Monday Morning Stepback: Twitter, bestseller lists, voice, giveaway link

The Weekly Links, Opinion, and Personal Updates Post

Links of Interest, with embedded opinions

At Crowe’s Nest, Jenny Martin talks about voice, and gives fantastic examples of writing with and without voice, like this:

The surface was five feet away. His eyes widened with anxiety. He held his breath.

Vs.

Almost there. The surface and a lungful of air were just beyond his reach.

(via @BookishMagpie)

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For mother’s day, I enjoyed historian Stephanie Coontz’ Op-Ed in the NYT about the impact of feminism on stay at home mothers:

Contrary to myth, “The Feminine Mystique” and feminism did not represent the beginning of the decline of the stay-at-home mother, but a turning point that led to much stronger legal rights and “working conditions” for her.

Domestic violence rates have fallen sharply for all wives, employed or not. As late as 1980, approximately 30 percent of wives said their husbands did no housework at all. By 2000, only 16 percent of wives made that statement and almost one-third said their husbands did half of all housework, child care or both.

Most researchers agree that these changes were spurred by the entry of wives and mothers into the work force. But full-time homemakers have especially benefited from them.

As for linking to The Times, I will try to keep it to a minimum, given the paywall, which I have guiltily scaled.

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I’ve been enjoying posts, like this one on non romance series with strong romance arcs, from Romancing the Past, a group blog of Carina Press historical authors.

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Hilcia’s Impressions of a romance Reader is 2 years old, and she’s giving away 2 $25 gift certs to either Amazon or B&N (enter by May 15).

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Katiebabs of Babbling About Books wrote an interesting post on the rise of secondary gay romance in het romance.

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A lot of folks have been following the outing of erotic romance author and high school English teacher Judy Mays. In PW, Mays shares her feelings about recent events. The best part:

And, not to worry. I am not going to lose my teaching job over this.

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Tired of all those “demise of publishing”, “demise of print books”, or “demise of reading” articles? Here’s a slightly less stale topic: The Demise of the Ereader, at HuffPo.

I kind of like it that my Kindle does basically one thing. It’s harder to get distracted.

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And about the Kindle … Jane Litte of Dear Author has a post on Top Kindle Tips and Tricks. Readers also added their faves in the comments.

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Speaking of Dear Author, if you are interested, you can now find out every week what readers of that site and Smart Bitches are buying, as this post explains. I’m not so enthused about this, myself, mainly because my Twitter stream was already clogged with a lot of author bragging about various obscure “best seller lists”, and I’ve already seen a stream of braggy tweets about this new one. If, as authors have said on Twitter, the difference between 10 or 20 places on the Amazon digital list is only a couple of digital copies, how small must the difference between being number 1 on the DA/SBTB list and number 10 — or 20? — be? I don’t know, because that information has not been provided. Anyway, I am sure others will really enjoy it.

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As you can probably tell from my comments above, I’ve been feeling a bit put upon by authors on Twitter lately. And not even authors I follow! It was from Media Bistro that I found out that author Ilona Andrews tweeted:

“Please do not tweet reviews of my work at me. Thank you.”

I normally do not Tweet reviews to authors myself, because I feel it is kind of attention begging, although there are exceptions. I figure if someone likes the review, she’ll mention it to her followers. But it rubbed me the wrong way to be told what to tweet and what not to tweet by Andrews. My first thoughts were: “Wait. I have to read your constant self-promo, your RTs of the great things other people have said about you, your contests, your release day (self) congrats, your bestseller bragging, your mutual friend pimping. And now you are telling me when I am allowed to post a tweet which @mentions a review of your work? Because you apparently cannot exercise enough self-control not to click the link?” Gah.

Oh dear. Looking at the tone of the last two items, I think it may be time for a Twitter hiatus.

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Foz Meadows on a topic I would never have considered otherwise, Schools in YA Fiction.

The point being, high school is problematic, and regardless of differing opinions on why that is or how it might be fixed, the simple assertion that problems do exist is not a controversial statement. And so, while reading a book about a spy academy for teenage girls, it occurred to me to wonder why some types of school are held up as interesting, awesome and excellent in YA novels, while others either blend into the background or, at worst, are depicted as hateful, prisonesque institutions. At first glance, this is something of a ridiculous question: YA is about teenagers, teenagers go to school – is it any wonder, therefore, that depictions of education in YA should vary, too? Well, no: but probing a little deeper, it’s possible to discern an interesting pattern about the types of school on offer.

