Today, m.snowe (who works at a large academic publishing house) received a frantic email from a well-known person, who basically wanted to rescind their endorsement of a book. This was a book that they already submitted a blurb for. They had already signed a legal permission form allowing us to print said blurb.
We’d given them a galley copy of the book weeks ago. So what could have possibly changed this person’s mind? A fist-fight with the author? A personal vendetta? Mind-controlling ear eels?
Ahem, the blurber was now unsure of endorsing the book, after they finished reading it.
So please, please, please be warned, blurbers—-read yo’ books!
And people, don’t trust an endorsement. Even by a well-respected person. Form your own opinions. This might be fairly obvious, but you never know when someone is only on the back cover because they signed a permission form too hastily…
m.snowe is in a serious rut. She’s looking for some good summer reading. She’ll be starting this in a few days, but it’s been a few months since she picked up a book at random or by suggestion, and fell in love. And m.snowe craves that serious, eat-off-the-same-utensil, rub-their-dirty-feet, throw-yourself-onto-the-subway-tracks-just-to-prove-your-ardor infatuation.
Lately, most of the books m.snowe courted have been total teases, with such promise, yet so disappointingly unsatisfying. They looked nice when you sat with them on the train, or in restaurants, or with a glass of wine on the couch. Like good on paper guys, except…they were no good on paper. So lately, she’s been going back to the old stand-bys…like this, and this, and this. Her need for satiety has driven her to almost reconsider picking up the phone and getting back with this for the third, tumultuous time.
As a rather rough-and-tumble reader/writer, m.snowe makes no show of being all pretentious-y (see how unpretentious it is, to make up fake words?), and she has no trouble admitting that she needs new books to read, that perhaps are written by authors slightly less dead, though a pulse is not necessarily a requirement for her new ventures into good reading.
So basically: Help! FYI, there is no genre or style that m.snowe won’t at least give the ol’ grad-school try. m.snowe’s favorites are varied. She just needs a story to actually care about enough to read through to the end, one that has a decided lack of narrative mediocrity. Is that so hard to find?
m.snowe thinks there are too many essays out there that operate by taking two disparate things and then connecting them, Malcolm Gladwell-style. However, m.snowe found some similarities that she would like you all to suspend your cynicism for a moment for, in order to consider. So here it goes: Co-ed Softball, and Female Writers.
–In a co-ed softball game, the field has ten players. Often, a team will be stacked with mostly men. There is a rule requiring at least three female players in the field and in the line-up at all times. Usually, teams just meet this minimum requirement, and usually the women are placed in the least obtrusive positions (i.e. right field).
Literature has no hard and fast rules of engagement, and no set quotas for women writers, however–let’s face it–sometimes that’s what it feels like. In order to be a legitimate magazine or review, you have to toss it to the ladies every now and then. Also, whether by default or conscious effort, the kinds of books women generally author are often shunted to the literary right field, if you will. And “chick lit?” Horrid name aside, that sub-genre hasn’t moved off the bench since it was first added to the roster.
–Laudatory Overdrive, or hyper-praise for female feats of athletic [literary] prowess. Men on the team over congratulate women for making decent plays, suggesting that the barest amount of talent is actually awe-inducing by comparison to their own skill-level. (read:patronizing to the extreme!)
Say m.snowe makes a play, or has a decent hit. It was good, but nothing spectacular. When she gets back to the dugout, the praise is overwhelming. The cheering reaches a pitch only dogs can hear (exaggeration). The high fives are higher, and they sting a bit more than normal. m.snowe likes being recognized for her accomplishments, to be sure. But she’s a pretty good judge of the type of and appropriate amount of praise that one should receive. She sees a guy on her team catch a fly ball–he gets a few pats on the back, a few “nice one!”s and that’s that. When one of her female teammates makes the same exact play–the effulgence of the male teammate’s praise is practically blinding. Praise for literature written by women is not necessarily in the same vein, but often m.snowe gets the sense that a woman’s book is “extra awesome” just because not only is it good, it’s written by a lady, ya’ll!
Analogy # 3
–Low expectations. When a woman goes up to bat, even if she’s in the beginning of the line-up, even if they’ve never seen her hit, even if she might bench-press more than the dudes on the other team weigh, it is a known fact that all the players in the outfield and infield will almost certainly move in. And sometimes, they will move in to a degree that is frankly insulting–outfielders standing on the very edge of the outfield grass.
