Lez Liberty Lit #44: Silent Reading Party

by carolyn & riese


Talking about desire is, of necessity, imperfect:

“Precision prevents disaster. It makes up for variability. They say that the same bread recipe followed to the letter in two different kitchens produces two different loaves, and it’s true. (“Why are your cookies prettier?” my mother wants to know.) The wording is meticulous and the instructions exhaustive because of all the things that cannot be perfectly controlled, like the humidity of your oven or the enthusiasm of the yeast. The gram measurements and demands to sift not scoop are a defense against the world’s chaos, and a paltry one, but without them the bread may never materialize, risen and pale goldish, as desired. It may fall irretrievably in the baking.

The alchemy of desire is much harder to master, its falls more tragic. And yet our language for it is maddeningly woolly. The great poets have striven for clarity here but most of us are doomed, in our mimetic hearts, to use words picked up from books and the movies and our parents. “I love you,” or “Your eyes are an ocean,” or “I want to take you home and do terrible things to you.”

If we were to say what we really meant, instead of the phrases that come to mind out of sheer cultural saturation, what conversations would rise in bedrooms and train stations and the dairy aisle of the supermarket?”

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Zadie Smith’s short story “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets” is online at the Paris Review.

Public libraries are beautiful. Plus, it’s National Library Week!

via The Paris Review

photo by Robert Dawson via The Paris Review from his book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay

Learning to read poetry, like learning to read other new mediums, is much like learning a foreign language: “It starts by reading without understanding and finding it oddly powerful. If this often fragile experience doesn’t get ruined by teachers insisting on the priority of understanding, reasonableness or some other species of correctness, it opens a path.”

These Supersisters feminist trading cards from 1979 feature women like Margaret Mead, Rosa Parks, Janet Guthrie and more.

Jane Austen wasn’t paid very much for contributing to the English canon.

Everything you like is tacky, but that’s okay.

Jackson Public Library in New Hampshire via flavorwire

Jackson Public Library in New Hampshire via flavorwire

There are silent reading parties now.

Literary journals are expensive.

At the New Yorker, Emma Donoghue wrote about the cultural inspiration for Frog Music, her new novel.

Here is how six independent New York bookstores have managed to survive.

Archie is going to die.

"BiebBus, a Dutch mobile library for kids built out of an old shipping container" via inhabitant

“BiebBus, a Dutch mobile library for kids built out of an old shipping container” via flavorwire via inhabitant

Captain Underpants was the most challenged book of 2013, because talking about wedgies is more risqué than Fifty Shades of Gray, the fourth most challenged.

Wikipedia is sometimes gross.

In her “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” Leslie Jamison writes about pain and its expression in literature:

“The moment we start talking about wounded women, we risk transforming their suffering from an aspect of the female experience into an element of the female constitution—perhaps its finest, frailest consummation. The ancient Greek Menander once said: “Woman is a pain that never goes away.”He probably just meant women were trouble, but his words hold a more sinister suggestion: the possibility that being a woman requires being in pain, that pain is the unending glue and prerequisite of female consciousness.”

At Lambda Literary, Ken Harvey reviewed Part The Hawser, Limn the Sea by Dan Lopez. John Bavoso reviewed Look Who’s Morphing by Tom Cho. Bradford Nordeen reviewed Paris is Burning by Lucas Hilderbrand. Sara Rauch reviewed Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story by Rebecca Coffey. Rita Salner reviewed Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones. Theodosia Henney reviewed A Map of Everything by Elizabeth Earley.

New York Public Library via pinterest

New York Public Library via pinterest

At the Lesbrary, Lena reviewed Hearts Starve by Patricia Russo. Nicole reviewed Digital Divide by K.B. Spangler. Ally Blumenfeld reviewed A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Jess reviewed Babyji by Abha Dawesar.

Recently, on Autostraddle: Here are ten books relevant to your queer and feminist interests to read this spring. Brittani interviewed Sara Benincasa, author of Great and Agorafabulous!. Mey wrote about Kate Beaton. Audrey wrote about Denice Frohman. Mey reviewed Lumberjanes, which is the best thing ever.

