8.31.2004

And speaking of badasses, Jami Attenberg, who will surely dazzle at our Ladies Who Blog reading on Sept. 14, fights evil (well, a heavy-breather emailer ex, at least) through the power of her blog. Too, too funny. And sad: who in the world becomes a serial obscene emailer? Confirms my policy to steer far clear of Williamsburg hipster boys, I must say.

--Elizabeth

8.30.2004

I'm still so inspired by her that I must share this from the hardcore, no-apologies Diamanda Galas (again, from the new BUST, article not available online):
BUST: If women were running the world's governments, do you think this stuff [genocides that Galas investigates in her work] would still go on?

GALAS: I think it would be far improved. Women, from a very early age, are aware of the sacrifice they have to go through, and of pain that nobody cares about [that] cannot be discussed. They are born with empathy that they develop. I don't think men figure it out until they get prostate cancer. And by that time they're all just taking Viagra so they can fuck women 30 years younger than they are.
--Elizabeth
This month's BUST magazine rocks. For awhile I wasn't feeling them as much as I had in previous eras--but this issue has interviews with Eddie Izzard and PJ Harvey, a feature about exactly how Sassy magazine was too edgy for America and got phased out of existence, and a substantive article about the radical women who finally got us the vote.

And, a brief interview, p. 104, with Diamanda Galas. It's not like I listen to her music all the time, but I just love her so much. Her music is generally too extreme for my tastes, but I love that she pushes the form and doesn't give a fuck that she's so far out that her audience is really limited. Her latest work is about Armenian, Anatolian, and Assyrian Greek genocides that happened between 1914 and 1923. "There's a place for the Madonna types," Galas says, "but there's also a place for unclassifiable people, like me, who are discussing things seriously. Maybe people won't get the work for 300 fucking years. I don't care. If you have one life to live, do what you're interested in."

God, it makes me realize that somewhere in the back of my head I am clinging to Madonna as a pop tart who at least cared about something, at least wore the pokey wild cone bra, believes in gay rights and now has a developed spiritual life, in contrast to the latest Bush-loving generation of Jessica Simpsons and Britneys.

xo
--Elizabeth


This USA Today piece frames its topic more eloquently than I ever could:
Smart chick-lit, like high-quality screw-top wine, is no longer a contradiction in terms.
At first, I thought the writer was trying to be clever (?), but no, she's not kidding. Am I the only person who's immune to the supposed charms of both chick lit and screw-top wine?

-Lauren

The Smart Set, my weekly column of things to do around the city, is up at literary hotspot MaudNewton.com.

-Lauren

8.29.2004

It may be hard to remember that this is the last week of summer, given the relative clamor of life in New York this week. Try to extend the feeling of long days and languid weather with a mason jar of sweet tea and a visit to the ever-lovely Flaneur.

-Lauren

I went to a reading by Karen Quinones Miller today at Harlemade. She read from her new book, Ida B. It looks like an entertaining, engaging read and I'm sure I'll have more to say on it later.

-Lauren

8.26.2004

HOW TO TEAR IT UP IN AUGUST 2004:

1. If you're skipping town, like I am, for this sick convention of sickos, and you feel guilty about not protesting, why not sign up for some upcoming weekend to register voters in swing states--hook up with the Anti-Bush Travel Agency, who will find a way to get you to a swing state to sign people up to participate in what we are all praying remains a democracy. How cool is this! After the demoralizing non-reaction to the huge NYC and worldwide march against the impending war back in 2003, did you start to wonder if street protests really do anything anymore? I did. But I feel pretty sure that registering voters does something.

2. If you are in New York this weekend, I can't recommend the Code Pink posse enough. Did you know Louise Erdrich is a member of Code Pink? She wore their buttons all over the place when she was on book tour in 2003. Also, I heard her say at a reading that she thought Code Pink's policy of protesting in pink clothing was genius, because most women have a stash of never-been-worn pink apparel they are happy to put to use. Anyway, check the pink geniuses out here for events this Saturday and Sunday.

3. Click here to register your own fine self to vote, if you haven't already, or if, like me, you've moved since the last time you registered.

4. Trim Your Bush t-shirts from Tori Amos, whose book with the wonderful writer and music critic Ann Powers is coming out in early 2005.

xo
--Elizabeth

8.25.2004

The NY Times has a nice review of Marjane Satrapi's new graphic memoir, Persepolis 2, with a pop-up slide show (!) online.

We are thrilled that Marjane, who lives in Paris, will be stopping by our first-ever Cupcake special event to discuss her work on Friday, Sept. 24!

