5.30.2004

Hmmmmm: very interesting: What Sandra Tsing Loh says about working at NPR:

"That was just a toxic, fear-based culture."

Facts:

1. Sandra Tsing Loh is way funnier than almost anything on NPR.

2. She got fired from KCRW in LA because an engineer forgot to bleep an obscenity from her essay as she instructed him to.

3. KCRW had no problem airing Dennis Hopper purposely uttering same obscenity two years previous.

4. Under the new FCC rules, KCRW could be fined $500,000 for this mistake. (What a genius way to curtail free speech--charge the only quasi-non-corporate funded voices huge percentages of their annual budgets for technical gaffes.)

5. What Tsing Loh says about NPR's culture:

"Right, when you just go, 'OH MY WORD.' It's not that we don't all love chess, and crossword puzzles, and funny little news quizzes with puns, and discussions of cobbler we had in Alabama in the old days. It's not that there isn't a place for that. But perhaps NPR should just look and see if we can't change the ratio of pieces on antique baseball cards to cobbler ... [fuddy-duddy voice] crossword-puzzly puzzle ... lame humor. How many funny little news quizzes do we need over the week? It's just a little bit of a bowtie nation."

It is my opinion that 72% of NYT Book Review reviews being about books by men, and 80-90% of New Yorker magazine bylines being male fit into this same sort of NPR fuddy-duddy culture: this insistence, in the high-culture forms of media whose audiences are mostly educated, wealthy, and white (and female? Do more women listen to NPR than men? Hmmmm. . . )on a reality that is decades removed from what is actually going on.

--Elizabeth


5.27.2004

From today's New York Times article on a sexy, substantive violinist:
Ms. St. John, 32, is well aware of the power of image. For one thing she is a striking six-foot blonde. And while this week saw the release of "Re: Bach," her first album for Sony Classical, the CD she will probably always be best known for is "Bach Works for Violin Solo" from 1996. That is the one on which she appeared naked on the cover, holding her violin across her breasts.

The picture was more artistic than shocking. Showing Ms. St. John from the waist up with the violin completely hiding her chest, it revealed nothing inappropriate for a family paper. But from the reaction, you would have thought she had posed for Penthouse. There were accusations of sexploitation and child pornography. (Ms. St. John was 24 and looked younger.) There were also phenomenal album sales: more than 30,000 copies, big stuff for a classical music recording.

The cover has remained a mixed blessing. Because of it many in the field have pigeonholed Ms. St. John in the booming genre of classical crossover, lumping her with other musicians of far less artistic substance, like Linda Brava (a Finnish violinist who has indeed posed for Playboy) or Vanessa-Mae (a violinist remembered for her wet T-shirt poses and electric violin arrangements).
Oh, what even to say about this? It's amazing that there is still freakout potential when a woman artist is substantive as well as sexual. (My naughty little question is: what if she weren't model-skinny and posed all hot and naked with her violin in front of her? Surely even more ruckus. Definitely a move to consider, girls.)

For me, the big issue is: is the work substantive? As long as the art holds up, it doesn't really end up mattering in the long run if you're a sexpot or if you're dowdy, if you're camera-ready or hopelessly unphotogenic. The arena of image becomes something that you can play around with, have fun with, as a woman artist. It would be great if it didn't feel so dire to use this arena for your very economic survival as an artist, but it's just part of the game at this point. I say have fun with it, just make sure the art stays rich and complex and beautiful.

--Elizabeth

5.25.2004

Okay, so I'm walking around completely grinning: New Yorker! You just blow my mind every week with your consistency! I am growing so fond of your almost OCD tenacity! Check it out:

Elizabeth's Weekly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

May 31, 2004 issue

Table of Contents
11 bylines:
1 woman*
10 men

*poet Kathleen Jamie writes a poem about an alder tree

Total
(including 4 Talk of the Town pieces and The Financial Page)
16 bylines:
2 women
14 men

Hmmmm. . . .

--Elizabeth


5.24.2004

T Cooper, author of the excellent first novel SOME OF THE PARTS (Akashic Books, September 2002) and white-hot literary blogger Maud Newton will be the readers for June's edition of Cupcake. Cupcake, founded in June 2003, is the reading series for New York's best women writers.


The reading will be on Tuesday, June 8, at 7:30pm, and admission is FREE.


[At LOLITA, as always: 266 Broome St. at Allen, in the downstairs room. --Eliz.]


T COOPER received an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. T was a member of the all-star Backdoor Boys performance troupe, and her writing has appeared in a variety of journals, magazines and anthologies. T lives in New York City. For more information, visit T-Cooper.com.


