The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Disappearing Doo-wop, and Other News

August 5, 2015 | by


Mark Havens, Untitled (Sweetbriar & Atlantic), 2006. Image via T Magazine

  • Anxiety has always been a fixture of the human experience—who doesn’t enjoy a good bout of angst and fear now and again? But the word worry is, in its current sense, a fairly new addition to the English language: “Although it was used in the sixteenth century, in all of Shakespeare’s works worry appears just once—as a transitive verb denoting strangling or choking. Only in the Victorian era did its contemporary meaning come into widespread use. The advent of literary modernism in the twentieth century placed the personal inner world center stage. From James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom to Virginia Woolf’s Mr. Ramsay, worriers came to abound in the modernist canon.”
  • August Kleinzahler is in Montreal and trying to speak French: “In general, Quebecers seem to like Americans, in approximate measure to their dislike of Anglophone Canadians. Insofar as no other nationality that immediately comes to mind ‘likes’ Americans (even the Irish seem to have gone off us during the George W. Bush era), I find being in Montreal again a most genial circumstance. ‘You must find yourself a French lover and learn the language on the pillow,’ the fromagier told me.”
  • So you’re looking for a literary agent? Here’s a cool publishing hack: pretend you’re a man. It is, evidence suggests, dramatically easier to find representation that way, as Catherine Nichols learned when she sent out her query letter under a pseudonym: “George sent out fifty queries, and had his manuscript requested seventeen times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in twenty-five … I imagined him as a sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender–looking guy, drinking whiskey and walking around train yards at night while I did the work. Most of the agents only heard from one or the other of us, but I did overlap a little. One who sent me a form rejection as Catherine not only wanted to read George’s book, but instead of rejecting it asked if he could send it along to a more senior agent … George’s work was ‘clever,’ ‘well-constructed,’ and ‘exciting.’ No one mentioned his sentences being lyrical or whether his main characters were feisty.”
  • In fact, even if you prefer simpler hobbies, such as coloring books, the world is determined to rain on your parade: “The bizarre thing about the new adult coloring books is they are virtually impossible to complete. They have to be difficult, because adults are still embarrassed to be seen working away at infant activities … But the main thing making coloring ‘socially acceptable’ is the link to mental health. The mindfulness industry has planted its flag on the business and many books are being sold as an offshoot of meditation … The new mindful coloring books are mindless. You should be drawing your own pictures!”
  • Flashy neon lights, kidney-shaped pools, asymmetrical design elements, and a plethora of plastic palm trees”: these are the “Doo Wop” motels of the Wildwoods, “the three kitschy southern New Jersey shore towns that are home to the largest concentration of midcentury motels in the nation.” A new series of photos by Mark Havens documents “the interplay of an idealized past and its inexorable disappearance.”

How Your Gender Affects Your Vocabulary, and Other News

June 24, 2014 | by


Hans Thoma, Adam and Eve, 1897.

  • George Saunders talks “about his family’s sense of humor, the connection between satire and compassion, his early comedy influences, and how he came to embrace the funny side of his writing.”
  • Some words that men are likelier to know than women: claymore, scimitar, solenoid, dreadnaught. Some words that women are likelier to know than men: taffeta, flouncing, bodice, progesterone. The conclusions are yours to draw.
  • I Was a Digital Best Seller”—the horrifying true story!
  • It sounds like a spinoff of DeLillo’s The Names: a journalist named Rose Eveleth becomes obsessed with a small town that shares her name: Eveleth, Minnesota. She visits it only using Google Street View.
  • Spending time with Prince at a listening party for his new record: “When you arrive at Paisley Park, you switch to Prince time. After nearly an hour’s wait, I was ushered into Studio B [at] about one a.m. … My next two hours at Paisley Park would be filled with funk, frustration, and funny lines—all courtesy of Prince.”


Dude Looks Like a Lady

March 25, 2014 | by

Flannery O’Connor was born today in 1925.


O’Connor, right, with Robie Macauley and Arthur Koestler in Iowa, 1947. Photo: C. Macauley, via Wikimedia Commons


Flannery O’Connor was probably the biggest influence in my mature writing life. I didn’t discover her until I was at Arkansas, and I didn’t read her until I was around twenty-five, twenty-six. She was so powerful, she just knocked me down. I still read Flannery and teach her.


What was it that got you? Was there something specific?


“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and then I read everything.

I thought the author was a guy. I thought it was a guy for three years until someone clued me in very quietly at Arkansas. “It’s a woman, Barry.” Her work is so mean. The women are treated so harshly. The misogyny and religion. It was so foreign and Southern to me. She certainly was amazing.

—Barry Hannah, the Art of Fiction No. 184, 2004



People Will Always Be Kind

May 21, 2013 | by


Like everyone else on the planet, it took me no time at all to read and form an opinion about Angelina Jolie’s recent New York Times op-ed about her preventative double mastectomy, a heartfelt piece out of which one phrase in particular struck me: “I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”

Well of course you don’t; of course it doesn’t! I said to myself, Why on earth should it? Then I remembered the rest of the world, that vast population of people who don’t think exactly like me. It has always fascinated me to know that there are people—quite a few, in fact—to whom gender appears such a slippery property, able to be driven away by an initiative taken in the interest of physical health. What a fickle thing gender must seem to the people who actually like it!