I’ll leave this one for you to decide. Is m.snowe being irrational? Do some/most men believe that women can’t do as good a job, just by the nature of their sex? m.snowe chooses to hope not.
–Sexual remarks or basic comments on appearance/attractiveness. m.snowe received a comment about how a player from the opposing team “liked the looks of her from the back,” and wondered what the front looked like. Often in sports situations, and in the evaluation of literature, women are judged not just by their talent, but also by their physical attributes. We’re not saying this isn’t a mutual thing for both sexes–to be judged in this fashion–but the volume with which this happens to women is dramatically larger. m.snowe has sat in lit. class after lit. class and heard about how not only was this woman a great writer, but she was a great beauty too, or alternatively, she was plain-looking. m.snowe could care less. Was she a good writer? Yes, well then the assessment could clearly stop there. m.snowe doesn’t need to know Mary McCarthy was a looker to appreciate The Group. m.snowe knows that male writers can be similarly judged, and their sexual prowess is often highlighted (Byron, anyone?). But the appearance of a man, to most extents, is never part of the value judgment of his writing. But with a woman, it’s often part of the “academic analysis,” whether people like to admit it or not. Apparently, her writer’s perspective is somehow altered as an attractive or not-so-attractive woman? Give m.snowe a break.
m.snowe suspects that most of the behavior on the co-ed softball field could apply to most situations in life. Also, because of the haste, m.snowe did not point to real-life literary examples. A poor argument, probably, but in essentials, you know it’s true.
So, m.snowe thought ya’ll might want to see some of the things people were actually searching for on the interweb when they happened to stop upon her blog. She guesses it is a hazard of the material she often covers, that she attracts all kinds of crazy searches. The searches from the past few months are listed below, and be warned, they get increasingly awesometastic as you go. Sigh.
|voyeur telescope blog|
|university of awesome|
|human beast staredown|
|when someone stares at your feet|
|laura bush statement on confederate flag|
|why tv is so important during the mornin|
|office softball etiquette|
|can pregnant women eat kumquats|
|funeral memory boards|
|the beautiful confederate flag|
|how likely is it for a straight male to|
|what is womanhood and its problems|
|lesbains stare at straight women|
|lo behold beast beauty quote kong|
|watson crick dna prostitute|
|attracted “just before menstruation”|
“Foreign accent syndrome is a rare medical condition involving speech production that usually occurs as a side effect of severe brain injury, such as a stroke or a head injury, though two cases have been reported of individuals as a development problem. Between 1941 and 2009, there have been sixty recorded cases. Its symptoms result from distorted articulatory planning and coordination processes.”
The other night, Sophie was playing poker with some friends. After a well–played hand, she tumbled out into the street, severely inebriated. Fumbling with and dropping the extra chips she had left in her pocket and forgotten to cash in, she stooped to pick them up and was nearly sideswiped by a taxi. As luck would have it, the cabbie stopped in time, and agreed to take her back home. Let’s just say it was a rough ride–according to published reports, the cab driver witnessed her retching, and also rambling incoherently about “royal something-or-others, an impossibly lucky queen, and the wish that somewhere, instead of some guy named Jack, she could find her true King, and have a full house with…children, maybe?”
Well, the cab driver had just about had enough. She was yelling and screaming, and she made sick all over his recently vacuumed back seat—-there were now chunks of something streaking down the Plexiglas divider he had also just polished liberally with Windex. Who did this woman think she was? And to top it off, she kept asking for it—-all her rants were ended with a highly distinguishable plea, “Hit Me!” As the driver pulled up to her place in Greenpoint, she threw her poker chips at him as payment. This pushed him over the edge—-and so as irony would have it, when he prematurely hit the gas, she was pushed onto the edge of the sidewalk, hitting her head at just the right angle to knock her out instantly, but not kill her. She woke up five days later in the hospital, and a strange thing happened. She began taking on an odd conglomeration of characteristics. No, she did not have a foreign accent, but it was a similar phenomenon. Like foreign accent syndrome, she believed herself to be someone of a different origin (or in this case, someones), and acted accordingly. She is the first case of her kind. No one in modern history has ever developed such symptoms after acute head trauma. But to this day, two years later, Sophie still believes herself to be an animated Disney female character.
