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Sally Bellerose is a seriously beloved friend, one of the mainstays of my life. We met in a writers group, and we've kept a working relationship around writing going for more than twenty years, through all sorts of good times and hard weather.

So I am so excited to say, as some of you saw on facebook earlier in the week, that Sally's moving, beautiful book, The Girls Club, parts of which can make me cry or snort with laughter just thinking about it, is going to be published by Alyson Books. You'll be hearing more about this around here, I'm sure, but for now, whoo hoo Sally!
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I've got an enormous amount of respect and affection for Elizabeth McCracken, as a writer and as a human being. She's got a memoir coming out in September, and there is an excerpt from it up now at O magazine:

This Does Not Have To Be A Secret

This is how it starts:

Once upon a time, before I knew anything about the subject, a woman told me that I should write a book about the lighter side of losing a child.

(This is not that book.)





The memoir is called An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination, and you can pre-order it here.

Belong

Apr. 6th, 2008 12:40 pm
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Being in the moment utterly, yes -- eat an apple when you eat an apple, as Zen phraseology might have it -- but then trying also to move on from there as mindfully and scrupulously as possible, bringing any intellectual or imaginative arabesques back to the authentic human experience where they belong.

Padma Hejmadi, Room to Fly: A Transcultural Memoir

Eclipse

Feb. 21st, 2008 06:56 pm
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Wrote this last night, but had trouble posting, so went back to watching the eclipse:

I just came in from watching the eclipse -- it's still going on! It's got hours to go! -- and took off my grey hooded jacket with the spider embroidered on it for Spider in a Tree, my long sleeve black sweatshirt, the brown button up flannely shirt with sateen trim that I picked up at the Fat Girl Flea and which turned out to be very cozy and warm, so I'm down to my short sleeve black sweatshirt and my Bookwoman t-shirt with the picture of the red-cheeked, stiff-haired woman reading surrounded by books, signed by the illustrator, Kiki, c '89 (I do, I hoard old, old clothes. Also, I wear them, and enjoy the disjunction and continuity, both.) I won't even go into what all else I had on, but I was pretty cozy standing outside, peering through the little cut out in my facehat at the early part of the eclipse. At first, actually, I thought I would be too cold to stay long, but then I just settled in to a spot in an empty parking space just outside the wooden stairs to my apartment, and watched as the shadow slowly eased over the brightness, and the red part of the moon in the umbra was taking on a hard edge without the blur of shine, and the slowness of it was its own great, cold gift. I started out to type this with my coat and everything still on, but first I went into my bedroom, and remembered that I can watch the rest through the window from my bed. And so, I will. Now.
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I'm reviewing a brilliant book of lyric essays: Awkward: a detour, by Mary Cappello. This is how it starts:

One day I read in order to know things, another day, to know the truth. I read to be aided in my lust -- to be seduced to feel, to be lured out. I read not to be alone. I want for my day to be split open by a tidal wave of strange imaginings when I read, for something, anything, to break through. A book gains a place on my shelf for the way it forces me to remember. A sentence becomes locked in my heart for the way it helps me to forget. I admit to enjoying that "good feeling" of being in the midst of something higher and better when I read, but lately I long for a literature that can throw a wrench into the works.

She's got a bunch of charming videos on YouTube here. I liked the Awkward challenge...
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I went to see a strange, brilliant musical Saturday night, with drawings by Ben Katchor. It was a graphic novel of a historical musical, The Rosenbach Company, (scroll down that link to see images) about two brothers who had a business collecting and selling rare books at the turn of the 19th century and into the first half of the twentieth. This performance was sponsored by the Yiddish Book Center, and it was book obsessive, solemn, funny and amazingly evocative of its period while taking all sorts of liberties. So perfect to see for a person such as myself who is (at the moment and often) consumed with books. The first song explained in completely convincing, sensual detail what a book tasted like in the nineteenth century -- linseed oil was mentioned, licorice, and maybe beets -- while the baby Abe Rosenbach chewed on a book.
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I don't read much fiction when I'm deep in writing. It's strange. I'm not sure why, except that it feels as if other stories get into the story I'm trying to make and shape it in unpredictable ways that feel uncomfortable, maybe too intimate or too external or a little like stealing. Sometimes I break down and read whole novels in big, thirsty gulps, but those are moments when I'm not writing. Larry McMurtry has written about the tension, in a writer whose whole life is shaped by love of books, between the need and desire to write and the need and desire to read and to keep reading. (As I write that, I feel it, and I also get another rush of images -- stretched out in the sun in the itchy grass, the cold in the hall between the locker room and the pool, the slowest way to untuck a sheet so a sleeper is not disturbed, the magnificence of the physical world unshrouded with language. Yeah, all that, too.)

spoilers for My Name is Red )
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So, here's a little story for the long night:

Before I went to the library to do research last Thursday afternoon, I stopped at the cafe at Scandinavia House for swedish meatballs and buttery mashed potatoes, because of a tip from my friend James. It's on Park between 37th and 38th, and the library is at 42nd and Fifth, so I was walking up Park to 42nd Street, when I saw a sign on 41st that said "Library Way."

