6.28.2004

I saw White Chicks this weekend with my friend Nathalie from high school and it is my official pick for Cupcake Movie of the Summer. Someone who saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this weekend told me I was "courageous for admitting" I saw White Chicks and I thought that was so snobby.

Honestly it is kind of shocking to me that everyone doesn't adore this movie as much as I did. But Nathalie and I felt sort of like Wayans brothers in drag when we went to our snooty Connecticut high school, which I still believe may really be the world capital of eating disorders. The very white version of femininity that was so revered there was completely alien to us. Everyone was always trying to get you to starve yourself, act like an ice-cold trust-fund deadhead (which, in the 80s at least, was the upper-echelon of heiress behavior, forget this Hilton sister crap), and play field hockey. Perhaps revealing the lack of blue blood in my veins, and my low level of ambition to fake it, all I wanted to do was listen to De La Soul and smoke cigarettes. Anyway--White Chicks cracked us up on Friday.

I'll write a proper essay for you someday on why I love White Chicks. I remember bell hooks's essay on why she loved The Bodyguard (basically: because Hollywood one, valued the life of a black woman for once and two, valued an interracial romance) and winced at The Crying Game. My essay will rock that hard if not harder, folks.

But for now, in short, let me tell you that White Chicks deliriously and geniusly thrashes all the stupid shit that passes for sexy femininity these days. Like: you should always look like a stylist dressed you. Like: we should all aspire to own $500 shoes. Also, White Chicks points out that it is v. unsexy and is in fact totally screeching-Prozac-deprived-white-girl-in-dressing-room-level absurd the degree to which we are still (see: The Swan) increasing our collective obsession with having a tv-ready, plasticized body.

xo
--Elizabeth

6.27.2004

I just back from a languid and lovely Sunday afternoon meeting (the chocolate brunch @ Seppi's in Le Parker Meridien is uniquely fabulous) with Jen and Elizabeth. We were discussing all of the exciting plans we have for the reading series, the blog, and the website. There are definitely some v. exciting things around the bend for us, and we do love our readers, so drop us a line in the comments section if there's something you're dying for... Personally, I'd like to have a Cupcake benefit featuring hot male writers stripping for a good cause. Or a chick lit redemption night, wherein former chick lit writers can repent publically by reading their new, serious fiction. Any takers? Criteria: You must have published a book in the last five years with a distinctly "chick lit" vibe. Bonus points for a plotline that involves shoes or Botox. Ladies, you have nothing to lose but your chains.

-Lauren

6.25.2004

Thanks Brangien, for letting us know about Swivel, billed as "the nexus of women and wit."

Says the Seattle-based editor-in-chief,

I came up with the idea of putting Swivel together about a year ago, when I became completely fed up with the lack of estrogen in most literary mags, especially those that publish humorous writing. I was also irritated by the fact that *women's* lit mags are so often angry or depressing or wifty-pifty. This phenomenon doesn't represent the women I know! Hence, Swivel.

Our first issue (due off the press the first week in July) features weird and wonderful stories by smart, funny women like Aimee Bender, Lauren Weedman, Ali Davis, Kate Lake, and more. We've also included photography, comix and illustrations--all by women, and all with a killer sense of humor.

We totally dig it! Readers, do submit to its charms, and funny women writers, do submit your work.

-Lauren
The other day I went to meet a friend at his office and there was a stack of books that had exhausted their useful purpose or were extra copies or something that he said I could go through. The clear winner was a novel that had a blurb that said something like, "the author writes with a clarity and explicitness about sex that...."

I started reading it on the subway, and I am fairly confident in saying that, it was the dirtiest book that I have ever read. I mean, you could open the book to any random page and come up with an exquisitely dirty quote. It was my new parlor game for at least a day or two. All of the salacious content was intriguing enough, and before I knew it, I was really engaged in the storyline, which centers on senior year of high school and the summer after for the main character, a young woman named Evangeline Raybuck.

The story was at turns soul-shatteringly sad, and I read it with the knowledge that only comes with life experience - like when you're a 17-year old girl and you think that your loser high school boyfriend is "the one." By the time I finished the book, I realized how totally ingenious it was. All of the sex (and there's plenty of it) is sort of a plot device to get you involved in the story of one girl's coming of age that is by turns so brutally depressing and emotionally raw that it would be difficult if not impossible to read it otherwise.

