Grow a Pair: 9½ Fairytales About Sex – Joanna Walsh

You’d assume a short story collection about sex might focus on the act(s) itself but whilst Walsh’s stories do include a number of sex acts – penetration, masturbation, orgies, remote sex – Grow a Pair concerns itself mostly with transformations.

A girl passed a penis-bush growing in someone else’s garden, and picked a ripe dick because she couldn’t resist it. It came off easily in her hand. She took it home and tried it on right away, knowing that, like the peas in her icebox (‘from field to fresh in under one hour!’) it would be better fresh.

From the very opening sentences of the first story to the end of the afterword transformations occur: characters adopt and change their genitalia; a man becomes a woman; a queen becomes a witch; a woman fragments into multiple vaginas.

These changes are explored from the point-of-view of the person transformed and occasionally in terms of their affect on others. The girl who discovers the penis-bush ‘wondered if she was in the right bathroom but when she tried the men’s she left, overcome by a similar unsettling feeling’. ‘Just because I have a dick now, doesn’t mean I am a man’, she tells her girlfriend who shies away from the penis, inviting her friends over to take a look at it instead. They remain unimpressed.

Of all the characters, these women are the only ones to spend little time thinking about sex. For others, it seems to preoccupy them. This is particularly true of the virgin princess and the three big dicks, the only two stories in the collection that are direct transformations of well-known fairy stories.

The princess in ‘The Princess and the Penis’ has ‘never met a cock IRL’, she’s only seen photographs sent by acquaintances:

She was waiting for her one true cock, but none of the cocks in the photos seemed to fit. She wanted one that would fit like a glove, or rather like the finger of a glove which she used on herself while waiting for the proper cock to arrive.

She invites men to the palace, guillotines their penis and places each one in turn under a stack of mattresses, waiting for the one.

Similarly, the three big dicks are searching for pussy. They procure different materials with which to build their own pussy and I’m sure you can see where this is going. The problem, however, like any big dick is that when one of them goes for a walk:

No sooner had he stepped from its shade into a wide green meadow than he met a cunt, which he failed to recognise, never having encountered one before.

Walsh’s stories are filled with touches of humour. One of the many penises in the book turns out to be a speaking cock.

I don’t know what it said to her – I wasn’t there – but it was something dickish …The cock shouted something even more prickish…

As well as the intertextuality of fairy stories and fairy tale convention, in ‘The Minutes of a Meeting Between Mrs Darsie Hurlbutt, Hortense Shakely, Raymond Maths and Doctor Maxman, Including a Skype Call from Mrs Gustie Slovak’ the characters’ speech is taken verbatim from spam emails:

Hortense Shakley (who is a man) said, Wanna get laid tonight?

Doctor Maxman said, Make her shiver in ecstasy and desire more!

Raymond Maths said, S..A..F_E_-&_F-A..S..T..—P_E N I S___-E N..L-A R-G E M-E N_T-

Again, this alludes to the amount of time and to the extent which sex penetrates (pun intended) our days. As in real life, the characters in these fairytales are divided into those who go hunting for sexual organs and those who stumble across them.

It would be easy to dismiss Grow a Pair as a bit of fun, transforming fairytales from moralistic stories designed to keep women and children in their place to titillating narratives about sexual experimentation but to do so would undermine the ideas they explore. Walsh considers whether we’re defined by our genitalia, whether our sexual organs make us male or female. Her women aren’t sexually passive, they have control of their own sexuality and aren’t afraid to seek out whatever fulfilment they desire. It’s a confident collection, satisfying in terms of its links between stories as characters’ paths cross at different points. It’s also highly entertaining as well as being smart and thoughtful.

There’s an interesting moment at the end of ‘Simple Hans’ when, after amputating part of a woman’s body, he says:

I’m trying to tell you what it was – to cut into this thing that should be sacred, the thing we can’t question, to make it a thing just like any other – which is what it becomes when you cut into it, when you cut it off.

By cutting into sex, female desire, genitalia and gender identity, hopefully Grow a Pair will contribute to the conversation that takes sexual behaviour out of a prescribed patriarchal/hetero/cis fairytale world and into one where sex is ‘a thing just like any other’.