Because most doctors had not had time to view the melange of Disney offerings for young ladies, because Sophie was not identified for a few weeks (she had no id on her, and the cab driver moved her unconscious body a few streets down), and because the nurses changed shifts and were so overworked they didn’t notice, the diagnosis took quite a while. But here are a few of the early doctors notes taken that, when combined, would have led straight to the proper diagnosis.
–Upon awaking, Patient X queried, “But wasn’t my dress pink when I fell asleep?”
–Today, Patient X refuses to speak, and keeps pointing to her legs and staring at them, awestruck. Also, she refused her lunch: fish sticks.
–Patient X received flowers from the hospital volunteers today. She insisted on placing a single rose in a glass canister, and is increasingly distressed as each pedal withers.
–Patient X picked up broom and began sweeping her hall today, whistling as she worked. She kept asking where Gus and Jaq were to help her. (We don’t know any Jaq in the hospital’s employ, but how did she know Gus the janitor was on vacation?)
–Our Senior Nurse, Marge, tried to feed her applesauce today. Patient X refused to open mouth, and ran down to Doc’s room to escape, inexplicably ending up with twigs in her hair upon arrival. Thankfully, his dwarfism doesn’t bother her, and they’ve struck up quite a friendship.
–Patient X keeps trying to escape the building—we think she suffers from some sort of science fiction delusion–she keeps asking to find a whole new world.
–Insists, before every meal, that we label her food and beverages with instructions, such as “eat me” and “drink me.”
–Patient X refuses to recognize names, and is addressing all men as “Jim Dear” and all women as “Darling.”
–Insists on cinching her hospital gown tight around the waist and wearing high heels at all times, even during examinations. She often takes her bouquet of flowers and grasps them on her chest as she falls asleep.
–She locked herself in her room today, and won’t let us in. Yet at the same time, she is pounding on the door and imploring for help, and for a footman, also named Jaq.
Once diagnosed, the doctors determined that Sophie’s best chance at turning her condition around is to be introduced to less conservative heroines that would assist in evening out her manic-depression and reliance on strong male leads and/or effeminate prince-figures. Her treatment includes watching more Warner Bros cartoons, and a healthy dose of live-action movies, such as Kill Bill and Alien. No reports on whether or not the treatment is taking, or if the feared side-effects of murderous rage and a distinct preference for yellow and black track suits have taken hold.
Okay, so m.snowe thought, why bother defend her stance against guys who write stuff like this. It’s pretty clear from the get-go that we’re not going to like what he says. But you know, opposing forces exist for a reason–so here are just a few excerpts and snide comments on Douthat’s take on abortion and the recent murder of Dr. Tiller.
“Over the last week, there’s been an outpouring of testimonials, across the Internet, from women (and some men) who lived through these hard cases. They help explain why Tiller thought he was doing the Lord’s work, even though that work involved destroying something that we wouldn’t hesitate to call a baby if we saw it struggling for life in a hospital bed. They help explain why so many Americans defend his right to do it.”
–Douthat, you’ve already made it clear that you thought Tiller was wrong. If you approached this topic with an open mind, then you wouldn’t need “help explaining” why people agreed with him. Also, if it WAS a baby struggling in a bed, it would be a person, and thereby not aborted. Once you go down the “life begins at conception” road, there’s no turning back. So don’t try that skinny-baby-hooked-up-to-tubes crap on us.
“He was a target of protests — and, tragically, of terrorist violence — because he performed late-term abortions, period. But his critics were convinced that he performed them not only in truly desperate situations, but in many other cases as well. Over the years, they cobbled together a considerable amount of evidence — drawn from the state’s abortion statistics, from Tiller’s own comments, and from a 2006 investigation — suggesting that Tiller abused the state’s mental-health exemption to justify late-term abortions in almost any situation.”
–Oh, the Republicans can’t seem to get enough use out of the word “terrorism.” You think if you use it to be slightly bipartisan, we’ll like you better? Also, your polite little mention of the “state’s mental-health exemption”–we know what you’re implying. BUT since you’ve never been pregnant, why not leave the assessment of the mental state of pregnant women to pregnant women and medical professionals? These women grapple with questions of moral significance you probably can’t compute in your dizziest daydreams–don’t you dare over-simplify them.