MAUD NEWTON grew up in Miami, Florida and has scandalized her southern parents by moving north of the Mason-Dixon line. She's lived in Brooklyn for the last four years. Her short fiction and nonfiction appears in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, Story South and Eyeshot and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Swink online. She's working on a novel about fundamentalist Christians in 1980's Miami. You can visit her at MaudNewton.com.


Not that you'd ever miss Cupcake for the world, but my birthday is the day before, so I'm sure you'll come and say hello.


-Lauren


5.19.2004

So just to continue my little thang with the New Yorker: I want to tell you how much I love the New Yorker. It's not just the bad things I notice, no ma'am. And I want to tell the New Yorker how much I love them, too, so here goes:

Dear New Yorker,

I am so grateful that you show up so faithfully, so dependably, every week (unless of course you are surprising me and bowling me over with a double issue, you big sweetie). You are a beacon of depth and intelligence in a world increasingly dedicated to plastic surgery, five-hundred-dollar shoes, and reality television. It amazes me how much depth is in one issue, it amazes me that in this world there is still, somehow, a budget that provides for such a thoughtful magazine.

You are such a hero, New Yorker, for going after Rumsfeld. This week I was so inspired by the directness and courage of this opening sentence of Seymour M. Hersh's article "The Gray Zone": "The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq." And the cover, this week, of a soldier in the desert with a target on his or her back, as well as the one a couple weeks ago of oil rigs spewing blood, is so honest and unafraid of political retribution in an ugly political environment. Thank you.

Also--how great is it that you are including new, young writers? I love it when you publish articles by Ben Greenman, and stories by, say, ZZ Packer. Also, I love me some Sasha Frere-Jones. He is a delight. It's so smart of you to start including him in your posse. His article on Nellie McKay this week was fabulous.

You know what would be great? It would be so great if you could include some more work by women. What about in the Shouts & Murmurs column? If you wanna get all rock star in that regard, and I know you love your rock star women as much as I do, what about Tina Fey or Janeane Garofalo? But if you want to really walk the edge and aren't quite sure who else to include, I'd love to suggest a piece by Jen Kirwin or Jami Attenberg. What a cool idea, no? Since it's always women I see reading you on the subway, I'm sure you will relish this little idea of how to make us even happier.

Kisses,

Elizabeth

5.18.2004

Hey everybody. I apologize for disappearing without letting you know we'd be so coy--Lauren's on a much-deserved vacation and I'm on the novel and too spacy to ever be more than a random and degnerate blogger without her. But with me or without me, the New Yorker just keeps coming through, my word. Tallying it up every week is making what used to be a private little moment of minor disappointment that barely even registered into a weekly exercise in five minutes of my jaw dropping. It makes me want to take up something joyful and feminine, like bellydancing.

--Elizabeth


Elizabeth's Weekly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

May 24, 2004 issue

Table of Contents
13 bylines:
3 women
10 men

*longtime staff writer Joan Acocella, poet Constance Merritt, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri

Total
(including 5 Talk of the Town pieces not listed on the Table of Contents)
18 bylines:
3 women
15 men
Elizabeth's Weekly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

May 17, 2004 issue

Table of Contents
13 bylines:
1 woman*
12 men

*The woman is Mary Karr, superstar.

Total
(including 5 Talk of the Town pieces not listed on the Table of Contents)
18 bylines:
3 women
15 men

A little note: the cover by Marc Rosenthal, "Spring Ritual," is very cute this week, with a demure babe in her sundress inspiring puffed-chests from six fine examples of the adoring men of New York. Funny enough: the ration of six men to one woman is actually just about exactly what you'll find inside, as long as you include those Talk of the Town pieces. But if we're talking proper bylines on the TOC, you'd need twice as many men on the cover to avoid false advertising.

Thank god I have a sundress. . .

--Elizabeth




5.11.2004

TONIGHT: don't forget to come share the love: Cupcake , Tuesday, May 11, featuring

DANYEL SMITH, author of MORE LIKE WRESTLING

*Lolita, 266 Broome (@ Allen)
*We gather at 7, and the reading starts at 7:30
*Admission to Cupcake is FREE

DANYEL SMITH is a former editor at large for Time Inc. and the former editor-in-chief of Vibe. She also has written for the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Spin, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the New York Times. Smith teaches at New School University and wrote the introduction for the New York Times bestseller, "Tupac Shakur." She lives in Brookyn, but was born and raised in California.

During a sabbatical from Vibe on a National Arts Journalism fellowship, she began writing fiction that took her back to the complex, unresolved stories of the people she grew up with in Oakland, young men and women whose lives and dreams were derailed by growing up parentless in the devastating age of crack. The result is More Like Wrestling, which follows the story of two sisters, Paige and Pinch, inseparable teen–age refugees in the 1980s coming to grips with the truth about their choices and their tangled roots.

