Review: How to Suppress Women’s Writing

How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ

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In How to Suppress Women’s Writing, the late, great Joanna Russ talks about how important it is for the writing woman to have role models. In this spirit, I dedicate this post to three of Russ’ clear heiresses (besides, you know, her annual collection)—Ana, Jodie, and Renay, especially when they assemble the patriarchy-smashing Voltron that is ladybusiness. I thought of them after reading each chapter of this book. Ladies, Russ clearly belongs to you.

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Review: The Times of the Eighties

The Times of the Eighties edited by William Grimes

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In 2005, MTV ran a program, undoubtedly influenced by the success of That 70s Show, called The 70s House. It was a reality competition where twelve contestants parted with the modern world, lived in a simulcrum of the seventies 24/7, and competed to see who could be “the most 70s”. I never saw it, but when I heard about it, as a tender, awful-haired fourteen-year-old, I daydreamed about the possibility of a The 80s House, which I would undoubtedly dominate. Such a show never surfaced, of course, but something like The Times of the Eighties would have been very useful to prep for my audition. When I saw it on NetGalley, I couldn’t hit the request button fast enough.

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Review: Rhetoric — A Very Short Introduction

Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction by Richard Toye

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Oxford Press’ Very Short Introduction series is a godsend for someone like me. I’ve mentioned before that there are massive, gaping holes in my pop cultural education (I have never seen The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music), but there are some in my academic education as well. Lately, I’ve come to tackle my blind spots with equally blind enthusiasm (“I’ve never seen a James Bond film! LET’S WATCH ALL OF THEM!”), but some are easier to tackle than others. And that’s why this series is perfect for me: in a little over one hundred pages, each volume has more depth and focus than a Wikipedia article and allows me to get a feel for the basics without going deeper into the subject than I need to.

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Review: Fashioning Teenagers

Fashioning Teenagers by Kelley Massoni

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When I was what is technically considered a teenage girl, I was far too busy reading fanfiction, scheming to get my hands on Velvet Goldmine, and being a femmephobic little terror to even realize what mainstream teenage culture was. In my understanding, it was something to do with Saved By the Bell, which I couldn’t watch without my mother darkly muttering about how it gave my brother unrealistic expectations of high school. It’s both a blessing and a curse: I never felt like I was chained to a script, but mostly because I had no idea that the script existed. Thus, I was pretty blind to Seventeen magazine until I read an article that cited this book, which pointed out both Seventeen’s age and its origin story as a women’s service magazine. I had to investigate.

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Review: What It Is

What It Is by Lynda Barry

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Part of my evolution as a writer over the last year has been realizing that I am much more of an editor or a literary critic than a creative writer. I mean, I’m still a creative writer to some degree. I’m not Paul Collins, who thinks the idea of characters escaping their writers is preposterous, because I’ve had characters decimate entire plot outlines by being smarter than I am. But there is a reason I’m an English Literature major, not a Creative Writing major. So why would I pick up a book pretty clearly aimed at a more traditional creative writer? Well, I’m trying to get my mother to write her memoirs and she does not subscribe to her daughter’s blunt way of leaping blind into new hobbies, so I’m vetting writing resources for her. Plus, I’ve heard a lot about Lynda Barry, so I thought it was time to get acquainted.

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Review: The Art of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Art of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull

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Of my various stupid human tricks (lactose intolerance, short hamstrings, that thing where I can bend my thumb behind my hand…), I’m usually most fond of my browsing sense. An urge to get up and go browse somewhere usually means that there’s gold in them there hills (hills being, of course, thrift stores, libraries, and, occasionally, curbs), and I often return with, say, a copy of The Cake Doctor or a Wonder Woman t-shirt from my adventures. Such an urge gripped me while at the library for the Jessica Hagy event, and, afterwards, I meandered upstairs to find a copy of The Art of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, one of my long-shot books to read, just lying there in the new books. Oh yeah.

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Review: My Ideal Bookshelf

My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount and Thessaly La Force

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Every bibliophile knows the surreptitious joy of peeking at other people’s well-curated bookshelves. (Curation is important: haphazard piles of dusty books make me sad, unless I’m a potential buyer.) The books that are so important to you they stay with you move after move, culling after culling… those are the ones you can count the rings on your soul with. This is exactly what artist Jane Mount was tapping into when she started the Ideal Bookshelf Project in 2007, painting people’s idealized bookshelves. The spectacularly named Thessaly La Force joined forces with her and added interviews to Mount’s pieces, resulting in My Ideal Bookshelf.

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Review: Bitchfest

Bitchfest edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler

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I don’t remember the moment I became a feminist. Presumably, it occurred around the point my mother determined that I would not be raised in the Catholic Church and didn’t come up with an alternative, so I would have been negative a few months old. Of course, being an itty bitty ace feminist didn’t stop me from being alarmingly femmephobic throughout my adolescence, but I like to think that my feminism is in a constant state of evolution. Even so, my formerly impervious pop culture bubble didn’t particularly allow me access to magazines like Bitch or Bust, but there’s no time like the present to catch up, especially when they just go ahead and publish a greatest hits collection. Merci!

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Review: The Real Jane Austen

The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne

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For all of Jane Austen’s constant popularity, the image of Austen as sequestered spinster is weirdly durable. I’ve mentioned before that I am awfully enamored of Becoming Jane, a film whose other faults we will get to. But even that film, which depicts the young Austen in a tempestuous relationship with one Tom Lefroy (giving me a reason to see Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy make out, so thank you), ultimately plays into that image after spending so much time trying to subvert it in the most cliche of ways. (I don’t think it’s a spoiler to let you know that Hathaway and McAvoy cease making out at some point.) So when I was given the opportunity to read a biography of Austen that promised to explode that image, I leapt at the chance to finally read something that presented Austen as a human being.

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