In the Media: 19th April 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.

The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist was revealed this week. Sarah Shaffi of The Bookseller reports, ‘Experience tells on Baileys Women’s Prize shortlist‘ while Anna James of We Love This Book introduces us to each of the books and invites us to read along in this video.

Other big news was London Book Fair. For readers, this means announcements about new acquisitions from significant writers. Alison Flood in the Guardian reports, ‘Age shall not weary them: Diana Athill, 97, and Edna O’Brien, 84, are stars of London book fair‘ and ‘London book fair excited by Erica Jong’s new novel‘. The Quietus reports on Viv Albertine’s new book and the cover for Patti Smith’s sequel to Just Kids was released this week, see it in The Pool. If you want a glimpse into what goes on at the fair, Antonia Honeywell wrote on her blog about the panel she was part of, ‘Promoting Debut Authors – London Book Fair 14th April 2015‘.

The woman with the most publicity this week is Evangeline Jennings who’s interviewed on The Indie View, Col’s Criminal Library, Quirky Fiction, Omnimystery News and in character as one of the narrators of her short stories, Helen Wheels on Reflections of Reality.

In this week’s Harper Lee news, ‘PRH reveals Harper Lee title page‘ reports Publishers Weekly.

And in this week’s Elena Ferrante news, if you haven’t read anything by her, she’s this week’s Bedtime Bookclub in The Pool where you can read the first five chapters of My Brilliant Friend. Also in The Pool, Viv Groskop asks, ‘Is being a bestseller all in a name?‘ and Cristina Marconi writes, ‘Elena Ferrante versus Italy‘ on Little Atoms.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:

Feminism:

Society and Politics:

Music, Film and Television:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction to read:

If you want some poetry to read:

  • What Did Sriraman Say?‘ by Perundevi (translated by Padma Narayanan and Subashree Krishnaswamy) in Words Without Borders
  • Highway‘ by Malathi Maithri (translated by Lakshmi Holmström) in Words Without Borders
  • Three Dreams‘ by Sharmila Seyyid (translated by Lakshmi Holmström) in Words Without Borders
  • Fear‘ by Krishangini (translated by Padma Narayanan and Subashree Krishnaswamy) in Words Without Borders
  • Shunaka: Blood Count‘ by Karthika Nair in Granta
  • Gone to Pasture/To Speak‘ by Natalie Eilbert in The Offing
  • Compromised Field‘ by Shareen Mansfield on The Honeyed Quill
  • Humbles‘ by Frances Leviston on Poem Today
  • The Handshake‘ by Isabel Rogers on her blog
  • A Psalm for the Scaffolders‘ by Kim Moore on Seren Books’ Blog

If you want some non-fiction to read:

The lists:

In the Media: 22nd March 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.

The big news this week is that Kath Viner became the first woman appointed to the role of editor-in-chief at The Guardian in its 194 year history. The first woman to edit a UK broadsheet and only the second EIC of The Guardian to have attended a (selective) state school.

Unfortunately, the other trend in articles this week have been about the abuse women have suffered from a variety of sources; Heidi Stevens wrote in the Chicago Tribune ‘Hate mail lesson: Uncombed hair threatens the natural order‘; Sarah Xerta wrote ‘The Brick Wall: The Intersection of Patriarchy, Privilege, Anger, and Language‘ on VIDA; Juliet Annan ‘is a Lazy Feminist‘ in publishing on the Penguin Blog; Sara Pascoe wrote ‘The hymen remains an evolutionary mystery – and the focus of the oppression of women’s sexuality‘ in The Guardian; Katie McDonough wrote ‘If you’re shocked by this Penn State frat’s nude photo ring, you’re not paying attention‘ on Salon; Jessie Burton took ‘Speakers’ Corner‘ on Hunger TV; Claire Byrne wrote, ‘One sordid, gross and offensive comment must have been thought up while he sat there scratching himself in his grey fading jocks. I wonder what makes people think it’s acceptable to make comments like that?‘ in the Irish Independent, and Ashley Judd wrote, ‘Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass‘ on Mic.

And there’s been a number of articles about race; Rebecca Carroll wrote ‘Calling out one racist doesn’t make white people any less complicit in supremacy‘ in The Guardian; Jia Tolentino wrote ‘How to Talk About Race With Your Starbucks Barista: A Guide‘ in Jezebel; Maya Goodfellow wrote, ‘Climate change is easier to ignore because right now it’s people of colour who suffer the most‘ on Media Diversified; Vulture interviewed Claudia Rankine on ‘Serena, Indian Wells, and Race‘ and KCRW’s Bookworm asked her about writing the racial ‘other’.

