Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Literary Deal-Breakers--Must Be Egalitarian to Apply.

Everyone else is talking about this, so why can't we?

Thanks to the an essay by The Times' Rachel Donadio, bloggers around the 'sphere are talking about what you look for, literary taste-wise, in a potential mate, and what books, should you espy them on a bedside table, would send you fleeing into the night.

I didn't really have any such deal-breakers back in college, but one thing I've realized when comparing my boyfriend to the super-Serious guys I once aspired to hang with, is that the most important thing for me is a partner who loves "great" literature, but not at the exclusion of fun literature. I'm glad that my Joyce-Faulkner-Melville-lovin' boyfriend happily accompanied me to see the unfairly-maligned Da Vinci Code on the big screen and at this very moment, as I try to explain to him why some people (wrongly) rag on Dan Brown, says "they're morons."

In other words, to enter my/our world, you have to be an egalitarian bookworm (duh.) It's this love of the entire range of literature that we share,I tend to like more plot-driven novels and enjoy 19th century narration, he gravitates towards novels with gorgeous prose, but we each also devour everything from Science fiction to "chick-lit" if it strikes our fancy. We are consumers, not connoisseurs. And we try not to take ourselves too seriously*!

Plus, he likes Jane Austen! And that is definitely worth a billion bonus points.

*(But still, this article did get me thinking that it's high time I impressed him by devouring Moby Dick and having clever things to say about it. This summer, I promise!)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Live-Blogging PBS' "Jane Austen Season": Sense and Sensibility, installment 1

Here goes. I'm counting the laughs throughout the evening to see if Davies accurately nails Austen's big satire.

If you read my JA coverage you know I adore the Ang Lee film version, but more as a product of Ang Lee's and Emma Thompson's genius than Jane's/ So let's see if Davies can keep his ego in check and not be influenced too much by the '95 version.

9:04--The highly-anticipated "sex scene" isn't very controversial so far--but I wonder if this "do you truly love me," Willoughby stuff isn't seeing things through a modern lens.

9:05--John promises Mr. Dashwood that he will "do something by the girls." So far, it's all very Serious.

9:06--The first laugh of the evening, when Margaret says "will they have to live with Gypsys?"

9:09--Fanny Dashwood, such a bitch!

9:11--The first mention of a COTTAGE! I am EXC-essively fond of a cottage.

9:13--Laugh count, according to my boyfriend and our good friend Mike: 3 to 4.

9:14--A side note--the production value of this is SO MUCH better than the ITV productions earlier this year. Another example of the longstanding British oppression of the Irish.

9:16--Side note number two: Andrew Davies is still good at distilling the essence of a novel, but he's using more of his own language relative to Jane's--"carpet-beating" etc. etc. Still, so far so good.

9:17--Edward is HOT. And he's a total Hugh Grant type.

9:18--Edward and Elinor discuss his career; the scene is shot just like S&S95.

9:20--Remind me those who have read the book. Is this whole Edward-bonds-with-Margaret thing actually in the book or is it just a trope that filmmakers continually use to show how great Edward is?

9:25--Fanny, such a BITCH, redux.

9:25--Mrs. Dashwood on John Middleton: "Such kindness, from a man we have never met." Flash to John Dashwood's uncomfortable face. This is what we love about Andrew Davies. This is the kind of subtlety Jane demands.

9:28--Edward values Elinor's friendship but can't stay anymore. His eyes are all teary. He's a bit awkward but I actually may like him better than Hugh Grant, not in terms of loveability but in terms of being true to the character from the novel. Shy, yes, proper yes, but not a stammering ninny.

9:32--WOW. What beautiful shots of the English countryside. Let's go there! Fetch my trap and pony! Or perhaps I am the type who would prefer a barouche?

9:37--Sir John Middleton is MR WEASLEY FROM HARRY POTTER! But Ang Lee still has Snape, Sybil Trelawney, Madame Pomfrey, Dolores Umbridge and Cornelius Fudge in his picture. Not too fair.

9:38--Colonel Brandon is so ...dashing. Quoth my boyfriend's sister over gmail chat: LOOK AT THAT HUNK!

9:41--We get that this cottage is seriously uncomfortable. Cold. Damp. British. Almost Irish. The surrounding cliffs are absolutely gorgeous, in a stark way.

