Wishing you and yours a Very Cupcake Holiday -- we'll be back just before the New Year with our Top 10.



Baby, to call you a Neanderthal is $100 extra!

Check the new Observer article, by the dashing and brilliant Wesley Yang, on n+1:
"These guys should know from their studies at Yale that, as Harold Bloom said, every generation of young men comes along and kills the father and says they are going to start a revolution and say the things no one has ever said before," said Elizabeth Merrick, the co-founder of the Cupcake Reading Series. Ms. Merrick was recently named New York’s "Best Feminist Literary Whistle-Blower" by The Village Voice for criticizing the established journals of opinion—The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books—for their 80 to 90 percent male (she counts them up) cast of writers. Ms. Merrick admires n+1’s writing, but "the real revolution would’ve been to have half women and half men. Another elite boys’ club—we have enough of those already."

"How can they possibly call us chest-thumping Neanderthals?" mused Mr. Gessen. "I mean—have they looked at Marco?" Mr. Roth’s feline features and wild Jew-fro make for the kind of profile you picture caricatured on a Barnes and Noble bag: the languid eyes, the pallor, the graceful arabesques of a cigarette-bearing hand, the suggestion of innumerable allergies, the diminutive man’s proud hauteur. For Mr. Gessen, the "male-centric" problem will be solved with the next issue, which is slated to have at least three new female contributions, including "a magnificent 20,000-word essay from a six-foot-tall Turkish woman," Elif Batuman, about Isaac Babel.

Mr. Roth concedes "there is probably an intensity to our bonding—and our fights—that being all male has helped." He continues: "The women in our lives are successful professionals. Their attitude toward this project has been one of justified condescension. Now the magazine exists, and we’ll see what happens next."
Dude. I am getting a little sick of reiterating this:

1. We are not suggesting that editors/guy writers are sexist in their personal lives. I know you're not dating your secretary.

2. Our complaints at Cupcake have to do with equal pay for equal work, and about the glass ceilings in the literary world.

3. Three women writers is better than one woman writer. But three of nineteen (the number of contributors to n+1's first issue) is less than 16 percent. So that's 84 percent men. I'm supposed to ignore this because you all date smart women? I love the work you're doing but come on.

4. Just because your woman writer is so tall doesn't mean her contribution counts as two female bylines.


Huge SNAPS to Elizabeth for the qote in the Observer article. For you I throw my beret towards the heavens.

Cupcake Liberation Front 2005!

Bonjourno Cupcakes!

I Just returned from a weekend in Venice where I had the pleasure to see San Marco Square and watch giddy tourists take photos of one another while hundreds of pigeons hovered above and sprayed them with pigeon shit. It was a horrifying site but no one seemed to be bothered by it! Don’t worry dearies, I took plenty of photos.

Now that I am back in France and fully recovered from my jet lag I am in an especially good mood today, for specifically these three reasons:

There is this really funny site I stumbled onto this morning and then I realized it’s not a joke, which to me only makes it funnier.

CNN just announced that they will be launching a new program in 2005 Ohhh, I can’t wait to hear what the jerks over at FOX will have to say about this.

And lastly, at the local market I just placed my first order to reserve a Goose for our Christmas Eve feast (brag).

I am so excited for next Cupcake in January for many reasons, but most importantly that I will actually be able to attend this one!

Wishing you all a warm and merry Winter Solstice.




Note to self: remember to get a piece on This American Life and in the Times the same weekend, just before book comes out, like Curtis Sittenfeld just did.

Her article today makes me wonder how many other women writers did like I did and finally got over their self-consciousness and doubt and started writing because they were so sick of the specter or reality of groupie-possibilities in the heads of their budding-musician boyfriends. You kind of want that same kind of adoration your drummer or trumpet player or guitarist boyfriend gets when he gets onstage, but you kind of also are so irritated with the whole setup, that stupid adulation of a guy who you know shoots rats and gets indignant/cries when his sister calls him fat.

It's more like: I got totally sick of the whole concept of groupieness, of these smart, determined women throwing their everything at Mr. Rat-Shooter. So silly! You don't want the groupies so much, you just want to get away from the gross setup where women are throwing panties and lives at "male genius"--so boring! And ew! You want to do your own thang thang, so you have pictures of Bjork up all over the house and your next boyfriend, the high-school teacher, wins fights by quoting back Tori Amos lyrics at you. I guess I have a lot of meandering things to say about this, which is why my second novel is about rock star wives and quantum physics, so for now, do yourself a favor and check out what Curtis Sittenfeld has to say:
The thing about groupie stories, and this is especially true of the salacious ones, is that they always seem to feature men in the starring roles. What I've been wondering lately is, has any woman writer -- ever, anywhere -- had a groupie? Does, say, Barbara Kingsolver get phone numbers after the bookstore closes? Do 20-year-old boys throw their boxer shorts at Toni Morrison? And finally, if women do indeed have groupies, might I acquire some for myself?

