Archive for December, 2009

Attention, Dearest Fine Lines readers and Shelf Discovery fans!

I’m sitting here working on pieces on New Moon, The Lovely Bones, and Push‘s transition from page to screen, as well as dissecting the particulars of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new memoir Committed, and I was suddenly overcome by a semi-procrastinatory but genuine RUSH of gratefulness to you all. I don’t know that in the years of Fine Lines or since I’ve been able to adequately thank you for your wonderful comments, emails and assorted contributions to the uncovering of this miraculous period of now-not-forgotten literature.

Your memories, questions, cover scans, and CORRECTIONS (I know! Let’s blame copyeditors! Though it was pretty much all me!) about these works and MY transition from screen to page have meant more to me than I can say.

Happy holidays! And let’s raise a tattered copy to the authors we love,




TANGIBLE GOODY P.S. It is impossible to send presents to you all, but as thanks of a sort, I’d like to give away 5 free copies of Shelf Discovery to you people. All you have to do is tell me about the young adult work that means the most to you. It can be in any form: a sentence, a review, an essay, a poem, an MP3 or video clip. Feel free to tell me the funny story of your attempt to churn butter, or write a wish list of recipes you’d like to cook from fave YA books. It’s all you!

I will select THE BEST for free copies of Shelf Discovery, and I will also feature ALL submissions on my blog and Facebook (unless requested not to).

You can submit as:

Deadline is January 1st.


Cannot wait to hear from you!


December 20th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

with 10 comments

What Tiger’s Mom Saw

Whether Elin simply chose a convenient moment when both matriarchs were already on the premises or had convened them there for that specific purpose, having Tida and Barbro present for the fight was likely neither an inconvenience nor a coincidence. The Swedish model, a former nanny, was just engaging in time-honored strategy known to all caretakers of the young: When a child is misbehaving, sometimes the only way to get them back in line is to utter the ultimate threat:

I’m calling your mother.

— The Daily Beast

December 12th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

no comments

Rise of the Alpha Female

One of the more tedious aspects of the recent spate of alpha males behaving badly has been the experts who’ve covered, like faint mold, every scandal with their hoary theories about Why Men Cheat. For every skank on speed-dial, it seems, there is a shelf of studies explaining why some primo husband has bent to her appeal. Outsized ego, insecurity, hubris, and a complete disconnection from reality are big—if diametrically opposed—contenders. But the most popular theories take us back to the savannah, where troglodytes in the know sought out the dewiest, most puffy-lipped cave ladies to carry on their line. The widely held conclusion: Powerful men aren’t weak, they’re savvy. And cheating isn’t endemic—it’s evolutionary.

— The Daily Beast

December 12th, 2009 at 5:12 pm

with one comment

I’m Team Tsing Loh: Whither Germaine Greer, Indeed?

I sometimes wonder if the rise of the Professional Parent — scouter of nursery schools, researcher of fashionable slingwear, proselytizer of low -VOC paint — is a backlash against the one, brief era in which women began to officially consider themselves outside the roles of wives and mothers. Because while the antics of the Professional Parent can be dreadfully humorous — witness the baby consultant — there is something disturbingly regressive, and positively fear-mongering, in this idea that yet again, it all hangs on the mother.

— Politics Daily

December 12th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

with one comment

Same Old Story: Best-Books Lists Snub Women Writers

I, female, longtime book critic, longtime lover of males, writers, and male writers, must nonetheless point out an inconvenient truth: It has been a very strong two years for female writers and a weak two years for male ones, and the fact that the latter have garnered unseemly armfuls of praise and prizes for their tepid output is a scandal.

— Politics Daily

December 12th, 2009 at 5:08 pm

no comments

Sometimes, a Doll is Just a Doll

Some of you may remember the “Bewitched” episode in which Darren’s white clients visit on Christmas and give Tabitha a white doll, her black friend a black doll, and a baby whose parentage they cannnot quite discern a stuffed panda. Darren and Samantha gently rebuke the couple for their racial absolutism, and as the show closes, the baby clutches the black doll, Tabitha plays with the panda and the black girl with the white doll. (Or does the black girl get the panda? This is why I would have failed the LSATs: “If three children have a panda, a white doll and a black doll to share, and each can't play with their cultural signifier…”)

— Politics Daily

December 12th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

no comments

‘Liar’ — and publishers’ values

It’s not surprising that the callousness with which this decade's publishers have apportioned disembodied female parts across thousands of covers should have spilled over into race, but the “Liar” scandal seems like as good a place as any to ask why girls who've already lost their faces should have now have their ethnicities masked. One would think a publishing industry, constantly fretting that it's on the verge of extinction, would be grateful enough to its massive female readership to not constantly keep its female depictions on the edge of erasure.

LA Times

December 12th, 2009 at 4:38 pm

no comments

Book covers and race: A writers private collection –

It’s not surprising that the callousness with which this decade’s publishers have apportioned disembodied female parts across thousands of covers should have spilled over into race, but the “Liar” scandal seems like as good a place as any to ask why girls who’ve already lost their faces should have now have their ethnicities masked. One would think a publishing industry, constantly fretting that it’s on the verge of extinction, would be grateful enough to its massive female readership to not constantly keep its female depictions on the edge of erasure.

My vintage cover gallery of old YA novels with black people on the cover (“Book covers and race: A writers private collection“) plus my memories of a childhood reading said.

December 12th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

with 4 comments


Yes! That is Vera Farmiga, as surprised as I am to note that I have 9,000 articles up this week on the apparently inexhaustible topics of marriage, child-rearing, discrimination and health care, though I only traffic in one and I pay for it dearly. (Health care.) In brief:

This July, Bloomsbury put a white girl on the cover of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, the story of a black girl, leading to a larger discussion on the paucity of black people on covers, to say nothing of black girls. For this weekend’s Los Angeles Times Book Review, I dig up my old childhood covers — riddled with black people! — and discuss reading every single one of my parents’ collection except “The Black Jews of Harlem.”