 

Thanks to Readux for the review copy.

In the Media: October 2015, Part One

In the media is a fortnightly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous fortnight 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.

In the media is back in a slightly altered format. You might have spotted a change in the opening paragraph – this feature will now appear fortnightly rather than weekly. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be bigger than it was before, however. When I started this feature, the plan was to focus on fiction writers with published books but as I started to read more widely, I realised how many brilliant women columnists and features writers there are and it seemed ludicrous not to include them. I want to keep supporting them so you’ll notice as you scroll down that I’ve reduced the number of categories but I’ve added a regular columnists category to link to those writers who are consistently good/interesting.

This fortnight’s been all about whitewashing. First there was the Sufragette film which ignored any women of colour involved in the movement. Anita Anand asks ‘Were the Suffragettes racist?‘ in the Telegraph. Victoria Massie tells us about ‘3 black women who fought on the front lines for women’s suffrage‘ on NTRSCTN and a piece on Asian Suffragettes on British Protest at Home and Abroad was highlighted. Eesha Pandit writes, ‘The discomfiting truth about white feminism: Meryl Streep, Amy Poehler & the movement’s long history of racial insensitivity‘ on Salon while Henna Zamurd Butt asks, ‘So Nadiya won the Great British Bake Off, why the big deal?‘ on Media Diversified and Nadia Shireen says, ‘Why the world needs more Nadiyas‘ in The Pool.

And then there was Meg Rosoff who said,“there are not too few books for marginalised young people”. This came at the same time Leila Rasheed posted, ‘A New Scheme Hopes to Promote BME Voices in Children’s Literature‘ on The Asian Writer. Responses to Rosoff came from Camryn Garrett, ‘this is how the industry lives now: five signs that you might be suffering from white privilege’ on For all the Girls Who Are Half Monster; Edi Campbell, ‘SundayMorningReads‘ on Crazy QuiltEdi (whose Facebook page is where Rosoff made her comment); Kaye M, ‘This Is How I Life: An Open Letter to Meg Rosoff‘ on Medium; Radiya Hafiza ‘Why we need mirrors in literature‘ on Media Diversified; KT Horning, ‘Spouting Off While White‘ on Reading While White, and Debbie Reese, ‘About Meg Rosoff’s Next Book‘ on American Indians in Children’s Literature, which includes an up-to-date list of responses so far. And how about this for a radical idea: ‘Is Hermione Granger White?‘ Monika Kothari answers on Slate.

Reactions to Chrissie Hynde blaming herself when she was raped continue. Ann Friedman writes, ‘We Shouldn’t Let Chrissie Hynde Off the Hook So Easily‘ in The Cut while Tracey Thorn says, ‘Chrissie longed to be one of the boys. Unlike us, she didn’t have riot grrrls‘ in The New Statesman.

Finally, while there wasn’t a female winner of the Man Booker Prize, there was a female winner of The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. Congratulations to Kirstin Innes who won for her novel Fishnet. Unfortunately, both the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Goldsmiths Prize shortlists were somewhat lacking in women. Michael Caines offers an alternative all-female shortlist to the latter on the TLS while Cathy Rentzenbrink on blistering form in The Bookseller writes ‘On Noticing‘.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:

Feminism:

Society and Politics:

Film, Television, Music and Fashion:

portrait_walsh_colourThe interviews:

The regular columnists:

In the Media: 10th 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.

It’s Mother’s Day in 80 countries around the world today. Not surprisingly, there has been a whole range of articles, from a whole range of view points, about mothers and motherhood this week. The Hairpin ran a series including  ‘Mommy Queerest‘ by Sarah Liss; ‘Thoroughly Modern Murdering Mothers; or, Women Who Kill for Their Children‘ by Meredith Haggerty; ‘A Joke, A Story‘ by Naomi Skwarna; ‘Going for the Burn: Revisiting Jane Fonda’s Workouts‘ by Alison Hamm’ ‘Mothers and Moms‘ by Haley Mlotek, and Randi Bergman, ‘The Weirdest Beauty Tips I Learned From My Mom‘.

