In the Media: 26th 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.

 

This week there’s definitely a celebration of feminist role models happening. At the forefront (mostly because her book Yes, Please is out in the US on Tuesday and the UK the following week) is Amy Poehler. Bustle have 15 Quotes that Prove She’s Our Brilliant Fairy Godmother; Popsugar have 19 Times Amy Poehler Said What We Wish We’d Said, while People have her answering questions people posted on Twitter and Facebook. Amanda Hess, in Slate, wrote about Poehler joining the famous women’s comedy/memoir/advice-book club; Lydia Kiesling wrote in Salon about how Nora Ephron presides over Poehler, Dunham, Fey and Kaling’s books, while Sam Baker in Harpers Bazaar wrote about Fearless Feminist Reads and why they’re important for teenage girls as well as adults.

Someone else who’s been written about as a feminist role model this week is Jane Austen. Jane Austen: Feminist in Action by Sinéad Murphy ran on the Huffington Post blog; Alexander McCall Smith explained why he’s modernised Emma on the Waterstones’ Blog; Sarah Seltzer on Flavorwire wrote about ‘Why We Can’t Stop Reading – and Writing – Jane Austen Sequels‘, while on Something Rhymed, Emma Claire Sweeney wrote ‘In Praise of the Spinster‘ about playwright, Ann Sharpe, Austen’s family’s governess.

Another amazing woman, Joan Didion, is also being celebrated this week. Her nephew is making a documentary about her. You can watch the trailer here. He’s decided to raise funds via Kickstarter which led to Flavorwire publishing Some Other Joan Didion Kickstarter Rewards We’d Like to See and Vogue re-publishing her 1961 essay ‘On Self-Respect‘.

It would be wrong not to mention Hallowe’en this week, particularly as there’s been a group of pieces around that theme. Wired’s podcast, which features Lauren Beukes, is What’s Scarier, Haunted Houses or Haunted People?; Electric Literature have published ‘“Then, a Hellbeast Ate Them”: Notes on Horror Fiction and Expectations‘, looking at Diane Cook and Helen Oyeyemi amongst others; Sarah Perry has written on The Gothic for Aeon, and Kate Mayfield who wrote the memoir ‘The Undertaker’s Daughter’ is on For Books’ Sake talking about How Not to Write a Memoir and in The Guardian talking about ‘Growing Up in the Family Funeral Parlour‘.

Talking of scary, Gone Girl‘s still a hot topic this week. Tana Wojczuk wrote ‘Gone Girl, Bluebeard, and the Meaning of Marriage‘ in Guernica in response to Elif Bautman’s piece ‘Marriage Is an Abduction‘ from last week’s New Yorker. Amanda Ann Klein wrote about the ‘Unbearable Whiteness of Gone Girls‘ for Avidly, and Steph Cha wrote about ‘Laughing at “Gone Girl”‘ in the LA Review of Books.

This week’s other notable essays/articles:

And the interviews:

In translation news, I’ve seen no articles this week about the identity of Elena Ferrante – hurrah! But I have seen that there’s a new imprint called Periscope devoted to translating poetry by women – hurrah!

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

Or some non-fiction:

This week’s 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: 12th 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.

This week, I’m starting with prizes as there seems to be a fair few announcements at the moment. The Man Booker Prize jury will announce its winner on Tuesday. In The Guardian, the shortlisted authors revealed the inspiration behind their books. (Karen Joy Fowler’s contains a spoiler if you you’ve managed to avoid the reveal so far.) The Samuel Johnson Prize shortlist contained four books by women. I’ve only read one so far, but H Is for Hawk is one of the best books I’ve read this year. But the prize that’s got me most excited is The Green Carnation Prize which celebrates LGBT literature. (You can see the longlist in the photograph above.) Eight women on a longlist of thirteen and the two I’ve already read (Thirst by Kerry Hudson and In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie) are two of my books of the year. Expect reviews of more of the books on list before the shortlist is revealed on the 6th of November.

Elsewhere, Lena Dunham continues to be everywhere. She’s guest editor of this week’s Stylist magazine in which she interviews herself while Ashley C. Ford interviews her for Buzzfeed. She’s also written for Pen & Ink about her tattoo. (If you’re interested in Pen & Ink: An Illustrated Collection of Unusual, Deeply Human Stories Behind People’s Tattoos, there’s a great piece on Brainpickings.) In other corners of the internet, people were defending Dunham against the backlash around her book and criticisms of self-indulgence; first, Heather Havrilesky in the Los Angeles Review of Books and second, Sloane Crosley in the New York Times.

Often just as unpopular, Caitlin Moran is in Time talking about Teen Girls, Sex and Pretending to be Courtney Love and in the Radio Times talking about the filming of her co-written sitcom ‘Raised by Wolves’. If her feminism doesn’t interest you, perhaps her piece lamenting the loss of birds in her garden in this weekend’s The Times will. (Paywalled)

Leading feminist writer, Roxane Gay has been prolific again this week. She’s in The Guardian writing about why celebrity feminists should be a gateway to feminism, not its all; on VQR Online talking about The Price of Black Ambition, and in Dissent with a Theses on the the Feminist Novel.

Other notable articles are:

And the interviews:

If you’d like some fiction to read (or listen to):

And the lists:

And the four best things I’ve read 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!)