This week’s Harper Lee news: To Kill a Mockingbird was named #78 on The Guardian list of The 100 Best Novels; Casey N. Cep reported on ‘Harper Lee’s Abandoned True-Crime Novel‘ in The New Yorker, and Jonathon Sturgeon asked ‘Is It Time to Get Hopeful About Harper Lee?‘ on Flavorwire.

And prizes this week went to Louise O’Neill who won the inaugural YA Book Prize and Louise Erdrich won the Library of Congress Award.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

The lists:

In the Media: 18th 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.

It’s been another grim week for news. There’s been some insightful commentary from a number of female writers on the big stories though:

Charlie Hebdo and terrorism was written about by Caitlin Moran in The Times; while in The Guardian, Natasha Lehrer wrote ‘The Threat to France’s Jews‘; Hadley Freeman covered the same issue alongside the UK’s antisemitism survey, and Suzanne Moore declared ‘Add faithophobia to my crimes: I have no respect for religions that have little respect for me‘. On Reimagining My Reality, Steph wrote ‘Charlie Hebdo, freedom of speech, and male privilege‘ whilst on Media Diversified, Cristine Edusi wrote, ‘Ongoing terrorism in Nigeria is not a novel, the use of children as human bombs is #WeAreAllNigeria‘.

The Stuart Kerner case was commented on by Janice Turner in The Times; Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian, and Antonia Honeywell on her blog.

The lack of diversity in the Oscar nominees was written about by Roxane Gay in The Butter

And if that’s all made you thoroughly miserable/angry, here’s Sophie Heawood on Clooney’s Golden Globes speech and her daughter’s first day at nursery and Hadley Freeman on ‘How Amy Poehler and Tina Fey made the Golden Globes the first feminist awards ceremony‘ both in The Guardian.

Speaking of award winners, Hilary Mantel’s having another moment with the BBC television adaptation of Wolf Hall beginning this week. She’s in The Guardian, writing about the TV version; while John Mullan, also in The Guardian, profiles her ‘strange and brilliant fiction‘, while Kirstie McCrum tells us ‘What TV series like Wolf Hall can teach us about history‘ on Wales Online.

Joan Didion’s stint as a model for Celine has also been big news again this week. Adrienne LaFrance writes about fashion and loss in Didion’s work for The Atlantic; Molly Fischer tells us ‘Why Loving Joan Didion Is a Trap‘ on The Cut; Lynne Segal talks about ‘Invisible Women‘ in the LRB; Haley Mlotek declared ‘Free Joan Didion‘ in The Awl and Rachel Cooke says ‘That’s so smart‘ in The Observer, while Brainpickings revealed ‘Joan Didion’s Favorite Books of All Time, in a Handwritten Reading List‘.

 

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

The lists:

And the best things I’ve read this week:

In the Media: 19th October 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.

Two things seem to have dominated this week: essays and people not being very nice to each other. Let’s start with the former:

Essays have been a talking point although most of the pieces I link to aren’t new. The resurgence of interest seems to have come from Is This a Golden Age for Women Essayists? which ran in the The New York Times a couple of weeks ago. The difference in opinions between Cheryl Strayed and Benjamin Moser is fascinating. Meghan Daum’s about to publish her second essay collection. There’s a great interview with her on her website (and how much do I want to read Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed?). One of this year’s most talked about essay collections is Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, the final essay of which ‘Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain‘ is available to read on VRQ Online. Amongst others, the essay discusses Lucy Grearly. If you’re new to her (as I am), there’s an essay on her in New York Magazine by Ann Patchett. I can’t mention essays without mentioning Roxane Gay, here’s a piece in The New Inquiry by Patricia A. Matthew on why Gay’s a new feminist icon.

Not being very nice to each other then. Well, this very odd piece by Katherine Hale ran in The Guardian yesterday, in which she admits to ‘stalking’ a book blogger who gave her a bad review on Goodreads. Bibliodaze posted this response to the article. Kate McDonough on Salon was the latest person to defend Lena Dunham, this time against Kevin D. Williamson of the National Review who questioned whether Dunham is telling the truth about a sexual assault which she writes about in her book. Emily Gould wrote on Buzzfeed about her experience of online trolls and why we should fight them, while Helen Lewis in the New Statesman talked about more experiences high profile women have had of trolls and what can be done to try and stop them. Caitlin Moran in The Times (paywalled) asked ‘Should We All Quit Twitter?‘ and how it’s easy to think it’s not real, thoughts prompted by her viewing the leaked Jennifer Lawrence photographs.