-Lauren

8.24.2004

Hi lovelies:

I'm sorry to say that there won't be much of the sass that you crave here this week, as Elizabeth is still enjoying her time by the sea, and I'm here in the city trying to do a million-and-one things and can maybe only manage a million. Jen is either in France, managing a chic bistro, writing the great american screenplay, or on a tropical island somewhere. At least two, maybe three out of four, god bless her heart. So posting will be light.

Please amuse yourselves (as we often do) by visiting some of the glamourous badasses who will be charming you half to death at the first Cupcake of the season next month: Jami Attenberg, Nathalie Chicha, Emma Garman, Eurotrash, Blaise K, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Maccers, and Elizabeth Spiers, with introductions by Maud Newton.

Ciao for now,
Lauren

8.22.2004

As always, Cupcake hearts Choire:

Ah, the heady campus eves spent Taking Back the Night, the windows steamed up with radical ''wimmin's'' literature! But just when we nearly made the Society for Cutting Up Men a delicious reality, listless punk collided with hyperactive feminism and begat a distinct -- and far more interesting -- sort of transgressive literature. For proof, consider this summer's haul: a whole bunch of books about tough women who swing on that tired spectrum between sociological victim and reactionary rebel -- but sometimes, happily, manage to break free.'

[Choire Sicha, NY Times]

-Lauren
This week is going to be fabulous - I love that feeling! I have two great books to look forward to reading: The Grave of God's Daugher, and Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties.

On a side note, I was thinking of recommending a Diane Johnson event in October, and I thought I should read one of her books first. I picked up Le Divorce at the used bookstore down the street and read it in one sitting, and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I found myself going, "Is this chick lit because there is a Kelly bag in it? Am I reading chick lit? Is chick lit evil?," etc.

I came up with this whole counterargument, like [SPOILER ALERT: skip to the next graf if you don't want a big hint about the story] "Why would she have a satisfying sexual relationship with an elderly man if it were chick lit? Wouldn't she be having sex (or scheming to, replete with hi-jinks and mojitos) with her boss/neighbor/gay(ish) best friend?"

And then it was more like, "Why don't I ask myself these questions when I read books by men? It's not like I buy books in the airport, or the supermarket, yet here I am reading a totally engaging, well-written book and wondering if it is sub-par just because of this whole chick-lit thing." Very weird.

It came up again when I saw a movie this weekend, Garden State, which I thought was really terrific and wonderful (and the soundtrack: genius. I'm listening to it right now). But what if Nathalie Portman's character was the main character and not just the love interest? Would it still be an instant classic? Or just another chick flick?

Anyway, I shall be thinking of all that and more, but also, reading lots of books and planning our exciting and enthralling new season of Cupcake. And also, my boyfriend is going to be on "The Majority Report" on Air America on Wednesday, with the beyond-superstarish, big media powerhouse Janeane Garofalo (who has a book of her own coming out next year).

And as a fitting transition for me to remind myself to stop blogging and start meeting my deadline, I'll just add as a coda that my picks for the week ahead will be up on literary hot spot MaudNewton.com tomorrow afternoon, so don't miss those if you live in New York and are looking for something to do.

xo,
Lauren

8.20.2004

ELIZABETH'S COUNTRY KITCHEN MOVIE CORNER: What's worth paying ten bucks for at the surural multiplex (all total dude flicks but done intelligently and didn't make me cringe):

1. Some Kind of Monster--a movie about Metallica going into therapy. It's so great to watch them posture and bullshit and then finally say what they're feeling. It's so great to see guys actually dealing with their emotional lives. It's so great to hear that Kirk Hammett Enter Sandman riff a zillion times in the dark on a summer afternoon. Mm.

2. Collateral--actually about something (manhood? fate? work? well, something), not totally vapid. Jamie Foxx is really wonderful, and Michael Mann always keeps my attention. Tom Cruise is completely tolerable as an assassin.

3. A Home at the End of the World--I loved "White Angel," the story that this Michael Cunningham novel originated from, but I couldn't get through the novel. (Don't even get me started on The Hours.) But I was totally with this movie throughout: maybe it's just that my own rural escape fantasies were encouraged by the fact that an empty snowy gorgeous Woodstock is apparently that Home. Robin Wright Penn is breezy as the fabulous fag hag who spruces up an amazing AMAZINGLY-wigged Colin Farrell and sets up house. (Colin Farrell as a brunet Garth is what that wig is, people). My friend Elliot thought it was all too bucolic, without enough of the real angst that is involved in any domestic life, nevermind a threesome, but I fell for it: it's a big fairytale for those of us for whom the chick-lit/romantic comedy fairytale isn't so appealing.