Hey, you ever notice how Marianne and Elinor are living on a cliff, both literally cause there's a cliff onscreen, and figuratively because they're women with no money and they're one step away from ruin? Nice symbolism, Davies.

9:45--I like the way they are developing the Marianne and Brandon thing. Very slowly. But I feel that Marianne's over-the-top romanticism is not quite being played for laughs the way Austen wants it to. She's supposed to be a walking, talking embodiment of the Romantic fangirl, and she just comes off as a bit spoiled here. But I think it's almost impossible to live up to Kate Wiinslet's performance, no?

9:52--Willoughby is no Greg Wise. He doesn't have the smoldering looks that make his creepy behavior seem pass-able. The whole point of Willoughby is that he looks the part of the hero so much so everyone is fooled by him.

9:57--"How do you do sir?" "How do you do Brandon?"
"Poor Brandon. You shall none of you think of him now."--Sir John Middleton from S&S 95.

No laughs for a while now, incidentally. It's gotten pretty serious. Unfortunately I can't take Willoughby seriously.

10:00--OH SHYTE, A CONFRONTATION BETWEEN WILLOUGHBY AND BRANDON. This is sooooooo not in the book!

Willoughby has some sass on his mouth. He needs a good whack from Brandon's rifle-butt.

10:04--This buying them a horse business has totally lost me. I know it's right out of the book, but...

10:09--Andrew Davies sure knows how to sex up a lock-cutting scene, eh? The snipping of the scissors, the movement of hands... very hot stuff.

10:14--In which Willoughby and Marianne go to Allenham. Is he taking her up to the bedroom? Is he talking to her about fairytales? This all feels a bit too modern Joe-Wrighty for me.

Oh shit, they're making out!!!

I dunno...

I was so into this at the beginning, but I'm souring. Marianne is supposed to be funny! It's not supposed to get serious until later.

However, I LOVE this Elinor. She's giving Emma Thompson a run for her money. She is so proper and sympathetic without being fussy or fastidious. She is just a tough, strong, centered woman.

10:23--Quoth Marianne: "I am sure he will find a way to come back and see us very soon." WHY Marianne being so rational? She's supposed to be FREAKING OUT!!

Okay, concluding thoughts. Not as good as '95 in the respect that the caricature and wit totally falls away about 40 minutes in, and Jane Austen never never never stops being a satirist even when she's describing pathos.

However, the scenery and the acting on the part of Elinor, Edward, and Brandon are all excellent, and obviously it's fun to watch it develop at a novel-like pace. Can't wait for next week!

PS Check out this hilarious review from the Editrix of austenblog herself.

WAM. (smack! pow!)

I'm sitting in Bostons' airy and chilly South Station, using their less than stellar wireless connection to gather my thoughts on the three-day immersion in feminist media extravaganza, also known as the Women, Action and the Media conference.

I am glad to have gone if only to have met face to face some of my amazing amazing editors and co-writers at Rh Reality Check, Bitch, and Women's eNews. The panels were all fantastic and informative and I met several lovely and friendly feminists and had great discussions with them.

The down side: at moments (lunchtime, the so-called "party") the whole thing felt like a bizarro version of 7th grade at an all-girls high school... But that, imho, is just the nature of all events where there's forced socialization. No matter how progressive or enlightened their politics are, people behave in certain ways... that's why my love of fiction, aka the study of the flaws in human nature, complements my interests in political movements so well :)

BUT I digress, dear readers. I'll quickly run down the panels I went to and what I thought of them. If you find the ideas discussed herein piquing your interest, come next year and keep my ass company.