Based on conversations with editors, booksellers and fellow writers, I've come to believe women can have groupies, or at least there are plenty of female writers who strike the fancy of male readers. The catch is that typically these women fall into one -- or both -- of two categories: either the woman is very attractive or she writes a lot about sex. In the first category are, from the 70's, Jayne Anne Phillips; from the 80's, Susan Minot; from the 90's, Donna Tartt; and, most recently, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith and Nell Freudenberger. The more sexed-up category includes writers from Erica Jong to Amy Sohn.

These are skilled writers, and some I admire greatly, but I'm pretty sure that their talent isn't the only reason men have a thing for them. Basically, I'm not convinced that female writers can transcend their hotness, that they can elicit lust based on literary prowess alone -- not because they're women, that is, but because they're writers. In an exception that proves the rule, my friend Antoine read the works of a well-known novelist and critic and developed ''the most epic crush of all time'' on her. ''Something about her prose made me think that she was of such companionable intelligence that I felt deeply attracted to her, whoever she might be,'' he said. Or at least he felt that way until he saw her picture and realized she's in her 70's, 40 years his senior. Of course, that's about the same age difference as that between a much-lauded male novelist I know of and the dewy-eyed students he dates in the New York program where he teaches. . . .

Groupie inequity applies not only to age but also to self-presentation. Jim Behrle, who has directed events at three independent bookstores in Boston and now works part time at BookCourt in Brooklyn, told me: ''There's something charming and forgivable about the slacker rock star literary guy who shows up in his AC/DC shirt and hasn't washed in a couple days. But I don't think women can pull that off as easily.''
What a Cupcake, this Sittenfeld.

You totally don't need to write a book as a woman to get groupies. This is what cracks me up about how insecure women get about their appearance or whatever. All you need to do to have groupies is be a woman, and be relatively happy--I mean not even that happy, look at C-Love. Let me amend: all you really have to do to have groupies is be a woman and do whatever the hell you want.

Sittenfeld writes: "I mean, where's the victory in getting people to love you because you're cute? Put on lipstick and a short skirt and, hell, you can get hit on without even going to the trouble of writing a book. But if I can show up for readings belching and reeking, arranging myself in unbecoming positions, and still manage to win adulation? Now that would be equality." You know, I think there is that possibility--and you'll weed out the timid ones, a perk--I just think it's a rougher road because while you do get your groupies and your fans, you also get the full-force backlash by the patriarchal establishment. My dad still winces whenever he hears the words "Roseanne Barr" from that time she sang the national anthem, for example. But who's got the pink Bentley now dad, hmm?



It must be Christmas because I woke up (a month late, natch) to find one of the essays that is one of those personal jesuses in my feminist understanding of the planet online over chez the fine Lynne D. Johnson. (Via that mystery girl over in our current fave boy blogger Sasha's world.)

I'll put up an excerpt here, but I can't urge you strongly enough to go read the whole thing over at Lynne's. bell hooks is so on point: she also goes into that Jane Campion movie The Piano and dismantles its near-universal NPR-applause.

The bold action at the end is from me: English departments, awards committees, Harper's, New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, etc.: this "middle-class decorum" means you.

"Misogyny, gangsta rap, and The Piano," by bell hooks, ZMagazine, February 1994

For the past several months white mainstream media has been calling me to hear my views on gangsta rap. Whether major television networks, or small independent radio shows, they seek me out for the black and feminist "take" on the issue. After I have my say, I am never called back, never invited to do the television shows or the radio spots. I suspect they call, confident that when we talk they will hear the hardcore "feminist" trash of gangsta rap. When they encounter instead the hardcore feminist critique of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, they lose interest. . . .

The sexist, misogynist, patriarchal ways of thinking and behaving that are glorified in gangsta rap are a reflection of the prevailing values in our society, values created and sustained by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. As the crudest and most brutal expression of sexism, misogynistic attitudes tend to be portrayed by the dominant culture as an expression of male deviance. In reality they are part of a sexist continuum, necessary for the maintenance of patriarchal social order. While patriarchy and sexism continue to be the political and cultural norm in our society, feminist movement has created a climate where crude expressions of male domination are called into question, especially if they are made by men in power. It is useful to think of misogyny as a field that must be labored in and maintained both to sustain patriarchy but also to serve as an ideological anti-feminist backlash. And what better group to labor on this "plantation" than young black men. . . .

