“Kat in these weeks had felt a filmy curtain, a shimmer in the air between herself and the physical world. She reached a hand forward, tried to push through. She struggled mounting and descending the curb, having lost her ability to fathom where her feet should go. She came down too hard or wavered mid-step. She felt like she might pitch forward or back if a gust of wind or an impatient pedestrian hit her, just like her sister had. She groped at door handles and gripped railings like she was old, frail, her bones brittle. In that trance-like state, Kat led them into a pasta place with an aroma of starch and sweet tomato paste that leaked onto the sidewalk. Only after the bread basket came and Joy eyed it vindictively did Kat learn that her friend was on the South Beach diet.”—My short story, “Disorder” which I consider the “heart” of my collection is up at Blue Lyra Review. Race, friendship, food, loss, Judaism. All my big themes are in here—and a little humor, too I hope.
“I spent years thinking, you know, if I could just get one piece of writing published, I will die happy. Then I got one piece of writing published and I thought, oh, what I would really like to do is get a piece of writing published at the New Yorker. And then I got a piece of writing published at the New Yorker, and I thought, I would like to write a book. And then I sold a book to a publisher, and I thought, I hope this book sells well. I hope that I achieve some measure of cultural success. And then I read accounts like Emily’s and realize, that wheel just keeps on turning regardless. Nobody’s fully successful, and no one’s fully a failure. We’re all just doing the best we can to survive in an economy that hates writers, and in fact hates pretty much everyone. There’s a level on which just continuing to try is sort of heroic.”—
“As a zealous Janeite and a considered Whartonite, I was psyched to attend a recent Jane Austen Society of New York meeting whose order of business–besides the usual bonnet-optional Jane-worship and finger-sandwich nibbling–was a talk called “The Heroine’s Journey: Elizabeth Bennet vs. Lily Bart.” Get out your popcorn! The heroines of Pride and Prejudice and the House of Mirth were due to have an epic smackdown….”—Lizzy Bennet vs. Lily Bart vs. The Patriarchy
“The question going into 2014 is, what do feminist activists do with this power? My hope is that digital feminism can leverage its newfound mainstream visibility to provoke even deeper and more nuanced conversations, and that we can transcend the Web’s tendency to force us into opposing camps. I hope it’s the year we take online feminism’s spirited debates and expand them to create dialogue that leads to common ground and to action”—
I read fewer full fiction books this year than I hoped, but I also read a ton of short fiction in 2013, including entire issues of literary magazines (whatup Glimmer Train, I finally read you cover to cover).
So here are some stand-alones that I want to highlight.
My short story, “Ironing,” was a winner of the 2013 Lilith Fiction Contest. Read it here.
I also had a flash fiction piece at S-Tick, a new feminist e-zine, that I really love and is a bit of a departure for me. It begins: ”Sherry ought to have been having a good time at Jessica’s pool party, sashaying around in her caftan and oversized shades, but the dead girl at the bottom of the jacuzzi made it hard.”
My "Where to Donate In 2013": Indie/Progressive Media Edition
I am a true believer in progressive media, so encourage you to give to one or more of these awesome publications! In addition to helping the dream of media unchecked by corporate influence continue, you’ll help me stay employed!
“Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Brontë’s novel presents a surprisingly strong argument for barring women from monetary work. Social mores of the time did allow women of some education to be “hired out” as governesses, a big loss for chastity and decorum. Working for pay, after all, is the very thing that puts poor and obscure young Jane in the path of predatory Byronic boss Mr. Rochester, who breaks her heart when she discovers he’s a bigamist. If only Jane had not placed a job notice in the newspaper and had simply stayed on at that nice school with the Christian headmaster, none of the trials she later faced would have happened.”—
“I don’t know exactly how to get the message through: contraception is not a Benz, but a basic need. I think that somehow my opponents believe that a fancy car is supposed to help men get a woman to go to bed with them, and the pill serves the same purpose for a woman. My depo-provera brings all the boys to the yard, or something. This is absurd”—Birth Control is Not a Cadillac – The Sisterhood – Forward.com
“We are ebullient types, me and Bridge — we color outside the lines, blurt things out, knock vases over, and remain superficially convinced that if we just tried harder, we could transcend all that, and become like those coiffed and manicured mommies, the ones who never have a hair out of place.”—Vol. 1 Brooklyn | The Reading Life: List-Making with Bridget
“Let’s do a thought experiment: imagine if Kelly commanded a police force known for strip-searches of young white women. Imagine if said police force had spied routinely on city synagogues, with no cause. Imagine if this police force under Kelly’s command had entered a public park full of concertgoers listening to the Philharmonic and dispersed the crowd violently. All of these hypotheticals seem absurd; had Kelly done any of these things, he would be jobless and an outcast. Yet the only real distinction between the hypothetical and reality is that Kelly used these outrageous tactics against the city’s underclass, its voiceless and its marginalized. What’s more, elite universities like Brown signal that his perspective is one worth listening to.”—Since When Do Campus Protests Against Racism Make Liberals Squeamish?