--Elizabeth

8.19.2004

Oh, isn't this lovely? Today's papers are, ahem, hating on chick lit. That's so funny -- me too!

The term "chick lit" is thrown around without any sense of a serious problem. [Letters to the Editor, LA Times]

What I like to read on the beach are books about women's lives as they are lived, full of domestic detail and truthful emotion. This makes me a candidate for what we dismissively call "chick lit", but with rare exceptions the stuff sitting in pink-packaged piles is neither honest nor engrossing; just lazy fiction tossed off with an eye to the women's market and as sickly and unsatisfying as candyfloss. [Sarah Crompton, UK Telegraph]

-Lauren

8.18.2004

After a week and a half of the August flu, I am going on vacation. I am going to read some trash at the Jersey shore in order to inspire myself to write some trash. I am supposed to come up with a blog post here so I don't abandon Lauren with this for the rest of the week, but I am in a sort of suburban comatose loss for words. All I've been doing is taking antibiotics and sleeping and watching movies and the Olympics, so I'm gonna give you my DVD recommendations along those lines (actual summer movie recs TK):

Put on your Netflix list:

1. All six discs of the Freaks and Geeks series: it rocks, it's complex, and Kim Kelly, the angry/sensitive badass Busy Phillips character is my favorite character in the world right now.

2. 8 Women: French murder mystery farce in which 8 perky fifties chicks keep spilling more and more dirt--it just gets dirtier and dirtier each minute and you are convinced by the end that there couldn't possibly even be a French word for "perky." I fast forwarded through the musical numbers, just to make you feel better about doing the same.

3. But really, while you're waiting for these to show up in the mail, there are quite a few swimmers on the television you should be busy objectifying, no?

xo
--Elizabeth
DOWN ON THE FARM

I know that blogging is supposed to be all instantaneous, rapid-fire commentary with the nuance stripped out for reasons of expediency, but sometimes it's like trying to take a snapshot from a moving train.

The review of Pledged below is an allegory for the literary world.

When it's mostly men who get those tenure-track teaching gigs, write those best-selling books, start those acclaimed literary journals, edit the important magazines, and assign (and write) those critical reviews, it's hard to blame them for not seeing the equal representation that the overall picture lacks.

Obviously, if you're a sorority girl, you're going to enjoy a book about sororities. It's just like if you are a guy who thinks that writing in a woman's voice is risky, those who agree with you will judge your book by its cover and think that topless equals talent (or perhaps ass equals class?), so to speak.

Anyway, to the anonym-nasties: I'm not going to delete your comments; you certainly have as much of a right as I do to say what's on your mind. I think it's a discourtesy to the terribly earnest college student who wrote that review in her free time, for no compensation whatsoever, but like, you know, whatever. As for reading the rest of the blog, I will suggest that you get a dictionary, honey, and look up "satire" before it smacks you in the head.

xo,
Lauren

8.17.2004

Have you ever read about a book that sounds so good that you wished you were a Jetson, and could instantly summon it forth from a machine by pushing a button? Or wiggle your nose like Samantha on Bewitched? Or make it appear when you shimmy like Barbara Eden on I Dream of Jeannie? 1960s comedies were ripe with that sort of instant gratification cosmology. That's precisely how I feel about Check It While I Wreck It [first spotted at Ms.]

-Lauren

8.16.2004

As promised, a review of Alexandra Robbins' sorority expose, Pledged:

The Not So Secret Life of Sororities, by "Esme Scott"

When my best friend suggested I read this book, my first thought was, yeah right, like I'm really going to waste my time reading some dramatic cheeseball story about sorority life. But after she made me read the first few pages, I could hardly put the thing down! As a college sophomore in a sorority, I found things I could relate to in almost every chapter. When Ms. Robbins brought up the subject of money and incredibly high sorority dues, I immediately thought of my best friend, who had to shell over $500 for Rush outfits-for a mere three days. About two weeks after I finished the book, a good friend of mine in my sorority sent out an email to our pledge class; since the price of tuition and books had increased, she could no longer afford to pay her dues.

Whether you are in a Greek organization or not, I strongly suggest you read this book if you have any interest in going beyond the hype and stereotypes to get a personal account of the reality of sorority life in certain schools. Ms. Robbins does an excellent job explaining the terms and abbreviations used, such as "NPC" and "Greek." At first, I was appalled that she revealed secret information about sororities, including my own. The oaths that we take are a key part of our traditions; they uphold our values and strengthen the bonds of our sisterhood. But then I got over it-half the stuff in there I had already heard by word of mouth. I would never personally reveal my sorority's sacred rituals or handshake, but there are some women out there who do not see anything wrong with it.

