In the Media: 3rd May 2015

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely and the categories used are a guide, not definitives.

There’s an election in the UK this week. As you’d expect, there’s been a number of articles about it, policies and where the previous coalition has left us. Huffington Post have been running a ‘Beyond the Ballot’ series. Contributions include: Vivienne Westwood, ‘The Housing Crisis – Politicians Are Criminals‘ and Denise Robertson, ‘Today, There Are No Housing Lifelines for People Who Fall on Hard Times‘. Media Diversified also have a series called ‘Other Voices’. Contributions include, Maya Goodfellow ‘Why aren’t politicians talking about racial discrimination in the job market?‘ and ‘Letting migrants drown in the Mediterranean, is this what the Tories mean by ‘British values’?‘ and ‘The pro-Tory business letter: a reminder that politics shouldn’t be dominated by a privileged few

Elsewhere, Zoe Williams wrote ‘10 big misconceptions politicians have about women‘ in The Pool; Deborah Orr, ‘Scotland is sending a curveball down Westminster way – and it’s not just Labour that will get hit‘ in The Guardian; Gaby Hinsliff, ‘We floating voters may be unenthused but we’re definitely not unprincipled‘ in The Guardian; Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett wrote, ‘Why I’m thinking about spoiling my ballot‘ in the New Statesman; Laura Waddell, ‘Pink Vacuum Politics‘ on Libertine’ Suzanne Moore, ‘Parliament? Over the years I’ve met several powerful men there who have no idea of boundaries‘ in the New Statesman; Hannah Pool asks, ‘Why aren’t black women voting?‘ in The Pool; Suzanne Moore, ‘I’m sick of this estate agent election‘ in The Guardian

Saturday saw the death of crime writer, Ruth Rendell. The Guardian reported her death and ran a series of articles: Val McDermid wrote, ‘No one can equal Ruth Rendell’s range or accomplishment‘; Mark Lawson, ‘Ruth Rendell and PD James: giants of detective fiction‘; Stanley Reynolds wrote her obituary; here she is ‘In Quotes‘ and if you haven’t read anything by her, The Guardian also recommend ‘Five Key Works’ while The Telegraph have, ‘The best of Ruth Rendell: 10 to read, watch and listen to‘.

And then there was that beach body ready advertisement. Responses to which ranged from Gemma Correll, ‘Hilarious Illustrations Show You How to Get “Beach Body Ready”‘ in Stylist; Hadley Freeman, ‘What is a beach body anyway?‘ in The Guardian, and Tara Costello explained, ‘Why I Stripped to Make a Statement‘ on the Huffington Post.

Congratulations to Marion Coutts on winning the Wellcome Prize. Jenny Turner writes in The Guardian as to why Coutts is her hero. The shortlist for the Encore Award was announced and includes Harriet Lane, Amanda Coe, Rebecca Hunt and Deborah Kay Davies. And Gaby Wood was ‘…made Booker’s literary director‘ reports The Bookseller.

And the woman with the most publicity this week is Leesa Cross-Smith who’s the featured writer on Atticus Review. She’s interviewed and has two stories up, ‘My Lolita Experiment‘ and ‘Dandelion Light‘; another in Synaesthesia Magazine, ‘The Darl Inn‘, and her column on Real Pants this week is ‘Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? & Girlfriendships‘.


The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:


Society and Politics:

Music, Film and Television, Personalities:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction to read:

If you want some poetry to read:

If you want some non-fiction to read:

The lists:

In the Media: 11th January 2015

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

K Barbican PK

(Photograph by Pedro Koechlin)

As it’s the first In the Media of the year, I’m going to begin by looking back at 2014 for a moment with pieces that appeared between Christmas and New Year. Katherine Angel’s brilliant piece, ‘Gender, blah, blah, blah‘ in The Los Angeles Review of Books; Jessie Burton, ‘Eggshells, Luck, Hope and Thanks‘ on her blog reflects on what a year it’s been for The Miniaturist; Emma Claire Sweeney and Emily Midorikawa ‘A Year of Hidden Friendships‘ on Something Rhymed; Rebecca Solnit, ‘Listen up, women are telling their story now‘ in The Guardian; Jia Tolentino, ‘The Promise in Elena Ferrante‘ on Jezebel; Charles Finch, also on Elena Ferrante for ‘A Year in Reading‘ for The Millions;  Ali Colluccio covers ‘The Best of Women in Comics 2014‘ on Panels, and  Elena Adler on ‘Why #ReadWomen 2014 has changed things, and why #ReadWomen matters‘ on her blog.