Gangsta rap is part of the anti-feminist backlash that is the rage right now. When young black males labor in the plantations of misogyny and sexism to produce gangsta rap, their right to speak this violence and be materially rewarded is extended to them by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Far from being an expression of their "manhood," it is an expression of their own subjugation and humiliation by more powerful, less visible forces of patriarchal gangsterism. They give voice to the brutal raw anger and rage against women that it is taboo for "civilized" adult men to speak. No wonder then that they have the task of tutoring the young, teaching them to eroticize and enjoy the brutal expressions of that rage (teaching them language and acts) before they learn to cloak it in middle-class decorum or Robert Bly style reclaimings of lost manhood.

xo Elizabeth


Jessica Hopper: so Cupcake!
You wind up sitting there, making puppy eyes at [editors] going "What if I promise not to use "steez" and made up words? What if I promise not to skew my review-thesis with gender?" and they tell you, affirmingly, that they really love your writing, you are a favorite perhaps, and that "emo is sexist" essay was 'really important' - but. But.

So, I am going back to doing what I did last time everyone gave me the gasface. Make my own magazine, get back in the lab with the pen and the pad. Which, as much as I love doing Hit it or Quit it, and despite, knowing in my heart that it really is the best American fanzine ever published since Creem (if you've read it, you know it's not just cockiness here), right now, I am daunted by the struggle of it. I kind of wish someone would just gift me editor/publishership of say JANE or Teen Vogue, and me and Julianne could just run it into the ground slowly by putting The Black Peppercorns and dead prez on the cover, with a giant paper mache Biz Markie doll sandwiched between them.

So, yeah, thats the really extended remix version of telling that Hit it or Quit it is back in action again, and is going to be a real magazine. As real as we can get it. As real as we keep it.
The revolution is definitely not going down in Teen Vogue. Read the rest.

I've been neglecting you. I'm sorry, darling. It has nothing to do with how sexy and intelligent you are. The hawkish among you may have noticed that I updated my other blog twice today. This state of affairs is not lost on me.

I should tell you though that I am still a little in awe of how stellar Tuesday's Cupcake was, with Nell and Dika reading and Katherine once again leading a discussion. I am a little blown away by this whole experience, and how many truly amazing people we've met - readers, writers, editors, booksellers, everyone. The support that we've found for this project is truly phenomenal.

Also, that party I mentioned last night? It was off the hook. I had a fabulous time, and then I was walking across town to catch my bus in the East Village (I prefer to take the bus up First Ave very late at night due to the Hopperesque qualities of the experience), I slipped and fell and totally smashed my knee. I'm okay, but I have a whalloping bruise casting shadows on my kneecap that has slowed me down and made me a bit more inclined to take it easy.

So I'm taking a breather from the discourse today, and listening to the coveted cd that new friend Sasha was kind enough to bring to me on Tuesday.

Right now I am working on a profile of an artist I just interviewed for a new magazine, and I need to attend to some cash flow-related matters that keep the tiny corporation that is Lauren, Inc. in business.

Posting may be light again tomorrow, as I am working on a longer piece that will seem like a present but is really just a reward for your patience at the moment.


I ran into Pitchaya Sudbanthad, editor of the excellent Konundrum Engine Literary Review, at a party tonight, and he wanted me to tell you that he would really like to get some killer submissions from women writers.

I told him he'd better expect an avalanche, so click here to rock the joint.




"Nell Freudenberger's acclaimed debut collection of short fiction deals neither with shoe sales nor weight loss, making her an exception among young, published women writers of late. Instead, the American expats of her Lucky Girls grapple with love and personal history in relative isolation while living abroad in Asia. Freudenberger reads alongside Dika Lam, whose forthcoming novel bridges a similar geographical gap. Afterward, journalist Katherine Lanpher moderates a discussion between the two authors in this latest installment of the Cupcake reading series, which combats the prevailing chick-lit trend by showcasing New York's best female literary talent."

True, true, and true. Well, color me dazzled and check it out here!

The Smart Set, my weekly to-do list at MaudNewton.com is up, and it's pretty good this week, if I don't say so myself. Oh wait, I just did.

I'm working on that.

Cupcake is tonight, and the air is positively crackling with excitement! We're so pleased that Nell Freudenberger (Lucky Girls*) and emerging writer Dika Lam will be reading from their work. And, we are so blessed to have her back once again: Katherine Lanpher, co-host of Air America's Al Franken Show, will moderate a discussion immediately afterwards.

Details on the event and more can be found here.

This month, we're delighted to say that we were shortlisted in The New York Press, listed as an editor's "pick" in The Village Voice, listed in New York, The L magazine, and elsewhere! We've gotten so many nice mentions from our blog friends as well. Thank you, writer-people: Your support means the world to us. And looking forward to seeing everyone in just a few short hours!


*If you're not familiar with Lucky Girls - winner of the 2004 PEN/Malamud Award - The Complete Review is a great place to start.
The other day I noticed that Bikram Yoga Lower East Side linked to Cupcake, which was quite lovely as I am very fond of yoga classes although I can't afford to attend them as frequently as I used to before I moved here.

I emailed director Tricia Donegan to see what kind of special offers she might have to pass on to you darling Cupcakes during this stressful time of year. Says Tricia, "I am happy to offer your cupcake fans an intro week special for just $20, unlimited yoga for the whole week."

