The Inevitable This 'n That Post

I haven’t blogged in a while… about ten days actually. I find it so difficult to write my way out of a hiatus, so I decided to just start typing and hit publish. I apologize in advance.

This wasn’t a planned hiatus. I just got busy. I also have this thing — totally arbitrary, I realize –  where if I am not in the mood to blog, I tell myself, “Wait until the daily visitors gets below X, then write a post.” The problem is that the Fifty Shades of Grey posts have generated a reliably steady stream of visitors, such that I haven’t felt like I needed to blog to prevent this site from vanishing off the face of the earth. Of course, those visitors are evenly divided between (a) journalists looking for information, (b) husbands trying to figure out what their wives are reading, and (c) curious onlookers — none likely candidates for regular readers.

Add that to all the folks looking for Hunger Games posts, since the movie is out this week, and if I stuck to my informal rule of only blogging when the numbers get below a certain point, I might never need to blog again, not a happy result (for me). I plan to see the film as soon as I can and blog about it. I’m super excited, and so are the kids. I think it looks good.

I was asked by a number of journalists to comment on 50 Shades. I declined each time. I’m not an expert on the James trilogy (I only read book one, and not very carefully at that) and I certainly don’t want to start giving sound bites on why women are reading it. Afterwards, I read all the published/broadcast news pieces, and felt glad I stayed out of it. So many of them were fluff pieces along the lines of “mommy porn.” This is yet another case where the bloggers are doing a much better job than mainstream media on book coverage.

That said, I’m still not feeling the ethical arguments gelling in a way that is satisfying to me personally. No, I’m not planning on writing a post, but I’m reading what others have to say with interest and I’m hopeful since the question keeps getting asked. Fandoms are so complex and unique. I’m planning my annual visit to Disney World and spending some time in the Disney parks fandom. It just reminds me how quirky and byzantine the rules are. Like, if you even ask certain questions, forget it. There is no forgiveness for people who want to get their 11 year old into the parks on a child ticket, or want to bring their refillable mug from a prior trip, or attempt to pool hop from resort to resort. Those are cardinal sins! But… if you need to be a bit aggressive in saving your place (and a place for your 12 family members) for the Nighttime Electrical Parade at Magic Kingdom, well, naturally! Or utilize certain loopholes in the Fastpass system … ok, then! Then again, you’ll get dissenters in each case.

I’ve read a few books I both enjoyed and found very interesting, such as No Cheating, No Dying by Elizabeth Weil, and The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. I hope to review them when my reviewing mojo returns. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get excited about romance recently.

I am also reading Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. She is giving the keynote at the BEA Book Blogger conference in June, and I figured I should know something about her work. The heroine, who has the totally distracting name of “Canny” (nickname for Candace), is heavy and it is on her mind all the time. I waffle between thinking this is a good but difficult-to-read portrayal of this character, and thinking it would be nice if there were more diversity in the portrayal of heavy heroines, with at least some of them happy with their size.

As for BEA Blogger Con, there is an agenda up but no names attached to the program.

I had this idea that I would try to do short post every Thursday, introducing a concept very briefly. I would call it Theory Thursday. It would be a lot of feminist theory, since that’s what I’m teaching, but maybe some ethical theory too. I’ll try it this week and see if anybody seems to like it. It would help me prep for Thursday’s class. This week we are reading a great essay called “Forgetting Yourself” by Anita L. Allen, someone I admire a lot. You may be groaning right now. All I can promise is these posts will be short.

My dogs, serving as blog filler. Sorry guys.

Things are busy but good at work. I had a very nice annual review last week at the hospital. Here is something odd: every year, when it comes time for this review, I half expect to get fired. It would not surprise me at all to hear, “We’re so sorry. But you suck. Good bye.”

At the university, classes are good, and the committee on revitalizing the women’s studies program (our major and grad concentration got suspended last year) is turning out to be more fun than it has any right to be.

We’ve been enjoying unseasonably warm weather here in central Maine recently. Everyone is smiling. I went for a jog tonight with my younger son on his scooter alongside. Good times. When I bracket fears about global warming, I think it’s great, too.

The kids are a continuing delight, in the odd moments when they are not driving me crazy. I ordered Max off the Xbox earlier, and he replied, “You don’t understand. You only had rocks and string to play with when you were a kid.” Very funny. They are both saying “suckah” constantly. I’ll ask David where his brother is, and he’ll say “suckah’s upstairs.” Or he’ll come in after school and say “what’s for snack, suckah?” I ask myself, on a daily basis, where did I go wrong? Please, don’t answer that.