Looking forwards, there’s been a spotlight on diversity again this week with Celeste Ng writing about a male professor telling her there were few Asian-American women writers. There’s a fantastic list of writers at the bottom of the article. Nalo Hopkinson wrote ‘To anthology editors‘ on how to go about creating anthologies with a diversity of voices on her website; Alexis Teyie wrote this great piece, ‘Invoking the women in early African writing‘ on This Is Africa, while Lyn Gardner declared ‘Diversity is key to Creativity – and British Theatre’s Challenge for 2015‘ in The Guardian and Stella Duffy wrote, ‘Making Arts for All for ALL‘ on her blog.

While The White Review has kicked off the year with an all translation issue. You can read online pieces by Herta Müller (tr. Philip Boehm); poetry by Alejandra Pizarnik (tr. Yvette Seigert) and Angélica Freitas (tr. Hilary Kaplan); a short story by Tove Jansson (tr.  Thomas Teal); extracts from novels by Minae Mizumuru (tr. Juliet Winters Carpenter) and Han Kang (tr. Deborah Smith), and an interview with Magdalena Tulli (tr. Bill Johnston).

(Photograph by Kuba Kolinski)

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

And the lists:

Her – Harriet Lane

A couple of years ago, I remember seeing Alys, Always by Harriet Lane in our local supermarket. I picked it up, looked at it and put it back down. It was in the chart, at the supermarket, it couldn’t possibly be that good. Oh, what a judgemental so-and-so I was. Soon though, people I trusted were talking about it on Twitter. Why hadn’t I bought it? I thought. Eventually I ordered a copy and it’s been on my TBR ever since. However, when I saw Lane had a second novel coming out, I decided it was my opportunity to see what she’d got.

Her is the story of two women, Nina and Emma, who alternate in telling their stories. Nina begins:

It’s her. I’m almost sure of it.

It’s clear from the offset that Nina knows Emma and seeing her affects her greatly:

The sensation of it, of finding her there in front of me after all this time, is almost overwhelmingly powerful: like panic, or passion. I feel my hands curl into fists. I’m very conscious now of my lungs filling with air, and then releasing it.

Nina lives a solidly middle-class life. Her teenage daughter, Sophie, attends the local private school; her second husband Charles is an architect who designed their second home in France; her father is a celebrated composer, and Nina herself is an artist.

However, it’s not long before she’s helped herself to Emma’s wallet and is nipping round to give it back to her.

Emma and Nina couldn’t be more different:

I stand there in the doorway, with a stained tea towel over my shoulder, ketchup on my jeans, and (though I don’t find this out till later) flour in my hair, and I look at her and just for a second, I recognise her, her life; and I want it so much, really, that it hurts.

Emma is pregnant with her second child. Her toddler, Christopher, is a handful and Emma’s felt herself – the woman who used to work in TV – disappear under laundry and shopping whilst her husband Ben’s star rises as he takes advantage of the positions vacated by Emma and women like her. Emma’s so harassed and vulnerable to the attentions of a glamorous, seemingly carefree woman like Nina, that it’s easy for the smart, manipulative Nina to ease her way into Emma’s life.

Some visitors spectate. They stand there at the edge of the room, smiling and chatting as I rush around with carrot sticks and J-cloths, and I know deep down they’re enjoying seeing me reduced to this…she notices what needs doing, and she does it: quietly, without ostentation or apology. While I’m flapping about…she fills up the kettle and drops the dirty plates in the dishwasher.

It’s not long before Sophie’s arranging to babysit for Emma and Emma’s inviting Nina and Charles over for dinner. All the while, Nina hints to the reader about something that’s happened in the past, while Emma fails to recognise this woman she knew years earlier. All we can do is watch as the secret is revealed and the consequences are played out.

What makes Her special is the way Lane uses the dual narrative. Rather than simply tell the story from two characters’ points of view, moving the action along as the perspective shifts, she tells the same story from two sides, interspersed with moments from each of them that move the plot on. If this sounds boring, reread the last quotation I selected, which is from Emma’s perspective, and then read this, from Nina’s:

When she’s wiping the table and the floor, I fill the kettle and switch it on, and then I collect plates and stack them in the dishwasher. Christopher watches me without curiosity. ‘And what’s your name?’ I ask him, and then I ruffle his hair, and I have the pleasure of feeling him twist away from my hand, objecting to my gesture. ‘Oh, isn’t he a poppet? They’re so delicious when they’re this age.’

Emma didn’t mention Nina speaking to Christopher and it’s these details that we see but the other character doesn’t that builds our anticipation and leaves us dreading Nina’s next move but unable to look away.

What’s Lane got then? She’s got style – in terms of plotting, sentence structure and language; she’s got the mettle to attempt and execute perfectly a parallel dual narrative, and she’s got a dedicated new reader in me.


Thanks to Weidenfeld & Nicholson for the review copy.