Tameka Cage-Conley wrote, ‘Motherhood, Art, And Police Brutality‘ on VSB; Amy Shouse wrote ‘My mom never wanted kids‘ on Salon; Anne Enright wrote, ‘When Mother Leaves the Room‘ in The New York Times; Cheryl Strayed wrote, ‘The ‘Painful Personal Toll Lung Cancer Has Taken on My Life’‘ on The Huffington Post; Monica Hessler, ‘The long drive to end a pregnancy‘ in The Washington Post; Mary HK Choi, ‘The Dicks Of Our Lives‘ on Buzzfeed; Mary Elizabeth Williams, ‘Sorry about Mother’s Day, my childfree girlfriends: Moms aren’t any more special (or unselfish) than you‘ on Salon; Edwidge Danticat, ‘A Prayer Before Dying‘ on Literary Hub; Brogan Driscoll, ‘I Refuse to Celebrate ‘Dad Bod’, Until We Appreciate the ‘Mum Bod’ Too‘ on the Huffington Post

Catherine Bennett wrote in The Guardian, ‘It’s dehumanising to be ‘an oven’ for someone else’s baby‘; Jessica Roake wrote, ‘An Ode to the “Mom’s Night Out”‘ on Slate; Rebecca Mead wrote, ‘A Woman’s Place Is on the Internet‘ in The New Yorker; Sophie Heawood wrote, ‘I’ve read all the advice, but I still don’t know – am I raising a serial killer?‘ in The Guardian; Laila K wrote, ‘Up with the kids‘ in The Pool; Dahlia Lithwick, ‘“Bye-Bye, Normal Mommy”‘ on Slate; Christie Watson, ‘The Joy and Pain of Trans-Racial Adoption‘ on Literary Hub; Meagan O’Connell, ‘It’s My First Mother’s Day As a Mom. Now What?‘ in The Cut; Kate Spencer, ‘How I Finally Let Go Of Grief For My Dead Mom‘ on Buzzfeed; Domenica Ruta, ‘Can Having a Child Help Me Get Over My Abusive Mom?‘ in The Cut.

Danah Boyd, ‘I Miss Not Being Scared‘ on Medium; Melissa Duclos, ‘To the Doctor Who Reported Me to Child Protective Services‘ on The Offing; Christopher Frizzelle, ‘The Day Virginia Woolf Brought Her Mom Back to Life‘ on Literary Hub; Lauren Laverne, ‘“Mum” as a diss‘ in The Pool.

And if you’d rather read a book instead, Literary Hub suggests, ‘Five Intense Books for Mother’s Day‘ and the Huffington Post recommends, ‘Mother’s Day Reads: Eight Great Mother Characters in Literature‘.

Photograph by Idil Sukan

In the UK, there was a general election. 3AM Magazine ran a whole series of reactions including, Lauren Elkin, ‘an open letter to mark-francis vandelli‘; Juliet Jacques, ‘london – 2015‘; Eley Williams, ‘rosette manufacture: a catalogue and spotters’ guide‘, and Rachel Genn, ‘you wouldn’t like me when i’m disappointed‘. Other reactions included: Laurie Penny, ‘Don’t give in: an angry population is hard to govern; a depressed population is easy‘ in the New Statesman; Joan Smith, ‘Almost a third of all MPs are now women – a milestone has been reached‘ in The Guardian; Janice Turner, ‘Why the north is in revolt against Labour‘ in The Times; Beluah Maud Devaney, ‘Unfriending Tories on Facebook Is Not the Answer‘ on the Huffington Post

And there were a few pieces written prior to the result that I still think are worth reading: Sam Baker, ‘When voting doesn’t make you feel good‘ in The Pool; Suzanne Moore, ‘By Friday we’ll be reduced to bystanders at a revoltingly macho political stare-off‘ in The Guardian; Concepta Cassar, ‘Food For Thought: Hazlitt, Malthus and the Tragedy of Food Banks‘ in Litro; Katy Guest, ‘Sandi Toksvig’s Women’s Equality Party is a movement for which time has come‘ in The Independent; Salena Godden, ‘Colour-blind: What colour are you?‘ on her blog, and Isabel Rogers’ poem ‘The truth about political correctness‘ on her blog.