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Yet another publisher book site for readers will arrive this summer, Bookish, a joint endeavor of Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA), and Simon & Schuster, and AOL Huffington Post Media Group (via GalleyCat). I have no idea what this means:

Arianna Huffington explained that they will “use our multimedia, social, and community engagement tools to help connect our readers with authors and their books. And we’ll highlight this content through our entire network and hyperlocal sites.”

After spending a few minutes last week trying to figure out HuffPo’s new Patch, I don’t think “local” means what Arianna Huffington thinks it means.

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By now readers will have heard of Amazon’s new romance publishing imprint, Montlake. All About Romance posted an email from Connie Brockway, who will be their launch author.

I have never read Brockway, and consider this a huge hole in my genre experience.

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Personal

I’m in the middle of a Rachel Gibson glom, or I would be if I weren’t so busy. I picked an old Catherine Coulter, another author I’ve not read, at the library book sale Saturday. I’m finishing up grading, and preparing for a talk at the hospital on popular culture and medical ethics on Wednesday. It’ll be a version of the talk I gave on vampires in October, but since it’s for CMEs (continuing medical education credits), I have to make it relevant to patient care. I’m thinking something along the lines of, “Six ways to tell if your patient is a vampire…”

HAPPY WEEK!

31 responses

  1. That NYT essay was really enlightening. Everyone talks of that era as the golden age of the middle class family. Really doesn’t seem that way at all when you look at the reality of what was being said. Makes me feel all the more lucky to be living now.

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  2. NYT paywall. Links count toward the 20 but they are free thereafter. I go to the Times website and then google the article I want to read. Yes, I’m scum but mostly I read the daily blogs. Actually I have decreased my times usage since the paywall. Turns out there are a lot of other sources with comparable information on my subjects.

    Tweets & reviews: Actually I think you have a point. And on a certain level I even find it funny. Twitter helps readers invested in authors and their products. But with that investment comes, I don’t know… investment that isn’t really one-sided. Yes, I have a weird sense of humor.

    Bookish should be interesting. No, I don’t know exactly what I mean when I say interesting.

    SBTB/DA bestseller list could also be interesting. Will wait to see what level of data is released to determine its value because I do so loveto look at statistics.

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  3. Thanks for the mention, Jessica. I’ve had a wonderful two years of reading and sharing my impressions on my little corner of the blogosphere.

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  4. Looking forward to hearing which of the Rachel Gibson novels you’d recommend.

    Is “Ilona Andrews” actually two authors who collaborate? Or am I getting confused with another author? Regardless, it seems weird to tell people NOT to tweet things to you. Isn’t that sort of the point?

    Thanks for the link about Voice.

    Am giggling about “Six ways to tell if your patient is a vampire…” Perhaps you could do werewolf/demon/angel versions.

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  5. I have never read Brockway, and consider this a huge hole in my genre experience.

    Any plans to read her books?

    I picked an old Catherine Coulter, another author I’ve not read, at the library book sale Saturday.

    Oh, that’ll be so interesting. Which did you pick up?

    I have to make it relevant to patient care. I’m thinking something along the lines of, “Six ways to tell if your patient is a vampire…”

    Sucking your emotions dry is one of them, that’s for sure. Another is a need to share memories with you. When I was at hospice (for my mum), there were some patients who had this need to share their memories with strangers like me and my siblings so that some will remain with us when they’re gone.

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  6. I saw the Ilona Andrews tweet on Twitter, rather than via MediaBistro, and rolled my eyes about it at the time. On one hand, just ignore the @mentions, it’s usually pretty easy to tell when someone is linking you to a review, so don’t click on the link. On the other hand, Andrews has been pretty clear on her blog and website about not reading too many reader reviews. Not in a dismissive way, but acknowledging that an author can’t please every reader or reviewer, and that reading reviews can be unconstructive. Ultimately, my take away was that Andrews’ tweet was a function of frustration: if you are a web-savvy reader who tweets, you are also probably someone who has seen her preference on her blog, so why use the @mention? Why not use a #instead? In retrospect, she probably should have walked away from the computer before tweeting.

    I loved Gibson’s early romances. Her last ones, eh, not so much. But the first couple, especially Truly Madly Yours (non-hockey), are still on my keeper shelf.

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  7. Jessica, how can you not have read anything by Brockway yet? Please try As You Desire and all Through the Night soon – she published both in the same year but they’re completely different and both are fantastic. I’m so happy Ms. Brockway has found a way to tell the stories she wants to tell. I’ll definitely be waiting to see what she comes up with.