A nurse sent me an email today and signed it, “Make it a great day!”

I’m trying. :)

23 responses

  1. I love you more and more which each passing year, Jessica. No lie. This was a terrific post.
    Favorite soundbites:

    When I bracket fears about global warming, I think it’s great, too.

    I ordered Max off the Xbox earlier, and he replied, “You don’t understand. You only had rocks and string to play with when you were a kid.”

    My hits are down to some pathetic five a day or whatever–and I haven’t looked in about six months. Once you hit that wall? It’s almost impossible to find the energy to care. I’ve gone from blogger, to lurker, to ghost.

    LB

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  2. I get frustrated with heroines who obsess about their weight. I mean, maybe if it’s done well and sparingly, but it’s not a trope I look for. I think I could enjoy a heroine who is on the heavy side but who is happy about her weight, however I think what ends of happening is that they just aren’t noticed. For example, I think that the heroine from Jill Shalvis’ Simply Irresistible was on the chubby side? Rather, she ate a lot of chips and ice cream, she knew she didn’t look that fabulous, and yet she didn’t really fret about it. So in my mind, she was chubby. Similar to the heroine from Animal Magnetism. I could just be projecting that image onto them, but that’s still how a chubby heroine who is fine with her weight would look. She wouldn’t say: Oh, look at all this flab! But oh well! I love it! And if she did say that, we’d say, oh, she’s overcompensating. Clearly she’s in denial. So anyways, this is kind of rambly, but what I’m trying to say is that there may very well be heroines out there who were written (or read) as being overweight but fine with it, and they will get passed over in a list of “rubenesque” heroines because no fuss will be made over their weight.

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  3. I also found the name Canny distracting, I remember.

    I’m also looking forward to the movie of “the Hunger Games.” (A first for me.) I found it interesting that both Roo and Thresh were cast with black actors — I don’t remember if that was implied in the book, which seems to be color-blind. Having just listened to Catching Fire, I’m curious about how the districts were divided up and what sections relate to what current-day areas.

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  4. Theory Thursday? I am not groaning! I’d love it.

    I feel like I’ve been having trouble finding books I like (or loathe) enough to review lately too. My reading pace has been slow the last few months.

    Also, my kids say much worse stuff than that! (and my son said “Jesus” so often while we watched a soccer game the other night that I asked him to stop, even though I am prone to taking the Lord’s name in vain myself and not usually troubled by it). My daughter is making a Littlest Petshop video during spring break. The main character’s parents are very mean to her. Not sure what that says about me as a parent.

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  5. This is what you come up with, not even trying? You have a gift. *bows down* Seriously, I love the dog and kid pics. Suckah, so cute! My 8 yo has been calling her younger sister “butt” or “little butt” as an affectionate (?) nickname for ages now. I blame myself–potty mouth mothering.

    I liked Good in Bed and Goodnight, Nobody by Weiner. Both have plus-sized heroines and problematic endings IMO but I love her humor/voice. I’ve also seen bits of In Her Shoes on TV. There’s a poem recited at the end (i carry your heart by ee cummings) that just kills me every time. I should read that. I think I have it on the shelf. The story is about two sisters, which appeals to me. Maybe because we don’t see enough female relationship exploration in romance.

    So interesting about Elizabeth Weil!! OMG. Her husband, Daniel Duane, is the author of a book I read years ago while researching surfing. I just read another book of his about rock climbing last week. I looked for a picture of him online and found a long article by Weil about their marriage. I never got to the end. Now I’m curious about the book.

    Make it a great day, ha.

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  6. Aw what cute doggies. As for BEA and the blogger con, I feel as if this years things aren’t planned as well as in the past. But it should still be a fun time. I’m very excited that Stephen Colbert is one of the speakers at the breakfast on Tuesday. I’m planning on going.

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  7. @LBea: You had better be careful with the praise for this type of post. Pretty soon it will be long entries about what makes the difference between an innie and and outtie. ;)

    @Amber:

    there may very well be heroines out there who were written (or read) as being overweight but fine with it, and they will get passed over in a list of “rubenesque” heroines because no fuss will be made over their weight.

    That is SUCH a great point. I totally agree.

    @willaful:

    I found it interesting that both Roo and Thresh were cast with black actors — I don’t remember if that was implied in the book, which seems to be color-blind.