I promised myself I wouldn’t mention it but there have been a few good pieces written about the birth of THAT baby: Sian Norris, ‘She’s not like other girls…‘ on Sian and Crooked Rib; Heather Havrilesky, ‘Royal Baby Girl Fated to Lead International Mob of Fake Princesses?‘ in The Cut, and Viv Groskop, ‘She’s a tiny baby, not a Kardashian‘ in The Pool.

Congratulations to Gill Lewis who won the Little Rebels children’s book award with Scarlet Ibis this week; to Emily St. John Mandel who won the Authur C Clarke award, and to Alice Notley who won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Foundation Prize. A gender balanced shortlist was announced for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2015 and a female dominated one for the Branford Boase Award 2015. The ALS Longlist and NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists were also announced.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:

Feminism:

Society and Politics:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction to read:

If you want some poetry to read:

If you want some non-fiction to read:

Photograph by Cybele Knowles

The lists:

In the Media: 26th 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.

This week’s been all about friendship. The Cut declared it Friends Forever Week and ran a series of articles including, ‘The Friend Who Showed Me the Life I Could Have Had‘ by Nell Freudenberger; Emily Gould wrote, ‘Envy Nearly Wrecked My Best Friendship‘; Carina Chocano, ‘9 Friends Who Made Me Who I Am‘; Heather Havrilesky, ‘The Friend I’ve Been Fighting With for 20 Years‘; Clique-Stalking: Instagram’s Greatest Social Pleasure‘ by Maureen O’Connor, and ‘25 Famous Women on Female Friendship‘. While Megan O’Grady wrote ‘This Spring’s Literary Subject May Have You Calling Your Pals‘ in Vogue; Lauren Laverne says ‘It’s time to rehabilitate matchmaking‘ in The Pool, Sulagna Misra writes ‘How Captain America Helped Me Make Friends in the Real World‘ on Hello Giggles and Leesa Cross-Smith writes, ‘Broken Friendships & Knowing All Too Well‘ on Real Pants.

If you’re still to discover it, one of my favourite blogs Something Rhymed covers friendships between female writers and is run by two female writers who are also best friends, Emma Claire Sweeney and Emily Midorikawa. On the site this week, ‘Crying Tears of Laughter: Irenosen Okojie and Yvette Edwards‘.

And then there’s the Amy Schumer sketch with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey celebrating Louis-Dreyfus’ ‘Last Fuckable Day’. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must watch it RIGHT NOW! And when you’ve done that you can read Eleanor Margolis, ‘This Inside Amy Schumer sketch about the media’s treatment of “older” women is perfect‘ in the New Statesman and/or Lynn Enright, ‘Hollywood actresses skewer sexism and ageism brilliantly‘ in The Pool.

Unfortunately, it’s also been about Twitter trolls: Soraya Chemaly wrote in Time, ‘Twitter’s Safety and Free Speech Tightrope‘; Fiona Martin wrote ‘Women are silenced online, just as in real life. It will take more than Twitter to change that‘ in The Guardian; Sali Hughes wrote, ‘Trolls triumph by shutting down women’s voices‘ in The Pool

Congratulations to Yiyun Li who became the first woman to win the Sunday Times short story award and to Emily Bitto who won The Stella Prize this week.

In this week’s Harper Lee news, ‘Reese Witherspoon set to record Harper Lee’s new novel‘ reports Alison Flood in The Guardian.

And the woman with the most publicity this week is Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, who writes ‘How Writers Can Grow by Pretending to Be Other People‘ in The Atlantic, and is interviewed on Slate, in Cosmopolitan and on Longreads. While Stephanie Gorton Murphy writes, ‘The Uneasy Woman: Meghan Daum, Kate Bolick, and the Legacy of Ida Tarbell‘ on The Millions.

