Your timely reminder that I’m blogging at The Rumpus every Monday! Most bookish/writing/literary links I come across end up at The Rumpus rather than desk lunch, so check that out if that’s your jawn.
LCRW #33 approaches its theme of humanity’s relationship with the earth with a little humor, a touch of horror, and seventeen different kinds of understanding. Includes multiple award winner Sofia Samatar, Nebula and Shirley Jackson award nominee Carmen Maria Machado, and World Fantasy Award nominee Christopher Brown among others.
I’m writing a mid-year reading post (like my end-of-year reading post) because I added it to my calendar back in January and I couldn’t very well tell my past self UGH I’M BUSY LEAVE ME ALONE, even though ugh I’m busy leave me alone.
Actually, I could, and I would have, but the first half of this year has been weirdly amazing for books, so I should mark this brief and shockingly positive outlook with some words.
I love good action movies because they blend in-your-face spectacle with whisper-quiet subtext in between all the explosions. Good action movies call back to Western culture’s urtext action movie, Homer’s Iliad; they perform a similar balancing act between subtlety and a spear literally breaking a guy’s head apart from the inside out. It’s the subtlety that sticks with me because it takes longer to sink in and then lingers much longer.
Enter Jurassic World and its lack of feminism in that overt Katniss-branded sense. (Never mind that Bryce Dallas Howard did everything Chris Pratt did while wearing ivory pumps that he deemed impractical.) Jurassic Park had Laura Dern and Hacker Girl while Jurassic World had four speaking roles for women (Howard, Judy Greer, Control Room Girl, and Morgana from Merlin) compared to three times as many speaking roles for men. That’s not reflective of the world I live in, but the world I live in also doesn’t have a dinosaur theme park.
Those gendered choices represent the reality of Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t use a rocket launcher against Indominus Rex (THE UNTAMED KING!!! NOTHING IS CHILL ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!), but there’s more to feminism than portraying women as ultra-violent monsters at the same rate that men are portrayed ultra-violent monsters. That’s the subtext of Jurassic World: a disaster movie that predominantly features men messing up and served with Action Movie Justice. We can use feminism as a lens on Jurassic World that allows us to identify toxic masculinity for what it is and call it out.
So, in order of appearance, here’s an incomplete list that examines the men in Jurassic World and their experience in this culture of toxic masculinity. All movie-canon errors are my own because, at the time of writing, I saw the movie less than 48 hours ago and IMDb can only supply so much. SPOILERS BELOW, OBVIOUSLY.
You’re a handler on Muldoon’s staff. Handlers are classified as Essential Personnel so when the evacuation call comes, you stay. Your team splits up to put out fires around the island, but you’re the only one who returns to the visitors’ center. You see two raptors swarming with a T-Rex not far behind, so you hide. You enter the building and give yourself an hour in one of the ground floor utility closets while the animal battle in the lobby handles itself. The screeching of the raptors stops; the building is silent. You tell yourself that, thanks to the sheer size of animals you’re dealing with, their movements are easier to track than what you’re used to handling.
You almost believe that, but then you see her.
On Reading Promptly
I don’t read in a timely fashion. I have a long commute so I can finish books quickly, but my choices aren’t timely. Every 2014 release on this list I grandfathered in through some prior care: the latest trade of a comic, a friend’s chapbook (Clever Little Gang), the concluding book in a series (Grossman’s Magicians, the third volume of Stephen Fry’s autobiography), or writers I already read daily (Patricia Lockwood, Anne Helen Petersen, Mallory Ortberg). Here’s the full list of books I read in 2014.
It’s funny: when I was a lit student and researching a book or translation’s publication history, I’d want to reach into past centuries and throw book reviewers into a sewer because their first review of a book was like, four years after its publication and I needed your thoughts on this book PROMPTLY, dead person!! As is the way, I’ve become that which I despise. You can expect my thoughts on 2014 releases in three to seven years minimum. Cut me some slack, undergrad Michelle. Life is hard. I want to read about dragons.
Girl Canon‘s business: publishing women’s “secret canons”—books that were part of women’s formative reading experiences, especially books outside of the canon as it’s taught. The idea comes from n+1‘s conversation between female writers and academics, published as the pamphlet No Regrets. Below is an excerpt from my secret canon. Ladies: consider submitting your own.
I read Harriet the Spy when I was nine and thought: YES! I want to write! Except I was nine and not so hot on picking up The Message, so I started a burn book about my classmates. It… did not go well. In the novel and its sequel, The Long Secret (an underappreciated beautiful weirdo of a book), Harriet has this tenacity and knowledge-lust that makes a reader dizzy with the possibility of how much you can know about people, about anything, while still knowing nothing at all.
For a cosmic hot second in the 200+ years between Eliza Haywood’s death in 1756 and feminism rising from the murky depths of literary scholarship, we lost sight of her work and its role in the development of the English novel. The biographical facts of her life are hard to come by and harder to confirm, but what we do know portrays her as the 18th century’s J.K. Rowling: a single mom with two kids who wrote one of the most popular books of the century (1720’s Love in Excess) and then published a new novel every three months through the 1720s. Haywood was a playwright, a translator, a journalist and publisher, and that was after several years as an actress on the stage. For those two centuries after her death, the literary canon relegated her work and legacy not to the Early English Novelists trophy case, but to the genre sub-basement known as “amatory fiction,” to make room for her contemporaries Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding.
Don’t let the amatory fiction label fool you: Haywood wrote novels. Why the long exclusion from the canon, then? Why call it amatory fiction or domestic literature or ovarian dialogues rather than novels? In Haywood’s case, these were romances that had dark turns where women were seduced by rakes that they couldn’t recognize because their families had kept them innocent (read: ignorant). Her novels show the consequences to women who step out of line with the morals of their day: the money and security at stake, the shaming from her family and friends, and the toll those consequences take on a woman’s emotional health.
What’s refreshing about this biopic is that Allen’s problems aren’t Allen Ginsberg problems—they’re just problems. Allen has a sick mother he feels he should care for; Allen wants to distinguish himself as a writer; Allen wants to fit in with his new friends; Allen and his friends vandalize a library with a stupid college prank. Darlings becomes an extraordinary story about the Beat Generation because it shows how conventional Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs were and how those conventions suffocated the lives they wanted to live.