Liberty Lit #37: Nothing Is Sexier Than Grammar

by carolyn & riese

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Lit Links

At the Rumpus, Kima Jones interviewed Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light, about resistance and learning and reading and more:

“If you are writing about same-gender-loving people in an environment that is hostile to their relationship, I think the dilemma is, do you reflect that reality? For those two characters, their class issue would actually trump their homosexuality within their community. Class is the first strike and the issue of their love is second. To portray their situation honestly, the overwhelming odds against them has to be written in. I tried very hard to validate them, and I imagined them as everyday love relationships. In reality, they would be Romeo and Juliet times two.”

As mentioned in our Lesbian Couples That Time ForgotAlice Walker and Tracy Chapman dated in the 90s and everything is beautiful.

Roxane Gay wrote about unlikable female protagonists, and how critics talking about whether or not they like characters are completely missing the point: “That the question of likability even exists in literary conversations is odd. It implies we are engaging in a courtship. When characters are unlikable, they don’t meet our mutable, varying standards. Certainly, we can find kinship in fiction, but literary merit shouldn’t be dictated by whether or not we want to be friends or lovers with those about whom we read.”

British doctors are now prescribing books to treat depression.

Your brain function is higher for days after you read a novel, which is why you should read more novels.

This year’s Tournament of Books, by the Morning News, is underway. Finalists include The Luminaries, The Signature of All Things, How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Eleanor & Park, The Goldfinch and more.

Lovereading.co.uk compared books to films and books win (obviously).

Wikipedia Brown: Encyclopedia Brown for the modern era.

Lol My Thesis is the hot new tumblr for making fun of your progress in academia.

Journalism is dead again.

The argument over books as things you look at with your mind versus books as things you look at with your eyeballs continues, and Daniel D’Addario writes about how physical books are getting prettier.

Commas are so important.

via etsy

via etsy

Some publishers have been shifting away from Amazon.

Grown-up dudes should stop commenting on teenage girls’ taste. (This is admittedly only tangentially related to books, in that the header image contains pages of what could, at a stretch, be considered books even though they are probably article clippings, but you should read it anyway.)

There is nothing as intriguing as a good caper, which is why capers involving rare books (along with forgery, theft and murder) are absolutely fascinating.

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian recommends some post-lesbian-break-up reading, including Dykes to Watch Out For, With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn and more.

At Lambda Literary, Anna Furtado reviewed Turning on the Tide by Jenna Rae. Adrian Brooks reviewed Pee-Shy, a memoir by Frank Spinelli. Victoria Brownworth interviewed Katherine V. Forrest, author of Curious Wine. TT Jax wrote about transgender poetics. Cathy Campter reviewed Anything that Loves, a collection edited by Charles “Zan” Christensen.

At the Lesbrary, Danika reviewed The Big Bang Symphony by Jane Bledsoe. TB reviewed Tighter, Tighter by Lynn Kear. Casey reviewed Nevada, by Imogen Binnie.

At the Toast, Abigail Welhouse interviewed Francesca Lia Block, author of Weetzie Bat, about stereotypes and fairy tales and more:

“We feel so much pain and darkness, and I’ve experienced that in my own life, certainly. At the same time, there’s so much love and magic and beauty. I really want to honor both of these. That’s why I like magical realism, because it shows both. I like dark and light, mixed. What you’re saying is interesting because it’s another layer — you show both, but you show it through a certain lens that as you said, sort of makes it okay. Language, poetry and creativity can take you through even the dark stuff.”

Recently, on Autostraddle: Mey wrote about “The Strumpet.” She also wrote about Elisha Lim’s Favourite Dating Tales. Carolyn ordered you to read these ten best queer and feminist books of 2013. Cara wrote about the best words of 2013. Carmen reviewed Denice Bourbon’s Cheers. Also Lumberjanes, a comic about girls at camp fighting monsters, is going to be very relevant to your interests.

This month, the Autostraddle Book Club read Blue is the Warmest Color.

Events To Watch Out For:

January 11, Los Angeles: You Are Here: The WriteGirl Journey launches this Saturday at the Taper Auditorium at the Richard J. Riordan Central Library (630 W. 5th St.), 3 p.m.

January 24, Philadelphia: The Slam Up Tour will be at Giovanni’s Room (345 South 12th St.), 6:30 p.m.

Know of a queer event with literary merit? Send it to us!

What We’ve Been Reading:

Rachel: I have been leafing through The Artist’s Way because I believe firmly that all of January is a grace period when it comes to reading cheesy self-help/self-improvement stuff. I’m super excited to hopefully make time to read EJ Levy’s Love, in Theory: Ten Stories soon!

Carolyn: I have been reading nothing (or rather, I have been reading a ton, but all for work). However, if I had read things, they would have been The Girl Who Couldn’t Come, a book of dirty stories that are not necessarily erotica by Joey Comeau, and The Partly Cloudy Patriot, for purposes of understanding ‘Merica and why you guys are so weird about some things, by Sarah Vowell. I’m also pretty excited to see what Rachel thinks of Love, in Theory because it’s been on my (admittedly super long) list for ages.


 

Books! They are really great. You just won’t believe how great they are. You may think that the Internet’s great, but that’s just peanuts compared to books. In Lez Liberty Lit, we talk about literary shit that’s happening that you should probably care about.

The name “Liberty Lit” was inspired by the short-lived literary journal produced by Angela Chase at Liberty High School in 1994.

