Yesterday VIDA, an organization devoting to promoting women in the literary arts, released its annual slideshow of pie charts representing the proportion of female to male publication in literary journals and book reviews, including The Atlantic, Granta, Harper's, the LRB, the NYRB, the New Yorker, the Paris Review and the Nation. It was not remotely news to anyone that far more men than women write for these publications. Reactions were varied, and ranged from knee-jerk to profound. Some men piously proclaimed that their publications needed to do better; some women found the idea that women need affirmative action to succeed "offensive." Some people interpreted this data to mean that "America's Top Magazines" are "Still Not Hiring Women". But here's the thing: these magazines are only "America's Top" in the sense that they are the most culturally elevated; they are certainly not the "top" in terms of circulation or in the rates they pay their writers. Could it be that part of the imbalance is caused by the fact that women are choosing not to write for these magazines? Due to ... the fact that they have free will, and are not just passive victims of an unjust system? It's not difficult to imagine why some women (and men) might not want to write for these magazines: They do not, on the whole, pay well or assign articles with reliable frequency to, pretty much, anyone. If your options include: waiting a year or more for the legendary septuagenarian editor of a historically important book review to tweak your prose so that you can someday receive a check for 50 cents a word, or spending an evening hanging out with a movie star, writing about it for a sorta-vapid glossy, then cashing a check that pays your rent for four months, who is to say which is the wiser choice? That's my issue with this tally, anyway: it doesn't allow for the idea that women have agency, and they might be choosing to avoid having bad (albeit prestigious) jobs. READ MORE
So everyone grew up watching the 1983 film of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance repeatedly, and had their budding brains shaped by it, and gets its songs stuck in their heads on a scarily regular basis, right? Thought so! If not, it is on YouTube in its entirety and Leap Day is a major plot point (something something, the protagonist must do something by age 20, but he was born on Leap Day so he's actually only five, see above). It stars Angela Lansbury and Linda Ronstadt in addition to Kevin Kline at the peak of his ridiculous oddball hotness. Seriously, give me 1983 Kevin Kline over the charisma-less smooth-chested supposed sex gods of our era anyday. (Are people seriously attracted to Ryan Gosling? What on earth is that Non-threatening Boys Magazine nonsense about?)
This adorable hack takes people's tweets and puts them onto their pics, so they look cuter when you post them on your Tumblr.
Jonathan Franzen is in my estimation America's best living novelist (OKAY?) and a substantial number of people get upset whenever he writes or says basically anything. It's interesting to ask why! In part it's because his ideas about novels and what people respond to in them are provocative and controversial, and sometimes, as in his recent essay about Edith Wharton, he projects his own responses onto "us" in a way that can be irritating, if we disagree with him. Our opinion about his writing is also affected by of how rich he is and his gender and what he looks like, and that's very hard to talk about. But that's what he tried to talk about in "A Rooting Interest: Edith Wharton and the problem of sympathy." READ MORE
When people ask me what I do for a living, I am going to just start saying "I look at Twitter" because honestly that is what I spend 90% of my "writing" workdays doing. Here are some of the strangers who make this lifestyle so rewarding. READ MORE