  • The first panel was with Emily , the associate editor at RHRC, and Amanda, the host of the site's slammin' podcast and feminist blogger extraordinaire. I have to say it was the most intelligent, thoughtful discussion of reproductive justice that I've experienced, and it felt like the convo was just getting started as the session came to an end. One particular anecdote that panelist Cristina Page relayed about how abortion is considered even more serious a topic than, say war, definitely gave me some insight into the connection between how women are portrayed in pop culture and the restriction of our physical rights. Kudos to all involved. Here's Amanda's take and here's feministing's liveblog.
  • The second panel on "Breaking into the old boys club" was also the beginning of an AMAZING discussion on how women, or self-identified feminists in mainstream-slash- corporate media outlets can point out discriminatory or stereotypical content in a productive way and how to avoid being marginalized as that "shrill feminist/PC person". As the longtime token feminist at the Crimson I definitely related, and if I ever work in the mainstream media again, which I'm sure I will, it gave me a ton of food for thought.
  • Andi Zeisler, the editorial director at Bitch, did a panel on women in reality TV, which is obviously a favorite topic of mine. Andi made a really interesting point about how women in reality TV tend to be LESS nuanced and less realistic than women on scripted show, but because it's "reality TV" the media and other arbiters of cultural mores use them as stand-ins for real women. "The newfound popularity of feel good" reality shows like Extreme Makeover: Home and Oprah's big give gave us a chance to brainstorm our own more femme-friendly reality TV pitches.
  • This morning I went to anther panel on abortion featuring Frances Kissling and others. This presented data-and message driven ideas abut how to win the ideological war on this issue. I'm glad I got more chances to think about abortion in America and hear several very different perspectives on how we go forward...I have to say though, that hearing about how judgmental towards women Americans are, at least according to polling data, did give me a hard dose of reality after the optimism of the reproductive justice panel yesterday!
  • Finally I went to the first two-thirds of a kick-ass discussion on media sexism in the coverage of the election which has obviously been shamefully on display this season. I was happy that Betsy Reed of the Nation also brought up, really eloquently, how racist some Clintonites and pundits have been and how there's a deep connection between both isms, but how both isms are different in their manifestations and results, and the whole oppression-Olympics brouhaha is pointless.

And that's it. For now. It was nice-(ish) to be back in Cambridge. The sight of the Lowell bell-tower and Memorial Church in the glow of twilight is stunningly beautiful. And also cold. Like the Puritan soul of Boston itself. Get me back to NYC, Amtrak! Stat!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Waitin on a Sunny Day

Greetings, readers, from drizzle-soaked Manhattan. It's a perfectly gray afternoon and I'm procrastinating my inevitable trip to the basement to pick up my laundry. It's been a long March, filled with illnesses and malaise for me and all those around me (We're talking flus, monos, food poisonings, and more!) and I'm looking forward to

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,

I've been reading a lot of books for my gig at Publishers weekly that focus on women in various forms of distress. We really eat that up, culturally, don't we? Women going through crises and then pulling themselves together, weathering the storm. But I miss having a book of my own to read, and am going to buy some sort of fun fictional tome at Penn Station tomorrow before I go on my sojourn up to WAM (and yes, I am nervous for the conference but excited to revisit my favorite harvard square eateries, hopefully not entirely toute seule )

Other things I'm looking forward to:
  • Sense and Sensibility on Sunday night. This time I'm really going to focus, not like with Emma on Sunday when my friends and I yakked and shoved pasta down our throats throughout the entire thing. It was kind of boring, no?
  • The primary campaign being over. Please. Please.
  • Spring! The five minutes when NYC is not freezing or boiling.
  • My family's agnostic/atheistic/pluralistic/egalitarian/drunken Passover celebration!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bloggin' from Vermont.

Greetings, readers, from Vermont, home of cheddar cheese, maple syrup, and Ben and Jerry's. Also, natural beauty and civil unions and socialist senators and other good stuff.

I'm here on a brief family ski trip and actually am a little bit nervous about tackling the icy, steep, cold slopes of Northern New England--a few trips to Utah have turned me into a bit of a spring-skiing spoiled brat of late, forgetting my childhood sliding down the hard slopes of the Northeast--but am happy to be away from the sirens and traffic of the city for a few days.

Right now, in liberal Manhattanite fashion, my family is gathered around a Bill Moyers expose on Blackwater--he's talking with Rep. Henry Waxman about the complete lack of oversight, and it's just devastating. The more I learn about it, the more I think the Bush administration is just one of the most fascist in history. I wonder if America can recover from this even if we do elect Obama.

It's hard to think about when you're in a state like Vermont, where even the highway rest stops have well-maintained facilities, free coffee, free wi-fi and even a beautiful war memorial and you know gay people can marry and health is good and education is above the national average, and so on. This is what good government can do.

The country at large, is the opposite.