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Archive for the ‘Sex & Gender’ Category

“Every few years, someone counts up the titles covered in the New York Times Book Review and the short fiction published in the New Yorker, as well as the bylines and literary works reviewed in such highbrow journals as Harper’s and the New York Review of Books, and observes that the male names outnumber the female by about 2 to 1. This situation is lamentable, as everyone but a handful of embittered cranks seems to agree, but it’s not clear that anyone ever does anything about it. The bestseller lists, though less intellectually exalted, tend to break down more evenly along gender lines; between J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer alone, the distaff side is more than holding its own in terms of revenue. But when it comes to respect, are women writers getting short shrift?” (more @ Salon)

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pessl2Writing in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Jacob Silverman denounces the “lazy and shallow tactic” of discussing an author’s looks in a book review. He recalls the often overheated commentary about Marisha Pessl‘s dust jacket photo in her 2006 debut novel, Special Topics In Calamity Physics, and takes Janet Maslin to task for her February 15th New York Times review of Miriam Gershow’s The Local News.

[Related: “The dust jacket photo remains a crucial promotional device. In fact, says Antonia Hodgson, the editor-in-chief at the publisher Little, Brown, it’s more important than ever.” (more @ Looking the part, 4/10/09, The National)]

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best-sex1In a posting earlier this week on his New York Times blog about books, David Kelly included an excerpt from Daphne Merkin’s essay, “Penises I Have Known,” one of the 23 pieces in the recently released compilation, “Best Sex Writing 2009,” edited by sex commentator and erotic author Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Merkin’s essay, previously published in Playboy, considers Norman Mailer‘s and Harold Brodkey‘s writings about sex as well as D.H. Lawrence‘s curious penchant for naming body parts.

[Available from Amazon.com as a Kindle Edition download, I hadn’t previously thought of the Kindle as the modern-day equivalent of the tried-and-true brown paper wrapper. We’ve come a long way, baby.]

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margaret-atwood-002“The acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood has pulled out of a Dubai literature festival after the blacklisting of the British novelist Geraldine Bedell for potential offence to ‘cultural sensitivities’.

“Bedell’s novel The Gulf Between Us, a romantic comedy set in a fictional Gulf emirate, was due to receive its official launch at the event, which claims to be the ‘first true literary festival in the Middle East’.

“According to Bedell, organisers were initially keen to feature the book, but then backtracked, citing its discussion of Islam and its focus on the Iraq war, as well as the fact that a minor character is a gay sheikh with an English boyfriend.

“In a letter to Isobel Abulhoul, the festival’s director, Atwood wrote that ‘as an international vice-president of Pen, an organisation concerned with the censorship of writers, I cannot be part of the festival this year’.”

(via The Guardian)

Abulhoul’s response to Atwood’s withdrawal has been published on the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature website.

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“The Oscar Wilde Bookshop in Greenwich Village, which is believed to be the oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in the country, will close on March 29, its owner announced on Tuesday, citing “the current economic crisis.” The announcement came nearly five years after the store was about to close, only to be given a last-minute reprieve when a new owner purchased it.”

(via NY Times)

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still-life“Of all the truly seismic shifts transforming daily life today — deeper than our financial fissures, wider even than our most obvious political and cultural divides — one of the most important is also among the least remarked. That is the chasm in attitude that separates almost all of us living in the West today from almost all of our ancestors, over two things without which human beings cannot exist: food and sex.

“The question before us today is not whether the two appetites are closely connected. About that much, philosophers and other commentators have been agreed for a very long time. As far back as Aristotle, observers have made the same point reiterated in 1749 in Henry Fielding’s famous scene in Tom Jones: The desires for sex and for food are joined at the root. The fact that Fielding’s scene would go on to inspire an equally iconic movie segment over 200 years later, in the Tom Jones film from 1963, just clinches the point.

“What happens when, for the first time in history, adult human beings are free to have all the sex and food they want?

“Philosophers and artists aside, ordinary language itself verifies how similarly the two appetites are experienced, with many of the same words crossing over to describe what is desirable and undesirable in each case. In fact, we sometimes have trouble even talking about food without metaphorically invoking sex, and vice versa. In a hundred entangled ways, judging by either language or literature, the human mind juggles sex and food almost interchangeably at times. And why not? Both desires can make people do things they otherwise would not; and both are experienced at different times by most men and women as the most powerful of all human drives.” (via Policy Review)

[Rodney Dangerfield had a bit about food replacing sex in his marriage, something along the lines: “I’m telling you my love life is terrible. My love life is so bad, food has replaced sex in my marriage – things are so bad my wife and I even installed a ceiling mirror over our kitchen table.”]

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Book Review Widows Of EastwickWhile searching the web for articles on John Updike I was amused to learn that Updike’s “The Widows of Eastwick” had been shortlisted for this past year’s Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award (he did not win, although he did receive a Lifetime Achievement Award).

One link led to another, which led to my thinking about the ubiquity of “pornography,” especially on the web. Shannon Rupp asserts that “the ubiquity of porn has rendered it invisible for most adults” and asks “why has pornographic imagery become such an acceptable part of public culture?” Bob Guccione, Jr., founder of Spin magazine and son of the founder of Penthouse magazine, opines on the future of pornography here.

Finally, here is a video clip from a November, 2008 interview of John Updike by Charlie Rose in which the author considers his “feminist detractors.”

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