Tonight, my sister-in-law and I were looking at text messages of the Tiger Woods case and saying it was too sad a story to even follow anymore, though we did for five more minutes. AND YET. Earlier this week I wrote a piece on the Mom Factor during the sex scandals for the Daily Beast.

THEN for same…I mentioned Tiger in my piece about female cheaters and Up in the Air, which movie may — though one hopes not — herald an era in which females exercise a similarly inexplicable duplicity. (I would also like to point out to that commenter that I KNOW ABOUT Nola in She’s Gotta Have It. She just is such a bobble-head Spike Lee fantasy I didn’t want to include her.)

The perils of the Professional Parent are discussed in my defense of Sandra Tsing Loh, who is very funny and allowed to leave her husband and drive around with her daughters pulling over by the side of the road to read if she wants to, for God’s sake. (I just liked being able to describe a body of people as “researcher[s] of fashionable slingwear.”)

I wrote recently about why Men Get Important Literary Prizes, Even If They’re Dead, And a Woman That Year Wrote A Better Book. I think I wasn’t supposed to, but no one has sent the secret book judge police after me yet.

And last, the most recent dispatch on my quest to get my insurer to reimburse me for THINGS THEY NEED TO, a series designed to point out why it doesn’t matter if we insure everyone if BlueCross still keeps hanging up on me. I have spent about $64 on copies filing appeals with various heads of state and agencies, and I will keep you in the loop.

Merry Christmas and, more pertinently, Happy Chanukah! See you in the New Year.

December 11th, 2009 at 11:09 pm

no comments

Dad Men and other works of note

It’s happened — the writers who brought down the media by sitting around in our pajamas crafting brittle insights next to a cup of cold coffee have now become too lazy even to blog. Which is to say, I keep updating here and here instead of HERE…even though here updates to there! I’m sure someone could craft an ontological exploration of how various media migrate to “realness” in the minds of the user, but you might be better off just friending me there until my brittle psyche thrusts me still elsewhere.

IN ANY CASE, I just wrote an ontological exploration of Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Chabon’s recent works on fatherhood, and am linking to it here, with some other recent items below. It’s like 1997.

Foer is the kind of adult for whom a pre-Huggies life was rudderless. Once he finds out he is going to be a father, “I began tidying up the house… I had my glasses adjusted.” Before becoming a father, the divergence between his thoughts and actions is laughable: Although he says he is a vegetarian, he sometimes eats meat. As his gifted son picks up nursing like a champ, he looms magisterial, the globo-historical import of what he consumes profound: “Seconds after being born, he was breastfeeding. I watched him with an awe that had no precedent in my life… Millions of years of evolution had wound the knowledge into him.”

There is nothing wrong with falling into wonderment at one’s own child. (It is contraindicated over the long term.) There’s also nothing wrong with being against the wholesale ripping of beaks off innocent chickens to keep Tyson Foods in business, an image Foer returns to frequently. Who, after all, is for a food system that, among other things, routinely releases a geyser of fecal matter into the air to spray neighboring crops? The problem is that Foer suddenly cares—and, by extension, so must we—because some day one micrometer of that shit might fall on the head of Jonathan Safran Foer’s son.

Read the rest in the Daily Beast.

A month ago (see?) Milwaukee’s Mitch Teich interviewed me about Shelf Discovery, and we had a lot of fun. You can listen to the entire interview here.

A few weeks ago, Sheilah Kast’s Maryland Morning asked me to read my contribution to Rob Walker’s Significant Objects project on the air. Apparently found objects bring out my affectless, alienated side. Better that than BUYING found objects myself on eBay, I say. You can see the whole project here.

More in a month!

December 1st, 2009 at 8:00 pm

with 2 comments

Same Old Story: Best-Books Lists Snub Women Writers

It is the conventional wisdom that women’s writing gets overlooked in the prize department because it doesn’t get enough attention at the outset, or because women writers aren’t respected. I don’t think either is true…Alice Munro, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood are North American institutions. (Thanks, Canada.) Kay Ryan is our poet laureate. The latest Nobel was given to a German lady. The ladies, they write good! We know it. So why are we so bad about showing it?

I got a glimmer of an answer last year as I sat in a board room hashing out the winners for one of the awards for which I am a judge. Our short list was pretty much split evenly along gender lines. But as we went through each category, a pattern emerged. Some books, it seemed, were “ambitious.” Others were well-wrought, but somehow . . . “small.” “Domestic.” “Unam –” wha’s the word? “– bititous.”

Politics Daily.

December 1st, 2009 at 7:39 pm

no comments

“Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife” by Francine Prose

Of the many hats worn by icon Anne Frank—ingénue, prophet, precocious innocent, even an actual lampshade, in one ill-advised incarnation—the most obvious is the least examined: writer. But in Anne Frank, author and lifetime fan Francine Prose has done the nearly impossible to one of the world’s most revered figures and her relentlessly pored-over text. She’s taken Anne off the pedestal where our near-religious cultural fervor has placed her, and settled her firmly in what she views as a far more appropriate seat: her writing desk.

via Chicago Tribune.

December 1st, 2009 at 7:31 pm

no comments

“Notes From No Man’s Land,” by Eula Biss

Whither America? It’s a question as rudely trampled as Fourth of July confetti and as old as the country itself, drawing decades of ruminative expatriates, patriots, nativists and activists to its winking allure like a quarter stuck to the sidewalk. But while many have answered, few have simply stopped to listen.

— Chicago Tribune

December 1st, 2009 at 7:28 pm

no comments