Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Bunch of Dude Writers Congratulate Themselves on Their Inclusiveness

So, last night the National Book Awards were handed out, going to what appears to be a group of pretty white and pretty dudely dudes. Based on the NPR story I heard this morning, there was much back-slapping but also much hand-wringing over the state of publishing. Apparently, that thing called the Kindle freaks the crap out of the publishing folk.

Also interesting was the blatant self-congratulation on saving the voice of the other. Some quotes from Colum McCann, the Irish writer who won the Fiction prize:

"As fiction writers and people who believe in the word, we have to enter the anonymous corners of human experience to make that little corner right."


"As someone who's come from Ireland, I am extraordinarily honored. It seems to me that American literature is able to embrace the other."

Okay, so if McCann actually believes that American literature is completely fair, equal, and unbiased, maybe these comments are not so bad. But put into the context of a sexist and racist society, where white men are the privileged class, which sadly continues to be the case in literature as well... um, yeah, they seem pretty bad. It's almost like he's saying, as long as us menfolk are here to interpret the world and tell the untold stories, the rest of you needn't worry about it!

Then there was this from Dave Eggers, who won the Literarian Award:

"I think this is the most exciting and democratic time," he said. "There is a pluralism in publishing that is unprecedented."

Okay, guys, really? These statements are quite the head-scratchers. Could you just look around maybe, be a little self-aware, and notice who happens to NOT be standing on the platform next to you? If you're such geniuses at pluralism and noticing who's anonymous and embracing the other, then why the fuck aren't you noticing those who are invisible at your own awards ceremony?

You'd think this would have been especially apparent when
Claudette Colvin, an African American woman who as a teenager in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus (which sounds like a pretty kick-ass story and preceded the better-known Rosa Parks incident), accompanied writer Phillip Hoose on stage. However, the main focus here was on Hoose, who was accepting the award for Young People's Literature... which he won telling her story.

Sounds like a nice moment, and again, in a fair and balanced world, I would harbor no cynicism here. Absolutely none. Just wondering, though -- when women writers unearth these types of "unknown" stories, or write their own life stories, do they usually get this much attention? Just wondering...

Late author Flannery O'Connor did take honors for the Best of the National Book Awards prize (which for some reason the NYT article fails to even mention???), but according to GalleyCat's liveblogging of the event, nobody was that excited about it:

"The Complete Stories" by Flannery O'Connor wins Best of the National Book Awards award, nominated by 10,000 votes from the public. No one can come up to collect the award for the late, great author. Borowitz: "I have nothing to add."

Great. Thanks a million, National Book Awards!

This comes only a few weeks after Publisher Weekly's Best Books list completely SHUT OUT women writers from its top ten. Here's their confidence-building statement on that list, from PW director Louisa Ermelino:

"We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the 'big' books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet. It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male."

Uh, yeah. You think? Could it be that your sexism and racism was subconscious? Because that's maybe a little bit how things like sexism and racism work?

I'm sorry, but if publishing (i.e. the world of the literary elite) is really a sinking ship, as comedian and NBA host Andy Borowitz put it, then I'm gonna hazard a wild guess here. Purely WILD on my part. That perhaps these problems might have something to do with publishing's inherent gender/race bias, perspective imbalance, and all-round exclusivity? Um, maybe?

And you know, maybe it's not so much about the Kindle. But hey, keep blaming it on the Kindle if that works for ya. :P

Finally, in the name of righteous indignation, commiseration, and learning more about awesome women writers, I would highly recommend checking out the online community
She Writes, as well as the recently formed WILA (Women In Literary Arts).

Crossposted at
Library Cat.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stupak, Schmupak

To those 240 members of the House of Representatives that voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment last night, including 64 Democrats, you can all kiss. my. ASS.

NARAL agrees:

"The Stupak-Pitts amendment makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. This would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system — a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services."

So. Is this what
health care reform looks like now? Actually taking rights away from half the population? Limiting our options? Getting between us and our doctors? Wtf?

And by the way, isn't that everything most of these politicians (of both parties) claim not to want?

Right, sure, whatever. Instead, women get thrown under the bus... and it's hailed as triumphant bipartisan compromise? Yeah, you're all collaborative geniuses. We get it.

Grrrrrr. Starting to feel a lot like Maine and California all over this country. However, the Stupak provision can still be removed, and the Senate is yet to have at it.