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:

If you want some non-fiction to read:

The lists:

In the Media: 14th December 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 been a lot written about rape and the culture which surrounds it due to a piece published in Rolling Stone magazine about a gang rape at The University of Virginia. Responses came from Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker, Emily Yoffe on SlateMaya Dusenbery on FeministingRhiannon Cosslett of The Vagenda in TimeSalamishah Tillet in The Nation and Sarah Ditum in The New Statesman; Deb Rox wrote about working at a rape crisis program in ‘Truth Is a Fire I Couldn’t Hold‘ on The Butter; Lena Dunham wrote about her own experience of speaking out on Buzzfeed; Katie McDonough comment on Salon in a piece titled, ‘The right’s Lena Dunham delusion: Anger, misogyny and the dangers of business as usual‘, and Caitlin Moran wrote about the Ched Evans’ case in the UK. While from a story focus, Kathleen Founds wrote about Vonnegut and rape culture on Buzzfeed and Sarah Hughes wrote about ‘Rape on TV‘ in The Guardian.

It’s also been another week where #readwomen2014 has been highlighted. Creator Joanna Walsh reflected on the year in The Guardian; Lauren Aimee Curtis wrote about her year of reading women in Meanjin; Lorraine Meads wrote about creating the first Feminist Library in Nottingham on Dawn of the Unread; Rebecca Mascull wrote about her reading year on her blog, and @hashughes began a Women’s Writing Calendar – send her forthcoming events you’re involved in/are aware of so we can share in the goodness. Meanwhile, Nicola Sheppey at The Vagenda wrote ‘Why Women Need to Read Books By Men‘.

And the other big story was Vlogger Zoella’s novel. The fasting selling debut since records began was ghostwritten, it was revealed last Sunday. You can read the story in The Telegraph. Keren David wrote her thoughts about it on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure; Matt Haig defended her in The Guardian; thirteen-year-old Zoella fan Julia Brookes commented on Girl Online, and on Thursday, Siobhan Curham, the ghost writer involved, commented on her own blog.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction or poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

And the lists:

In the Media: 7th December 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 brought the news that the police involved in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner would not stand trial. Reaction came from many people. Janee Woods writes, ‘A Different Kind of Justice‘ in Guernica; Roxane Gay, ‘What he St Louis Rams know about Ferguson is a righteous glimpse of the way forward‘ in The Guardian; Mallory Ortberg, ‘Eric Garner’s Killer Won’t Be Indicted‘ on The Toast.

It’s fitting that Claudia Rankine’s Citizen was published recently. Here it’s discussed in The New York Times and on PBS.

It’s that time of year; the round-ups started weeks ago but this week they’ve proved impossible to ignore. First up is Joanna Walsh, creator of #ReadWomen2014 on the Shakespeare and Company blog and Sinéad Gleeson in The Irish Times. While The Millions do fantastic ‘A Year in Reading’ round-ups. Here’s Haley Mlotek, Karen Joy Fowler, Emily Gould, Laura van den Berg, Celeste Ng and Lydia Kiesling. Huffington Post has its ‘Best Books of 2014‘; Electric Literature asks ‘Was 2014 the Year of the Debut?‘; ‘Three million voters reveal the books of 2014‘ on Stylist; ‘The 24 Best Fiction Books of 2014‘ on Buzzfeed along with ‘32 of the Most Beautiful Book Covers of 2014‘; The Independent has ‘The best debuts‘ The New York Times has ‘The 10 Best Books of 2014‘; Bustle has ‘10 Female Authors That Ruled 2014‘, while Slate has ‘The 22 Best Lines of 2014‘, ‘27 Books You Shouldn’t Have Overlooked in 2014‘ and an all-female, yes, you read that correctly, an all-female – by choice not design – ‘Best Books of 2014‘.

Ayelet Waldman took to Twitter to comment on her non-inclusion in The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014. You can read about it in The Guardian and Erin Keane responds on Salon. While Laura Miller tells us ‘What I learned from reading two decades worth of NYT notable books lists‘ also on Salon.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

The lists:

And the things I’ve most enjoyed reading this week:

In the Media: 23rd November 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.