“If abortion were returned to the democratic process, this landscape would change dramatically. Arguments about whether and how to restrict abortions in the second trimester — as many advanced democracies already do – would replace protests over the scope of third-trimester medical exemptions.”
–Douthat, Douthat, Douthat … you’re simply asking for the government to make it more difficult for a woman to determine what to do with her own body. Stop pretending you give a damn about Democracy.
The only thing sexier than reading a story is not being allowed to read a story.
Slate ran an article today pondering the possibility of the last 45 years of written work that J.D. Salinger may or may not possess. The author goes on to explain why anything Salinger may have written in the past half-century is worth fighting tooth and nail (and whatever other odd tools or bones might be needed) to save it. He posits his argument around the comparison of Nabokov’s son ignoring his father’s post-humorous wishes and potentially ignoring Salinger’s humorous (or if it comes to it, post-humorous) ones. Nabokov’s son, Dmitri, is publishing a draft of his father’s that was only written on index cards. [Of course, the author notes that even Lolita wouldn’t have seen the light of day if Nabokov’s wife hadn’t saved it from the fire, but that’s a different circumstance. ]
The author has clearly developed a hard-on just thinking about the possibilities that may or may not lie dormant somewhere in Salinger’s reclusive, New Hampshire basement. To be fair, Catcher in the Rye was decent and helped define an important moment in American culture. But let’s face it, the guy hasn’t published since 1965. He came out with one highly-acclaimed novel and then a few other novellas and short stories. We can speculate all we want–and that’s why this article is so fun–because it’s all based on some possible for-instance, and then builds and builds and builds itself into a frenzy. Does it take this kind of legs-crossed-will-he-won’t-he-anticipation to get anyone excited about a book anymore?
Many artists’ stories are filled with that final hour, death row reprieve, and some of the best literature in the canon was saved/discovered in miraculous ways. It’s a wonder that we even got our hands and eyes on most of it (or at least that’s part of the mythical nature of art). But most of the time these pieces were saved due to dumb luck–and it’s worked out fairly well for us so far with the lack of planning. You can’t miss what you never had, except this Slate writer is telling us we should … and maybe he’s right. But instead of getting all blue-balled for whatever may or may not exist in some attic of the “live free or die” state, why not freely analyze some of the newer fiction that’s all around us?
So m.snowe was trolling the online world and she found this awesome little ditty, written by her old college roommate, who is intelligent, awesome, and totally the other “pretty one” (inside joke!). m.snowe has reproduced it here, for your reading pleasure. Damn, we wish we were this cool. (p.s. the writer’s parents are Kathy and Kevin…but you should realize that).
Once upon a time, my friends, Aunt Mom and Uncle Dad, lived in Watervliet, NY, the land where it is perpetually 1950.
Aunt Mom was a swingin’ chick who liked record parties, drinking Coca-Cola in the bath tub, and of course, the mashed potato (the dance, not the starch).
Uncle Dad was kind of the same, but minus all the things I just said. He was, however, on the school’s Latin team. This in itself would have made him the coolest kid in school, but he always got beat up cause he tried to wear his toga to class all the time, when everyone knew that the toga was only supposed to be for Latin competitions. Man, that kid could declinate nouns like it was nobody’s business (and it really was nobodies business, cause declination is a very private matter); he could also conjugate verbs like there was no tomorrow, but seeing as how he’s since lived a heck of a lot of tomorrows, that theory has been disproven.
Anyways, in addition to being a Latin rockstar, Uncle Kevin was also a Church rock star. A Church rock star?, You ask incredulously, doubting that such a thing could exist. But if you ever saw that cat swing on stage, I mean on the altar, with his leather vest and capo, twinkling his little fingers off during the Our Father, you’d know it does exist. And you’d probably develop a MEGA rock star crush. Unless he was your uncle dad too, in which case that’s just gross.
And it turns out that Aunt Mom DID develop a mega Church rockstar crush on uncle dad. And by Aunt Mom, I mean Aunt Mom’s best friend. But uncle dad didn’t digg her, he dug aunt mom cause he had a thing for gals with polka dot eyes, and that’s just what aunt mom had (green with brown polka dots). She could also sing somewhere over the rainbow in Russian, but that wasn’t for a few years, so he had to go for the polka dot eyes.
