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1. I loved Laura Miller’s response to Sebastian Faulk’s piece on what constitutes a “true hero” versus a “mere heroine”, using Jane Eyre and Becky Sharp as examples. Even if we leave aside his misreading of Jane Eyre as a novel, which Miller has already addressed so well, there’s so much in that piece that boggles the mind. I’m sure there will be many people ready to argue that there is not, in fact, anything sexist about it, because look! he uses two female characters as examples! While I don’t believe that the focus on emotional connections he so clearly disdains is inherently feminine, you can’t really separate his definition of heroism, of the narrow box into which people have to fit to be taken seriously as human beings, from the sexist culture in which it was created -- not while keeping a straight face, anyway.

2. Sasha & The Silverfish added her two cents to the above conversation and made many fine points.

3. Phoebe North’s review of XVI by Julia Karr was a great reminder of why I so enjoy reading well-written criticism. I haven’t read the novel, so I can’t say whether or not I agree with Phoebe’s reading of it - though knowing myself, I suspect I’d react to the same story elements in very much the same way. But in any case, it was wonderful to see what is still the dominant discourse regarding female sexuality be so intelligently and sensibly picked apart.

4. Everyone is probably aware of the Bitch Magazine Feminist YA list controversy by now, but if you missed it, Chasing Ray posted a comprehensive summary of events. I have not read Sister Red or Living Dead Girl, so naturally I'll refrain from commenting on them. But I've said countless times before that Tender Morsels is one of my all-time favourite novels, and that yes, I think it's a great work of feminist fiction. It honestly confuses me that people can read it and believe that it promotes the use of sexual violence as revenge. This raises all sorts of questions about the differences between representation and endorsement; conversations that I think are worth having, and that as people interested in books and social issues we will perhaps inevitably return to again and again. What worries me the most about the way this novel has been repeatedly dismissed, though, is the fact that this seems to signal underlying attitudes about YA literature: it should not be too challenging; it should be filled with ethical black and whites; it should have Victorian-like narrators step in and explicitly tut-tut the actions of certain characters; it must be read on a shallow, simplistic level and then branded simplistic; it does not merit the same kind of engagement and critical reading as a work of Serious Fiction. Personally I give teenage readers a little more credit than that.

(I feel that I should add, though, that some of the dissenting comments in this conversation have made me every bit as uncomfortable as the suggestion that the only way to deal with sexual violence is by remaining silent about it. Clearly dismissing the whole concept of “triggering” and telling survivors to “get over it” is NOT the solution here. I strongly believe in letting people know what they’re going to find in a book, especially when it’s as potentially distressing as this. But following that, the decision to go ahead and rest it or not is solely theirs.)

5. For anyone who’s read Tender Morsels (or doesn’t mind spoilers), this post by Kirstyn McDermott completely sums up my thoughts on the controversial scene.


6. Hark a Vagrant drew pirates and included some very sweet pirate slash.

7. I don’t always 100% agree with Jessa Crispin’s Smart Set columns, but she works an argument in a really nuanced and thoughtful way whatever her own conclusions turn out to be. This article is about people filling in the stories of women in history who lacked a voice and left little record of their life. Also I keep returning to this one that is sort of about the Orange Prize.

8. The Reading Ape reacts to a Guardian article about lit-fic and inclusion of the internet. I’m still thinking on lots of this and what’s in the article, but it reminded me a lot of that bit in your joint WG, WG post where you start talking about how the world maybe has to agree that internet relationships are important before they can be framed as important in literature (does that sound like what you meant?). Then it got me thinking about how much technology is portrayed negatively in dystopian fiction (there’s some non-fiction coming out about that soon) and how maybe writers have to wait for readers to find a way to reconcile nature and technology before books can be written where technology is not the destroyer of all or no one will understand them...I was thinking Feed sounds like it might make technology a save haven and The Wind Up Girl has a huge grudge against abuse of technology, but it’s not totally anti-tech by the end. Lit-fic, even speculative stuff, seems almost resolutely anti-tech...

9. Feminist YA list containing some books I really enjoyed (although I’m always going to be edgy about Sisters Red until I’ve read it).

10. I love Wendy Brandes jewellery designs and her blog, but this month she released this ring which made me laugh so unintentionally. It’s an emoticon heart ring, but having just finished ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’ I bet you can guess what I’m seeing! And strangely that makes me want it more, but alas no money for expensive rings.