It’s been Ursula K. Le Guin’s week. Awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards, she gave a widely praised speech about the need for freedom. You can watch it here, or read the transcript here. She’s interviewed on Salon, in The Guardian by Hari Kunzru and there’s a piece on where she gets her ideas from on Brain Pickings

Arundhati Roy and Megham Daum are the women with the second most coverage this week. Roy’s in Prospect, talking about ‘India’s Shame‘ and the caste system and interviewed in The Observer, where there are plenty of unnecessary comments about her looks. While Daum is interviewed on FSG’s website, in The Guardian and on The Cut.

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: 16th November 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.

Photo by Wayne Thomas

This week, there’s been lots of discussion on my Twitter timeline about an article by Joanna Walsh, writer and creator of #ReadWomen2014 on ‘Why must the “best new writers” always be under 40?‘ prompted by Buzzfeed’s ‘20 Under 40 Debut Writers You Need to Be Reading‘. Traditionally, these lists have disadvantaged women who, for a number of reasons, often publish their first novel later than many men. So, although it’s arbitrary/silly, this week’s top slot is going to pieces by or about those who published their first book at 40 or over.

We have Linda Grant (first novel published at 44) on why she’s hooked on the Serial podcast in The Guardian; Joan Chase (47) in her own words and Amy Weldon on her both on Bloom, a site dedicated to writers whose first major work was published at 40 or over; Ruth Graham tells the true story of Laura Ingalls Wilder (65) on Slate; Alexander Chee looks at Penelope Fitzgerald (59) via Hermione Lee’s biography of her on Slate; there are interviews with Lissa Evans (42) on the One More Page blog, Helen DeWitt (43) in BOMB magazine, Meg Rosoff (48) on Rebecca Mascull’s blog, Katherine Boo (48) on the theatre production of Behind the Beautiful Forevers in the Independent and Donna Douglas (40) on Female First; while Bobbie Ann Mason (42) has a new short story ‘Ready‘ on TNB Fiction and the first chapter of Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye (51) is up to read on One Book Lane; finally, you can find out why middle-aged women are dominated self-publishing according to The Guardian.

At the other end of the spectrum, writer Nikesh Shukla supports young writers in Bristol. They publish online magazine Rife. Here’s Sammy Jones’ ‘The Five Stages of Street Harassment‘ and Jess Connett on ‘Hidden WWI: Teenagers at War‘.

There’s also been more gender discussion. Time magazine added the word ‘feminism’ to a list their readers could vote on to ‘ban’. Roxane Gay responded in The Washington Post; Hannah McGill discussed gender depiction in Sci-Fi in The List; Jess Meacham critiqued Suzanne Moore’s column on selfie’s being anti-feminist and her use of Sylvia Plath’s poetry in ‘The Eyeing of my Scars‘ on her blog, while Non Pratt looked at gender representation in Young Adult books in We Love This Book.

And the woman with the most publicity this week is Amanda Palmer, whose book The Art of Asking was published on Tuesday. She’s in The Guardian following a live web chat; interviewed by Maria Popova of Brainpickings on YouTube; has written an article for The Independent and been interviewed in Billboard.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

This week’s ‘Who is Elena Ferrante?’ piece is by Jane Shilling in the New Statesman

If you want some fiction to read:

Or some non-fiction:

This week’s lists

In the Media: 9th November 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.

It’s awards time again this week. Congratulations to Helen Macdonald who won the Samuel Johnson Prize with her stunning memoir H is for Hawk. There’s an article about it and an interview, both in The Guardian. You can also listen to interviews with all the shortlisted writers on BBC Radio 4.

While in France, Lydie Salvayre won the Prix Goncourt with Pas Pleurer.

The Green Carnation shortlist was announced this week and there are four women on the shortlist of six – congratulations to Kerry Hudson, Kirsty Logan, Anneliese Mackintosh and Laurie Penny. Prior to the announcement, Antonia Honeywell wrote her thoughts on the longlist.

The National Book Awards (UK) shortlists were also announced this week. Lots of books by women worth a read on there too.

And the Saltaire Society shortlisted a self-published book for their First Book AwardThe Last Pair of Ears by Mary F. McDonough. The first self-published book to be shortlisted for a Scottish Prize.