If you do decide to go get blissed out at that unbeatable rate, please do tell them Cupcake sent you. We'll see you there!



Hello Cupcakes-

Lauren has handed me the travel baton and now I am off to France for the holidays. Sad to be missing tomorrow’s Cupcake, I’ve decided to re-read Amélie Nothomb's Fear and Trembling on the plane to cheer me up. If you haven’t had the pleasure to read her work, I suggest you start with Fear and Trembling and if you've already read it then go watch the movie.

Nothomb is the darling of the French literary world. Belgium born and raised in Japan, Amélie has written 12 novels, is a winner of France's Grand Prix de l'Academie and now resides in Paris - did I mention she's thirty six? Her work is dark, comical and at times grotesque and wildly absurd - She is so cupcake she doesn't even know it! I've yet to read all of her books because only four are translated into English - merde! And don't pay any attention to what they say about her in this week’s NYTBR. For some reason Amélie Nothomb is one of those writers critics love to hate.

My Cupcake wish list for 2005: Amélie Nothomb

Bonnes Fetes!

I love that Elfriede Jelinek quote below, but I'm not sure I buy it.

Sure, most people believe that women lose their value as they age, and certainly (I just saw Sideways this weekend), the whole Barely Legal phenomenon is real, and nasty, etc.

But: I think it's about the fact that women buy into this little panic and doubt about losing their power as they age. Bulletin to the women of America (and Austria, I suppose): sexual power is not about some grim gym routine or surgery or dumbass craigslist point of view, it's about just being a woman. And being happy. As with so many things these days, for guidance, we must look at the way things are in France. The immense beauty of French women has to do with their attitude towards womanhood and pleasure, not with putting on some spandex and a baseball cap and sweating all over a cardio machine all afternoon on a Sunday. To say women have power through their "body, beauty, and youth" is not true at face value. Women get punished all the time professionally for being too close to the supposed beauty ideal, and for being too young. But this is true about beauty: women's power is equivalent to the degree to which they harness beauty and happiness for themselves.

Dear god please don't let my relatives ever read this blog, but it's about this: Who has the pussy? Meaning: if you're a woman, and you know what a badass you are, and you're doing what you feel like doing, and you're doing whatever is a little scary for you and learning to ignore your doubt (and Barely Legal, and the Swan, and Anna Wintour etc.), you have at all times an adoring cadre of amazing men, (including our venture capitalist friend here at Cupcake, for example), willing to do almost anything for you.

Yes: you will eventually get raked over the coals by Fox News, the NYT Book Review, and possibly the feds.

Yes: men still control 99 percent of the resources on the planet, and 80 percent of the New Yorker. Yes: that is fucked up. Yes: beauty standards are insane and weirdly porn star/California aerobic instructor if you look at your television. But you can't just sit around and expect the men to be able to change that shit. According to my friend Regena, this is the kind of thing men think up without a woman around: monster truck extravaganzas.

Let me look at this Jelinek quote again:

"As long as men are able to increase their sexual value through work, fame or wealth, while women are only powerful through their body, beauty and youth, nothing will change."

Jelinek also says:

"A woman who becomes famous through her work reduces her erotic value. A woman is permitted to chat or babble, but speaking in public with authority is still the greatest transgression."

It's this second quotation that is most interesting to me: I don't really buy that success inhibits your sexual power as a woman, but I do buy that a woman speaking with authority in a male realm, oh, say, American letters, is still a threat. The New Yorker is so nice to keep us from these huge transgressions by giving us 20 percent of their bylines, and making sure that that 20 percent always includes a babbly'n'chatty dance, television, or fashion review.This is where I believe in focusing our attention for change, this is where I believe we need a collective effort to first expose the lame, outdated sexism and then even things up. The other stuff: it's an inside job.

One of the best things to love about Cupcake - not to mention being a feminist sex bomb - is that men will always find a way to let you know that they're down with the revolution once they realize you're all over it.

Last night at a cocktail party, just as my attention started to flag, the guy who I was chatting with segued topics from the long weekend he recently spent skiing in Switzerland to the "absolute outrage" of sexism.

On Friday, one of our most ardent fans, who is surprisingly not a record-store clerk or a graduate student in Women's Studies but a venture capitalist, asked me casually during dinner if I read the recent New York Times interview with the Nobel Prize-winning writer Elfriede Jelinek. I missed it.

There was a brief period in time - September, October - when I felt obligated to read and comment on every story about women and literature and feminism, as well as call out all sexist reporting, etc. but it started to feel rather stifling and myopic so I just read whatever I want now and blog whenever I feel like it.

When I replied that I hadn't read it, he said: "Really? She has the best line," and proceeded to quote verbatim from memory: "As long as men are able to increase their sexual value through work, fame or wealth, while women are only powerful through their body, beauty and youth, nothing will change."

My first thought was: Is this moment ironic? Right behind it: Oh, Elfriede: so goddamn right it's scary! Anyway, he is so best. He just sent me a reminder to read the interview, and now I'm passing it along to you.