It turned out to be quite a good book about the inner life of a young woman, and it reminded me of how lucky we all are to get out of our teenage years unscathed. It's called Swimming Sweet Arrow, and it's by Maureen Gibbon.

-Lauren
Last night I heard David Byrne play at a benefit for the new McSweeney's tutoring center, 826NYC--it was so beautiful! But let me tell you about the rest of the event: Rick Moody read for almost 20 minutes (it seemed to me, I wasn't timing it, and you know, I'm not the hugest Moody fan so it might have seemed longer than it was), then Robert Coover for what seemed like the same amount of time, then a band I didn't know played too many songs, about 6 songs? A band fronted by a guy writer I didn't know.

Then Susan Choi, one of our darling Cupcakes and a fabulous writer, read from her novel, American Woman (which Dave Eggers introduced as "American Girl" but it wasn't as weirdly offensive as it sounds, he apologized and was duly mortified later).

Susan Choi was the only woman on the bill for the night and she informed us that she'd been told to read for ten minutes only.

Do I need to say any more?

The thing is, that I am really loving Dave Eggers right now for putting together 826 Valencia, the McSweeney's tutoring center in San Francisco, and for starting 826NYC in Brooklyn. It's so great--Eggers is not holed up trying to outdo Thomas Pynchon, attempting some masterpiece, expanding his ego through byzantine sentence structure, cruising on his Wonder Boy status. Instead, he's making up for what the other white guys, the Bad White Guys in our current administration, are pillaging from public school budgets. I find it so completely touching and inspiring.

They really need tutors at 826NYC--as little as two hours a month makes a huge difference. So click on that link and sign up, everybody! Plus, it's on 5th Ave. in Park Slope so you can then easily justify some fried macaroni and chees at the Chip Shop afterwards.

--Elizabeth

6.23.2004

Dear New Yorker,

God, I am really feeling grouchy about this! You know what I would love, New Yorker? I would love to see an issue with 14 women and 3 men! Could you do that just to keep me on my toes, darling? And you know what else I would love? I would love for those three pieces by men to be:

1. A ten-line poem about a birch tree and the loss of intimacy when a child grows up.

2. A briefish piece about shoes and/or purses, say, how much you just love! those! wedges!

3. Analysis of two new shows on the WB, or a profile of Katie Holmes.

Thank you. I love you, I love you, I do.

xoxo
Elizabeth




Elizabeth's Weekly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

June 28, 2004 issue

Table of Contents
12 bylines:
3 women*
9 men

*Connie Bruck writes a profile on the Gubernator, major novelist Louise Erdrich (I think of her as the female Faulkner but apparently the National Book Award people like Jonathan Franzen better . . .), writes a story, and regular Nancy Franklin writes about television.

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

--Elizabeth


6.21.2004

Oh Thank God, it's over. If the Staten Island Advance thinks that "chick lit is hot," as it declares in the headline of this story that could have been written by a cicada just coming up for air after 17 years, then it must be dead. Hooray!

-Lauren

6.15.2004

So I just saw Stepford Wives, and despite the scene involving a kitchen full of cupcakes, we're talking three hundred or so cupcakes, I was not impressed. Glenn Close's little exercise class, where the robot-wifeys are all in heels and dresses doing a little spin around a ballroom looks like so much more fun than being a corporate borderline-exercise-bulimic at Crunch, if you ask me. I hate the dichotomy between asexual-corporate-powerful-intelligent and lobotomized-hot-sexual-relaxed.

You can be powerful and sexual, you can be intelligent and relaxed, you can have long sexy hair and a cute little frock and love your husband to pieces and still run the planet. Duh.

So it's a thumbs down for Stepford Wives from me, I have to say.

My hunch--though I haven't seen it yet--is that the Cupcake movie of the summer is going to be White Chicks. I can't wait. Because the Wayanses know all about chick lit: Homey don't play dat.

--Elizabeth

6.14.2004

Also in the Times Magazine, an interview with Rebecca Walker who has just written a book about boyhood. I love this! Deborah Solomon's questions are in italics:
A lot of this reminds me of Robert Bly, who started these camps in the 70's where men ran naked through the woods to find their softer, more expressive selves.

What I am doing is nothing new. I am contributing to the work of many men who have been raising these issues. It is very difficult to challenge entrenched values. I was just reading something that said if you let the culture happen to you, you end up fat and broke, in a house full of junk, with no time. If you just sit in front of a television and let it carry you along, without making an effort to resist it or deconstruct it, you really suffer.
And then Walker reminds us of how women are so brilliantly redefining what it means to be an artist.
Do you think you have to be monstrously selfish to be an artist?