    They were black in the book, and Collins has said she wrote them as black. There was a lot of controversy over the casting, since the books describe Katniss as having a typical District 12 appearance, with grey eyes, olive skin and straight dark haired. The casting call was for a “Caucasian” actor, and many wondered why this stipulation existed when Katniss could easily be mixed race, Latina, Native American, etc. The actors cast in the leads are all light skinned and light haired, but have been made up to look darker.

    The casting of Rue and Cinna with black actors raised eyebrows among some fans, which is ridiculous, since Rue is clearly black. As for Cinna, he is described as having “slightly dark skin”, which could be anything. I think Kravitz was a good choice appearance-wise, although it remains to be seen if he can act.

    @Liz Mc2:

    Theory Thursday? I am not groaning! I’d love it.

    Of course you do. This is because you are a nerd, just like me.

    We don’t let our kids say “Jesus” but for a very different reason. ;)

    @Jill Sorenson:

    My 8 yo has been calling her younger sister “butt” or “little butt” as an affectionate (?) nickname for ages now.

    OMG. So funny.

    I am liking Weiner’s voice, too. I saw In Her Shoes and remember none of it. And yes, Duane is Weil’s husband. Naturally, I Google stalked him when I finished the book. He does not come off so well in the book, interestingly, or perhaps inevitably.

    @KT Grant: Stephen Colbert?! I had better check that schedule. I would love to see him. It will be great to see you too!

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  8. “You don’t understand. You only had rocks and string to play with when you were a kid.”

    Lol! Awesome. I vote yes on Theory Thursdays.

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  9. I won’t lie: I’m bummed that you’re going through a romance slump. I always like reading your thoughts about romance, and I have a perpetual fear that one of these days you’re going to be done with the genre for good.

    I’m also a little sorry you declined the Fifty Shades major-media interview requests. The mainstream coverage has perpetuated some of the worst stereotypes about romance and the women who read it, IMO. I wish the romance community as I know it – fiercely intelligent women who read broadly, and with a critical eye – had had a voice or two in the conversation.

    I’ll try to be game for the theory posts, though they may get over my head pretty quickly. Are there prerequisite courses?

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  10. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Jessica. It’s hard not to miss things when listening to audio — though I confess, I often miss things when reading print, too. One of the downsides of reading very fast.

    So do you think, or know, whether Rue and Thresh’s district is all black? Is that possibly one of the ways the districts were divided up? I know district 12 has a characteristic “look” but that could easily be attributed to isolation and inbreeding. The casting of Cinna as black would imply that people of all races live in the Capitol.

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  11. Not sure if I want to see The Hunger Games yet…will likely depend on if one of my friends wants to go. I enjoyed the first book, but felt no need to go further. Though I would probably enjoy the was the movie’s designers created the world.

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  12. @Cecilia Grant: I was thinking somewhat the same as Cecilia — I respect your integrity for declining, but it seems like that leaves all the talk in the hands of people without integrity or a broader knowledge of the genre. Though the news media would manipulate it all to look like whatever they wanted it to look like, anyway. :-

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  13. OMG Jessica, that link you sent me too… I can barely believe people would think those things, much less TWEET them. These folks need to watch some Doctor Who.

    I’m rarely watch movies so I’m not familiar with Lenny Kravitz as an actor, but he looks attractive and sensitive and potentially noble in that photo, for sure.

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  14. Yes, what Willaful said. Your decision to stay out of the media’s Fifty Shades brouhaha is understandable, and is also a position of integrity. Same with Lazaraspaste’s decision to not go on TV with Dr. Drew.

    But selfishly, I do wish someone who could speak with authority on romance had been out there. (I think there was one story that included a quote from Sarah Wendell? But as far as I know, that’s been it.)

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  15. Take two. It’s Cannie, not Canny (either way, yuck, would have prefered just Candace … it took me out of the book).

    Carly Phillips: http://www.plotmonkeys.com/2012/03/15/fifty-shades-my-mea-culpa/

    Heroes and Heartbreakers: http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/01/fifty-shades-of-grey-h-and-hs-reactions

    Read React Review: http://www.readreactreview.com/2012/01/30/50-things-about-50-shades-of-grey/

    My first link is to author Carly Phillips. I wish a journalist had interviewed her because her “mea culpa” blog was fascinating to me. She made a judgment about a book she hadn’t read — yeah, I know, not the only one — and then for whatever reason, decided to read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and ended up loving it. Seems like she could have spoken from a lot of perspectives.