Occasional (and too infrequent) drinking buddy and Cupcake alum (September 2004) Emma Garman writes in to share an observation:
Just wanted to share my dismay.  Reading this week's Onion, I perused the best of 2004 lists from the regular music critics.  I hadn't actually noticed before that all six of them are men!  Are women not allowed to write about music?  Consequently I think there's a female/male artist ratio in the lists of about 2-8.  Isn't this typical?
I'm so glad I was listening to "Miss World" when I got that email: Courtney Love will save us all.

Emma Garman has a blog, but she is too busy being fabulous to update it these days. The buzz I've heard is that she may soon be guest-blogging at MaudNewton.com, our home away from home, one Friday a month...

Usually, Tommy Lee is pretty much the opposite of what would I would characterize as an inspiration. However, I am loving the back-page interview that he did with next month's issue of Elle magazine (not online), e.g.
ELLE: Here's the multiple-choice portion of the test. The number of partners you've had could fill: (a) a city bus; (b) the Viper Room; (c) Madison Square Garden; or (d) Rhode Island.

Tommy Lee: Maybe (b), though the Viper Room might be a little small. But you know what, dude? I lost count a long time ago.

ELLE: At what point?

Tommy Lee: Around 85.

ELLE: That's not such a shocking number.

Tommy Lee: No, 1985, the year.
My resolution for 2005 (the year): Be more like Tommy Lee, in every way.



Dika Lam, one of the Cupcakes who will be reading her work on Tuesday to all you darling Cupcakes here in town, wrote a story for One Story - edited by Cupcake alum (October '03) Hannah Tinti, no less - a while back, and although the excerpt and interview are brief, I just can't get enough...I guess it helps that I went to Cornell and know well the Gothic suicide trope of which she speaks...
Where did you go to college? Was it a similar environment to this campus?
I borrowed quite a bit of Cornell University's geography for this story. When I was an undergraduate there, a professor jumped off a bridge. I believe the headline in the student newspaper ran along the lines of "Professor Commits Suicide As Stunned Students Watch." Years later, I started wondering what it must have been like for those stunned students, which led me to speculate about what would happen if the loss of one role model was duplicated en masse. There's a prevailing myth that Cornell has the highest suicide rate among colleges. The truth is that other schools don't have the dramatic scenery—the deep gorges that lend themselves to sensationalism. Then again, there was another incident where a young woman accidentally fell into a gorge and landed on a raccoon. She lived; the raccoon wasn't so lucky.
True story, at One Story.


Samantha Hunt, author of The Seas, is reading tonight in Brooklyn. Details and a holiday gift recommendation from her are waiting for you at Beatrice.




Hey ladies, looking for some extra cash for the holidays? Well, look no further. Here's a little gem I found on craigslist.

Gotta love it!

Reminds me of an old joke I use to do in my comedy routine:
I just read in USA Today that feminism is making a come back. Isn't that exciting! I have few suggestions for all those up-and-coming women libbers out there - This time around try wearing a little rouge... a cute mini-skirt, perhaps. Instead of burning your bra invest in a nice wire support one at Victoria's Secret. Sex it up a little, 'cause everybody knows ladies, sex sells.

Feminism: The most abused word in the English language.

I invite everyone to email this asshole and forward him every junk mail, chain letter and Nigerian bank scam you have in your trash can. He is ripe for abuse.


Next Tuesday's Cupcake is a pick in The New York Press (click, then scroll down to the last item, which says...):

The only reason we go to readings is for the tweed skirts and horn-rimmed specs, and this one's bound to be a sausage fest, full of suckers who think they stand a chance with a Harvard hottie with the best name ever who, while working for The New Yorker, banked a cool six-figures for her debut story collection. But it should be hilarious watching blazer-wearing dweebs buy Freudenberger drinks or, worse, buy a copy of her book then ask her to fill in the seven digits after the "617" area code already inscribed. Chill, fellas. That's our move. Lolita Bar, 266 Broome St. (Allen St.), 212-966-7223; 7:30, free.
It's an intriguing fantasy of Cupcake in a post-apocalyptic, Blade Runner-esque future, no?

Thanks for the love, NYP!


PS. A big shout out also to New York magazine for listing us, too!
Elizabeth and I have spent a lot of time discussing her forthcoming novel, Girly, that may be the first book from a future Cupcake publishing imprint if it works out (e.g. is massively profitable and I finally get that pink Bentley with the endangered species fur interior that I have been wishing for all these years).

I have known Elizabeth for six years (less than the time it took her to write Girly), and it's so exciting that this amazing, mythic, near-legendary underground sensation will finally see the light of day. It's hard to articulate how much the book inspired and shaped the Cupcake concept and vision.