When I was growing up, many female artists adopted the masculine paradigm of the artist, that kind of heroic notion of my-art-at-any-cost, intimacy-not-so-important. There has got to be a way for artists to be both thrillingly productive and also emotionally sane.
I, however, am going to lean to the monstrously selfish side for the next week and see if I can't get this novel outlined. Please send me some Thrillingly Productive vibes. (Emotionally sane will come next week. I think.)

xo
--Elizabeth

More from Daphne Merkin in the Times Magazine, this time on Stepford Wives, worrying about her daughter and friends at:
Brearley, a Manhattan girls' school that prides itself on its high academic standards and is renowned for producing independent-minded young women -- junior bluestockings, if you will. This may be a worthy goal, and my daughter and her friends may be able to read ''The Canterbury Tales'' in Middle English, but what really gnaws at their adolescent souls is not whether they will take over the White House one day but whether they'll lose the boy if they take over the White House. In a nutshell, they are worried about not being feminine enough.

Of course, that's always been the problem, hasn't it: how to be brainy and a babe -- how to quote Descartes without seeming like a dried-up prune, a geekess or, heaven forbid, masculine? Sadly, I think this fear speaks to a larger difficulty lurking on the edges of the post-feminist landscape, one not addressable by slogans or demonstrations because it has to do with the intricately complex manner in which we forge our identities. Men have always been given the leeway of a protean self; they have permission to be many things: a tiger at the office, a pussycat at home, a chump on the golf course.

For women, the choice is more constricted: it's either ravenous red or pliant pink. You're either an aggressive bitch or sweetly pouring the morning coffee, like the women of Stepford.

Not to be a bitch, but all you have to do to have a protean identity is have a protean identity. All this fuss about how to be brainy and how to be a babe frankly surprises us at Cupcake--don't the two automatically go together, at least in New York?

Of course Merkin's daughter wants to retain her sensuality, of course she can't imagine herself without a fabulous love life, White House or not: who would want to give that up? And who needs to?

If the Times Magazine and the New Yorker, say, would give more women the opportunity to write about topics other than fashion, television, and dance, I bet Merkin's daughter, and her granddaughters someday, will have a better shot at being both pink and red, apple and pomegranate, no? And whatever other J Crew colors their luscious little Brearley appetites demand. . .

--Elizabeth

6.11.2004

We are working on a new website with all! new! features! (including lots of interviews, yes) and are a little low on blogging energy for the next couple weeks as a result.

But stay tuned, as we will surprise you, fear not.

Sorta like the New Yorker surprised me this week as I did my little tally, featuring women in almost half of its table of contents bylines, giving a chance to such up-and-comers as Zadie Smith and Alice Munro.

The cover this week--a grim-mouthed woman with her sort of half-doppelganger behind her. Note: most weeks, this image of two women is perfectly honest advertising as to what you'll find on the table of contents. But not this week! There are way more women than the usual one or two! That is so cute.

Elizabeth's Weekly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

June 14 & 21, 2004 issue

Table of Contents
15 bylines:
7 women*
8 men

*usual suspects Joan Acocella and Nancy Franklin (who usually write on dance and on television, respectively), Alice Munro, Susan Orlean, Zadie Smith, and poets Elaine Equi and Linda Gregg.

Total
(including 4 Talk of the Town pieces and the Financial Page not listed on the Table of Contents)
20 bylines:
8 women
12 men

This is the best balance in the numbers yet! Thank you, New Yorker!

--Elizabeth




6.08.2004

Today I find myself humming the chorus of an old song by The Eyeliners about being on tour, which basically goes, blah blah blah some cities in the Pacific Northwest blah blah "I wish I could be seeing you tonight...". Trust me, it sounds catchier than it reads.

Countdown to Cupcake: T - 6 or 7 hours. Tonight's readers promise to be fabulous, as always and then some:

T Cooper + Maud Newton
7:30pm @ Lolita, 266 Broome (at Allen)
Admission is free

T Cooper is the too-cool author of the justifiably hyped Some of the Parts (Akashic Books, 2002) and Maud Newton is the superstar lit-blogger currently working on a novel about Fundamentalist Christians in 1980s Miami.

Don't miss the fun!

