Lit-Link Round-up


Julie Greicius’ 14 Places to Talk to a Stranger About Books, on BuzzFeed.

Laura van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth reviewed at Bookslut.

Have you been following the controversy over at HTMLGiant?This is one of those situations where I’m not sure if “talking about it” is the right move, because it seems to dignify something…and yet there are important aspects to the conversation. Here’s the recap: first, Kate Zambreno took some issues with the fact that James Franco had been compared, kind of glibly, to Kathy Acker in a book review at Bookforum. A debate took place on Zambreno’s FB wall about BF‘s treatment of women writers, including a back and forth with a BF editor who was impressively gracious, volitionally walking into unfriendly fire. But apparently, another (unrelated) guy got offended that Zambreno unfriended him when he was commenting on the fray. So he wrote a piece on the “Zambreno Doll” on HTMLGiant that has, in turn, angered a lot more people. Including Leah Stein, who wrote an open letter to HTMLGiant (“The Sexism Stops Here“) that is, fairly enough, now published on HTMLGiant. Of course, if only the buck of sexism could “stop here.” While important, the way women are treated on literary sites is hardly at the core of sexism; it’s a symptom fairly far removed from the origins of the disease, although a symptom that matters to me and probably anyone reading The Rumpus. Still, what we talk about when we talk about Kathy Acker isn’t going to change the lot of most women on the planet who have never heard of Kathy Acker. I was obsessed with Zambreno’s Heroines, and on the one hand, I think it’s actually pretty fucking awesome that an indie feminist writer has become this kind of controversial public figure. I think it speaks to a lot of what’s excellent about the internet, which is some leveling of an information playing field. That this many people are up in arms about Zambreno’s public image is an encouraging and kind of beautiful thing. Most of what Kate thinks regarding how women are treated in the literary world is true, though I think the reasons are insanely complex. I was just talking with Josh Mohr about how the trade publishing industry (agents, editors, marketing teams, book buyers) is largely run by women, so the discussion of how women writers are branded is much more layered and tricky than just being able to blame boys. It seems a case of institutionalized sexism that’s so ingrained I don’t have the first idea how to unwind it. I also feel, separate gender issues, utterly freaked out by the implication in “The Zambreno Doll” that people don’t have the right to select who to engage with on FB without it being somehow an invitation to be skewered in a public forum. I find the concept that FB is somehow the “same” as HTMLGiant (or The Rumpus) to be…not just erroneous but horrifying. Nobody posts photos of their kids or their freaking dinner on edited publications. Facebook is a social, more self-governed site. Many of us do “network” for work there, sure, but since when are we under an obligation to let people we don’t even know say whatever they want on our personal walls, otherwise we are inviting public wrath? That seems crazy to me. I guess I still believe in boundaries, in the concept of a private life. I’m from an era when preferring some people over others was called human nature (or was even a prerequisite to intimacy), not “bullying.” When someone asked you to the prom and you said no, the school paper didn’t publish a satire they wrote about how they never liked your bitch-ass anyway.

And then there was a piece about ranking the bangability of women at xoJane that I won’t even link here. I mean, wtf?

Literary feuds are so often just sad. The New Yorker is recapping them. Sometimes there is real dialogue. The opening of a door. Sometimes it honestly means someone is paying attention and the issues are actually important, that people are engaging and struggling, together. Other times…it doesn’t mean that.

Maybe this is why Isaac Fitzgerald wants to eliminate negative book reviews on BuzzFeed: the conversation people become interested in can be more about personalities butting heads than about books.

So speaking of actual books, this one looks interesting. I need to read it.

This is hilarious because it’s so disturbingly true. Jillian Lauren on things people say to Transracial Families.

Emergency Press at the Animal Farm reading series in Williamsburg, December 17.

When do we start becoming writers?

Gina Frangello is the author of four books of fiction and a forthcoming memoir, Blow Your House Down. Her novel A Life in Men (Algonquin 2014) is currently under development by Netflix as a series produced by Charlize Theron’s production company, Denver & Delilah. Her most recent novel, Every Kind of Wanting (Counterpoint 2016) was included on several “best of” lists for 2016, including Chicago Magazine’s and The Chicago Review of Books’. She has nearly 20 years of experience as an editor, having founded both the independent press Other Voices Books, and the fiction section of the popular online literary community The Nervous Breakdown. She has also served as the Sunday editor for The Rumpus, and as the faculty editor for both TriQuarterly Online and The Coachella Review. Her short fiction, essays, book reviews, and journalism have been published in such venues as Salon, the LA Times, Ploughshares, the Boston Globe, BuzzFeed, the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and in many other magazines and anthologies. After two decades of teaching at many universities, including UIC, Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies, UCLA Extension, the University of California Riverside Palm Desert, Roosevelt University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago, Gina is excited to be a student again at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Program for Writers, where she has returned to complete the PhD she left unfinished twenty years ago. More from this author →