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  8. Jessica, if there is one book you read by Connie, you MUST read All Through the Night. That book haunts me still to this day. Has one of the hottest and most emotional love scenes I’ve ever read in historical romance.

    In regards to the Ilona tweeting fiasco, wasn’t it someone who was complaining about how horrible the Kate Daniels books were purposely at Ilona?

    Does that mean now I can have my own KB best selling list on my blog each week? Maybe this will become a new trend for bloggers?

    And as always, thanks for the linkage ;)

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  9. I’ll put in a plug for Brockway’s The Bridal Season. It’s funny and charming but not lightweight. And it’s not set in the Regency!

    I’m just going to keep doing what I have been doing with tweeting authors & reviews. I only tweet about recommended books’ reviews, and I usually do it as an @mention of the author’s name, not a “hey I reviewed your book come say something” tweet. These tweets have been retweeted by authors who read and comment on my reviews, as well as by those who don’t. They are able to RT it as publicity, and many seem to like to do that.

    If someone is @mentioning negative reivews, that seems rude.

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  10. @Victoria Janssen:

    You’re right, Ilona Andrews is a two person team: Ilona and Gordon Andrews. They write an Urban Fantasy series together.

    @Jessica,

    I have mixed reactions to that tweet. My first response was along the lines of “I can do what I want. You can exercise the willpower to avoid clicking.”

    Given how popular some authors are, though, I imagine it can be frustrating to have to wade through review mentions (especially if you don’t use those as promo and don’t read them) to see Twitter users who are actually trying to engage in a conversation with you.

    It can be begging for attention, but it can also be used to help your followers locate an author’s twitter handle.

    Personally, I don’t do that because it does strike me as going out of my way to bring the review to their attention. If the authors follow me, they’ll probably see the review link anyway. And many have saved searches for their names, making it moot. If my followers can’t find an author’s twitter id, they can always ask me.

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  11. @Julia Broadbooks: These things are always so much more complicated once you look at them closely.

    @AQ:

    NYT paywall. Links count toward the 20 but they are free thereafter. I go to the Times website and then google the article I want to read.

    I am not sure I understand either part of this. I am intrigued. Care to elaborate?

    @Hilcia: And many you have many more!

    @FiaQ: I bought Midsummer Magic. It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t recall if it was really awful or really great or both.

    I’d like to read Brockway, yes. Thanks, folks for the recs in this thread!

    On the Andrews thing, another way to look at reviewers using the @mention is that it functions as a kind of link, like the way we link in our reviews. Or maybe reviewers just feel they ought to own up to their reviews, and not @mentioning the author is like trying to hide?

    I don’t think Andrews’ comment was absolutely vile or anything, but there are definitely tweets I would rather not be subject to (as I mentioned above), yet I can’t imagine asking my followers/followees to not to tweet certain things. To me, it seems like hubris.

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  12. @Jessica: On the surface, being a stay at home mother in the era of Leave it to Beaver was a simple, straightforward thing. There were the things you were supposed to do in your heels and pearls and you did them and everything ended happily.

    But it wasn’t really like that for those women. There was no end of criticism, despite precious little support and guidance.

    Today, it’s true there is a lot of people willing to find fault with a mother’s choices, whether you work or stay at home. At least we have more opportunity to find like minded mother’s mother.

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  13. @Jessica:

    Paywall. For all intents and purposes there is no paywall if you want to do a bit of extra work. If you come in on a link, it counts toward your twenty. However, after you hit twenty if you come in on a link, you can still read the post. So the trick is to go to your preferred Times pages, copy the title of the article you are interested in, open a google search (or whatever search engine you use) and search for that title and then click on the link from the search page. The Times may change how this works in the future but at the moment I can read whatever I want regardless of limit as long as I’m coming in through links.

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  14. Hey, an aside. What did you think about the removal of the females from War Room photo at that Ultra Orthodox newspaper? I’m thinking that in the broader context it shows how very easy it is to remove females and their accomplishments from history.

    Also I thought this comment from a DA review had a concept worth exploring more in-depth because it encapsulates something that bothers me about some of the underlying concepts within romance especially when it comes to the forced seduction piece. Like the commenter I don’t have a problem with the fantasy itself, I have a problem with the broader context of the world.

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  15. Colour me confused – I’m not a twitterite, so am not entirely sure how it works, but isn’t there a difference between tweeting about something generally and tweeting something to somebody? Asking people not to do the one seems unreasonable, the other imo is fair enough.

    Good news about Judy Mays – the whole fiasco made me cringe in vicarious embarrassment at the stupidity of the detractors.