We are going to meet up soon to work on her entirely grassroots publicity plan. Here is my question to you for today, lovely Cupcake reader: Are you a blogger, writer, or editor-type person who would like to interview Elizabeth about her book and writing and le Cupcake? Or a reading series coordinator who would like to book our own Ms Merrick to read in Spring or Summer 2005?

If so, please email mail [at] cupcakeseries [dot] com. All inquiries will be considered and responded to in a timely fashion, and you can go to sleep tonight knowing that I will love you forever.

Why is Sasha Frere-Jones the only person I read in the New Yorker anymore?




Why not dazzle your loved ones with books by some of the ultrafabulous women writers who have read at Cupcake?


PHOEBE GLOECKNER: Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures.

MARJANE SATRAPI: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.


JESSICA DULONG: Steady as She Goes: Women's Adventures at Sea.

DONNA MINKOWITZ: Ferocious Romance.


HANNAH TINTI: Animal Crackers.

JAMI ATTENBERG: Instant Love, #2.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z.




SUSAN CHOI: American Woman.

SUKI KIM: The Interpreter.

AMANDA STERN: The Long Haul.

MAGGIE ESTEP: Gargantuan: A Ruby Murphy Mystery.

DANYEL SMITH: More Like Wrestling.

T COOPER: Some of the Parts.

ZOE HELLER: What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal

HEIDI JON SCHMIDT: The Bride of Catastrophe.

MONIQUE TRUONG: The Book of Salt.

MARTHA WITT: Broken as Things Are.


KATE WALBERT: Our Kind [Scheduled to read at Cupcake in Jan 05]

FELICIA LUNA LEMUS: Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties [Scheduled to read at Cupcake in Jan 05]

MAXINE SWANN: Serious Girls [Scheduled to read at Cupcake in Feb 05]

SAMANTHA HUNT: The Seas [Scheduled to read at Cupcake in Feb 05]

The next Cupcake is just a week away, featuring readings by Nell Freudenberger and Dika Lam!

Journalist Katherine Lanpher will moderate a short discussion immediately following the reading.

Essentials: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 7:30PM, at Lolita, 266 Broome Street (at Allen), Lower East Side, NYC. FREE.

Nell Freudenberger has taught English in Bangkok and New Delhi, and currently lives in New York City. Lucky Girls is her first book.

Dika Lam is a native of Ontario, Canada. She attended Cornell and New York University, where she was a New York Times fellow in the MFA program. Her stories have appeared in Story, Scribner's Best of the Fiction Workshops 1999, Washington Square, One Story, and elsewhere. She was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference and has received awards from the Bread Loaf and Wesleyan Writers' Conferences. She is currently working on a novel about a matchmaker's daughter who is sent on a roadtrip to sabotage her sister's wedding.

Katherine Lanpher is co-host of "The Al Franken Show," heard on Air America Radio and seen on the Sundance Channel. Before moving to New York to join Al, she was the host of a weekday talk show on Minnesota Public Radio and the host of "Talking Volumes," a broadcast book club that featured writers from Margaret Atwood to Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie to .... Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is also a former newspaper columnist and reporter. Her latest writing -- an essay on the rigors of becoming a New Yorker -- appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times.

Bluestockings will have copies of Lucky Girls available for sale.


The Smart Set, the weekly event listings that I compile for MaudNewton.com, is up. This week has a special theme: The Seven Deadly Sins.
12.10: [Lust] Thumb through a copy of The Sexual Life of Catherine M., the beyond racy and often quite rude adventures of a Parisian art critic who sleeps around, and around, and around, and around, with few complaints and no regrets. The author recounts one sexual encounter after another, and dialogue between characters is spare but entertaining: "What sort of people did you meet at orgies? Middle class types?"
If you are a writer, artist, curator, editor, reading series coordinator, etc. do send me your events for consideration at lauren at maudnewton dot com.



Elizabeth and I were interviewed about our Cupcake blog, along with Ed Champion, Michael Orthofer, MJ Rose, Nathalie Chicha, Lizzie Skurnick, Mad Max Perkins, Kassia Krozser, Megan of BookDwarf, and Sam Jones, by Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network for his second "blogger's e-panel."

EWN: What do you hope to accomplish with your efforts?

Lauren: Long-term: Nothing less than a full-blown revolution. Mid-range: Go on Oprah! Short term: We'd like to create more opportunities for women writers (including us, of course) to make their voices heard.

Elizabeth: Yes. Also--I got so sick of explaining the sexism in conversations, you know, at a cocktail party or something--the sexism in the publishing industry is a major emporer's-new-clothes situation so the second you make a nod to it, people tend to either want to agree with you or get in an argument with you about it. I want the entire Cupcake argument online so that I can just give someone a web address and talk about more social, festive things.
Again, you can read the whole thing (and there are lots of clever and insightful comments from everyone) here.