 

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven begins with an actor, 51-year-old Arthur Leander, having a heart attack onstage during a performance of King Lear. While this is happening, unknown to those in the theatre, a pandemic is occurring.

An outbreak of flu in Georgia has spread to Canada via an aeroplane passenger. Hua, a doctor at Toronto General Hospital, rings his friend Jeevan Chaudhary as Jeevan walks home from the theatre:

“We’ve admitted over two hundred flu patients since this morning,” Hua said. “A hundred and sixty in the past three hours. Fifteen of them have died. The ER’s full of new cases. We’ve got beds parked in hallways…

“It’s the fastest incubation period I’ve ever seen. I just saw a patient, she works as an orderly here at the hospital, on duty when the first patients started coming in this morning. She started feeling sick a few hours into her shift, went home early, her boyfriend drove her back in two hours ago and now she’s on a ventilator. You get exposed to this, you’re sick within hours.”

We follow Jeevan as he prepares to survive for as long as he can. That’s one small thread in a much more complex story though.

In the time before the pandemic, we learn about Arthur Leander. A hugely famous actor with three ex-wives and a son, his personal story is fascinating. It’s also largely the story of his first wife, Miranda, who creates a graphic novel called Station Eleven which is passed onto Kirsten, one of the child actors in the performance of King Lear in which Leander dies.

Kirsten is the focus of the other main thread of the novel which is set in Year Twenty after the pandemic and the world as we would recognise it. She is part of a group called the Travelling Symphony who walk from settlement to settlement performing music and plays.

The Symphony performed music – classical, jazz, orchestral arrangements of pre-collapse pop songs – and Shakespeare. They’d performed more modern plays sometimes in the first few years, but what was startling, what no one would have anticipated was that audiences seem to prefer Shakespeare to their other theatrical offerings.

“People want what was best about the world,” Dieter said.

When we first encounter The Travelling Symphony, it’s arriving at a place called St. Deborah by the Water. It’s a place on their regular circuit where two years previously they’d left two of their number – Charlie and the sixth guitar – so Charlie could give birth somewhere that wasn’t on the road. But the atmosphere in the town is off, Charlie and the sixth guitar are nowhere to be found, and then there’s The Prophet.

Station Eleven is a story about civilisation and relationships.

…this collection of petty jealousies, neuroses, undiagnosed PTSD cases, and simmering resentments lived together, travelled together, rehearsed together, performed together 365 days of the year, permanent company, permanent tour. But what made it bearable were the friendships, of course, the camaraderie and the music and the Shakespeare, the moments of transcendent beauty and joy when it didn’t matter who’d used the last of the rosin on their bow or who anyone had slept with…

The quotation refers to the Symphony but it’s equally valid for a family or a long-term group of friends and through the events in the novel – both pre and post-pandemic – Mandel shows us the power that relationships can have, both positive and negative.

The novel’s structured so it moves between the pre and post-pandemic stories but neither of these is told in a linear fashion. Mandel places events in order to withhold key pieces of information, drip-feeding us with perfect timing. Her sentences are precise and well balanced, creating characters through action and dialogue.

I thoroughly enjoyed Station Eleven. It left me with a number of questions about the nature of humanity but more than anything it left me with hope. Hope that if the apocalypse were to happen aspects of our culture would survive; hope that humans can support and inspire each other; hope that ultimately we are a civilised race.

The book has also been reviewed by fellow Bailey’s Prize shadow juror Eric. Click on his name to be taken to his review.

Thanks to Picador for the review copy.

In the Media: 7th 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.

One of this week’s highlights made me squeal when I came across it: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has started a blog written by Ifemlu, protagonist of her current multi-award winning novel Americanah. The blog’s called ‘The Small Redemptions of Lagos‘ and is a pre-curser to “Raceteenth or Various Observations about American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negros) by a Non-American Black”, which features in the novel.

Ali Smith and Sarah Waters continue with the promotion of their latest novels how to be both and The Paying Guestsrespectively. Smith is interviewed in The Guardian while Waters is in The Independent.

Also in The Independent, a short piece I missed last Sunday on Angela Thirkell who I’ve never read but now really want to.

I am, however, almost finished reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Believe the hype, it’s good stuff. Before it’s publication on Wednesday, there’s a great piece on the Picador blog about the creation of the book’s cover.

Station Eleven is also highlighted in the first of three lists I want to bring to your attention this week, Sam Baker’s Best Books for Autumn in her Harper’s Bazaar column. The second is Joan Schenkar on Patricia Highsmith’s 10 Best Books in Publisher’s Weekly. And the third is one that was posted last year on the Huffington Post website but only came to my attention this week, Soniah Kamal’s 50 Novels by Women on Conflict, Displacement and Resilience. It is a superb list.

Speaking of superb women, Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton announced this week that she was creating a grant to allow writers time to read.

No one will be reading fellow Booker winner Margaret Atwood’s current work-in-progress for some time though. She announced she’s taking part in The Future Library project which means her contribution won’t be printed until 2014.

I’ll leave you with the best piece I’ve read this week although it’s tinged with great sadness. When Jenny Diski was told she had inoperable cancer, she began a diary which will be published in the London Review of Books. The first instalment is in this week’s edition.