    I have to make it relevant to patient care. I’m thinking something along the lines of, “Six ways to tell if your patient is a vampire…”

    Maybe about consent and power? Or the ethics of prolonging life? Those seem to be pretty consistent threads running through the vampire genre.

    Re the DA/SB buying lists, I can see why they want to collate the info and have it for both themselves and advertisers – can’t quite see why I should care. Unless it’s to look at those occasions where a book is annoyingly everywhere and it’s hard to see if it’s organic buzz or manufactured.

    Edited to add in response to AQ:

    Like the commenter I don’t have a problem with the fantasy itself, I have a problem with the broader context of the world.

    Yes this. I missed that comment – the thread was making me a trifle twitchy so perhaps did not read as carefully as I should. Thanks.

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  16. “Writing without voice” — great concept. I have been stymied on critiquing some books when that was exactly what I was trying to express.

    I would cut Andrews some slack. We want authors not to respond to reviews, right? — it seems only fair not to rub their noses in them.

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  17. P.S. I agree with liking my ereader to do one thing — I’ve never even tried the games or web access on it. Partially because I know they will undoubtedly suck but also because I have enough distractions in my life. I don’t need to be tempted to check facebook in the middle of my reading more than I am now.

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  18. I would cut Andrews some slack. We want authors not to respond to reviews, right? — it seems only fair not to rub their noses in them.

    I agree with that. Direct-tweeting a negative review seems rather like some passive-aggressive hostility.

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  19. I’m feeling some whiplash re: Andrews’ tweets. Don’t tweet reviews at her, but feel free to tweet squees about her series, which she’ll retweet? It makes me want to say, Pick a position: either tell readers to not tweet @mentions (good or bad) or accept that you’ll get both.

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  20. @Tumperkin: Am halfway through it. It involves disguises and lubricant.

    @FD:

    isn’t there a difference between tweeting about something generally and tweeting something to somebody?

    I think that the use of the @mention can be either (a) “This is the person I am talking about”, or (b) “Hey, I am talking to YOU”. If you think of it the second way, it looks rude. If you think of it the first way, not as much.

    I think as Twitter has evolved, the @mention is more and more seen as (b), which is why more people see @mentioning a negative review as rude, or as @Moriah Jovan says, “passive aggressive hostility.”

    @willaful:

    I would cut Andrews some slack. We want authors not to respond to reviews, right? — it seems only fair not to rub their noses in them.

    Yes, I do see your point. It just amazes me that an author team with those sales (NYT best seller), 3500 mostly adoring Twitter followers, and scores of gushing replies to every blog post gets bothered by this sort of thing.

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  21. @AQ

    I’m Israeli and am somewhat familiar with our local ultraorthodox Jewish media. They photoshop women out of just about everything; many Israeli companies make alternate versions of ads for this segment of the population. But I don’t think ultraorthodox Jewish society and values are particularly reflective of broader society, in either Israel or the US.

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  22. Will refrain from commenting on the Twitter stuff as I don’t use it and don’t understand it. Sometimes I think it would be nice to go back to the days when the only contact I had with/heard from authors was their new book.

    I read the Coulter when it was first released (when I was a teen and bodice rippers were the rage) I enjoyed it then and always get a smile about it when I see the cover or the name as I thought it was a fun romp and I especially enjoyed Francis. Haven’t read it in years, so don’t know how it will hold up to today’s standards.

    There are two additional books in that series, Calypso Magic and Moonspun Magic, if you are like me and have to finish series regardless of whether you enjoy them or not.

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  23. @Meri: Sorry, I made the comment without enough context. In my head it wasn’t meant to be a comment on Ultra Orthodox Jewish cultural as much as it was a comment about how easily it can be to remove people from history or even modern events.

    I don’t like that any photos can be photoshopped for any purpose. Because how can I ever know what’s real and not real (from a truly theoretical top-down argument position). Don’t want to show women in the picture then crop the picture to show only the President. Changing the picture in this manner makes it propaganda not news. And I see propaganda as a mechanism of control of the populace. Actually I’d probably as try to make the case that news in general is also propaganda.

    People in the media and politics specifically are playing some interesting games with language and their presentation of ‘facts’ to the point that I’m left wondering who is funding a particular theory this week or what their end goal actually is.

    This picture although specific to a specific cultural is just something that I can point to as an example of this broader issue I’ve identified in my own culture AND I can also use it as a prism into the past to wonder about the people who wrote history, what their own biases were, and who was funding them and what their point of view was. And then tack that bias onto the biases of those who wrote the textbooks that I originally learned my history from.