For some reason, I'm reading rock-girlfriend tell-alls from the seventies. I just finished Angie Bowie's book, Backstage Passes, and I'm moving on to Bebe Buell's less elegant Rebel Heart. I think that the next long fiction I write is going to be in this area--I'm very interested in what we want from our rock stars, I'm obsessed with why so many people--girls--are so willing to give themselves over--as groupies, as wives--for such little reward. Even footage of a crazed stadium audience for anyone except say Bruce Springsteen really flummoxes me--all these folks are so willing to give it up so easily. I've written fiction in this realm before, but there's so much more here. Why do girls give it all over--not just their bodies, but their potential, their imagination? Proximity, a few goodies, but--what else? I guess it's a busyness, drama, failure of imagination, and of course, entrenched sexism, the near-impossibility, in the sixties and seventies almost absolute but still there to some extent today, to imagine a woman rock star with wildness and power on the same scale as all those boys.

This is why I love Tori Amos--when you see her live, she channels Little Richard, Steven Tyler, Mick Jagger, Elton John--you can see them in her. Bowie, of course. Prince. But also Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Carole King. That huge rock star space that the men mapped out first, but she takes it to a new level, and maps out in the songs how to get there without camping out in front of a hotel room door, doing too much coke, and having inorgasmic bells-and-whistles sex with someone famous you don't know.

Bebe Buell just wants, as she says repeatedly, "rock and roll." Also, she tells a few mean stories that seem made-up to make her rivals look bad: Cyrinda Foxe breaking the zippers on all Bebe's size six dresses, a gaggle of rock stars including Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart sleeping in an attic to avoid Angie Bowie's advances. Angie Bowie is more complex and spiritual, obsessed with pushing gender boundaries, determined and devoted to her vision of David's ascendance. Buell was more of just a pretty girl with ADD out for an adventure. Both of them put up with ridiculous amounts of infidelity--they just sort of grinned and bore it. Or broke shit and bore it. Or disappeared with Jimmy Page for a week, returned with jewelry and shoes, and bore it.



The Elegant Variation kicks off a new feature, The 3-Minute Interview, with an illuminating chat featuring author Lydia Millet, whose next novel, entitled Everyone's Pretty, is due out from Softskull in February.

Lydia M. recommends Lydia Davis as the best author TEV's never heard of, which led me to this exchange on Bomb, wherein Davis is interviewed by Francine Prose, who is just fabulous*.

*Prose wrote an article for Harper's a few years ago about sexism amongst the publishing scene's literary beacons that is, unfortunately, not available online, but most assuredly maximum rock 'n' roll.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (November 04) writes a moving op-ed for The New York Times about "the complex layers of injustice" that turn the simple task of renewing a visa into a much larger ordeal.

Writing for Newsday, Maud Newton (June 04) reviews Turkish novelist Elif Shafek's attempts to "transform what Proust called the 'cracked kettle' of human speech into something transcendent," with The Saint of Incipient Insanities.

Rachel Kramer Bussel (September 04) is The Village Voice's newest sex columnist!




This past Thanksgiving weekend I had the pleasure of going to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in D.C with my brother, sister and nine year old niece. We checked out the fossils, dinosaurs, ice age room and then the history of man room. My niece's eyes lit up when she saw the neaderthal skulls and a replica of the cave man dwellings. In the middle of the room was an empty plexi-glass display with a sign that read, "The Evolution of Man" and then a Xeroxed paper taped just underneath: "THIS SITE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND SOME NEW AND EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS! PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER."

My cynical older brother mumbled, "Yeah, check back later when you can see the new God's Creation of Man display". I piped in with, "I can't wait to see Adams rib and the original apple that damned us all!"

My brother then informed that he wasn't kidding and that several states are now trying to legally ban the teaching of Darwin's evolution in schools. "No way." I said and then I found this, and then this. Yes way!
"God created earth and man in his image," another parent, Patricia Fuller, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Leave this garbage out of the textbooks. I don't want anybody taking care of me in a nursing home some day to think I came from a monkey."
What an optimist you are. To have the gall to think that you, Patricia Fuller, will have that kind of comprehensive health coverage and have the luxury of living in a nursing home in your golden years? HA! That's more outlandish than the theory of you being the by-product of some dude's rib.

Fact or theory?

-xxxooo Jen



Margaret Carlson, (and your editors) at The Los Angeles Times, you are rocking my world today:
Just as Rather never rose to the iconic stature of Cronkite, Rather's replacement won't rise to the level of Rather. Cable is nipping at the heels of broadcast news; by the time broadcast news comes on, cable has chewed over everything that's happened that day. News is balkanized into financial, entertainment, political and red-state/blue-state sectors. Young audiences won't sit still for stories about "Your Health" amid ads for Imodium and denture cream; they've already decamped to Jon Stewart's "Daily Show." Many viewers prefer their news predigested by similarly like-minded ideologues such as Bill O'Reilly. The network news audience can only get smaller.

When a job is sufficiently devalued, a woman can have it. Witness the rise in female doctors once HMOs sucked all the money and glamour out of the profession. Broadcast journalism is in a slump. The money's short, the prestige low, exotic foreign assignments over, unless you count Fallouja.