11. Phantom kitty!


12. My favorite new blog is Adult Books 4 Teens even though the title pains me to admit it. What do these people have against prepositions? World, replacing letters with numbers only works if you are doing it ironically. At all other times, this is not hip or cool, it is just embarrassing. I do like the blog, because I don’t read a lot of adult books outside of SF/F and follow absolutely no blogs that cover solely adult books. Staring at the new fiction section at Barnes & Noble makes me want to chew on my fist and then go cry in a corner somewhere, overwhelmed. This blog was a nice find for me! I am totally a recommendations girl; wandering the stacks hasn’t worked for me since I was 14 and somehow ended up finding a book about a romance predicated on the lady getting a boil on her ass and the man having to nurse her back to health, and while he’s tending the boil, lancing and draining, they ~fall in love~. Even though this blog contains an unfortunate number, well, look at what I could be facing otherwise. I’ll take it.

13. I have had this post from Feminist Review saved from last year: Cotton’s Queer Relations: Same-Sex Intimacy and the Literature of the Southern Plantation, 1936-1968. A few years ago I took History of Sexuality and it was super interesting but it was very, very focused on heterosexual relationships -- I think we explicitly covered one queer person. So, it excites me to see books like this published and available.

14. The Oscars were recently! There was a lot of commentary around the nominations this year and the complete lack of POC and of women. This video made the rounds again, but I had never seen it before so it was new to me and it is...really startling, but probably not surprising. Oh, Hollywood.

Sebastian Faulks - ugh

Date: 2011-03-12 03:53 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
OMG Sebastian Faulks show on BBC2 about books, just blargh (ok unfair he made some good points and some I did NOT agree with, but he get's a blargh for being involved in a project that let Martin Amis run his mouth in such an offensive way).

Have you read Birdsong? Such awful sex, a I can only assume ‘comedy’/satirical name for his hero that makes the heroism of war he’s trying to put across impossible to take seriously...why is this book on so many best of lists? It’s because it’s about war isn’t it, so it MUST be profound. He is one of the few authors where I know he is too concerned with pushing the ONE TRUE version of masculinity for me to be able to read his books. Sorry - deviation. I will get on reading this tomorrow - more - OH WHAT? THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM HIS NEW BOOK?! RAGE!

D’y’know what I think? Ok so ignoring how wrong Faulks is about JE being a lady whose whole story is leading to just fulfillment by marriage, authors like Faulks who subscribe to the idea that heros can’t be focused on the emotional life and wants to make this derogatory distinction between heroines and female heros (wtf?) based on heroines being all about emotion and female heros being about getting what they want and making an impression on the world are being really conventional. They can’t break free from the moulds laid down by authors from history about what makes a man, what makes a hero (a certain kind of character type defined by masculine stereotypes) and this results in them being not only socially conventional (which some people might frame as no bad thing - not me) but also artistically conventional (which tons of artists would be like ‘Oh conventional art is THE worst’ about). They can’t break from what are essentially rules and character types carved out hundreds of years ago. And these are the guys who are apparently our time’s greatest literary writers, even though authors now are the literary generation following on from/contributing to a huge movement to modernism?

And I know that if I were presenting this issue on my own blog I would have to be making better arguments and including stuff like ‘but let me explain why not breaking from character types isn’t always bad art’ and ‘but at the same time we might want to think ‘bout how claiming lit-fic as such a progressive category of writing, while the big boys cling to such traditional and outdated ideas might be an artistic contradiction’ but I’m hoping y’all know me well enough to know I am all about the contradictions and not setting general rules with no exception clauses so I will leave it here.

Re: Sebastian Faulks - ugh

Date: 2011-03-12 04:25 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
No! So many excellent points! You said so many AWESOME things I wish I’d thought of saying myself. Also, I have not yet read Birdsong, but I do own a copy :S The reason is exactly it being on so many Best Of lists - best historical fiction, best WW1 novels, best books of the freaking 20th century. No review I ever read led me to suspect it adhered so closely to traditional models of masculinity and heroism, which is a bit wtf in itself.

Re: Sebastian Faulks - ugh

Date: 2011-03-12 10:05 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I have to be honest and say I did not finish it, because I got to a ‘no more‘ point round about the time of the awful sex descriptions and my reservations are all about the writing and just kind of a icky feeling - also there is a character named Jack Firebrace, he is manly and a former miner and rugged and...his name is Jack Firebrace, how do you take that seriously? I had to read a lot of WWI fiction in college and it’s All Quiet on the Western Front/Regeneration that really dominate my memories of that period.