I remembered a piece on the same subject, detailing a writer’s inability to find comfort in books after undergoing a preventative mastectomy. I’d read it a couple months before I had my own double mastectomy performed, and returned to it after the procedure was done, surprised on the second read to find how strongly and almost guiltily I still identified with it, despite the crucial differences between the author’s case and mine: that my procedure was not preventative, but elective, therefore less invasive; that I had no cancer to speak of; that my postsurgical period of aversion to books was not due to the pain of new absence, but a realization that most of the books I loved were written by people who couldn’t have comprehended or anticipated me, a person who had breasts but didn’t want them—and that suddenly this was important. In the druggy, dazed few weeks after surgery, it was extremely important to me to be anticipated, to be taken into account by the literature of the past. It was important for there to exist a body of work dealing with the peculiar sensation of waking up after a much dreamed-of, longed-for procedure and seeing the faces of one’s family, peering down into the frame of one’s vision like Terry Gilliam characters, and wearing a uniform expression that could not be farther removed from the joy of one’s own. It was important to read something about the strange problem of being approached, in the months before the surgery, by others for whom breasts had taken on a significant, largely symbolic meaning and who as such felt entitled to express their concern and disdain at the pending loss of my own. (“You have to understand,” I was told during some family fight or other, “that it’s a radical action.”) It was an urgent problem that nothing related to the exact moment I was living, that I had instead to content myself with Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male with its descriptions of persecution, pain, and delirium, which I read during recovery, somewhat defeatedly, and while delirious.

But the person for whom Angelina Jolie’s piece was doing more than stating the obvious was a person I had never really anticipated. And very likely, they are just as unaware of me. We are moving around in the same world, as close to opposites as two groups of people can be, and the fact of it seems almost absurd: that there are women who fear that something will happen in life to make them forcibly lose their gender, while those of us who are desperate to lose it can’t give it away with a set of china. Read More »


Making Art

June 2, 2011 | by

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, who founded the Feminist Studio Workshop, with Judy Chicago and Arlene Raven. Here they are in de Bretteville’s house in 1973.

Toward the end of !Women Art Revolution, the performance artist Janine Antoni, who was born in 1964, recalls a moment when her professor, Mira Schor, asks if she’s heard of the work of Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, and Carolee Schneeman. Antoni hadn’t, and she went to the library to learn more. She found nothing, so Schor brought Antoni clippings and catalogues she had saved at home. The moment was profound. “I looked at this work,” Antoni said, “And I thought, ‘I’m making the work of the seventies.’”

!Woman Art Revolution, which plays for just this week at IFC, is a documentary by Lynn Hershman Leeson. The film weaves together decades of interviews with female artists, which Hershman Leeson began recording in 1966 in her Berkeley living room, and she continued recording through the next four decades.

There are over four hundred hours of tape, and it took Hershman Leeson three and a half months to watch it all—once. It is incredible. Nancy Spero, who died in 2009, shares a humiliating appointment with Leo Castelli: “Ivan Karp saw me. I was wearing high heel boots at the time. I was really kind of tall. Ivan is small. … He had me put [my tablet] on the floor so every time I turned the page, it felt I was genuflecting to him. And then he said, ‘What’d you bring these to me for?’” Here’s the late art historian Arlene Raven: “I stopped doing the dishes, making the three meals a day, the laundry, and the house cleaning and so on. The process of personal liberation for me resulted in the break up of my marriage.” The Guerrilla Girls appear: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” Marcia Tucker, the founding director of the New Museum, talks about how she was hired as the first female curator at the Whitney, but at $2,000 less than her colleague James Monte: “So I went into see my director and I said, ‘Listen this is what’s happening and you’ve got to change it.’ And he said, ‘Oh well, the budget, the budget, the budget.’ And I said, ‘The New York Times, The New York Post, The Daily News.’ So it got changed!”

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Cougar Lit, Gender Confusion

August 20, 2010 | by

Is there a story or book that can shed light on whether a woman should sleep with men she doesn't love or know very well? Younger men, specifically? —A. Chesterfield

You're in luck! This is pretty much the animating question behind French literature of the last two hundred years, starting with Adolphe (no) and ending with The Sexual Life of Catherine M. (yes). No book puts the question more starkly than Colette's masterpiece, Cheri (yes and no: sex is tragic). Non-French novels have reached some memorable conclusions of their own. Good Morning, Midnight, for instance (sex is tragic: get me a drink), or The Piano Teacher (hell no). (But skip it and see the movie.)

Most novels, it has to be said, fall into the no column. The stories of Maupassant give one long resounding yes. You might begin with "A Country Excursion." This story shocked Tolstoy, with good reason—it is a cannon-blast against the nos. The movie version, Jean Renoir's A Day in the Country, is lighter hearted. And if light-hearted is what you want, check out the Hungarian Stephen Vizincey's 1965 novel In Praise of Older Women or Mario Vargas Llosa's linked bagatelles In Praise of the Stepmother and The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto (yes, yes, yes, yes, YES).

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