problem with this book.

Before I explain what, some context for you. I have a very strong bias towards short books. This is especially true in recommending them to people. I’m aware that my reading rate is absurd (I was expecting to finish this book within a single 24 hour period, but a cold which made it hard for me to concentrate meant it was more like a 40 hour period). Even with careful curation, if I recommend all of the books I read and like to people then it’s basically like putting them in front of a book firehose. Long books are particularly bad for this - a 200+ page book is a serious investment of most people’s time. A 300+ page book is probably a month of wall clock time, minimum. So when I recommend a book of that length, I am basically creating a situation where either I am asking them to devote a huge chunk of their precious time to pursuing my special interest, or they will feel vaguely guilty for not doing so. As a result, these days I basically never recommend books this long,

Anyway, back to the book. This book is 335 pages and I really think you all should read it. I actually feel this strongly enough that I’ve bought a second copy so that I can shove it into the hands of multiple groups of people I think need it (the rest of you can buy your own copy).

Meg-John Barker is an excellent writer. This is the third book by them that I’ve read, and the previous ones I’ve read (“Queer: A Graphic History” and “How to understand your gender”) have been good. This one is great.

I’ve been aware of it for a while, but I’ve always assumed it was basically a manual on how to do poly. I didn’t really feel I needed that, so it took me a while to get around to reading it.

That impression wasn’t completely wrong, but it was rather incomplete. There is a chapter about monogamy and non-monogamy, and it does discuss a variety of poly relationship types, but it’s less a manual on how to do poly and more a manual on how to do people (in both euphemistic and non-euphemistic senses).

The core message of the book is this: The social world is made up of narratives that dictate certain rules of behaviour. Most of what we understand about ourselves, our relationships, and how our gender and sexuality bridge those things, is the product of those narratives rather than an intrinsic property of reality. Other narratives are possible, and while these other narratives might not be better (and it would not be any healthier to hold rigidly onto them), by maintaining an open and honest attitude, and by being willing to experiment, we can find new narratives that work better for ourselves.

Most of the book is an excellent practical account of how to find and analyse these narratives in our relationships - with ourselves, our friends, our families, and our lovers. It is a thoughtful and insightful book that draws on the buddhism, therapy, and a great deal of life experience with LGBT+ issues.

The most immediately useful things about the book for me:

I will attempt to write a more insightful post about this book when I have less of a head cold, but honestly just go read it.