I thought this was a great book because it gave me a glimpse of what Greek life is like at other schools. As for the topic of hazing during the pledging process, we were totally pampered in comparison to my friends pledging other sororities, but I knew of several young women who were subjected to "light" hazing. Even though Ms. Robbins stressed that she only followed four women in different sororities, by the end of the book I felt that she had sort of depicted we sorority girls as a pack of anorexic alcoholics obsessed with boys and clothes. And the lives of sororities aren't so secret when you think about how many other college women behave. The book is dry as toast sometimes, but it is still difficult to put down since it keeps you guessing. Therefore, I give this book an A-.

"Esme Scott" is a sorority member at a university on the East Coast.

-Lauren

We have two exciting events planned for you in September!

Next Cupcake: September 14, 7:30PM, at Lolita, 266 Broome Street (at Allen), Lower East Side, NYC. FREE, featuring LADIES WHO BLOG, with Jami Attenberg (whatever-whenever.net), Nathalie Chicha (nchicha.com), Eurotrash (fuckitwasfunny.com), Emma Garman (thefolddrop.typepad.com), Blaise K (bazima.com), Rachel Kramer Bussel (lustylady.blogspot.com), Clare "Maccers" (maccers.blogspot.com), Elizabeth Spiers (elizabethspiers.com), and introduced by Maud Newton (maudnewton.com).

SPECIAL EVENT: FRIDAY, SEPT. 24, 7:00PM, at Lolita, 266 Broome Street (at Allen), Lower East Side, NYC. FREE. Graphic novelist and Persepolis and Persepolis 2 author MARJANE SATRAPI discusses her work.

Visit cupcakeseries.com for details!

kimsaid has the news (via the Hollywood Reporter) that Sofia Coppola is set to direct a film that focuses on Marie Antoinette. You can read more here, and do follow the link to Kim's previous post about Colonial House ("After a mere seven days, the 17 members of PBS's Colonial House are already drooling over raw muskrat and barring servants and women from 'important' meetings"), that made me laugh out loud.

In related news, I read Versailles by Kathryn Davis not too long ago, and liked it, strange and charming and elegantly experimental as it was. Bookslut has an interview with her that yields some insights into her approach to her unique historical fiction:
Another theme to your work seems to be women's domestic lives. At one point in Hell you mention that the lives of two adolescent girls are not what great books are written about, and yet it keeps showing up in your books. Why do you think it's so neglected in literature, and why are you so drawn to it?

I think it has been neglected in what is considered "serious" literature. I think this is in some way changing, but certainly when I was first encountering literature, the "serious" work all had to do with issues having to do with men making their way in the world or fighting wars or brother against brother, father and son, and really not a whole lot about girls. And that was primarily because the books were being written by men. So you had a couple of women who were grudgingly permitted to enter the canon, but for the most part even what they dealt with was, the scope of it was always a little suspect, as if the lives of two girls growing up would not be as interesting as the lives of two boys growing up. Like Huck Finn. I just was never as interested in reading about boys growing up as I was in reading about girls growing up because I was interested in seeing how my own experience was somehow reflected or illuminated by the books that I read.
I feel the same way. For the most part, I don't read books that don't have a principal female character. It's not a rule that I never break; it's just that, like many readers, I do like to see my own aspirations and qualities in those of the main character, and that's kind of hard when literature is such a total dudefest so much of the time.

-Lauren

8.15.2004

I feel like Sisters really needs to be reissued. This has been a hot topic for a while now, and I wish that the publishing industry would respond to market-demand instead of using the usual strategies. Noted, this supportive editorial from today's papers:
IT'S one weird summer when the nation's favorite beach reading inclines to best sellers by Bill Clinton, the 9/11 Commission, John Dean and Tommy Franks ... real page-turners.

But there's another book, written by another well-known political figure, and it's a doozy. Throughout its pages are fornication (the heroine with her late sister's husband), incest (half brother knocks up half sister), adultery (the heroine, with her first husband's friend), contraception and lesbian couplings (the heroine's sister and an older woman). And incidentally, lynchings, dogicide, cattle theft and robber-baronism.

The book was published 23 years ago, before the author's husband became one of the nation's most influential politicians, and before the author became a Valkyrie in the culture wars. And the author is ... aha, you thought I was going to say Hillary Clinton, didn't you?

It's Lynne Cheney, wife of the Republican vice president. The book is a frontier novel of the 19th century called "Sisters." It's hot, it's sexy and it's out of print.
You can read the whole article here.