-Lauren

6.07.2004

Hey everybody. I just want to let you know that I still have two spots open in the small writing workshop I'm teaching this summer. We start this WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9 at 7:30 pm in Park Slope. I'd love to hear from you if you're interested.

Details below.

Thanks

--Elizabeth

Do you want to learn how to write fabulous stories, essays, a novel, or a memoir in a way that is full of fun, genius, pleasure, and ease? Are you struggling to find time to write, or perhaps simply desiring feedback and direction? If you aren't quite sure how to get started and you are looking for the inspiration and discipline to keep writing on an ongoing basis, this workshop will help you immensely.

Class is small, no more than 8 people, usually about 6.

I will teach you how to improve your writing very quickly--my tried-and-true writing exercises get the creativity flowing and improve your drafts so you avoid common beginner's errors right from the start. We make sure to have a fabulous time doing all this learning in my comfortable, cozy living room.

The class is held Wednesdays, 730-10pm, in Park Slope, about 3 blocks from the 7th Avenue F station (which is at 7th Ave and Ninth St). Also close to the 9th street N/R. Cost is $300, cash only. $50 deposit required to hold your space in the course.

Starts June 9, runs through July 21.

Email: ecm11@verizon.net

Instructor:
Elizabeth Merrick received a BA from Yale, an MA in Creativity and Arts Education from San Francisco State, and an MFA in fiction writing from Cornell University. She is the founder of the Cupcake reading series (as seen in the Village Voice, Time Out New York, and New York magazine). She taught creative writing at Cornell for three years. Recent honors include fellowships from VCCA, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Saltonstall Foundation. She currently teaches writing at NYU.

This workshop will be open to both fiction and nonfiction writers, and will be a supportive and fun, yet very productive, environment.

We will cover all the major elements of the craft of writing:
Creating compelling and believable characters and making them come alive on the page
Plot
Point of view
Vivid description
Finding your voice
Story structure
Maintaining inspiration and discipline
The process of revision
The basics of getting published.

We will do in-class writing and creativity exercises, and will read and learn from each others' work in progress. We will focus more on editing than on critiquing work in progress. You'll leave the workshop with a solid knowledge of the craft, as well as at least one finished story.



Dear Land Grant College Review, you sexy indie darlings,

I love the cover of your latest issue! “Man Fishes in Bucket While Woman Shoos Away Bottle Flies.” That’s fabulous! Sort of like “Most Of Our Editors Are Women While Men Write The Stories.” Everything seems so complicated in the world today. Thanks for making it so easy for us to figure you out!

Land Grant College Review Issue No. 2:

-7 editors, 4 of whom are women
-Table of contents = 9 male writers, 1 female writer

Snap! And yet you thank Claire Zulkey, Bookslut, Maud Newton, and Moorish Girl in your acknowledgements . . . so maybe “Women Blog While Men Get Published?” Even better. I guess I won’t be renewing my subscription, seeing as I can get a heftier dose of serious fiction by women writers from The New Yorker and all. Too bad our little affair had to end so soon. It seemed so promising, and it certainly was nice while it lasted.

-Lauren

Check out Jeanette Winterson's essay about prosti-blogger Belle de Jour.

Belle de Jour is the blog of an anonymous humanities grad turned high-class call girl. She started the blog in October of last year, won a UK web award by March, with a book deal soon to follow. Speculation abounds as to whether she is the real thing, or just a girl writer trying to get a book deal. From Winterson's article, it seems she has been unmasked and may lose her book deal as punishment for her lie. Is she the real thing? A veteran UK madam says: not so much. Winterson says it doesn't matter.

--Elizabeth
Elizabeth's Weekly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

June 7, 2004 issue

Table of Contents
16 bylines:
3 women*
13 men

*Maxine Kumin, poetry superstar, Jane Mayer (on Ahmad Chalabi--it seems to me that this is the first article by a woman in a long time that isn't on television or fashion), and Aline Crumb, in a joint byline with her more famous husband.

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

--Elizabeth




6.02.2004

Katherine L. Milkman, 22, decided to turn rigorous mathematical analytics on an even more mystical topic: the selection of short fiction for The New Yorker.

I almost can't even post this! It's almost too obvious! But whatever. Here, check it out:
"She gives you a new way of looking at these stories which would not have occurred to me," Ms. Treisman said. "Do I walk away thinking, `Now I have to think about gender and race and location in selecting stories?' No."
Oh my. Well, fear not. My usual weekly math tricks regarding the New Yorker will be up soon.

--Elizabeth


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