Other overtly feminist piece this week are Chris Kraus’ essay ‘The New Universal‘ – on feminism and publishing in The Sydney Review of Books; ‘Women as Supporting Characters Is a Problem‘, Alison Herman reports from Comic Con for Flavorwire; Johann Thorsson tells us ‘2 Things I Learned Reading Only Books by Women for a Month‘; Jacqueline Rose, ‘We Need a Bold Scandalous Feminism‘ in The Guardian; Lorraine Berry and Martha Nichols, ‘ “Women and Power”: How Much Clout do Female Writers Have‘ in the New York Times, and philly.com asks ‘Where are the women?‘ on the National Book Awards list (which all sounds very familiar).

And Sali Hughes, writer of ‘Pretty Honest’, is the woman with the most press this week, she’s interviewed in Standard Issue and on the Boden blog and there’s an new extract (audio, this time) from the book on the 4th Estate website.

Other noteworthy essays/articles:

And the interviews:

On translation:

If you’d like some fiction to read/listen to:

Or some non-fiction:

This week’s lists:

And my favourite pieces this week:

In the Media: 5th October 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.

Is anyone else aware there’s a film version of Gone Girl out this week? Love it or loathe it, you certainly can’t miss it. Gillian Flynn’s been interviewed by Emma Brockes in The Guardian and told Vulture about 21 Things that Influenced her books. Erin Kelly wrote in the Telegraph about Why we are all in the grip of suburban noir, while Stylist ran some Words of Wisdom from History’s Greatest Female Crime Writers and Vulture ran a list of Seven Books to Scratch Your Gone Girl Itch which are not what you might expect (I’ve reviewed four and have two of the remaining three on my TBR).

Also having a moment is Jane Eyre and her creator Charlotte Brontë partly due to The Secret Life of Books episode dedicated to the book last week. Presenter of that episode, Bidisha, wrote a piece telling us Beware Your Classic Heroines as they might not be all you thought they were. Pam McIlroy wrote Is Jane Eyre passive or strong? in reaction to the programme. While Claire Hayes wrote about rereading and rethinking Jane Eyre as part of the Massive Open Online Course she’s taking. And if you can’t stand Jane Eyre (just me?), here’s Lucy Hughes-Hallet’s piece from earlier in the year about Why Villette is better.

Lots this week about gender parity or, more specifically, the lack of it. Anne Boyd Rioux wrote on her blog about the Challenge to a (Woman) Writer’s Credibility following the Washington Post’s review of Karen Abbott’s Liar Temptress Soldier Spy and on The Millions asked Is There No Gender Equity in Nonfiction? (I don’t need to remind you not to read the comments on that one, do I?) Rebecca Winson from For Books’ Sake wrote in the TES about their Balance the Books campaign, to challenge the gender divide on the new UK GCSE specifications. While Elisabeth Donnelly wrote on Flavorwire about the difference between Lena Dunham and Aziz Ansari’s Million Dollar Book Deals.

(Portrait by Jay Grabiec )

Talking of Lena Dunham (and other current high profile feminists), she’s still big news this week following the publication of her book. Roxane Gay interviewed her on Vulture and posted the outtakes. While the New York Times ran a piece on how she was turning her book tour into ‘a Literary Circus’. While the LA Times linked her with Laurie Penny to discuss how they are ‘rewriting womanhood for the 21st Century‘. Standard Issue interviewed Penny while the TLS ran a piece discussing Penny’s book alongside Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism and The Vagenda titled ‘Modern Sexism‘. And as I’ve mentioned Gay, I’m very excited by the news that The Toast have hired her to run their new sister site ‘The Butter’.

In translated literature news, there’s a great portrait of Russian writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya in The New Yorker and a piece on Chinese Women Writers by Chialin Yu on Women Writers, Women’s Books. Still the Elena Ferrante pieces continue: there’s a podcast on The New Yorker about her mysterious power and Kat Stoeffel has a girl-crush on her on The Cut. While there’s an extract of Catherine Bessonart’s forthcoming novel And if, at Notre Dame, by nighttranslated by Louise LaLaurie on French Culture. All the more interesting for having the original text alongside the translation. And finally, Sal Robinson at Melville House commented on the possibility of a Women in Translation prize.

