The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post
Links of Interest
This week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Click here for more information.
10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly (especially for academics) from the Chronicle
Niche off the Leash: Author Val McDermid on Progress in lesbian fiction, from The Independent (via The Literary Saloon):
We lesbian writers are far less obsessed with and defined by our sexuality than the straight world might think. Anyone who’s human can enjoy our work. If you’re a woman, there are aspects of our novels that may speak more clearly and deeply to you. And if you’re a lesbian – well, that’s just a bonus, really.
A great post on Fat and Health at Feministe:
you can’t tell if someone’s healthy just by looking at them. God, I’ve known some cancer patients who looked fabulous and were dead within three months. You can’t even tell a person’s BMI by looking at them. But when we conflate fat and ill health, we do something that ill-serves thin people, too: we conflate thinness and good health. So maybe we aren’t looking for signs of pre-diabetes in thin people. Or maybe we’re not really concerned about what’s in school lunches as long as the kids don’t gain weight. Or maybe we don’t think about the distribution of resources or the way that farm subsidies distort food prices as long as it’s just poor people who are getting fat from eating shitty cheap food.
I don’t agree with everything she says, in particular her claim that we have no duty to be healthy.
Another debate over a literary prize, from The Telegraph : Philip Pullman and Philip Hensher criticise Booker Prize for including present tense novels. Pullman is particularly straightforward in his assessment:
“This wretched fad has been spreading more and more widely. I can’t see the appeal at all. To my mind it drastically narrows the options available to the writer. When a language has a range of tenses such as the perfect, the imperfect, the pluperfect, each of which makes other kinds of statement possible, why on earth not use them?”
He added: “I just don’t read present-tense novels any more. It’s a silly affectation, in my view, and it does nothing but annoy.”
Do you hear that Carolyn Jean? Speaking of whom, The Thrillionth Page has an incredibly funny post up, Why Aren’t Men Like Jamie Fraser? My favorite is Reason #5:
Middle school sex education, dirty magazines and movies, lax morals
It would be hard to overstate how much The Phantom Tollbooth meant to me as a child. It contained a fully realized world of all the things I was curious about. Well, Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer are teaming up again on a new book, The Odious Ogre. Here’s the synopsis:
the story of a really rotten Ogre who is extraordinarily large, exceedingly ugly, unusually angry, constantly hungry, and absolutely merciless. He terrorizes the entire countryside and all the surrounding towns, wreaking havoc, sowing confusion, and dining happily on the hapless citizens. Nothing can stop him. But then he takes a wrong turn and encounters a kind and friendly young lady who does her best to help him–with a surprising result.
It sounds a bit like a book by another of favorite, Roald Dahl, called The BFG.
Teaching Fem Theory this semester, and bookmarked Body Image and Disability: An Entry into the Conversation to share with students.
Ana of The Book Smugglers On Books I Do Not Finish. Reviewing has made it easier to put books down: if it’s meh and I can’t write an interesting review of it, forget it.
This is a personal fear come to life: Am I More Important Than Twitter?, from BookEnds LLC. Some day, a student is going to say “you wouldn’t have needed a whole week to grade our exams if you hadn’t been Tweeting and blogging!”
I gamed my way through grad school by playing first Wolfenstein 3D and then Doom — and can’t tell you how many times some guy would protest, “But you’re a girl!”. I was supposed to be playing Myst, I guess. Anyway, check this post about gender and gaming:
comments on casual games are a tautological little package: Women aren’t real gamers because they play casual games, and casual games aren’t real because women play them.
Co-creation. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. How books create our self-identity, and our identity gets captured in books, and back and forth it goes like some frenzied feeding machine. I read, I reflect, I transfer. So do you. Books and life feed each other, and then they create a monster of an ideology that we feel obligated to live up to.
Must we [Westerners] all live like Pam Houston’s characters and be raft guides and hunters? Must we always “cowboy up” and get back in the saddle again? Must the “Old West” characters wear boots and hats and the “New West” characters look just as predictable in their round glasses and ponytails?
Emily Bryan blogged recently about what makes a wallbanger. For her, it’s historical inaccuracy, and she points to a glaring one in a recent bestselling historical romance.
Julie Ann Long’s The Runaway Duke’s opening scene takes place in the aftermath of Waterloo, in a farmhouse doubling as a hospital. Our hero, Roarke Blackburn, is the eldest son of a “very wealthy Duke”. He lies badly injured on a cot next to the fresh corpse of an Irish commoner, Roddy Campbell, and manages to, by uttering one word, “Roddy”, convince the English doctor and nurse attending him that he is Roddy. Roarke becoming Roddy is crucial to the whole plot. He ends up working in the stables, and becoming the trusted friend of the heroine.
I asked my husband, the 19th century British historian (sorry to keep saying that for regular readers, but new readers might wonder why the hell I would ask him), whether such a mixup could occur. He said it was extremely unlikely and rattled off the reasons: the duke’s son would have had a commission as an officer, and there would have been evidence of his rank in his uniform, not perhaps in the clothing, but certainly in the medals or pins. If the signs of his rank didn’t survive the battle, his weaponry would have indicated his status. Officers carried much more expensive weapons and gear in general, because they paid for them. If all of that went missing — if the men were buck naked — there would still have been several obvious signs: the teeth, the skin, the weight, and many other signs of a lifetime of better food, better health care, better shelter, etc.
This didn’t bother me at all. But when characters start sounding like 21st century self-help gurus? Ugh. What do you think?
I started biting my nails in grad school, and still do it, so it’s nice to see other people with raggedy nails. Especially when they are not total losers. Below is the latest member of the “I Bite My Nails But I Am Otherwise Quite Ok” Club:
On the blog this week, maybe:
That review of Oryx and Crake which is taking me forever.
A review of Shiloh Walker’s Veil of Shadows.
For the first time in a long time, I don’t have any ideas for more thematic posts. I think my lack of a kitchen is interfering with my brain.