    The 2nd link is to a blog at Heroes and Heartbreakers where the editor of the site let Fifty readers speak for themselves. Some liked, some didn’t, some were iffy … but they were all informed reader voices.

    Which brings me to my third link: your famous 50 Things about 50 Shades. Take some credit for having fun with the book — after reading it, no matter how cursorily. 50 was never rocket science and I was irked with the heaviness and ponderousness of so much commentary from inside the romance community. Oh, almost forgot: you’ve also read the Twilight Trilogy so yeah, maybe I agree that you would have made a brilliant person for them to interview, just because … but we still get to read you here.

    I hope someone does write the ultimate piece on the ethics of 50 Shades but I think it will come from someone who is somewhat removed from the fray. I’ve enjoyed reading and learning more about fanfic but with the elephant in the corner, it’s hard to parse out the details (it is for me).

    Going back to school on Thursday? Ok, I’m up for that.

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  16. I think The Hunger Games will be one of the rare cases where the movies are better than the books. I thought the books were great ideas, but suffered because of weak writing.

    I haven’t been able to get into the ethical arguments, either. Honestly, a big part of the reason for that is that it’s Twilight. If FSoG were fanfic of something that was well written instead of full of cliches that reads like bad fanfic than I’d find the arguments a lot more compelling. Not very ethically consistent of me, I know, but there you have it.

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  17. @new_user: Noted.

    @Cecilia Grant: Thank you. When reporters approached me it was always to explain the appeal. Well, I don’t think I can really do that. It was only somewhat appealing to me personally. And most readers I “know”, the ones in this community, had a lot of problems with it.

    I think it’s clear that other bloggers had problems being misquoted in these articles. This even happened to a Feministe writer.

    Plus, how are you supposed to finesse the combination of these claims:

    1. This book is an unethical and possibly illegal ripoff of Twilight, and Meyer is probably about to sue her, or should be
    2. The author used and abused the fandom, her editor and everyone else. And probably killed a kitten, too.
    3. This book represents the end of publishing as we know it.
    4. This book is badly edited and poorly written, and kills brain cells.
    5. This book contributes to the oppression of those in the BDSM community
    6. But HEY! I’m not shaming YOU, reader. Go on with your bad self! Anything that contributes to the awareness of women’s sexuality is GREAT!

    It’s not integrity. It’s just so complicated, I don’t trust myself to get it right and leave it to others with more media savvy.

    @willaful: Sorry for sending you over there. It really is depressing.

    @Janet W: I loved the Carly Phillips piece. Thanks for the link.

    Honestly, I’m just so confused about the whole thing I can never give a good sound bite even when I know my stuff. I’ve got a healthy ego, but even I don’t think a well timed blog post that has a high Google ranking and therefore puts me in the path of a Googling journalist on a deadline means I know what I am talking about.

    I may write the ethics post one day. But I’d want to spend a lot of time on it, something that’s at a premium right now.

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  18. @Jessica: “It’s not integrity. It’s just so complicated, I don’t trust myself to get it right and leave it to others with more media savvy.”

    I’d say that’s a pretty good example of integrity.

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  19. @Las: lol! Actually, it does make sense to spend more of our time being ethically bothered by things that have a greater importance.

    As far as the ethics of 50SoG, I don’t feel like I have a good idea of exactly what happened, I think the fandom is evolving and its norms are contested, and, frankly, even if the author has done really awful things to people, there is something to be said for trying to separate author behavior from judgments about what they’ve written. The questions of copyright are more interesting but I know nothing about those issues.

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  20. Always happy with theory…Theory Thursdays sound great.

    And since no one else has asked, is that a Motherwell with your sons? The same one I saw at the Tate last year? Fantastic picture – painting and sons. I have photo of my friend in the same place looking slightly less happy to be there.

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  21. I think it was very, very wise to decline to comment for the press. Right or wrong, the impression I’ve gotten over the years is that there will be pressure from PTB (editors?) to misquote or chop the material to fit certain preconceived notions (in this case, the mommy porn idiocy).

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  22. One of the problems, I think, with genre fiction as a whole is that sometimes the convention/formula simply lack invention. You’ll come back to romance when a good one comes along.

    In the meantime, have you encountered Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go? It’ll set your little medical ethics antennae a-tingling.

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