I never mention poetry. It’s not because I don’t enjoy it, more that I don’t feel even vaguely qualified to talk about it. However, I’m changing that as of this week (talking about it, that is). Poet of the moment, Kate Tempest is in The Guardian talking about how rapping changed her life. This fantastic poem, Leak by Lauren Levin in The Brooklyn Rail is well worth a read. While Patience Agbabi performs the Prologue from her reworking of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

If you prefer prose, Lionel Shriver emerged as the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award, you can read ‘Kilifi Creek‘ on The Guardian site; Hilary Mantel’s ‘The Long QT‘ from The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher; the opening of Marilynne Robinson’s new novel ‘Lila’ on the Virago Books, or Bidisha’s new novel-length fiction work Esha Ex on her blog.

The best of the rest articles:

And the interviews:

This week’s lists:

And my favourite pieces this week:

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!)

 

In the Media: 10th August 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.

I’m a huge fan of lists, despite the inevitability of me adding several books to my TBR from them. Two in particular caught my attention this week:

The Guardian First Book Award longlist was announced this week. The longlist looks pretty good (although male dominated with 7 books to 4 by females) but what was more interesting was the piece Richard Lea wrote about deciding which of the readers’ choices was to go forward.

I read three great interviews with female writers:

And four interesting essays:

Have you read anything interesting that’s not on my list? Let me know in the comments.

 

N-W – Zadie Smith

N-W is the story of two school friends Leah Hanwell and Keisha Blake. It is also the story of N-W London.

By opening the novel with the following description, Smith makes it clear that N-W London is her main character:

The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on school gates and lamp posts. In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside. She keeps to the shade. Redheaded. On the radio: I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. A good line – write it out on the back of a magazine. In a hammock, in the garden of a basement flat. Fenced in, on all sides.

I think it’s also clear however, that although, in one sense, we could declare N-W Zadie Smith’s love letter to her patch of London, it is a love letter written after a long marriage, decades after the rose tinting has cracked and peeled off.

Following a short scene-setting chapter, Leah (the redhead) is disturbed by the doorbell ringing. Thumping on her door, screaming and crying, is Shar who – after discovering that she and Leah attended the same school and reminiscing about other ex-students – proceeds to scam Leah out of £30. This is one side of life in N-W London. A thread that is further explored through the stories of Felix, who seems to be changing his life following years of drug use and unsuitable women and Nathan, one of the people Shar and Leah remember from school; a young man struggling to carve an identity for himself in a society that doesn’t much care for him.

The thread running parallel to this is that of Keisha Blake. Now Natalie Blake, lawyer. One of Natalie’s functions in the story is to look at what happens if you ‘get out’ of the area/family/class you’re born into. Or indeed, if you really do get out. Perhaps Keisha/Natalie has simply switched one set of fences for another. This idea is further highlighted by the section in which her story (and that of her friendship with Leah) is told through the use of 185 numbered sections, some as short as a sentence, none longer than three pages. Yes, we could conclude that they are ‘chapters’ of Natalie’s life. We might also wonder, however, if this is Natalie playing by numbers, living life by the rules. Where have these rules got her by the present day of the novel?

‘Nowhere,’ said Natalie Blake. (N-W? An unloved hinterland? A place you can’t escape?)

The other prominent theme explored is that of motherhood. Leah openly (although she doesn’t seem to have discussed this with her husband) doesn’t want children. Natalie has three and this is something else – along with Natalie’s new status – that divides the two women. I can’t think of any other novel that has openly discussed the idea of a woman choosing to remain childless. What’s most impressive about this, I think, bar Smith’s decision to tackle what remains a volatile subject, is that she does so without judgement. Something that is also true of the lifestyle choices her characters make. She draws the scene and the people and leaves it for her readers to discuss.

One final thing to mention is the skill with which Smith creates and uses dialogue within the book. There is absolutely no doubt as to where you are:

I told im stop takin liberties. Where’s my cheque? And she’s in my face chattin breeze. Fuckin liberty.

‘Oh my days. Who’s punishing you, Keisha? Nobody. That’s in your head. You’re paranoid, man!’

Which creates the perfect foil to Natalie’s style of speech:

‘I work hard. I came in with no reputation, nothing. I’ve built up a series practice – do you have any idea how few – ‘

There’s no doubt that this is a serious work of fiction that explores key contemporary ideas not only about N-W London but about the U.K. as a whole. It’s by no means flawless – there are some typographical choices that didn’t work for me and I found the section devoted to Natalie slow in places (although Alan at Words of Mercury disagrees with me on that) – but it’s ambitious and left me with more questions than answers, which is something I like in a novel.

I’m glad N-W has been longlisted and I think it has shortlist potential. The mind boggles as to why the Booker Prize judges chose to omit it from last year’s shortlist though, this is perfect Booker material to my mind.