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Carolyn is the NSFW Editor for Autostraddle.com. She is also a freelance copy editor and writer, and her work has appeared in Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, the Billfold, and other places. Find her on twitter.

Carolyn has written 260 articles for us.

13 Comments

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        Most definitely! She writes fantasy and science fiction with incredibly strong feminist heroines. She’s incredibly imaginative and she lets her stories have room to grow. She’s funny, sexy and there is no writer of lesbian fiction I’m more excited by at the moment. Every single book is better than the last. I mean, her latest book is the sequel to her fantasy series and here’s what it sounds like superficially, all the fantasy tropes from Tolkien to Skyrim but with strong female protaginists. But what you get is a story about two very different women becoming mothers and trying to make their marriage work. A woman trying to figure out who she is, the deadly warrior with no ties to anyone or the mother and wife and untimately finding a way to marry the two parts of herself together. I had fun from start to finish and kept getting gobsmacked by how good it was as I went.

        She writes great action and she’s not afraid of a good sex scene, but she doesn’t let any one thing define her books. I’m hard pressed to describe why she’s so good when I talk to people about her. She publishes through a small press right now but she deserves all the success in the world.

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    “There is nothing as intriguing as a good caper”

    I thought that was a bit of an overstatement until I realized you meant “mysteries” not “pickled green berries that go well with a bagel and lox.”

    Sorry, my mistake.

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    Okay, I have a lot of feelings about the “unlikable” characters thing, so here we go: The incredible pressure on women to be “likable” to the point where they’re silenced and repressed is a big problem. I’m not arguing that. But I really, really disagree with most of the rest of that article. Especially this bit:

    “Certainly, we can find kinship in fiction, but literary merit shouldn’t be dictated by whether or not we want to be friends or lovers with those about whom we read.”

    NOPE. While difficult or flat out hate-able characters and difficult events in plots can be fascinating literature, it’s stupid to dismiss the issue of likability entirely. Likability does influence people’s experience of the books they read and the genres they gravitate toward. Likability impacts most people’s enjoyment of books. Maybe it doesn’t for the author of that article, and that’s fair enough, but that’s just not the case for most people. One thing that really enraged me during grad school was all the critical theory that didn’t just dismiss the importance of the enjoyment people get from consuming whatever piece of media under examination, but it couldn’t even conceive of the existence of enjoyment as a concept. Any theory that can’t account for the existence of such a basic component of human experience is worthless.

    Also, I got a whiff of “I’m so superior and more evolved because I’m not shackled to society’s expectations of basic human decency look how special and edgy I am” from that article. Which I also get from obnoxious reality show contestants who say shit like “I’m not here to make friends,” by the way. When they say that, what they actually mean is “I’m going to go out of my way to be horrible and cause drama, because fuck you that’s why.” All of this annoys the shit out of me because WHAT’S SO WRONG WITH BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER??

    In other news: I’m currently reading ‘Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human’ by Grant Morrison and I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s an examination of the history of superhero comics and many of the influential creators responsible for various developments in the genre, interspersed with Morrison’s own experiences of first reading then creating those superhero comics. I like Morrison’s obvious love for the genre and the way he takes it seriously. Not in the sense that COMICS ARE SRS BSNS GRITTY GLOOM, but in the sense that it’s a legit artform that can have an important impact on people and wider culture and it’s important to him to create quality stories. Also, I somehow had no idea that he was so into magic and mysticism and had a transvestite alterego for his ceremonial magical workings.

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    In response to Roxane Gay; I find books with unlikable characters to be a dreary slog to read. And I suspect many readers feel the same way, making it hard to appreciate books with unpleasant protagonists, no matter how well written they may be. Obviously, there will be large differences in how individual readers define ‘unlikable,’ but I at least don’t agree at all that deeply flawed or unpleasant characters are more truthful or interesting to read about.

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      It depends on whether you mean “unlikable” as in “I hate this character they should stop being in this book/movie/show/etc” or “Wow this character is an awful awful person.” Because the former just seems like bad writing, and the latter I often loooooove. Like the Jew-hunter from Inglourious Basterds or Humbert Humbert or Rorschach aka Walter Kovacs or Petunia Dursley or Ursula the Sea Witch or Hannibal Lecter or Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett.

      On the other hand, there are characters who are good, decent people, or at the very least try to be, and I just want them to die or otherwise disappear from the narrative. Liiiiiiike…Wesley Crusher. Beverly Crusher. Superman. Samurai Champloo’s Fuu (sorry Fuu, sorry SamCham). Mary Jane Watson. Romeo. Lots of parental characters. Lots of kings, knights, and other “noble” characters. Lots of protagonists for shows I don’t watch, books I don’t read, movies I don’t see. Lots of boring “Strong Female Characters.”

      To be fair, there also plenty of characters who are both awful people and I want them to GO AWAY.

      And there are also narratives where my dislike/disapproval of the characters turned me off the story at least temporarily. I had trouble getting through the middle of “Song of Solomon” because Milkman was such a dull asshat, but fortunately it was assigned so I got to see him transform.

      You may find this interesting/relevant/illuminating? Here:
      http://www.buzzfeed.com/roxanegay/not-here-to-make-friends-unlikable

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        Oh whoops I think I just linked the same article you were disagreeing with. Way to mansplain, Oliver.

        But, like, my point stands? Because Hamlet. Or if not Hamlet, then Snape. Or if not Snape, then Ripley. I don’t want to be friends with any of them, and they’re not nice people, but I love their stories.

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