I am loath to write a candid critique of Marie Calloway’s “Adrien Brody” because I don’t know what good it does me — as a person, and as a female writer — to castigate a woman who is writing about sex in a confessional way. Only, here is the thing: by writing what she has, not only has Calloway done little good for women, but she has done absolutely no good for writers, and people in general.
Much has been made of whether or not the story is a new-wave feminist statement. The first bone I feel like picking is with the New York Observer, for every introducing the F-word ito this particular conversation. The title of their Calloway profile is “The New Model for Literary Seductress is Part Feminist, Part ‘Famewhore’ and All Pseudonymous.” Then, the piece makes no mention of how exactly Calloway can stand in for “Feminist” in a pixilated, online world; but rather, outlines the wake of tirades, gossip, and accolades that followed the publication of “Adrien Brody.”
I only ever took one Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies course in college. I’ve never worn a “slutty [insert blue collar profession, beloved cartoon, or common household item here]” Halloween costume. I did, however, once participate in a burlesque performance attended mostly by fraternity brothers. But I’ve also read “A Cyborg Manifesto.” I don’t purport to be an authority on feminism. I do purport to be a writer, and a good person. And, with her story, Marie Calloway is flying in the face of literature and ethics.
We’ve been a little M.I.A. around here as of late. Consider this your salutatory postcard from parts yonder, dear reader, to say that we’ve missed you. I wish we could also say that we’ve been waylaid by trans-Saharan camel treks or seasonal gigs in a Floridian mermaid show, but mostly, we seem to somehow have real jobs. This has put a damper not only on our writing, but at least on this editor’s summer reading.
How we should be spending our summer: like Hemingway
I hold the summer reading list sacred because so many of my favorite books came to me that way. Back in high school, summer reading lists were how I first read The Remains of the Day and The Sun Also Rises and The English Patient, my all-time favorite book, the book that convinced me there might be wildness and feeling in the world worth growing up for. I never would have known to choose it if wasn’t assigned–the penis like a seahorse on the first page was just the first romantic gloss to freak me out–but that list brought me into parts of myself that I hadn’t known were missing.
I’ve tried to build my own summer reading lists every year since then when I haven’t had one assigned. I aim for some sort of thematic unity; this year, I’ve been reading things bound up in plot since I decided I plot is my own writing weakness. But really, I wish someone else would write a list for me.
So let me write a list for you. Continue reading
Poetry From the Rooftops might be the best thing to happen to the tar beach since Tar Beach.* Sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and staged on the top of Arsenal Building in Central Park once a month all summer, the reading series features a stellar line up of poets. This week’s readers are Ana Bozicevic, Jennifer Chang, and CA Conrad. Catch them this Thursday, July 14, at 6:30. Full details are available here.
*Who else was read this as the diversity book-of-the-week in elementary school and was problematically jazzed about the idea of finding beauty in urban grit and escaping the squalor of city living via container gardening?
There are two literary pilgrimages I’ve had my wasted little writerly heart set on since high school. The first, a trip to Edward Gorey’s house on Cape Cod with my dear friend A., was something we’d planned since the days of freshman biology labs. It was finally realized two summers ago in a feat of daring involving questionably-leased rental cars, unprecedented highway mileage, and many a package of Whoppers. (We also made a side trip to Emily Dickinson’s house, where we encountered the ominous sign of a smashed jar of pickles in the parking lot.) Edward Gorey’s Elephant House was every bit as great as we’d hoped, and museum staff may have snapped pictures of us happily reading The Gilded Bat whilst sitting on the tuffets meant for small children.
Sylvia Plath's house on Chalcot Square
I was less sure that a pilgrimage to my other writing holy site, the house of Sylvia Plath, would work out so well. Frieda Hughes talks about the cult of her mother as “suicide doll,” that reverence she receives for the facts of her life and death rather than her writing that seems to propel so many Plath admirers. Plath’s grave has been repeatedly defaced by these fans, the “Hughes” of her last name chipped off or otherwise obscured. (I understand the impulse, but not the act.) I was afraid that when I saw her house it would be similarly arrayed with what would feel to me like the wrong kind of offerings or pronouncements. This is a fear that’s proprietary of Plath in ways I know aren’t right, that are one more sign of the strangeness of my work on her work. I want to visit her house while I lament the people who love her solely for her life story; I want to distance myself from the people who seem to love her without knowing her, which is of course how I’ll always be stuck loving her, too.
xoJane is the new web project from SAY Media and beloved (worshipped?) magazine editor Jane Pratt. I am mixed about the site in general, but I will address all those feelings (and many others I have locked inside me!) in another post. For now, I’d just like to talk about one article they published today.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING WHEN YOU WERE 23?
Intern Madeline is turning 23! Here’s what some of our other contributors were doing when they were 23. (Playing packed shows with “The Crash Test Dummies” is a real answer.)
The book trailer is inherently a curious and quixotic creature. When we meet them onscreen, a sort of pre-teen gawkiness almost always announces a book trailer as the ill-conceived lovechild of publicity department anxiety about embracing new media and the well-honed acting chops of writers and their milieu. True, most of the time the authors aren’t asked to play anyone besides an extra-likable iteration of themselves, but it appears that’s usually asking plenty.