I work with a newly formed non-profit group known as VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and Letters (vidaweb.org), and this is what we do - find ways to quantify, discuss, dissect and "disintermediate" (as Mr. Jackson put it) the work of those gatekeepers, and listmakers and other cultural production monetizers and arbiters out there in the world of arts and letters. The Atlantic can definitely be counted as one of those arbiters, so I read it regularly. VIDA formed in response to a dilemma women writers of all genres face: the lack of balanced representation in publishing and literary awards and colloquia.
Last year, founder Cate Marvin sent out an email entitled, "As I Stand Here Folding Laundry" to a group of friends that resonated with enough women writers that it went viral, appearing on listservs and blogs and generally putting a finger on an issue that had gone unfingered, serving as a call to action to address the dearth of consideration given to the cultural production of women writers. Last year's Publisher's Weekly Best-Of debacle in which they included an astounding (drumroll, please) ZERO writers of the female persuasion, and their follow-up defense that the world is now--I'm not sure what to call it? Post-sexism? Beyond the need to examine one's own motives and biases when declaring material superlative?--underscored the urgency of this mission.
Dixson begins her post by saying that Chris Jackson's All the Sad Young Literary Women peeved her and prompted her to send the link to Jackson's post out to her women friends and colleagues for feedback.
--A related post, at Beatrice.com, Ron Hogan's Franzenfreude Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg, asks "Should a book review section be 'news about the culture' as Sam Tanenhaus called it, or the special snowflake appreciation corner?" More particularly, he takes aim, with Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult, at the New York Times Book Review (and the mainstream reviewing establishment generally) for idolizing Jonathan Franzen-- the Great While Male Novelist du jour.
Weiner and Picoult, among others, are giving us a valuable critique of a serious problem with the way the Times—and, frankly, most of the so-called literary establishment—treats contemporary fiction. Which is to say: They ignore most of it, and when it comes to the narrow bandwidth of literature they do cover, their performance is underwhelming, “not only meager but shockingly mediocre,” as former LA Times Book Review director Steve Wasserman said three years ago. And it hasn’t gotten any better since then, leaving us with what Jennifer Weiner describes as “a disease that’s rotting the relationship between readers and reviewers.”--at Strange Horizons, Anil Menon reviews Narrative Power: Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles, ed by L. Timmel Duchamp. And a wonderfully crunchy review it is.
In this collection of essays, edited by L. Timmel Duchamp, narrative power is examined from sixteen different perspectives. The volume's subtitle—Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles—explains why its essays linger in the mind. Its writers have skin in the game. Many of their insights have that bittersweet flavor peculiar to autobiographical accounts. Some of the essays are reprints, but most originated from a Wiscon 2009 panel session. This might explain the informal, leaning-towards-the-microphone quality of the writing. All the essays are worth a second read and an individual response.
--People in a small town in Wyoming are being warned to take precautions agants being blown up while taking a shower. Abrahm Lustgarten writes, for Pro Publica, in Feds Warn Residents Near Wyoming Gas Drilling Sites Not To Drink Their Water:
The federal government is warning residents in a small Wyoming town with extensive natural gas development not to drink their water, and to use fans and ventilation when showering or washing clothes in order to avoid the risk of an explosion.
The announcement accompanied results from a second round of testing and analysis in the town of Pavillion by Superfund investigators for the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers found benzene, metals, naphthalene, phenols and methane in wells and in groundwater. They also confirmed the presence of other compounds that they had tentatively identified last summer and that may be linked to drilling activities.
((photo: Creative Commons/ Flickr user woodleywonderworks)
The water's loaded with carcinogens, of course-- and of course that's nothing new, since it's pretty commonplace for mineral extraction and drilling to wreck the local environment. (The gas company is in fact arguing that old mining pits are the sole source of the pollution, which could be true-- but could also simply be a lie.) But I've never before heard of people being warned that they could blow up in the shower... If I were a graphic artist (or had any ability to draw), I'd be really tempted to invent new icon for signifying danger of exploding while showering. People could put signs with them up in their bathrooms, to remind themselves to turn on the fan before turning on the water...