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Saturday, June 1, 2013
Thursday, November 15, 2012
In 2011, the London Times columnist Caitlin Moran published “How to Be a Woman,” a book that combined personal essays with an outline of the state of—and need for—feminism today. The book was a best-seller in England, and, by the summer of 2012, in America as well, thanks in large part to Moran’s brutally funny approach to a serious topic. “What do you think feminism IS, ladies?” she writes, after stating that only twenty-nine per cent of American women describe themselves as feminists. “What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue,’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?”
Moran’s latest book, “Moranthology,” a collection of her columns for the Times, has just been published. She recently answered some questions on feminism, writers who have influenced her, celebrities, and sex; an edited version of the exchange appears at newyorker.com.
(Photograph: Adam Lawrence)
Monday, November 5, 2012
By the time I took this photo on Thursday, November 1st, post-Sandy cleanup was already well underway. But Central Park was still closed, and this downed tree, near the park’s Columbus Circle entrance, seemed to warrant its “crime scene” tape. The sign reads:
DUE TO STORM CONDITIONS
Please visit www.nyc.gov/parks for updates.
Cally 311 to report fallen trees and branches in parks
or on streets.
Now it’s Sunday night–technically Monday morning, I guess. There are a lot of people in New York still in trouble, and much of Jersey and Long Island will take years to rebuild. But I’m proud to live in a city that can, for the most part, a week after a major natural disaster, be back to its frantic self, and it’s in things like this sign that I see why that is.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
It’s October. My last post was published in June. I’ve been doing things in the interim, honest—just nothing I can point to yet. Writing can be secretive sometimes, you know?
Speaking of: I was going to write something last week about the New York Times “This Land” series on Elyria, Ohio, a city just east of where I grew up. It was going to be a brilliant essay about Americana porn, and East Coast condescension, and an eagerness to see poverty and struggle as a somehow noble experience, rather than a degrading and terrifying one. Also, it was going to be about sentences like this:
Bridgette the waitress glides through morning at Donna’s Diner with an easy, familiar air, as though she were born somewhere between the cash register and the coffee maker. She is a constant, like pancakes on the menu.
She’s constant like a pancake, eh?
Anyway. You can tell how I felt about the whole thing. So I scrapped the essay and made a pot of chili instead. It was a far more rewarding experience.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
In November of 2008, three days after she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, Susan Gubar underwent a debulking operation. The procedure entails the removal of part of the cancer—and often several of the organs that are in contact with it—and, as Gubar writes in her new book, “Memoir of a Debulked Woman,” it’s the standard initial response to the disease. “Have you ever heard of a debulked woman? Have you ever seen one?” she writes. “I am one such living, breathing, debulked woman, though no one ever explained to me how such a being comes about, what such a condition means, or how it would feel.”
Gubar’s memoir attempts these explanations with graphic honesty, scholarship, and an intelligent grace. After an early acceptance of her disease and its seemingly inevitable end—ovarian cancer is the most deadly of gynecological cancers—Gubar, a co-author of “The Madwoman in the Attic,” an early work of feminist literary criticism, and a professor of English and women’s studies at Indiana University, was “slowly … sucked into procedure after procedure,” undergoing not only a debulking operation but also successive rounds of chemotherapy. Gubar graciously took the time to answer questions on ovarian cancer, its treatments, and the nature of illness in women and in society; an edited version of the exchange appears at newyorker.com.
(Photograph: Donald Gray)
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Early in the spring, I was admiring the flowers on one particularly beautiful Carroll Gardens block when I realized: this is weird. These flowers shouldn’t be here yet; the trees shouldn’t be so green and full. And my husband, cursed with seasonal allergies, shouldn’t be sneezing this much already.
So what was going on? Mild winters and warm springs cause plants to bloom early, but why? And if they bloom early, do they die early? I turned to the experts at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden—Dr. Susan Pell, the garden’s director of science, and Sarah Owens, the garden’s rosarian—for some clarification. Read more at newyorker.com.