    And believe it or not, that whole jumble of bouncing around thoughts ties into the comment from DA because of how the female gender is treated as a whole within the worldbuilding of some very popular romance and urban fantasy novels/series identified in the DA comment and some of the ones I’ve personally identified in my own reading. Interestingly enough these are written by female authors for consumption by a primarily female audience. And I’m very curious about so many things here.

    **eta***What does that mean? I have no freaking idea. Hence why I’d like to explore it.***

    And so my mind it a wanders around and comes up with more questions then what I started with.

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  24. @AQ – well, I honestly didn’t think about it to the extent that you did; what actually led me to respond was yet another news story about a national ad campaign being altered to be woman-free. I know the Clinton-free picture was a major story, and it does seem a good starting point for this sort of discussion – but knowing what I do about ultraorthodox Jews made me thing that perhaps you were reading too much into this specific incident.

    I now understand what you were getting at, and certainly agree that it is very easy to report things in order to advance an agenda, and there are plenty of technological advances that make it easier to do so. OTOH, technology also makes it more likely that people will notice when someone is playing around with the facts – for instance, in the past, how many people would have paid attention to a Yiddish-language newspaper? How many people would have had the skill to notice situations where the photoshopping was less obvious? And so on.

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  25. @Meri:

    And so on.

    LOL Yes, we could take this to some very interesting places.

    OTOH, technology also makes it more likely that people will notice when someone is playing around with the facts – for instance, in the past, how many people would have paid attention to a Yiddish-language newspaper?

    I originally saw it on a blog but only later realized that it had been part of Daily Show broadcast so my guess is not very many people if not for Jon Stewart and his writing staff.

    How many people would have had the skill to notice situations where the photoshopping was less obvious?

    More than you think since many people use the technology to create images for their private use or for Internet sites.

    That said, I do agree with your overall concept here. Although I would add that removing individuals from photos / official records is something that has been used and documented in the past prior to photoshop. And what effect does such ‘doings’ have on the populace?

    Now, jumping off from your questions, I’d like to ask: how many people have the power to change the narrative within current popular culture?

    For instance, the Bin Laden raid. How many people remember the original narrative vs. how many people remember the different narratives as the official report has changed as more details become released/questions asked? How many people couldn’t care less one way or the other? What would it take to change the mindsets of any of these groups or are we already so predisposed to our personal worldviews that no one can break through our personal mindset firewalls?

    Now which narrative will history record? And how will a subject so complex be broken down into a small, consume historical bits be taught to our children or our children’s children within the US? remembered as we grow old? vs. how will it be remembered/taught in other cultures?

    I know, I know…

    Here’s a couple of throwaway questions: If Clinton had become president, what would this picture look like in this Yiddish newspaper or would we expect that an entirely different picture would have been run? I’m also curious about the licensing of this photo and somewhat surprised that copyright would allow such a drastic change.

    Would the conversation change if a newspaper edited out a black man, or if a Catholic newspaper edited out a Protestant in Northern Ireland? Or Israeli and Palestinian? Indian vs. Pakistani? And so on. (BTW: My guess is that it wouldn’t make any headlines within the US.)

    —–
    Again no real answers but my impression within my own culture is that gender issues are far more likely to get a pass within my so-called mainstream consciousness whether it’s found within the news or fictional worlds.

    Wanted to tie this in better with the romance/urban fantasy but I have to run. Sorry.

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  26. Glad you guys are having fun over here! DA posts dozens of things a week. Despite it being my favorite blog, I don’t read them all and I definitely don’t read all the comments, so thanks for pointing this one thread out to me. If I get a breather I will check it out.

    Like

  27. Interesting writing voice link! It is so easy to rush to get things done, and get your words in for a day, and forget about something like creating artful sentences.

    Also, really appreciating that Coontz link – I loved what she said about paying attention to women’s preferences instead of fighting over who has it better. I heard an interview with her on Terri Gross’ Fresh Air about that book she wrote on the anniversary of the Feminine Mystique. It put so many things into perspective about my mom’s generation…and my mom. Also, Mark and I are on an old Mary Tyler Moore glom (comfort TV. Too much Breaking Bad and Dexter!) Anyway, MTM feels like such a time capsule of changing women’s roles and rights of that time. Especially weird is the character of Phyllis, portrayed as the “wrong way” to embody new womanhood. And it’s been interesting to think of MTM alongside Mad Men, separated by 8 years or whatever, but so radically different. Look at meeee! All my info from TVeeeee!

    Read one Brockway: All Through the Night. So excellent and sassy!

    Like

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