Look, guise, pretty things:
1) Ten Days to Change the World – a fantastic post about Nellie Bly, who infiltrated an asylum (I cringed a bit when I wrote that, ew) for supposedly mentally ill women in 1887. The most surprising part of her account is how easily she managed to convince the authorities she was dangerous and should be locked up.
All it took, apparently, was a night of practising vacant wide-eyes in front of the mirror. Booking into a female boarding house under an assumed name, Bly succeeded in terrifying the women around her simply by acting slightly erratically and refusing to sleep. No tearing her hair out, no speaking in tongues, no physical manifestations of inner turmoil. Sitting up late and sighing; that was enough for the management at the boarding house to cart her in front of a judge and have her taken to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island.
2) A hilarious and well written post about yet another phony nutritionist – it’s really cool that the cranks and woo-peddlers are being exposed on not strictly sceptic blogs, too.
3) A short round-up of a couple of common racist clichés that often come up in discussions about racism in literature – I think it’s very useful if you actually have no idea at all what’s going on.
4) Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose – a very insightful and well written piece about how women’s writing is often treated by mainstream reviewers. This is actually something that has bothered me for a long time, and I am as a matter of fact preparing a long long long thing-something-thing about women writers and some of the really awesome stuff they wrote, so stay tuned. Also, I could not possibly emphasise enough how completely I agree with the author on his every point, especially this:
It has taken me a while to get to my real point, but here it is, rather abruptly. I do not believe that apparent authoritative literary voices of validation would ever make such a grand claim about a novel written by a woman. I say this because I believe there are many novels by women that are about the same sort of world as presented in Freedom. Sadly, the culture usually calls these books domestic or family sagas. Are the novels of Anne Tyler, Marilynne Robinson and Mona Simpson any less white and middle “American” than Franzen’s? They are certainly at least every bit as literary and arguably better written, whatever that means.
Yeah, this this this.
Women writers are feisty, sassy. When was the last time a male writer was called sassy? Not that I would mind, but you understand my point. As an African American, I understand this sort of backhanded compliment. You see, we are articulate. This is not an insult on the face of it, but the subtext is that our intelligence is a surprise, as if being articulate is the same as being intelligent anyway.
Honestly, that guy is awesome. I mean, there were so many places there something could have gone wrong, and it didn’t, and it’s really really great. I’m going to have to check out his books!
5) Market Casualty: The Essay I Never Wanted to Write – about the writing and marketing of books written by women of colour in the US, specifically Iranian Americans. Some people should really read Said at least once, and then once more, and once more, and once more, until it gets through their thick skulls that people who are not like them are also people:
The description of Gelareh Asayesh’s Saffron Sky singles out mention of “the Ayatollah’s ubiquitous enforcers of female modesty” even though this issue takes up about one sentence in her entire story; on the back of Azadeh Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad, Iran is referred to as “a dark country”; the back ofPersian Girls promises readers a “harrowing memoir of the cruelty of men towards women” as well as “the exotic scents and traditions of Tehran”; the blurb for Journey from the Land of No says that Iran will be revealed to us and that we will understand “what life was like for women” after the revolution (even though the book is about a wealthy, literary Jewish family, hardly representative of the range of Iranian women’s experience); My Name is Iran’s cover jacket features almost identical language about “revealing Iran” to the reader by detailing a journey between “East and West, tradition and modernity.” I could go on, but I won’t.
Way to ruin everything, seriously.
6) A Polish politician yesterday said some interesting things:
‘I am not a homophobe, but I play one in the legislature’ may be what Robert Wegrzyn of the center-right Civic Platform of Poland is trying to say. Recently, he was asked about his views regarding civic partnerships for lesbians and gays, and he quipped “We can forget about gay men, but I would gladly watch lesbians.” (source)
It is my deepest conviction that he must be an unhappy, lonely man, a man who has no friends, who tries to be as cheerful as possible, but fails, because there’s nothing but despair for him, despair and hatred and eternal loneliness. Eternal well of loneliness, even. The sun shines, the children are playing in the sand, the kittens frolic, the adults read newspapers and books and swim, but for Wegrzyn, MP, there’s nothing to do but pretend not to be unhappy. No one will talk to him. No one will hold his hand. No one will even notice that he exists.
He is the Tragic Wegrzyn. Behold!
I mean, the tragedy of somebody being Wegrzyn(1), MP, inspired me too to write poetry. I mean: this is like, a guy whose entire existence is entirely pointless, right? I mean:
If you don’t look close enough, you can almost think that this awful grimace on his face is a smile. But it’s not. It’s an awful grimace of an MP who is sad and alone and sad.
Look at him! He wants you to hug him, but you won’t. Nobody will.
I never thought a homophobic MP would inspire me to become a poet, but, there it is. Poetry. (You can make some too)
Good night, Wegrzyn, sweet prince, I still have a book to read. Hugs and kisses and bitter coldness of being always alone.
(1) At least it’s not me; I don’t even want to think what I’d do if I had to be Wegrzyn, MP.