“In her essay “The Love of My Life,” Cheryl Strayed writes about losing her mother when she was a young woman, and returning to college to tell peers she had gone to Mexico over spring break. She wished to protect others from her own deep pain. Only later did she realize how unnatural this modern way of approaching loss really was.“ If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief,” she writes, “the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up.” Modern Loss is a new website that aims to bear witness.”—Modern Loss, From Those Who Know It – The Sisterhood – Forward.com
“In its pages, debut novelist Adelle Waldman takes an uncomfortably close magnifying glass to a group of Harvard-educated, Brooklyn-dwelling literati and journalists. Wait, my inner voice cried out, as the narrative laid these characters’ petty foibles bare, this isn’t me. I mean, I may have been educated at that fabled university, but now I live in far away Harlem and besides, most of my crowd are progressive journalists, not mainstream journalists (meanwhile, I’m still trying to break into the literati).”—
““We’re pitching the same story: How do you grow Jewish social justice?” says Messinger one warm Wednesday night in late October as she relaxes in the living room, thumbs through her mail, and snacks on potato chips and Diet Coke with lime — she says the food at her evening event earlier was “too healthy.” Sneiderman perches on a chair nearby. Messinger, 73, owns the apartment with her husband, Andrew Lachman, but since he works in Connecticut as the executive director of Connecticut Center for School Change, and she frequently travels for AJWS’s international humanitarian work, the place has become something of a way station for both family members and members of her extended family of progressive Jewish leaders.”—
“I could give you absolutely sterling advice on how to avoid writing, how when you run out of things to do other than going to your desk and writing, when every closet is reorganized and you’ve called your oldest living relative twice in one day to see what she’s up to and there isn’t an unanswered e-mail left on your computer or you simply can’t bear to answer another one and there is no dignity, not a drop left, in any further evasion of the task at hand, namely writing, well, you can always ask your dentist for a root canal or have an accident in the bathtub instead.”—Tony Kushner offers advice to emerging writers: http://nyr.kr/1805qwk (via dannygoodmanwriting)
“I have long also secretly patted myself on the back for my intermittent indifference to beauty culture, chalking it up not just to laziness and boredom, but also to feminist resistance. And that’s because even if on the surface I feel guilty about not conforming to standards, deep down I genuinely believe that untamed hair, extra weight here and there, and skin, free of goopy makeup are completely fine — great, even, made greater by their insistent naturalness in a coiffed and plucked world. Fashion and beauty labels literally profit off of female insecurity. To refuse to participate may be a personal choice, but it’s a bold one.”—The ‘Meh’ Generation – The Sisterhood – Forward.com
“That deep identification explains why Reed’s death, at 71, feels so personal to so many. For me, embracing the Velvets was the beginning of giving up on the idea of fitting in (it’s a lifelong process, still ongoing). So I grabbed on to his music that day and never let go, because he demonstrated that being on the margins of acceptability was not only okay, but actually cool. I bought a baby tee emblazoned with his face and wore it regularly to school, so I could sneer at the kids who sneered at me — or more accurately, when I felt the urge to cower, I could let Lou’s mug do the sneering for me.”—
“We should write as we dream; we should even try and write, we should all do it for ourselves, it’s very healthy, because it’s the only place where we never lie. At night we don’t lie. Now if we think that our whole lives are built on lying-they are strange buildings-we should try and write as our dreams teach us; shamelessly, fearlessly, and by facing what is inside very human being-sheer violence, disgust, terror, shit, invention, poetry. In our dreams we are criminals; we kill, and we kill with a lot of enjoyment. But we are also the happiest people on earth; we make love as we never make love in life.”—Hélène Cixous (via quotes-shape-us)
“EARLY ON in the recent romantic comedy Austenland, a sad single woman named Jane, played by Keri Russell, reveals the depths of her shame to a tsk-tsking married friend: the Austen Room. Inside this shrine she stores teacups, portraits of film actors in cravats, and various frilly tributes to the Regency world of Jane Austen’s novels. Sadly, these items are not complemented by similar trinkets vouching for Austen’s literary talent: no “irony rules!” stickers, no “Austen’s prose is perfect” needlepoints. In fact, there’s very little in the film that alludes to Austen’s writing at all.”—
“Iceland is experiencing a book boom. This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world. It is hard to avoid writers in Reykjavik. There is a phrase in Icelandic, “ad ganga med bok I maganum”, everyone gives birth to a book. Literally, everyone “has a book in their stomach”. One in 10 Icelanders will publish one. “Does it get rather competitive?” I ask the young novelist, Kristin Eirikskdottir. “Yes. Especially as I live with my mother and partner, who are also full-time writers. But we try to publish in alternate years so we do not compete too much.””—
Are there devices one can use in improving one’s technique?
Work is the only device I know of. Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. Even Joyce, our most extreme disregarder, was a superb craftsman; he could write Ulysses because he could write Dubliners. Too many writers seem to consider the writing of short stories as a kind of finger exercise. Well, in such cases, it is certainly only their fingers they are exercising.
I always feel this way about painters—how incredible their realist phases were before they became abstract.
“Hefeweizen, Beaujolais, grappa, kir
I am underage yet I can still list drinks!
How sophisticated is that?
Particularly for someone who hangs out on Ludlow street.
Foreign words do sound nifty
When italicized in a poem,
And these are the only foreign words I can think of
Naturally, because I am drunk.”—
“Years ago she insisted that the pathways behind the sand dunes, hot on your feet, were the corridors of a castle, the goldfish you ate on the picnic table a royal feast. One summer she swore you were hiding from the Nazis as you crouched beside the pond in the woods. “Across there is Sweden,” she said. “It’s a neutral country!””—
“Beauty is often treated as an essentially feminine subject, something trivial and frivolous that women are excessively concerned with. Men, meanwhile, are typically seen as having a straightforward and uncomplicated relationship with it: they are drawn to it.”—
This afternoon I was passing European tourists on their bikes in Central Park, pedaling slowly as they took the city in. Tomorrow I will be a guest in Amsterdam, on their continent, and mine will be the mouth that’s agape.