In the Media: 17th 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.

Two excellent UK prizes – the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize and the Desmond Elliot Prize announced their longlist and shortlist, respectively this week. The former has eleven women on a longlist of fifteen. Yes, that does say ELEVEN, that’s 75% of the shortlist (well, 73.3 if you’re being pedantic). And the latter is an ALL WOMEN shortlist of three, from a longlist of ten that had gender parity. Excellent news.

You can read interviews with two of the Desmond Elliot shortlisted writers, Cary Bray and Emma Healey, in The Bookseller

Two important pieces about sexual abuse and victim blaming were published this week: Hayley Webster ‘31 years have passed with me thinking I asked for it…but what if I didn’t‘ on her blog and Lizzie Jones, ‘Sexual Assault: Society, Stop With the Slut Shaming‘ on The Huffington Post.


The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:


Society and Politics:

Film, Television, Music and Fashion:

The interviews:


If you want some fiction to read:

If you want some poetry to read:

The lists:

In the Media: 21st September 2014

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.

In a change to usual proceedings, I’m beginning with non-fiction writers this week as there’s been so much non-fiction talk in the news with the National Books Awards non-fiction longlist and Lena Dunham’s book on the way, in particular.

Alison Bechdel was awarded a MacAuthur “genius grant” this week. Here’s a piece she wrote on her blog last year about The Test which bears her name and how she feels about it. While Elizabeth McCracken wrote this week’s My Hero piece in The Guardian about Bechdel.

Fellow graphic novelist Roz Chast was also in the news for being the only woman to make the non-fiction longlist of the National Book Awards. (More on that in the lists at the bottom.) This piece in Slate looks at why critics don’t take cartoonists seriously.

Caitlin Moran, whose photograph some people can’t take seriously, wrote in her Times column this week about the letters/comments she has from people about the faces she pulls in photographs and why she does it. ‘My face, my rules‘. (Unfortunately UK Times articles are subscriber only.)

Lena Dunham’s book Not that Kind of Girl published a week on Tuesday led Hadley Freeman to question how feminist is writing a memoir? An extract from Dunham’s book ran in The Guardian. The Times ran an interview while Meghan Daum wrote a profile in the New York Times.

Sheila Heti also has a new book out. Heti has collaborated with Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits for Women in Clothes. Heti talks about the book in this Los Angeles Review of Books interview, while Julavits and Shapton are in the Observer.

Also in the Observer is an extract from Linda Tirado’s memoir Hand to Mouth about the myths surrounding poverty.

In the fiction world, who else to begin with this week than Hilary Mantel who’s been causing controversy with an interview she gave to Damien Barr for the Daily Telegraph which they refused to run along with the title story from her latest collection ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’. The Guardian picked up both the interview and the story.

Also still causing a ruckus, is reclusive novelist Elena Ferrante. An essay written by her about Madame Bovary and the reoccurring themes in her work ran on the English Pen website, while Rohan Maitzen examined the critical response to Ferrante and Jonathan Gibbs articulated his thoughts on his blog and discussed the UK covers of Ferrante’s novels.

No stranger to controversy in her day either, Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘American Fiction’ was discussed in The New Yorker while Maggie Gee was ‘In the footsteps of Virginia Woolf‘ in The Guardian writing about bringing Woolf back to life for her latest novel.

Fiction faired better than non-fiction in awards this week with an all-female shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award. Zadie Smith’s story ‘Miss Adele Amongst the Corsets‘ in The Paris Review, Tessa Hadley’s ‘Bad Dreams‘ and Lionel Shriver’s ‘Kilifi Creek‘ in The New Yorker.

Other good articles this week were:

And interviews:

While in translation news (besides Ferrante, of course!), Marian Schwartz talked about translating Russian Literature and Two Lines Press published an extract from Bae Suah’s novel The Low Hills of Seoul translated by Deborah Smith.

And this week’s lists:

Finally, I’m going to leave you with the three pieces I’ve loved the most this week:

  • Alice Bolin on ‘hoarding verbal matter‘ (with beautiful photographs of Yayoi Kusama’s work)
  • Jess Richards on love and desperately seeking a variety of things
  • Shelley Harris’ video for her forthcoming novel Vigilante. (I am having that wig!)


The Orphan Choir – Sophie Hannah

Reading ghost stories is not something I’ve done as much in adulthood as I did as an adolescent. There’s something about being spooked silly as a teenager, knowing that protection surrounds you, that lost its appeal for a while as a grown-up. However, recently they’ve begun to creep back (sorry) into my reading repertoire – Sarah Walter’s The Little Stranger and Helen Dunmore’s The Greatcoat being novels of particular note.

Sophie Hannah’s The Orphan Choir concerns Louise Beeston and her next-door neighbour:

It’s quarter to midnight. I’m standing in the rain outside my next-door neighbour’s house, gripping his rusted railings with cold, wet hands, staring down through them at the misshapen and perilously narrow stone steps leading to his converted basement, from which noise is blaring. It’s my least favourite song in the world: Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.

Mr Fahrenheit walks over, opens the window, stands well back from the rain. ‘Hello, Louise,’ he says, his voice as sullen and weary as his face. ‘Come to give me a bollocking?’

Mr Fahrenheit, whose real name is Justin Clay, is a nuisance. So much so that he drives Louise to telephone environmental health in the middle of the night and lodge a grievance.  But Clay isn’t Louise’s biggest issue.

Where else would a seven-year-old boy be in the early hours of a Sunday morning but at home, safely tucked up in his bed?
     Stop it. Don’t think it.
Safe in his bed, with his mum and dad just along the hall in case he needs anything in the night, in case he has a bad dream and needs a cuddle…
     I bend over, gasp for breath. Why do I do this to myself? It might not be so bad if I didn’t fill my mind with the very words that will hurt me the most. There’s another way of defining Joseph’s absence, one that’s nowhere near as painful. Other words to describe the situation, which is, in so many ways, a good and fortunate situation – so why do I never use them?

Joseph’s a pupil at Saviour College School – a chorister in their prestigious choir and therefore, a boarder. A situation over which parents have no say: choir practice and participation in services take place largely when other students are at home. The school expressly forbids these students from living at home and being transported to and from rehearsals and church events by their parents. Louise is devastated by this seeing it as her son having ‘been stolen by a school for no good reason’. When she wakes up in the night then having heard Justin Clay playing the Opening Responses that ‘Saviour College’s chaplain and the boys’ choir sing…at the beginning of every Choral Evensong’ she knows she needs to move before his behaviour breaks her completely. But what if the music were to follow her?

The Orphan Choir is a taut, gripping ghost story with a couple of twists. It’s success lies in Hannah’s use of music which pervades the text, creating a layering effect and the heart of the story – a mother’s love for her son. Don’t read it before bedtime, it’ll keep you awake for hours.

Thanks to Random House for the review copy.