-Lauren


8.13.2004

Elizabeth's Monthly Spiritual Reckoning with the New Yorker

for JULY

I know it's the middle of August--I'm so late with this because I've been having the flu and resting and reading, including this interview with anarchist Hakim Bey, who would probably slap me for even caring enough to count these pathetic New Yorker numbers up. In my little fantasy world, Hakim Bey wants me to go walk the dog and write in that meandering way that seems like it gets you a little beyond capitalism for an hour or two, so maybe when I'm done here I'll listen to him.

July 5 issue

Table of Contents
12 bylines:
3 women
8 men
1 Uncle Tom (Caitlin Flanagan)


Total
(including Talk of the Town pieces not listed in the TOC)
17 bylines:
4 women
12 men
1 Uncle Tom (Caitlin Flanagan)


July 12 & 19 issue

Table of Contents
13 bylines:
2 women
11 men


Total
(including Talk of the Town pieces and the Financial Page, not listed in the TOC)
17 bylines:
3 women
14 men

July 26 issue

Table of Contents
11 bylines:
4 women
7 men
(I think this is the best we've seen this year, to tell you the truth. Although, of course two of those women are Susan Orlean--remember, as played by Meryl Streep--and Annie Proulx: my point being that the only time the gender balance is anywhere near equal here the women making it so are rich and successful beyond belief, the rock stars of the writing world.)


Total
(including Talk of the Town pieces not listed in the TOC)
16 bylines:
6 women
10 men

--Elizabeth

8.12.2004

Tonight at 11pm I think you should be at home or at the apartment of your corporate friend who can afford cable to watch Cupcake supporter (and co-author of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S SPIN) Bryan Keefer of Spinsanity on the DAILY SHOW on Comedy Central.

Yes, that's right--Bryan will be sitting in the seat that earlier this week was filled by Bill Clinton and just yesterday by Tom Cruise.

Go Bryan!

--Elizabeth
I loved this essay by Jami Attenberg (who on September 14 will be our very first two-time Cupcake reader at our women bloggers reading night). It's so cool to see how much it changes everything to be out in the country writing for three months.

I've been reading Jami's wonderful blog since 2001, when I lived in the sticks and my fiction was completely fed by long long drives listening to albums over and over, walking the dog, and not having a cell phone. Her post makes me miss that life and wonder how to balance it with living in New York--the big nourishment for my writing seems to be that kind of quiet and space and open sky etc., but barring the west coast of course that means living in Actual America, not New York, which doesn't seem quite possible. Plus, once you find someplace beautiful, they start building MTV Cribs-looking mansions and Applebees all over the place, in my experience.

Until I figure it out, I'm just going to keep an academic schedule and take advantage of the ease of subletting a New York apartment for the summer and (knock wood) the generous miracle of artists residencies, which I'm amazed Bush hasn't tried to eradicate yet.

--Elizabeth

8.11.2004

Here at the Cupcake blog, we are like, obsessed with shoes. I mean, aren't they just the best? So much better than books or politics sometimes!!!!!! But not as good as boys IMHO. Oops. Sorry. I was just trying to find my blogging voice, and that one was Paris Hilton's.

But on the topic: In a previous career, I was a publicist working in the social justice movement (no, not a "media activist": barf) to promote progressive causes. Anyway, people always asked me what they could buy (as opposed to shopping at any one of the various banned retailers), e.g. "Is anything truly sweatshop-free?" and I felt like I never had anything especially good to say, besides, "I don't know - couture, maybe?"

Solution: Code Pink has some cute pink sneakers just in time to run into the streets and protest the boys' club that is the RNC. Perfect to wear with your blue stockings.

-Lauren

8.10.2004

I know you already read writer Maud Newton's (who read an excellent short story at Cupcake in June) much-praised blog everyday, but now there's one more reason to on Mondays: I'll be editing events, posting the best of the week to come for the smart set on Monday mornings. So bookmark it now: MaudNewton.com, and send your literary and cultural event listings, not-so-secret party invitations and all of the must-do details to lauren at maudnewton dot com.

-Lauren
I was looking for some details for a new something I'm working on, when I came across this beautiful splash of whimsy otherwise known as the Lenox Hill Bookstore webpage.

Maybe I am a little bit obsessed with this place now, all charm and abandon (I mean, between Amazon and Barnes & Noble, it kind of amazes me when I come across a bookstore that actually gives a s--- about books), with an in-house chapbook series curated by genius women writers Jennifer Egan, Lynne Tillman and Donna Tartt amongst others, and this passage from the proprietor's seasonal letter:
One book I’ve always wanted to read is Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare. It has recently been reissued in a lovely edition by Paul Dry Books with a new introduction by Alison Lurie. It is a most peculiar and enthralling novel unlike anything I’ve ever read. Miss M, the narrator of these fictional memoirs is a tiny, young woman with a passion for shells, butterflies, stars, and nature in general. The novel focuses on her twentieth year when she falls in love with a beautiful full size woman and is courted by a male dwarf. To read it is to fall under it’s spell. As the New York Times Book Review said, “Here is a great book.”
Tell me about it. Miss M. sounds like the perfect action heroine for our times.