Date: 2011-03-12 04:27 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I particularly love the final paragraph of The Reading Ape's post. It always kind of baffles me to see perfectly intelligent people assume that something that revolutionised human communication as much as the Internet has is in fact too frivolous and temporary to deserve a place in Serious Fiction. I think the way these things are portrayed fictionally definitely reflects the world’s ambiguity towards them, but what frustrates me sometimes is to think that it doesn’t HAVE to be this way. I don’t know, maybe literature could be one of the things that would make the world at large realise that we can no longer ignore the fact that this matters. Where are those stories? I’m sure there’s a place for them.

Date: 2011-03-12 06:42 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
We should keep a record of books we read where this type of communication is celebrated. I bet we're not the only ones tired of reading books in which something that connects us is demonized or made out to be the vehicle for evil, right? It would be if we could create a list like that for someone to stumble across. "Books where the Internet is AWESOME."

Date: 2011-03-12 06:45 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
YES. And we could start with Cory Doctorow's work - both Little Brother and For The Win definitely get it right.


Date: 2011-03-12 06:57 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
1) Someone recommended XVI to me, but I forget who now. I picked it up in the store and looked at it, but man, I am so jaded that I was like, "I should wait for the library..." OH NEW AUTHORS. I want to indulge in you but fear for my bank account and any heartbreak. I should make you guys vet all the possibly-feminist books. Is anyone here planning to read XVI?

Also, if I only had a dollar for any time I see an adult going "kids shouldn't be having sex at 16! It's too young!" I would have lots of dollars. My sixteen year old self is back in the 90s screaming GET OUT OF MY PANTS. I live for he day when teen sexuality is only owned by the teen, not the people who feel like they should get a vote in someone else's sexual choices because they are "more mature".


2) THAT RING. I wish I wore jewelry. :(

3) Jodie, that cat video was the best thing ever. I needed that in my life so badly, it totally cheered me up. ♥ Now I feel terrible for not including a happy video. My video was just DEPRESSING.
Edited Date: 2011-03-12 06:59 pm (UTC)


Date: 2011-03-12 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Have you seen the 'We have sex' video? It is all teens owning the fact that they have sex, or their friends do, or they're gonna someday, or they use birth control: http://bit.ly/eMdhX7 Also it uses that 'I can ride my bike with no handle bars' song which is kick ass.

I liked your video, although tonight I went to see 'The Adjustment Bureau' and it made me all cranky towards it, but I stand by my crankiness because even if it hadn't been totally male directed and in conflict with my feminist 'agenda' it was a stupid example of sci-fi (there are magic hats which let you go through doors that open somewhere else in the world - how the hats work is never explained and the idea is just STUPID in general). I also watched the correct response to Twilight video which is cool as.


Date: 2011-03-12 11:45 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
One day we will keep you logged in. :D


Date: 2011-03-12 11:46 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
ALSO: YOUR ICON. ;las;dlka;ksd


Date: 2011-03-13 03:07 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Yeah do you like it? I'm not sure I'm sold on it as my lifelong dreamwidth identifier, but I love the hark a vagrant comics so it seemed like a good fit for now.


Date: 2011-03-13 07:01 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
It's so awesome :D I need a cool icon myself :P I feel all naked and stuff.


Date: 2011-03-13 10:02 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I recommend this place, which has really strange icons but also really funny ones.


Date: 2011-03-13 07:03 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I'm curious to read XVI, but probably only if I can get it from the library as well. Not sure if I want to invest on a potential train wreck :P

And yes, yes, I would have many many dollars (or euros or pounds) myself. We should totally trade woe stories of being raised in cultures of sexual repression :S


Date: 2011-03-13 10:03 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
Surprisingly, my library has this! Now...I just need time to read it. :|


Date: 2011-03-14 03:46 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Just thought I'd pop up this review of XVI from a trusted source for me (she's one of the NHYA consultants this year and she likes Sarwat Chadda's books a lot, what's not to love): http://bookishblather.blogspot.com/2011/03/sci-fi-friday-review-xvi-by-julia-karr.html


Date: 2011-03-14 07:44 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
Added this to our delicious account. I love how we're going to have a collection of reviews for this book we haven't read, ha ha.


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