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BookNotes: Nevermore

 

Today’s top read: The Estrogen Zone, or how women pioneered creative nonfiction before it was even a thing. All the way back to Nellie Bly, women like Joan Didion, Rachel Carson, Gail Sheehy, and others had to deal with the most rank sexism to fight their way out of the “flamingo pink” women’s pages to get to do real work in the white-male-dominated world of nonfiction and journalism. 

(Lest you think this is ancient history, know that as a young reporter I was assigned to write up weddings. Yes, all the details of the dresses worn to the bridesmaids’ luncheon, too. To be fair, I also got to cover the shooting of U.S. Marshals and eventually got to do real journalism.)

Much of the article is focused on Bly, whose real name was Elizabeth Cochrane and pioneered investigative undercover journalism by getting herself committed to an asylum to uncover how women with mental health issues were mistreated. One such woman’s “mental health” issue was not wanting to be married to her husband anymore, so he dumped her in the asylum. For life. Cochrane and Ida Tarbell and Nell Nelson and Annie Laurie and the amazing Martha Gellhorn exposed injustice and oppression before it was cool, and did it in defiance of a society that insisted their place was to serve men in their homes. It’s from The Fine Art of Literary Fistfighting, a history of creative nonfiction that just vaulted to the top of my wishlist.

• I’m not rehashing Barbenheimer Goes to the Oscars, but Den Of Geek has an interesting piece despite being solidly in Oppy’s camp about the missing women of Oppenheimer. I recall being annoyed at how the women characters were reduced basically to sex objects and background noise (with a notable exception included in the article) but I had forgotten about all the women scientists they ignored or mocked. The movie version of history shouldn’t be more sexist than actual history. I had never thought of Nolan’s work as being overtly male-centered, but now I can’t unsee it. That said, it isn’t fair to say Oppenheimer is solely for male viewers, as that’s in itself a sexist assumption that women aren’t interested in all that sciencey stuff.

• This Week in A.I. Hell: The estate George Carlin sues the podcasters who made an A.I. zombie Carlin special, whereupon the podcasters immediately declared, “Uh, we didn’t use A.I.! We totally wrote it ourselves.” They sound like my students. We’ll see in the depositions, boys. This case has the potential to set legal precedent about the use of A.I. generated images of deceased celebrities without their families’ consent or compensation, thus the backpedaling.

• That creepy author who requested nudes from young women to promote his book, which we talked about last week? His agent dropped him, he appears to have been removed from his speakers bureau, he’s been kicked off a number of boards and organizations… basically, stick a fork in him, he’s done. It’s easy to completely torch your career by being a creeper. Also, he’s very sorry.

• An interesting interview with author Eric A. Stanley on their new book detailing anti-trans/queer violence. They argue that modernity cannot be examined separate from violence and oppression of LGBTQ+ people and their art. “I think a lot of the promises of inclusion are crumbling, and people are unsure what to do. I hope that this will radicalize us all toward demanding an end to this world and [demanding] one [where] we can all survive,” they said. The book is titled Atmospheres ofViolence, and you can read the whole interview at Public Books.

Finally: Happy birthday, Edgar Allan Poe.

Note: Next week I am back on the road, attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Kansas City. Daily travelogues and convention write-ups will appear on Patreon, so now is a great time to subscribe! There will be no Show Your Work or BookNotes next week due to the conference, unless I get super ambitious. But I’ll be back the next week!

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