-Lauren

8.09.2004

Today's PSA, because we couldn't have said it better ourselves [via the excellent Wonkette].

-Lauren
The Utne book club has a year's worth of quality fiction recommendations, all of which look v. interesting - several, stunning. Dana Johnson's Break Any Woman Down (May's pick) sounds exactly like the kind of smart and sexy beach read I'd like to toss in my tote, no pink cover with a picture of shoes required.

-Lauren
COMING SOON: An active sorority member's review of Pledged.

-Lauren
Ms. magazine has a list of a dozen summer reads.

-Lauren
LIKE OHMIGOD - Chun Sue is like totally the sex-crazed teenage Jonathan Franzen of modern Chinese literature, right?
High school is repressive, claustrophobic. Lyrics from rock songs provide the templates for deep feeling. ... Parents are oppressive.

Chun Sue is a bundle of contradictions.
I love that the sexy new literary movement in China is being led by a girl. More about Beijing Doll here, from the San Francisco Chronicle.

-Lauren

8.08.2004

A couple of months ago, I saw David Sedaris @ Symphony Space, and I was going to mention it but I forgot until just now. It was totally rad, but that's not the point. One of the stories he presented as one of his favorites (read beautifully by Mary Beth Hurt) was Amy Hempel's "In The Cemetary Where Al Jolson Is Buried." It was stark and moving and just plain good, so if you're a short story fan and you haven't read it, do.

PS Her fabulous story-crafting is so not lost on Chuck Palahniuk, who really hearts her work. Noted:

You will never write this well. You won't learn this part until you've ruined a lot of paper, wasting your free time with a pen in one hand for years and years. At any horrible moment, you might pick up a copy of Hempel and find your best work is just a cheap rip-off of her worst.

I think Fight Club is a work of genius (or at the very least, dead-on social satire that makes Bergdorf Blondes look like, well, Bergdorf Blondes) so that's really saying something.

-Lauren
I never thought I'd be defending chick lit, but I can't possibly let this affront slide - printed in THE NEW YORK F***ING TIMES no less:

an article wherein the author claims that a guy who dedicated a book to his dick and knows the definition of "frottage" is more clever than your average chick lit author.

Yeah right. Quite possibly even less.

-Lauren
KIM KELLY'S BOOK REVIEW

I'm speechless--check out Kim Kelly's impressions of Deenie, The Shining, and Forever here.

This is sort of like an Ann Lamott Jesus moment for me, or something. Kim Kelly sending me a little book review love as if someone just started playing that Peter Gabriel song with Kate Bush singing "don't give up" in the background of my flu day. I don't know whether it means to keep writing or to find James Franco and make out with him in the backseat of a Gremlin, but I guess it means something.

--Elizabeth
WHERE IS KIM KELLY

I have the flu, in August, what is that about? Well anyway, now that I've watched both seasons of The Office and half of Freaks and Geeks in my infirmity, someone very sweet has brought me a Sunday Times to read.

There is always a little moment of quiet dread and anticipatory anger before I open the Book Review. I almost didn't open it today, because I just did my taxes and had to look at the shocking precariousness of my finances, and in my flu-enforced quiet time I am really scared at how I have devoted myself to writing and not some sort of lucrative and stable career, and am racking my brain for a way to keep writing without having to leave my entire life in New York behind. I've tried, but I'm just not the sort of writer who can be committed to a real 9-5 and actually produce anything I'm remotely interested in. For the writing to come out of me in any true way, I have to be kind of checked out from the left-brain world for many hours a day. I can teach a bit and write, but not have a whole serious career and write.

Anyway, I'm all flu-ed up and quiet and acutely aware of this bind that is defining my adult life, entertaining visions of spending two years in writers colonies or living in a shack upstate--but this seems pointless, as I already did the sequester-yourself-and-write-a-fabulous-book thing for many years. So it's sort of like: even if I did that, what would the benefit be in the long run? Writing a serious novel seems to me just like buying a lottery ticket.

So anyway, in this state of mind, I did open the Book Review, to find that there are a whopping five fiction reviews (last time I read it there were three), and they are all of books by men. With trepidation, I counted the reviewers of those books: all men.