(Photograph: Jean-Marc Grambert, courtesy the Brooklyn Botanic Garden)
Thursday, April 5, 2012
In May, 2005, The Believer launched Sedaratives, an advice column helmed by Amy Sedaris that soon featured a cast of guest advisers—writers, producers, actors, and comedians—who, every month, were given a selection of questions that ranged from the poignant to the, well, not:
My mother says that nobody has good manners anymore. This coming from a woman who fucked three strangers at Woodstock. Does her moral grandstanding carry any weight at all?
Is there a manly way in which to eat cotton candy? If so, I’d like to find out what it is.
I’m looking for a book that I can read on the subway and it’ll make all the other commuters look at me with envy, and possibly even think, “Good god, he must be so much smarter than the rest of us I bet he’s got his life together. I want to be his friend.” Any recommendations?
Such are the quandaries in “Care to Make Love in That Gross Little Space Between Cars?,” the second collection of the Sedaratives columns, which includes advice from, among others, Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis, Dave Eggers, Julie Klausner, Sam Lipsyte, and George Saunders. Saunders’s answer to that question of what book to read on the subway gave the collection its title. Recently, he took the time to discuss advice columns, beehive hairdos, and creepy stares; an edited version of the exchange appears at newyorker.com.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
In the November 21, 2011, issue of the magazine, Lauren Collins wrote about Lucy Worsley, the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, which runs the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Kew Palace, and the Banqueting House at Whitehall. “In a land of ponderous dons who go by their initials, Dr. Lucy, a thirty-seven-year-old bluestocking with a barrette, has caused a sensation,” Collins wrote. “She is an unembarrassed disciple of a school of history known as experimental archeology—or as she calls it, ‘dressing up and trying things out’—which uses artifacts to channel the physical experience of everyday life in another era.” In the line of duty, Worsley has made a Victorian bed (it took half an hour), roasted all manner of animals, waded through nineteenth-century sewers, trained a dog to turn a roasting spit, and tested urine as a stain remover.
Worsley’s most recent project is the book/BBC television series “If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home,” which focusses on the four rooms—bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen—that lend to an understanding of both British history and the evolution of its culture. Worsley recently took the time to answer some questions on British homes and their histories; an edited version of the exchange appears at newyorker.com.
(Photograph: Julia Fullerton-Batten)
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
On March 11, 2010, an anonymous writer introduced herself as the new voice of “Dear Sugar,” an advice column on the Web site the Rumpus. Sugar claimed she would offer a combination of “the by-the-book common sense of Dear Abby and the earnest spiritual cheesiness of Cary Tennis and the butt-pluggy irreverence of Dan Savage and the closeted Upper East Side nymphomania of Miss Manners,” but soon proved to be something entirely her own: an advice columnist who spoke through frank personal experience, one whose responses went from advice to essay and back again. In The New Republic, Ruth Franklin called her “the ultimate advice columnist for the Internet age, remaking a genre that has existed, in more or less the same form, since well before Nathanael West’s acerbic novella ‘Miss Lonelyhearts’ first put a face on the figure in 1933.”
Over the next two years, Sugar’s fans—a devoted readership that includes more than fifteen thousand Facebook and Twitter followers—learned bits about who she was. She was a she. She had lost her mother far too early. She had children, a husband, student-loan debt, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of open-minded, honest advice. Her responses covered jealousy, the decision to have (or not have) children, drug addiction, and the unanswerable questions of life. On Tuesday night, at a coming-out party in San Francisco, Sugar formally introduced herself as Cheryl Strayed, a writer living in Portland whose new memoir, “Wild,” will be the Rumpus Book Club’s pick for March. She recently took time to answer questions on anonymity, intimacy, and her relationship with her readers. An edited version of the exchange appears at newyorker.com.
(Photograph: Joni Kabana)