So, the big moment came when aunt dad was gonna ask uncle mom out (wait, strike that, reverse it), and aunt mom responded by saying she had to “ask her dad,” even though she really just had to go get a cootie shot and make sure it was OK with her friend first.
And the rest is really history:
-uncle dad and aunt mom went to the movies
-one time they went looking for a turtle and I’m pretty sure uncle grandpa called the cops cause he thought they was dad
-then it came time to want a dog, so they decided to get hitched
-then some stuff happened
-then they bought a really neat Chagal painting (because love just isn’t love without a violin playing goat)
-then they moved to Newark, NY with a bunch of guys named Dwayne and lots of sauerkraut
-then they moved to Utica, NY with a bunch of guys named Tony and Rocco and lots of pizza and arsons
I think somewhere in there they had some kids, but no one is sure of how many are actually theirs except the one that looks just like them, Simon. Simon grew up to be get a PhD and be a MetaPhysician, but none of their other supposed children ever amounted to much.
A Couple of years went by and then it was today and it was their thirty-something-year wedding anniversary (if I knew how to count I could tell you exactly). I haven’t talked to them, but I can only imagine they will celebrate very romantically by eating hot dogs, while watching Law and Order with my friend, Cousin Caitlin. If the night gets real crazy, they may even stay up past 10 pm.
Someday I hope I have an aunt mom and uncle dad as swell as my friends, aunt mom and uncle dad.
m.snowe had a rather good conversation with a friend and fellow avid reader last evening, and the question on the chopping block in between glasses of sangria was this: “New Criticism: Are you in, or are you out?”
m.snowe was brought up in the school of New Criticism, despite being born about 60 years too late to get the first wave of it. But hey, what’s old is new again, right? Literary Criticism schools come in waves, and sometimes people try to bring back old techniques, often to their detriment–kind of like the reemergence of the ’80s every so often (stirrups, really people?). But out of all the theoretical critiques applied to the analysis of a text (and m.snowe has learned some doosies, including deconstructionism, which she detests), New Criticism has always made sense, perhaps because especially with new fiction, it is easy to apply. Although it was created and propped up by some of the male chauvinist writers of the day, in its purest permutation it should serve as a form of analysis that is free from preconception of a text based upon the race, gender, age, etc. of the author. What New Criticism taught about ambiguity, Virginia Woolf would reinforce in A Room of One’s Own, specifically for writing in a unisex, genderless way.
Why were we talking about this in the first place? m.snowe, admittedly nerdy, listens to the Slate.com audio book club–which usually covers new fiction. This past podcast was all about Atmospheric Disturbances, the first novel by Rivka Galchen. Now, m.snowe hasn’t read this book yet (she waits for paperback!), but the discussion of the podcasters was a good one–and one debated topic was the question of the reception of the book. Was the book viewed as “beautiful” by reviewers and not “Nabokovian” because it was written by a woman? Because the protagonist is a male and the author is female, does that change the way we should approach the story? Does the simulacra of the protagonist’s wife/marriage get a more “domestic” interpretation simply because the perspective of the author is decidedly female?
To m.snowe, all these questions, while fodder for engaging discussion, are rubbish. As her friend pointed out, sometimes the opposite sex does a piss poor job of representing or providing a realistic narrative picture of the sex they themselves are not. However, a woman can mis-characterize her sex just as easily as a man can botch up his own–and vice versa. So really, why bother coming to the table with any idea of who is behind the narrative? m.snowe loves a good biography/autobiography, but she’d rather not know anything about the people that write her novels (kind of like how she’d rather not know about how that cow meat was processed before she enjoys her burger). Of course an author biography can shed light on certain facts about their works. However, once you try and apply the life to the words on the page, you’re heading down a road that is mighty hard to turn off of, and has no bearing on the quality of the fiction in front of you.
Honestly, once an author’s words are down on paper, they really aren’t the author’s anymore (despite what U.S. copyright laws say)–an author can interpret every line of their poetry or prose, phrase by phrase, and it still doesn’t get you much closer to the “meaning.” Literature is not life, and m.snowe thinks it was Saussure who pointed out that language is the signified, and can never become the signifier–these are separate entities. When someone creates a novel that actually becomes “reality” (Stranger than Fiction-Style)–then m.snowe will start brushing up on author biographies. But until then, she will happily read in the dark with a tiny book light, and judge a text by the words in front of her, not the shadowy life behind it.