“Like most writers I am deeply fascinated with the human condition. I like to ask my students to define the human condition. They have all sorts of intelligent things to say about it, better answers than I could come up with most of the time. Then I draw a stick figure on the board and put an X through it. This is the human condition. That we will end and we don’t know when or how. Everything we do, I think, revolves around this reality though we pretend otherwise.”—
“While it’s laughable that the Breitbart.com team doesn’t know how to be edgy, and instead comes across as offensively juvenile, Wasserman-Schultz makes a good point: the deeper wrong goes far beyond one political figure. The treatment of Pelosi, among the most powerful women in the nation, is emblematic of a larger trend: the gauntlet that all female politicos must run when dealing with the media.”—Hey, Here’s An Idea — Sexism Against Women Politicians, Also: Boobs! | xoJane
“And we can’t really share the lowlights, at least not most of them. I’m not going to tell you when a story is rejected, because I don’t want you to doubt my work. I won’t tell you that the panel I did was horrible, and everyone on it was a jerk, and the guy next to me put his hand on my leg. I’m not going to tell you if I’m afraid my new novel is a disaster. I’m not going to tell you if I get eviscerated in Publisher’s Weekly. Everything is peaches and sunshine. Sunny peaches. Peachy suns. Because if you believe my book is amazing, maybe you’ll order it. And I can earn enough money to buy food.”—
Why I went with Lana: it’s a song that’s both awful and amazing. It encapsulates the droning shallowness and simultaneously undeniable seductiveness and longing that I hope permeates the party scene in “Balcony.”
“Carl, a transplant to New York, saw in Maya another soul isolated amidst the throng. He took her home that night and called her again, even after the postcoital brunch when she warned him of her ‘baggage.’ How stunning she’d been that morning, in her T-shirt with the collar cut out, her dark hair falling across her face like a pixie girl in the movies.”—
As Carl readied himself for Theo’s party, he reflected on his three-day gap in communication with Maya. They were on some sort of break, triggered by a fight over her refusal to come out tonight, or any night, anymore. Carl missed Maya’s warm skin, her eyebrows arching with amusement or provocation. He even missed their arguments: over The Great Gatsby (Carl pitied Daisy Buchanan while Maya blamed her as spineless), and Impressionism (Carl preferred modern art, so much more to say about it), and about which films to see (he liked “smart” films, she would see anything playing at the local multiplex)—and really, at the bottom of it all over the fact that Maya, each day, shut him further out.
The very word “break” unmoored him, so he anchored himself to this party. Theo had invited him. Broad-shouldered, rugby-shirt-wearing Theo, whose father produced movies and owned a penthouse apartment. Who didn’t enjoy movies and penthouses? Besides, Carl wasn’t like Maya; he didn’t “know everyone” in this city. And he hadn’t gone to an Ivy League school; he had gone to a state school, which still left him with loans—no trust fund for him. So yes, he had to get to know people, because how else did you build a future. How else did you begin to fit in?
He had felt once like he belonged with Maya. Carl first saw her when someone pointed her out at another party, a less elegant shindig in someone’s grimy walkup. In a corner, she rode the arm of a couch as though it were a horse, or a man. She made faces; her friends guffawed until they spilled drinks. Dark circles ringed her eyes. She projected brash, vulnerable, hotness.
“That’s Maya Siegel, the one I told you about…”
Carl had read about her dad’s infidelity and her parents’ high-profile divorce, regular fodder for the gossip columns he checked daily. He also already knew about Rina, Maya’s best friend killed by a subway train, an accident that had dominated the local news for days.
Carl, a transplant to New York, saw in Maya another soul isolated amidst the throng. He took her home that night and called her again, even after the postcoital brunch when she warned him of her “baggage.” How stunning she’d been that morning, in her T-shirt with the collar cut out, her dark hair falling across her face like a pixie girl in the movies.
His friends from home had said stay away when he mentioned the divorce, the dead friend, but he’d ignored them—no, he’d defied them. Her pain opened a doorway Carl could enter. She always patted the seat beside her with nonchalance, yet it always made him feel like she had reserved the space for him.
This is one of my favorite stories in the novel-in-stories, partly because it’s less heartbreaking and more gossipy than some of the others, partly because it hasn’t changed that much from its original incarnation in summer 2010, partly because I never go to parties like this anymore.
“Yet what also arises unceasingly, I fear, is frustration with the obliqueness of his prose—a desire even, at moments, to “turn my face to the wall” as Milly herself does! This irritation, has, no doubt, something to do with my waning attention span of late, attributed to the ascent of the internet, and that entity’s hold, notorious, upon my brain.”—
“Hysteria,” a word that, let’s not forget, once meant “disturbances in the uterus,” was the chosen word of Caroline Kitchens of the American Enterprise Institute, who went on to write that, “America does not have a rape culture; what we have is an out-of-control lobby.” This nefarious lobby she means is mostly a spunky, innovative coalition trying to curb campus assault. According to Kitchens (I’ll avoid joking about her last name and where her movement wants women to be), these activists are poised to “poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males.”
I work part time as a blogger and journalist, but I’m not going to focus on that here. Creatively, I am finishing up a novel-in-stories called “Joy, Somewhere in the City.” It’s the story of a group of people reacting in various ways to a single tragedy, the death of a young actress. You can read some of it here and some of it here.
Right now some people who have a greater perspective than I do are reading my manuscript. I am waiting for feedback and amusing myself by playing around with some short fiction entirely unrelated and also writing a new chapter in the form of a two-act play. I’m deciding whether the play should be written by me, the author, or I should turn it into a fictional play written by one of my characters, with all the players loosely based on other characters from my novel—or would that be too meta? Such are my current writing dilemmas.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I think my premise, which keeps the voice of the central (deceased) character totally inaccessible, is challenging and exciting, but my work’s language and concepts are meant to be really resonant and accessible. I favor that combination of experimental and direct.
3. Why do you write what you do?
Writing is a continuation of the imaginative play that was central to my inner and outer life as a child, combined with an attempt to make some kind of sense of a senseless adult world.
Also, I get cranky when I don’t write.
4. What is your writing process?
My writing process involves holding the kernel of an idea in my heard for days, even weeks. My best inspiration comes while out walking or when I’m waiting to fall asleep, both of which are inconvenient times. When I finally commit my ideas to paper, I tend to think they’re genius and then I recognize that they’re crap and edit and revise obsessively for weeks, months, years.
Next Up: @chaneldubofsky, a talented comrade in both fiction and feminism, who blogs stunningly at idiverge.wordpress.com
“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