That might make you think about Paul Kingsnorth’s novel The Wake which was the first crowd funded novel to be longlisted for The Man Booker Prize earlier this year. Well, Unbound, Kingsnorth’s publishers have announced a Women in Print campaign to try to increase the number of female authors published.

This week has also seen The Bookseller’s report on diversity in publishing – still not good enough, is the overriding conclusion.

It wouldn’t be an average week these days without a Lena Dunham story. Accused by a right-wing journalist of sexually molesting her younger sister following a confessional passage in her book, discussion ensued from Emily Gould, Katie McDonough, Mary Elizabeth Williams and Carolyn Edgar on Salon; Sarah Seltzer on Flavorwire; Emma Gannon on The Debrief; Grace Dent in The Independent. To cheer you up after that, here are 37 Funny and Inspired Thoughts from her book tour on Buzzfeed.

In more cheering news about prominent females, Mallory Ortberg, founder of The Toast, had her book Texts for Jane Eyre published in America this week. In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sarah Mesle wrote a stunning essay/review about the book’s feminist credentials. She’s interviewed on Entertainment Weekly, The Huffington Post and The Guardian. And you can read an extract, 7 Brutal Literary Breakup Texts on Buzzfeed.

And the Amy Poehler stories are still going. The woman herself answers the Proust Questionnaire in Vanity Fair. Here’s 5 Unexpected Things Marie Claire learned from Poehler’s book. Jessica Valenti has (mis?) read the book and declared ‘bitchiness’ the secret to Poehler’s success in The Guardian. Also in The Guardian, Hadley Freeman told us ‘Why Amy Poehler is the Ultimate Role Model for British Women‘.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

In translation:

  • Jenny Erpenbeck (tr. Susan Bernofsky) ‘Homesick for Sadness’ on the fall of the Berlin Wall in The Paris Review
  • Julie Winters Carpenter interviewed about translating Japanese poetry on the Asymptote Blog

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

The lists:

And the 13 (I tried to keep it to 10 but it’s been a very good week) best things I’ve seen this week:

In the Media: 28th 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.

I don’t know if it’s just me but there seems to be a lot of writing about bodies this week. The Observer have a whole section on our attitudes to sex, including this piece by Helen Lewis which looks at teenage girls and cites Lena Dunham, Caitlin Moran and Bryony Gordon, amongst others.

Caitlin Moran is also interviewed on the Longreads blog on ‘Working Class, Masturbation and Writing a Novel‘. While Sam Baker focused her Harper’s Bazaar column on two excellent, just published, fashion and beauty books. They are Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton (I bought it this week and it looks fantastic), which you can hear more about on The Arcade podcast and Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes, who you can read an interview with on Get the Gloss.

And as for other points in life and bodies, Megham Daum has written about different types of parenting in the New Yorker and in the Paris Review, the New York Times obituary writer, Margalit Fox is interviewed about her work.

Feminism was headline news again thanks to Emma Watson’s speech to the UN and the launch of He for She. Joanne Harris wrote on her blog about feminism and why it doesn’t need a name change. Alison Mercer wrote about women’s silence on her blog. While Elena Adler, wrote this on banned books and women.

#Readwomen2014 is still going strong. It’s creator Joanna Walsh gave this fantastic interview to LeftLion (I’m not just saying that because I get a mention, either!); Belinda Farrell wrote this on her year of reading women, and Daily Life published this piece by Aviva Tuffield, Stella Prize executive director on why men need to read more books written by women. While VIDA ran a piece on the marginalisation of female writers, focusing on Mavis Gallant.

In writers who are very much in the spotlight, you can listen to all the BBC National Short Story Award shortlisted storiesAlison Bechdel spoke to Buzzfeed about what she’s doing next. Hilary Mantel was on the Culture Show while Sarah Ditum wrote seriously about her in the New Statesman and the Daily Mash took the piss. Ali Smith did The Guardian webchat and Elena Ferrante did the Financial Times Q&A.

Speaking of women in translation, translator Kate Derbyshire wrote this about why she wants to establish a prize for women in translation.

This week’s other noteworthy articles are:

And the interviews:

And this week’s lists: