I read the ones by men instead, until I was like, “I cannot read another passage about masturbation. I can’t.” It was like a pile of Kleenex. I read Portnoy’s Complaint. I read Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, when it came out. I read, I don’t even remember — but I read like five male coming-of-age novels that had intense, long passages about masturbation. These books taught me a lot about what it must be like to be a young man, and gave me some terrible ideas about the kind of woman I didn’t want to be, in order to not be thought dull or needy by the intelligent, masturbating young [...]
Beth Kephart has written 16 books, five of which are memoirs. Her most recent, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, came out in August, and it’s a lovely, insightful exploration of what it means to share the stories you’ve experienced firsthand (which, as it happens with life, usually happen to be the stories of others, too). She details what can go right, what might go wrong, and how to do it in a way that is respectful to everyone involved. Full disclosure: I’ve always loved reading other people’s true-life tales—I was BIG on biographies as a kid—but with my own memoir coming out in May, I’ve [...]
It’s been 46 years since S.E. Hinton’s beloved teen novel, The Outsiders, was published, which would make Ponyboy and the rest of the Greasers well into middle age by now. Thanks to the eye candy-filled 1983 Brat Pack film adaptation (hello, Rob Lowe), the gang made seventh grade English class steamier for multiple generations. But what has the gang been up to since the fateful rumble that (*spoiler alert*) took the lives of two characters? Sadly, nothing gold can stay, as seen by some of these hypotheses.
Last seen: Mourning his BFF, nursing a bad dye job, quoting Robert Frost.
Today: Ponyboy re-joined the track team and [...]
Over at Bookforum, Mary Gaitskill goes contrarian on one of last year's biggest bestsellers:
The sick and dark of Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, is less in the plot (which is a masterpiece of cuckoo-clockwork), more in the book’s vision. [...] Amy and Nick do not resemble actual people so much as grotesquely smiling masks driven by forces of extreme artifice, and it’s exactly that extreme artificial quality that’s frightening to the point of sickening.
What I mean by “artifice” is social language, styles, and manners, a public way of being that is by necessity coded, fixed, and hard, and which has become even more so through [...]
This feature is dedicated to the steelworkers of America. Keep reaching for that rainbow!
Katniss, The Hunger Games
Poor Katniss can be forgiven an inability to recognize, let alone come to terms with, her own sexuality. Her childhood is rough even by the standards of the Seam: dead father, depressive mother, no money and a sweet little sister to take care of. By the time she hits adolescence, these experiences have hardened her; what with all the hunting, the caretaking, and the surliness, she has no time for music, let alone for introspective reveries about what—or, more properly, who—really turns her on.
She regularly decamps to the woods [...]
I do have disdain for American literature. But it’s healthy, because I believe in creating alternative art as a mode of critiquing the art that came before. I think most writing is so terrible. I think television writing, for example, is so far ahead of what we’re creating in terms of literature. I think music across the board–I’m not just talking about pop music–is so far ahead of what we are creating in lit. One of the reasons I think that is because the creators in those genres and in those forms have had to democratize their art. And what writers think that means is, Dumb that shit down. Writers [...]
A non-expert's suggestions for books that are fun to read/reread whenever you want the chills.
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Steven Millhauser, We Others: New & Selected Stories
This is one of my favorite books, as lucid and eerie as a diorama; as Jonathan Lethem says, Millhauser's style is "coolly feverish, drawing equally on Nabokovian rapture, Borgesian enigma and the plain-spoken white-picket-fence wistfulness of Sherwood Anderson." We Others covers a lot of territory—futurist nightmare, teenage romance with a Bataille-esque hint of sexual horror, Victorian inventors, Escherian funhouses, small-town disappearances and mysteries—but throughout, it's consistently enchanted, and remarkably kind. Here's a [...]
"The sexual narratives we absorb in youth are formidable, formative": What's Your All-Time Most Erotic Book?
At the New York Times, two great writers answer a great question. Anna Holmes picks Forever, the Judy Blume book narrated by curious, thoughtful 17-year-old Katherine, that ruined the name Ralph for me… forever:
For those of us who came of age in the AIDS-anxious, post-second-wave 1980s, extracurricular education about human sexuality focused on the female form: the nudie magazines and racy college comedies that introduced us to sex were populated by the voluminous breasts and carefully groomed pubic mounds of a million heterosexual male fantasies; young women were the observed, not the observers. Blume took this sense of curiosity and desire, this male gaze, and upended [...]
When men write women, the results are tiresome. Reading at random, you will occasionally come across a Lisbeth Salander, a Maria Dmitryevna Akhrosimova, or a Ma Joad, a character with interiority and what feels like her own life off the page. Far too often, though, when you open up a book by a male writer—even a good male writer, and occasionally even a great male writer—you encounter ladies who are a variation on one or more of four themes: virgin, whore, mother, bitch. Sometimes, the ladies begin as one (usually "virgin") and progress through the others by the end of the book, because character development! Emma Bovary holds the distinction [...]