American literary fiction: No Girls Allowed, "feminist Franzenfreude" edition


Check out this protest by some writers of the coronation of Jonathan Franzen by the American literary establishment as the next Leo Tolstoy:

This time around a couple of best-selling female writers, Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, have tweeted their disdain for what they see as critical fawning over Franzen’s new novel, Freedom.

Weiner has even come up with a phrase to describe her feelings: Franzenfreude.

“Schadenfreude is taking pleasure in the pain of others,” Weiner says. “Franzenfreude is taking pain in the multiple and copious reviews being showered on Jonathan Franzen.”

But her angst is not just about the book — or even about Franzen himself.

“It’s about the establishment choosing one writer and writing about him again and again and again,” Weiner says, “while they are ignoring a lot of other worthy writers and, in the case of The New York Times, entire genres of books.”

So why Franzen, and not (for example) Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, or Barbara Kingsolver?  Gee:  I wonder!

“It’s just interesting to sort of stack them up against a Lorrie Moore or against a Mona Simpson — who write books about families that are seen as excellent books about families,” Weiner says. “And then to look at a Jonathan Franzen who writes a book about a family but we are told this is a book about America.”

Now, I really liked Franzen’s The Corrections, and I asked for Freedom for my birthday this year.  But Picoult and Weiner are absolutely correct.  As I have argued here before American literary fiction has no room for womenContinue reading

Smug parking ONLY

Historiann's parking space

Hee-hee.  I love it.  Finally, I’m benefiting from the nice, shiny new classroom and counseling building they built behind the SpacePod that houses most of the Liberal Arts departments at Baa Ram U.  In the process, they did away with a whole parking lot but they also converted a few of the spaces in the adjacent lot to these spaces.  So although I’ll never get to teach in shiny new building, at least I get preferred parking closer to my building with these spots reserved for smug hybrid drivers.  (And for me, the unsmug hybrid driver who has to teach in unglamorous, un-smart, unrenovated classrooms.  Unbelieveable, isn’t it?)

This is for Sisyphus, who won a postdoc (yay!) and has moved to Postdoc City, only to find that the morning commute and parking is even more difficult than it was back in the Golden State.  Good luck, Sis!  We’re all rooting for you.

Paper: a reliable (and recyclable) technology

Undine has some useful thoughts about paper and its irreplaceability.  She notes that there are some instances in our professional lives as academics when hard copies of documents are not just preferable, they’re irreplaceable:

Sometimes paper just works better, and we ought to be able to acknowledge that.

Example: An upcoming conference is making the program available either in e-form or in paper form. I applaud the decision on a conceptual level, but it left me in a dilemma. Since I felt guilty ordering the paper form because of all the green rhetoric surrounding the choice, I ordered the e-version, but who am I kidding? I’ve tried getting .pdfs on a Blackberry screen, and even if the document doesn’t fail to download and go into a holding pattern, which it does about 90% of the time, the print is too tiny to read.

What I’ll probably do is print some pages before I go, but I’d really rather have a booklet so that I can mark the sessions in case I change my mind later. I won’t know where I’m going at the conference, but at least I won’t have a conference program that pegs me as a Despoiler of the Earth.  Continue reading

Happy birthday to me, and to you

UPDATE, 8/29/10:  See Blake’s review of our Dinner at the Farm, including fire-breathers, fire dancers, and fireworks!  Plus cucumber and mint-infused G & Ts, a gorgeous view of the mountains at dusk, lots of friendly dogs, and much, much more.

It seems like almost everyone I know and love has a late summer birthday–ej, Mark, Kathleen, Blake, and Dad. Consider this a lazy, lazy happy birthday wish for us all!  (And it was coincidentally recorded last year on my birthday.)  For those of you who remember the 80s (and I know that all of you listed above do!), Comrade PhysioProf posted this birthday classic by Altered Images earlier this month.

Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Dr. Crazy!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Crazy!

This cake is for Dr. Crazy, whose birthday I missed a few weeks back.  Since she’s 36 now, and I thought I’d share with her this article by Jessi Klein about declining her gynecologist’s suggestion that she consider freezing her eggs on the eve of her 35th birthday this year.  I met Crazy in person last summer and really enjoyed our brief lunch–and Klein’s article reminded me of Crazy’s personality and sense of humor.  Klein writes:

My doctor, who I adore, asked if I wanted to take home some “literature” about the procedure. (I never understand why these medical pamphlets are called literature, as if Faulkner was up all night feverishly writing about NuvaRing.) And in that moment, I made a decision. A decision about how I’m going to handle the fact that I’m thirty five (today!) and I don’t have kids and a kid-making partner isn’t currently on the scene. I decided I didn’t want the literature. And I don’t ever want the literature about anything related to the world of Fertility. It’s my big thirty-fifth birthday present to myself.

What–you missed The Loestrin and the Fury, too?  She continues:

I hate the fossilized fear of desperation. I know it well. My 20s were all about feeling desperate. Continue reading

Women in Early America: the 2011 WMQ-EMSI workshop at the Huntington Library

Big, big news:  my pal Terri Snyder at Cal State Fullerton is convening a workshop on “Women in Early America” next spring.  This is the sixth annual workshop at the Huntington Library jointly sponsored by the William and Mary Quarterly and the University of Southern California-Huntington Library Early Modern Studies Institute.  I can say from my experience at the “Territorial Crossings:  Histories and Historiographies of the Early Americas” workshop in May of 2009 that participants are wined, dined, and put up in style.  From the call for papers:

Participants will attend a two-day meeting at the Huntington Library on May 27–28, 2011, to discuss a precirculated chapter-length portion of their current work in progress along with the work of other participants. Subsequently, the convener will write an essay elaborating on the issues raised in the workshop for publication in the William and Mary Quarterly. . . .

As the work of a new generation of women’s historians surged to the forefront of the historical profession in the 1970s, studies on planters’ wives, republican mothers, and female slaves, to give only three examples, reshaped fundamental assumptions and practices of early American history. In the ensuing decades, research on women has multiplied, focusing on politics, legalities, and religion among the factors governing women’s lives, on the textures of their roles in families, and on the systems of race, class, and labor that shaped women’s experiences from the beginning of the colonial era to ca. 1820. Simultaneously, the study of early American women evolved into the analysis of gender and sexuality. In the process, an explicit analytic and even topical focus on women has seemed to fade. To reflect on the current state of the field, we wish, to paraphrase Mary Ritter Beard, to return to the question of women as a force in early American history.

The organizers invite proposals from scholars who focus on the study of women in early North America. Continue reading

Back in my day. . .

In the spirit of all of the complaints about young people today, I present you with a guest post by Mrs. Norbert Thrummox (nee Delphine Brumley), my entirely fictional great grandmother.

We didn’t have anything, get anything, or expect anything.  Christmas was pretty much like every other day of the year, only colder.  Our parents didn’t even know our birthdays, let alone celebrate them with cake and presents!  We never heard of such luxuries.

Breakfast was weevily cornmeal sprinkled on a half-sheet of newspaper, lunch was what we could forage on the playground at school, and supper was what we could beg from the bar we’d have to drag our daddy from at closing time.  (Mostly pickled eggs, or sliced radishes in summer.)  This was difficult, as we’d have to get up at 5 a.m. to make it to school by 8, but we were usually good and hungry for our suppers by 1 a.m. or so.  But we didn’t mind!  We were free.  Most things were free, because we didn’t have any money.  Theft was non-existent in our community.  I’d like to say that we never locked our doors, but that would imply that we had doors.  Most of us didn’t. Continue reading