Still, we're likely to have a woman president before we have a woman anchor on the networks.
Brilliant and true.


(second title submitted with the following item by an alert reader!)
From a Washington Post story about abstinence-only education - this is the kicker paragraph:

Some course materials cited in Waxman's report present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for "admiration" and "sexual fulfillment" compared with a woman's need for "financial support." One book in the "Choosing Best" series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. "Moral of the story," notes the popular text: "Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess."
Right, yes, of course, the moral: No one wants to marry a harpie when they can beat a virgin. Hmmm...I am genuinely surprised that the last sentence doesn't say "turn him INTO a princess..." you'd think they'd be clever enough to get a shot at everyone, no?

Cost-saving idea: Why not just hand out single sheets of paper to the boys that say "VAGINA DENTATA," and leave the girls sitting in a dark classroom with the door shut? Why, it's the same outcome, and it's cheap cheap cheap! More money for tax refunds and gun rebates!

I do believe I have found my calling ... as an abstinence-only "sex educator." Faith-based initiators....call me! My number's still (212) FUCK-YOU.



Today's special feature is a guest column by Dan Wickett, the mastermind behind the Emerging Writers Network. As Dan would say, Enjoy:

"Writers, especially, and the decision makers who can make a difference in the level of success that women writers attain in both the literary canon and the marketplace: editors, agents, and, most of all, readers." - Lauren Cerand

"...the struggles of many writers (including myself) to get published, get tenure-track jobs, win awards, etc." - Elizabeth Merrick

The above quotes come from responses to questions I posed to both Lauren and Elizabeth (among others) about their literary blog and who they hope to have an effect on with it. When emailing with these two, or reading their passionate words and thoughts posted at this very site, it becomes very clear that they want nothing more than to find an even keel within the publishing industry. A place, if you will, where they, as women, will have the same opportunities as any man.

When you get this passionate about something, anything really, it becomes easy to get in one mode and really focus. I'm not completely sure that this has been the case, but the postings at the Cupcake blog have been great in terms of finding fault with various aspects of the industry. Based on their posts, it's become clearer all the time that they don't have to look all that far to find such problems. In some cases, they are so blatant that it's difficult to believe there aren't more people out there clamoring. In other cases, it is only after reading many of the posts that you begin to see the subtle nuances that these women have uncovered.

I think it's time, however, to look at a brighter side of things. While the negative aspects of this search for evenhandedness are so overwhelming, I think those that are doing what they can to keep things sensible should be commended. In this case, I'd like to point towards the work of the publishing/editing team of Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson.

Fred and Greg first teamed up (professionally) at MacMurray & Beck. Fred was in charge of the publisher and brought Greg on board as his executive editor. They published numerous award-winning books. I don't have specific data in terms of numbers, but I do know that while they were there, they helped launch the careers of Patricia Henley (Hummingbird House, a finalist for both the National Book Award and The New Yorker Fiction Prize in 1999) and Susan Vreeland (Girl in Hyacinth Blue) and published the first two memoirs of Candida Lawrence, who as been described as "a powerful voice of womanhood..." by Marion Woodman, and "...a contemporary American heroine" by Alison Lurie.

They next took their talents to Penguin Putnam, with the fact that they would be working with Phyllis Grann as a main factor in their decision process, starting up the literary imprint, BlueHen Books. In the year and a half or so BlueHen was around (before Penguin Putnam foolishly disbanded them), Fred and Greg acquired, edited and published sixteen titles -- all novels. Among these sixteen were debut novels by authors such as Susan Cokal, Masha Hamilton, Lise Haines, Debra Magpie Earling, Nancy Zafris, and Elyse Singleton. All in all, ten of the sixteen, or 62.5%, of their books were penned by women writers.

After kicking around for nearly a year, Fred and Greg started up another independent press in late 2004, Unbridled Books. Their first catalogue contained two novels and a memoir. M. Allen Cunningham, a man, wrote won of the novels. The other two titles were penned by women. Of the four titles that Unbridled Books has planned for Spring 2005, two are by men, and two by women.

Over the span of these publishing efforts, Fred and Greg have utilized Caitlin Hamilton as their publicist. Their current sales manager is Beverly Fisher.

While I am absolutely sure that both Fred and Greg will be at least a little surprised to hear of the breakdown, and deny any political correctness in their selection process, they have certainly shown that they are not affected at all by the gender of the individual who will see his or her name on the cover of the published book. Nor by the gender of those they entrust great responsibilities that will effect not only many a fantastic writer, but also their own livelihoods. Isn't that all anybody could ask for?

Dan Wickett is the founder and chief reviewer of the Emerging Writers Network, where he tries to review and interview as many deserving yet under-read authors as possible. He notes that while he doesn't quite have the track record of Fred and Greg, he's not doing too badly in that department.

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