PRAISE FOR MORE LIKE WRESTLING:

“Lyrical and engaging . . . Smith’s light, sinewy prose sings with precision.” —
Washington Post Bookworld

“A wildly intelligent coming-of-age story [and] a morally complex take on the
devastating costs of poverty and racism—a tale that deals in hard truths and, ultimately, forgiveness.”— Elle

“Smith’s supple language and the generosity she shows toward her own imagination and memory allows something new and real to emerge—a grittier, muckier story, full of the uncertainty of life.” — Africana

"...Smith has created vivid characters, a palpable sense of place and a wholly
absorbing story." -New York Times Book Review

5.08.2004

So I probably don't need to tell you to read Margaret Cho's blog as often as possible, right? You probably already know that it's like winning yourself a little lottery, yes you do . . .

--Elizabeth

5.04.2004

Elizabeth's Weekly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

May 10, 2004 issue

Table of Contents
12 bylines:
2 women*
10 men

*Joan Acocella and Rita Dove

Total
(including 4 Talk of the Town pieces and The Financial Page)
17 bylines:
2 or 3 women*
14 or 15 men

*I can't tell what gender Talk of the Town writer Field Moloney is. If you know, please tell me. Thanks!

--Elizabeth


FRESH YARN is a new site devoted to the art of the personal essay:
You'll read stories from this emerging genre that are humorous, provocative, dramatic, simple, sweet, raunchy, intimate, bold—and all true.

There's some great stuff there already, and more to come. So check it out, because we love Fresh Yarn and so should you.

Other things we're fond of today include this article, entitled "Marketing Miss Right," from Bitch magazine, actual cupcakes (with frosting), and you, the lovely readers of our chatty little blog.

-Lauren

5.03.2004

Writer Susan Coll penned an interesting piece for the Washington Post a month or two ago that I revisited when I was going through some things I set aside to read a while back, and it's still fabulous:

Do the mating habits of cows have anything remotely to do with Marxism? This was the literary brain teaser I was given when I set out to publish my first novel, a hybrid of historical and contemporary fiction based on the life of Eleanor Marx, Karl's youngest daughter.

One editor suggested I slash more than half of the historical portions of the narrative, and expand what was then a thin comic strand about a young graduate student working on her dissertation. She sent me a book to read for inspiration. It was Laura Zigman's comic novel Animal Husbandry (1998), which is premised on the amusing if specious observation that men are like bulls -- given the opportunity, they will always choose a new cow instead of sticking with the old cow they already know.

Initially I thought there had been a mix-up in the mailroom, but the confusion was all mine. I was being asked to take a crash course in a field I had not yet heard of: Chick Lit.

Perhaps this is just speculation, but it's hard to imagine Jonathan (Franzen or Safran Foer - whatever) getting back a manuscript for a serious work of fiction with "TART IT UP!" scrawled atop the top margin, proverbially speaking...

-Lauren

I apologize if there are any typos in this post, but it's hard to type when you're laughing so hard. From an interview in The Telegraph with Bergdorf Blondes author and chickliteer Plum Sykes:
For all her vaunted education - she mentions her Oxford history degree with terrifying regularity - Sykes has not yet mastered the legends of American literature. I ask her if she compares her work to The Great Gatsby?

"Yah," she replies, "and the other works by Truman Capote."

Oh god, that is just beyond satire, isn't it?

-Lauren

5.01.2004

Salon reports that the Bush administration has its own version of a Cinderella-style chick lit:
If you'd logged onto the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau Web site in 1999, you would have found a list of more than 25 fact sheets and statistical reports on topics ranging from "Earning Differences Between Men and Women" to "Facts About Asian American and Pacific Islander Women" to "Women's Earnings as Percent of Men's 1979-1997."

Not anymore. Those fact sheets no longer exist on the Women's Bureau Web site, and have instead been replaced with a handful of peppier titles, like "Hot Jobs for the 21st Century" and "20 Leading Occupations for Women." It's just one example of the ways in which the Bush administration is dismantling or distorting information on women's issues, from pay equity to reproductive healthcare, according to "Missing: Information About Women's Lives," a new report released Wednesday by the National Council for Research on Women.

I'm sure that the New York publishing industry in general would not want to be accused of making the same moves as this administration, but how is this Bushy rewrite any different from the de-emphasizing of literary women novelists, who deal with depth and scope and the full range of experience, to give shelf space and review space to the catch-the-prince/girly-Horatio-Alger stories?

--Elizabeth

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