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:

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

Standish Treadwell.
Can’t read, can’t write.
Standish Treadwell isn’t bright.

So sing the school bullies as they give Standish yet another beating. The beatings that make him believe school is invented:

…just so the bullies, with brains the size of dried-up dog turds, could beat the shit out of kids like me.

Standish Treadwell is the protagonist and hero of Maggot Moon. His old teacher, Miss Connolly and his best friend, Hector recognise him as ‘an original’:

There are train-track thinkers, then there’s you, Standish, a breeze in the park of imagination.

and even the leather-coat man who comes from the Motherland tells Standish:

I don’t think for one moment you are as stupid as you would like us to believe.

He’s not. Standish knows that:

If you are clever, know more than you should, you stand out like a green sky above a blue field, and, as we all know, the President of the Motherland believes that artists who do those sorts of paintings should be sterilised.

It is 1956 but not the 1956 we know for this is the dystopia that could’ve existed had Germany won World War II. This is never openly stated but there are enough clues – the Motherland, the salute, the children with ‘impurities’ who are ‘sent away’.

Standish lives with his granddad because his own parents have been taken by the Greenflies. He makes friends with Hector when Hector and his family are sent to live in Zone Seven and end up in Standish’s family’s old house. They’ve been banished from Zone One after Hector’s father has refused to do something for the government, something he keeps secret to protect Standish and his grandfather. But when Hector and Standish’s red football goes over the back wall, they all end up involved in something they shouldn’t.

This is a tightly plotted novel with a brilliant narrator. It has a beautiful friendship at the heart of it and a dyslexic boy who proves that finding reading and writing difficult doesn’t mean you’re stupid or afraid to stand up for what you believe in. It’s also beautifully written – I kept stopping to quote lines to my partner.

Maggot Moon deserves every ounce of praise that’s been heaped upon it. It’s perfect for teenagers (and slightly younger if you don’t mind the swearing and occasional violence) and adults alike. A superb book.

Thanks to readingzone.com and Hot Key Press for the review copy.