Food from Alice in Wonderland via Brainpickings.

Food from Alice in Wonderland via Brainpickings.

Events To Watch Out For:

Now to 25 May, New York: The 2014 Whitney Biennial will feature a ton of books and archival material, including some from Semiotext(e), and features work that challenges disciplines and genders and binaries (945 Madison Ave. at 7th St.).

25 April, New York: Girls Write Now’s 2014 CHAPTERS reading series continues with guest author Farai Chideya at Scholastic (557 Broadway), 6 p.m.

30 May, New York: Girls Write Now’s 2014 CHAPTERS reading series continues with guest author Ana Castillo at Scholastic (557 Broadway), 6 p.m.

20 June, New York: Girls Write Now’s 2014 CHAPTERS reading series concludes with guest author Christina Baker Kline at Scholastic (557 Broadway), 6 p.m.

Know of a queer event with literary merit? Send it to us! The Liberty Lit is bi-weekly.

Zocalo Public Library, founded in 1943, photo by Adam Jones via flickr

Zocalo Public Library, founded in 1943, photo by Adam Jones via flickr

What We’ve Been Reading:

Carolyn: I spent a few days dipping into and out of the second quarterly Los Angeles Review of Books and finishing Gunnerkrigg Court. I also just got the new Flavia de Luce book from the library and I know the second I start it I will be totally unable to do or think about anything else, and because I’m in the middle of a crazy deadline situation I’m just letting it sit next to my computer, where I can look at it with longing.

Rachel: Because I’ve been reading nothing but short fiction for three years in my graduate program, I’ve decided to devote the next year to reading novels, ideally novels by women. I made a really long list and everything. So far on that list I’ve finished Imogen Binnie’s Nevada, and have started (finally) Zadie Smith’s NW. Next up will either be Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres or Rachel Kushner’s Telex from Cuba. Feel free to join me on my fiction adventure! It’s gonna be just like the Pagemaster.

feature image of the library in Beauty and the Beast via feistylittlewoman.wordpress.com.

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. i am reading nevada right now :)
    after finally reading “the essential dykes to watch out for”, this huge compilation of alison bechdel’s comic

  2. I am anxiously waiting for summer so I can stop reading books for classes. I did just finish Middlemarch again though. Love that book!

    • Mentally filing this comment in the “pro” side of my “whether or not I will read Middlemarch” pro/cons list. (The pro side is all comments about how good it is, the con side is the rest of my to-read pile.)

  3. I just finished ‘The Summer Prince’ by Alaya Dawn Johnson. It’s set in the future, after some nuclear wars and incredible political turmoil. A city called Palmares Tres was built in a harbor (I think?) in what was once Brazil. It’s kind of a giant pyramid, with the more wealthy and politically influential families living on the tiers nearer the top. The city is ruled by a Queen and a council of women called Aunties, and every five years the city elects a Summer King who selects the next Queen and is ritually killed at the end of the year. The book starts with the election of a new Summer King, a boy named Enki who was the son of an immigrant from El Salvador, who loves the city but also has a lot of problems with the way it’s run. June, a high school girl and an artist, and her best friend Gil get mixed up with Enki and his plans for his tenure as Summer King. The story is really about how June slowly comes to see that all is not well in her city and she becomes a rather radical political artist. But she still loves her home and wants to save it, not tear it down. The ending was very bittersweet, but I liked it a lot. I also liked how homosexuality is a non-issue and is just a part of life. Gil falls in love with Enki and they become the media It Couple and June’s mother is married to a woman and although June is pissed about that, it’s only because her mom remarried so soon after her father’s death.

  4. YES A THOUSAND ACRES! You should definitely read it next, Rachel. I love that book (and now I want to go reread it…).

  5. A silent reading party sounds like the best party ever. It’s also almost exactly what I told my gf when she tried to plan a birthday party for me this year.

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