Thursday, October 24, 2013

Are You Toying With Me, NYTBR?

I'm kind of at a loss as to what to make of this week's New York Times Book Review. I was ready to shut my little "do they read women?" project down, after week after week of depressing results, when Donna Tartt broke my heart a little by including not a single woman in her entire "By the Book" interview (unless you count fictional characters). 

Donna! Where's the love, sister? I  had actually been a fan of yours, not because of your work (my bad; haven't read you yet) but because you were apparently lovely to the hairdresser who accidentally cut you. But good manners are something one must practice every day. It's perfectly fine to have one's preferences ("I'm not very interested in...books about marriage, parenting, suburbia, divorce"), but - since you say you love "fairy tales, ghost stories, adventures" and plan to read King's DOCTOR SLEEP next, it's downright rude to snub the many, many fantastic female authors of same.

But back to the subject. In this week's review, I give credit for the coverage of genre fiction, something we should celebrate with great gusto. (Pause for cheering.)  However, was it necessary to backhandedly snub all those who write it? Perhaps I should be satisfied that - in gender terms anyway - y'all were evenhanded, providing this apologia for Helen Fielding's new book: "This is romantic comedy - chick-lit, really - but [it's okay to read it anyway - paraphrasing mine]" and these snippy words for the new Scott Turow: "The novel grows more lurid and pulpy as it proceeds, with enough running around and twists to make a soap opera writer blush."


(Ouch! Soap opera writers, so sorry, but apparently you've been barred from the party. Don't worry; you may find kinship with romance writers, who were kicked out long ago and are congregating at the lowbrow establishment down the street. You know, the one with SIXTY PERCENT OF THE FICTION READERSHIP.***)

I was feeling a little bruised at this point, but there was little to find objectionable in the reviews of the historic and literary novels and short story collections that followed. The discussion of Philip Roth and Norman Mailer at least allowed (again, paraphrasing) that both men were essentially giant dicks in many important ways...so perhaps now we can stop devoting precious dwindling review column inches to them? Please?

Anyway, i find myself wandering from the path. If I keep this up, it seems unlikely that the NYTBR will ever invite me to guest-post. I should admit that the antipathy isn't really mutual. I'm more like a jilted ex-lover. They've said lovely things about me in the past, after all. But in the years since A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY was named a NYT Notable Book, I've grown a little more - what's the word? - critical

*** Yes, it's true. Don't faint. ***


****** UPDATE!!! ******

An astute reader pointed out that Tartt does mention several women writers in her interview. That did not jibe with my memory so I asked a friend and my brother to check their print copies.  Here are their responses:



from my brother - I went to the library and copied the printed version of her interview. The online version is longer, with 3 or 4 additional questions. The relevant one is the first, "What are you reading at the moment?" which is omitted entirely from the print version, and is the only place where Tartt mentions female authors by name. All other questions are exactly the same, or are included only online but mention no authors; apart from that first question, the only female author is mentioned implicitly, in a reference to Tom Ripley.

from my friend - THAT FIRST PARAGRAPH IS MISSING from the paper version. This seriously deserves a NEW blog post. Holy shit. At the end it does an expanded version can be found online. What should we cut? Cut the women! That's it! 

Unfortunately I don't have time to share all my thoughts about this at the moment as I am headed for Phoenix in the morning and there are several beers I must drink first with some friends tonight. So I invite all of you to ponder what this means and if, indeed, by removing the ONLY paragraph mentioning women authors, NYTBR is, indeed, messing with me/us.

Oh, and sorry, Donna!  I owe *you* a beer!



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thursday Salon: On Middle-Age Dating


 Thursdays at my house often mean writing friends coming to visit. These wonderful occasions feature endless coffee and lots of writing. We sometimes do 45/15's, a favorite old standby of mine in which you work flat-out for 45 minutes and then get 15 minutes to chat.

Laughter, as you might imagine, ensues. :)


A recent Thursday Salon

This week I was sharing my recent experiences with online dating. I was curious about this phenomenon I've observed where mature men often want to date strictly younger women - curious enough to ask one of them. 

I read the correspondence to my friends. This gent admits to being 64 and is willing to date ladies 29-50. (I'm fifty, so he generously contacted me even though I'm reaching the upper limit of his sell-by standards.)

ME: i am curious about something that perhaps you can explain to me.  what is it with men who won't date a woman their own age? i get that they are fit, handsome, energetic, etc...but why don't they believe it possible that women could be too? 

HIM: I don't seem to be much like most guys that I run into that are my age. Regarding the women, I've been excoriated about this, with more or less vitriol, several times, so I did an experiment. I raised my age limit. The women that began contacting me were typically very old looking, about 40 lbs overweight, who thought stamping (or something of that ilk) was an art form. When I have actually chosen to meet some of them, they're not very good conversationalists, aren't very curious, sort of don't have much life energy. Also, frankly, they're kind of asexual. This has borne itself out several times. My last two relationships were with a 43 yo and a 49 yo. Most people I meet, if the topic comes up, think I'm 47-55. This happens pretty consistently. 


I invite you to imagine what my smart, funny women friends made of this conversation. After laughing our asses off, the general consensus was that the "asexual" vibe he was picking up was "how long do i have to sit here before making an excuse to leave so i can go re-watch the entire first season of Orange is the New Black."

Because, suprisingly, no lady likes an arrogant douchebag with an inflated self-concept! 

Oh, and...funny, stamping may not impress this guy, but the Detroit Institute of Art thinks it's okay:
courtesy of Dear Mr. Scrapbook
...which perhaps confirms yet again that it's not a good thing to put middle-aged white guys in charge of determining what constitutes art.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Back from Chicago

I just returned from one of the nicest short event trips - back to my old hometown, Chicago.  I moved there with my brand new husband in 1990, and we lived near this venerable old institution in Lincoln Park:
photo courtesy of CenterStage
Later we moved to Evanston, where both of our children were born, and where we stayed until we moved to California in 1998. I got to see so many old friends this week, and catch up on the kids - babies back then - who are in college now.

A highlight of my trip was a visit to the Tuscan Market in Arlington Heights, where I spoke to a sold-out book club crowd, some of the nicest readers I've ever met.  These are book people...and they are also wine people. I held off until after my talk to let them pour me a glass, but I certainly did enjoy their brand of hospitality.

Here I am with Julie Merilatt, who runs JulzReads book blog and wrote a very nice post about the event and GARDEN OF STONES.

this is Julie's picture - i got it from her blog :)

I also spent some time with the Kaye Publicity team, culminating in the Chicago Literati event Tuesday night. I met a ton of other authors and publishing world people - and I got to see my old pal Bryan too. Jamie Freveletti took me out for chicken wings, and then she reminded me of the plans we made back when we were brand-new published writers, and how far we'd come since then. That was definitely something to celebrate.

Thanks so much to Anne and Olivia and Dana for making this week happen!