There is a debate raging about women author’s share of hype/reviews/buzz/critical attention. They may be under-represented in hype, but in terms of quality, women novelists are currently winning the gender battle. I’ve read three debut novels recently by women that are absolutely incredible:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth is about a lesbian teenager sent to a re-education “pray the gay away” camp. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are heartbreaking – it’s all fabulous.
I recently re-read Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! which I have raved about before. So dark yet somehow light and airy.
I’m currently reading The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, her 2008 debut and so far I’m blown away.
Also, The Antagonist by Lynn Coady (not her debut) was without a doubt the best novel of the last five years. She’s brilliant and tragically underrated.
A woman named Karina Longworth wrote a review of two reissued Ellen Willis books at Slate. It was an okay review, sort of itself a bad attempt at writing like Ellen Willis. I hate when I read something mediocre about something I love, knowing that if I had tried to write it, I might have (probably would have) written it a bit better. BUT I didn’t; I don’t; and I won’t. So, good for Karina Longworth for actually writing and not whining like a jerk all the time.
I was living in Park Slope, nearly three years ago, when I was offered a full-time job with benefits writing film criticism in Los Angeles. I was 29, and this sort of job was the only thing I had even thought about wanting for years, so I jumped at it, without giving any real thought to the enormous ways in which the decision would change my life.
Although, boo fucking hoo. You got offered an actual journalism job in the middle of a recession, in the scorched earth era of journalism.
This is how Ellen Willis does this kind of ennui better:
One day, sometime during CCR’s banner year, 1970, I was feeling depressed and confused about music, politics, writing and almost everything else that was important to me. In an effort to shake off the mood, I stacked all five of my Creedence albums on the stereo and danced to them, one after another.
And me? No writing happening here. No Creedence dancing either. How to get started again?
I was reading David Rakoff’s last essay in his last book about having cancer and wondering, hoping that this cancer wouldn’t kill him. It did. His writing is slyly brilliant. Sneaks up on you. He’s also a kindred negative spirit:
Creativity demands an ability to be with oneself at one’s least attractive, that sometimes it’s just easier not to do anything. Writing… always always only starts out as shit: an infant of monstrous aspect; bawling, ugly, terrible, and it stays terrible for a long, long time, sometimes forever.
Maybe you can figure out where my head is at.