I was thinking: please, someone, quick, think me up some other career I could possibly be serious about. I'm sick of this. I'll do something else if there is something else I could possibly actually give a shit about. Then I thought, oh well, at least I have something to blog about, and I'm sure the Times balances this out somewhat (by which I mean has ONE woman reviewer at least) in the nonfiction reviews.

Not so.

A total of four nonfiction books reviewed by four male reviewers. That's nine books and nine critics and not a single chick in the mix. Repulsive.

So now I am thinking of the hardscrabble, fear-inducing, occasionally violent Busy Phillips character, Kim Kelly, from Freaks and Geeks, and I am dreaming of sending her into the Book Review offices to tear shit up. I am dreaming of her chasing them down in her Gremlin and giving them a little scare like she does to her almost-cheating boyfriend in my favorite episode, "Kim Kelly Is My Friend."

--Elizabeth

8.06.2004

From the Feminist Majority Foundation, this update that the Vatican has it in for us. Jeesh, and we thought the Da Vinci Code, at the very least, was keeping them busy enough. But no--Il Papa and crew have issued a document warning us of the imminent girly threat. FMF reports that:
The letter attacks the "lethal effects" of feminism, which the Vatican sees as motivated by a desire to "obscure" the "natural" differences between men and women, and thus creating what they see as the most ruinous result, helping to create a movement towards acceptance of gay marriage. . .

The document was likely spurred on by the Church's desire to prevent the ordaining of woman priests, despite pressures to do so in the face of widespread sexual abuse scandals, as well as re-state its opposition to same-sex marriage at a time when the rest of the world is increasingly moving towards acceptance, reported The Washington Post.

--Elizabeth
We here at Cupcake heart How To Kick People. Jen read a great story about her unique, satirical vision of a carb-crazed future at the first one, and I always try to go whenever I can (the last Wednesday of the month). It seems like as soon as one is over, I am already excited for the next one: August 25.

UPDATED: Those desperate for a fix (and everyone else) should check out HTKP impresario Todd Levin's play/staged reading thing as part of The Hell Festival this Tuesday, August 10. Despite the scary name and required scary trip to Brooklyn, funny people are involved. I'm sure it's lighthearted.

-Lauren
Girls Girls Girls! author Claire Zulkey has a colorful quote in a "newspaper article" about chick lit that otherwise appears to consist almost entirely of recycled press release copy and a few awkward transitions:

To wit:
"It's kind of frustrating sometimes to see all these books," said Claire Zulkey, 25. She independently published "Girls! Girls! Girls!" -- a collection of essays about being a young woman.

"As a writer you get kind of jealous. Why do these people get paid and get published?" Zulkey said. "It's just that sometimes if you're a woman writer it seem as if you have to be one way or another.

"You're either some artsy Iowa Writer's Workshop woman with wool socks or you're Plum Sykes," she said. "I would like to see a blend of the two."

I suppose that can be interpreted as: women writers who know who wrote The Great Gatsby, and those who don't.

-Lauren
Because my boyfriend is such a Cupcake booster, and not only comes to the readings but also lets Elizabeth, Jen and me trade off his connections, I'm going to return the favor and mention his hot new book out this week:

All The President's Spin: George W. Bush, The Media, and The Truth.

(highlight: pg. 324, where he acknowledges my "acid wit." awwwwww.)

UPDATED: He's going to discuss the book on The Daily Show this Thursday, August 12.

-Lauren
Cupcake alumna (July '03) Phoebe Gloeckner, author of one of the best books ever, has signed on to collaborate on a book documenting the unsolved murders of scores of young women in the maquiladora town of Ciudad Juarez:

A few of the artists working on Juárez-related projects are looking for innovative ways to address the killings from a nuanced, informed perspective while avoiding slasher-movie clichés and pulp-fiction conventions. Among the more unusual and anticipated works is a book being put together by actress Mia Kirshner (of Showtime's "The L Word") that will combine writings, photographs and other personal contributions from members of Juárez victims' families with text and illustrations reminiscent of the style of a graphic novel. The book will be issued in 2006 and also will include chapters on female refugees in the Russian republic of Ingushetia and along the Thailand-Myanmar border.

...

Artist Phoebe Gloeckner, who traveled with Kirshner to Ciudad Juárez last fall, says the book will avoid a linear narrative and attempt to relate "this kind of disjointed tale of confusion and horror and loss."

More: Time to Shout [LA Times]

-Lauren
There's a great little mini-interview with the v. fabulous Rebecca Walker @ Venus magazine. She is so cool. I know that being smart means loving C-SPAN, but I always thought watching it was the dregs until I saw her on it one night reading from one of her books and was totally mesmerized and realized that C-SPAN is fabu. But I still don't listen to NPR.

-Lauren

8.05.2004

Check out BROKEN AS THINGS ARE the just-published first novel of the amazing Martha Witt. She's so wonderful, and she's coming to read at Cupcake in November, but you should get the book now because why wait so long for such a great pleasure?

--Elizabeth
OMG, our first blind item. I ran into Sean on the subway the other day, but I didn't realize I was talking to a member of the press when I leaked a few secrets about our big plans....yikes! LOL. August posting will probably be a little lighter than usual because we are definitely gearing up for a fabulous fall. Don't despair, and do expect great things from us in the coming months.

-Lauren
Every so often, when I open the Deal Lunch email that tells me what books have sold that day, my expectations for more news of low-carb Jesus sorcery young adult nanny tell-alls don't pan out, and my ever-creeping publishing-industry-generated wrinkles of disappointment and consternation do a sort of spontaneous Botox.

Like yesterday, when Deal Lunch informed me that Margaret Cho is going to have a book out in 2005 based on her misadventures in activism, etc., called STATE OF EMERGENCY, which is also the title of her new comedy tour that starts this month.

Quick, someone take a picture before those grooves between my eyebrows make me look all grouchy again.

Also--we are so going to get her to come to Cupcake next year, yes'm.

xo
--Elizabeth

8.04.2004

It's August, and my brain has just determined that it is on vacation, although I had plans otherwise. In any case: I want to note that every time I look at our blog here I crack up, because there are almost invariably ads for chick lit or romance novels (if not the New Yorker) courtesy of Blogger at the top. How funny is that? There is something to be said here about the economic force of the Cinderella narrative, but I am drinking Diet Pepsi by the pool and the Nutrasweet has prevented me from thinking of it.

xo
--Elizabeth

An excellent read for sci-fi fans and pop-culture junkies:

"If cinematic superheroes reflect their times, what does the absence of a feminine action icon say about our era?"

Listen Up Hollywood [SF Chronicle]

-Lauren

Kim Said's smart and chatty blog (a new favorite of mine) mentioned a book I hadn't heard of before, and I'm going to make a rare recommendation of a book I haven't read, I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere by Anna Gavalda...
And when the mysterious stranger answers his cell phone on a first date in Courting Rituals of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés, our heroine decides she has heard enough to cut short what could have been a passionate love affair. ("I come to my senses all at once. Traitor. Ingrate.")

...because that so sums up my attitude this week.

-Lauren

8.03.2004

Genius material: I tried to tweak the blog design a bit just before bed and accidentally deleted the links. I'm trying to be zen about it, so I'll reorganize them in a more user-friendly way and have them back up Tues. afternoon.

-Lauren

8.02.2004

Nevermind what I'm doing in Pennsylvania watching VH1 at 11am on a Monday.

What you want to be asking is: Why did Barbara Kopple, one of our major documentary filmmakers of the 70s, (definitely check out "Harlan County, U.S.A." if you haven't seen it before) end up directing VH1's "I Married Carnie Phillips"?

AND, is there any way that a man with the stature Kopple had in the documentary film world would ever be doing that kind of stuff?

That's not a rhetorical question: I actually want to hear some examples. I want you to say, yeah, look, Freddy Wiseman directed this Tide commercial.

But somehow I doubt it. To me it looks like the same thing I keep seeing in magazines: the serious women artists/writers go way downmarket to survive. The women who went to college with the guys who write for the New Yorker are earning their own money by writing lipstick articles for Conde Nast women's mags, and they're also supporting the New Yorker with those lipstick articles.

I love lipstick, but still--bleh.

--Elizabeth

8.01.2004

IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN'T MY BABY?

I was going to do a nice little current events post earlier this evening about reading literature, but I was totally distracted by a chick-lit title so bad and lame and then some that caught my eye in a newspaper column. Of course I had to look it up, and I can only describe the plot, the cover, and the whole aim of the enterprise with one word: egregious.

Usually my policy is not to give any publicity in this space to things that aren't worth it, but if you have to hit rock bottom to realize how bad chick-lit is for the world and civilization as a whole, then I suggest you get acquainted with THE ACCIDENTAL VIRGIN.

Rather than discuss that at length, I'll just paraphrase a choice line from gifted comic-actress Molly Shannon's highly-underrated Superstar: THE ACCIDENTAL VIRGIN is "special...so special, it belongs in special ed."

Much more deserving of publicity: the long-awaited, oh-so-needed return of THE OXFORD AMERICAN, which is the only thing I'd take to a deserted island, even if it meant having to leave behind my favorite sunscreen and instructions on how to build a coconut radio.

-Lauren

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