And, as I turned left on 41st, I started seeing the plaques. Brass plaques in the sidewalk, all the way to the library. I was in a hurry to do something that was very important to me, that I might not have enough time to do thoroughly and well, but I stopped and read every one. They were there for me, for sure. They were about reading, writing, time, truth, the past, and the library. Many of them were by writers I passionately love. One was by Julia Alvarez, a line from a poem that she had hand copied and sent to Norcroft, the women's writing retreat in Minnesota, where I saw it every day as I lived for a week in the room named for her and worked there the summer that Norcroft was closed.

I had been so absorbed in writing while I was in New York, structuring every day around work on the book (and that was a strange feeling in itself, how those structures and that world of the mind traveled), and here I was, walking to the library to do research, and the sidewalk had started speaking to me (and everybody who walked by and glanced down) about the work I wanted to do, dreamed of doing. The books were coming out into the world, and I was coming out into the world, and all the world was a book.

The one I remembered, only a little wrong, when I tried to tell people about this was the Muriel Rukeyser. Here it is with a few more of the plaques.  )
susanstinson: (Fat Girl Dances With Rocks)
I have a chapter, "Why Fat Girls Need Fiction," in The Fat Studies Reader, edited by Sondra Solovay and Esther Rothblum, which was referred to in the New York Times article last weekend, and so recently got a chance to see the chapter outline. It is very, very exciting.

Many changes could happen during the publishing process (and so chapters might be cut or added), but, right now, it's got a breadth and depth that suggests that it could be a key part of the foundation for a sophisticated and persuasive critique of the way fatness is currently perceived and reacted to in the dominant culture. More people might actually get it this time, or at least see grounds for debate.

A lot of credit is due to the long term commitment and the very deep, very active expertise on issues of fatness in terms of theory and also on the frontlines of being fat and alive in the world as we know it on the part of both the editors. If anyone doesn't know who Sondra Solovay and Esther Rothblum are and what some of their work around fat has been, it's worth a visit both to Google and the bookstore, and those are trips you can take now, before the new Reader is out.

The book as it currently stands has an introduction by Marilyn Wann, and contributions by Deborah Burgard, Glenn Gaesser, Laura Fraser and Charlotte Cooper, just to name a few. (Look 'em up!) It's got a chapter called "Does social class explain the connection between weight and health?" by neuroscientist Paul Ernsberger, and a section with Esther Rothblum and Elana Dykewomon talking about why fat women haven't organized to the same extent as other oppressed groups. There are sections on literature, history, public health, the international context, legal studies and civil rights, again, to name a few.

Anticipation? You bet!
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  • Yay for this article about fat studies in today's New York Times. Sheana Director, Stefanie Snider, Sondra Solovay (whose hair, by the way, looks quite good), Esther Rothblum, Katie LeBesco... it's an honor roll of folks doing excellent work in the field (some of whom are on my friendslist -- yayyyy! go team! take a bow in comments, if you're in the mood and would like to do us that honor!), and, I think, a fine article.

    I don't mind that there are highly dismissive quotes from other academics -- at least the consensus on fat is presented as open to question, not as unassailable truth -- but the graphic with the Fat Studies anthology presented as bulging instead of being shaped like other books annoys me. It's symptomatic of a kind of visual smirking that the mainstream media regularly indulges in when the subject is fat (cute puns in headlines are also chronic) that I find gratuitous and insulting.

  • I started making a catalog of my books on Librarything, and I'm finding it weirdly fun and compelling. It's got great features, like an author gallery with pictures of some of the authors of my books, and it's really easy to use. I started with my own books -- the link takes you to a page about the elusive Belly Songs -- and a little pile of books my mom just sent me from Texas and childhood, which is why Anne of Green Gables and The Little Engine That Could are on there, and then I just started randomly thinking of books I have by people I know (not everybody! random!) and other books that those made me think of...

    I want to get systematic, though, and list and tag all of the books that I'm using to research Spider In A Tree, to help me keep track of that. And it's fun to see the people listing my books and to what else they have...


  • Hey! [livejournal.com profile] toniamato is starting Side Show Press, which has just published its first chapbook. He had some very cool things to say at a warm and bountiful dinner last night (hi folks! thanks! that was fun...) about trying to figure out how to create a small press that truly supports writers, which makes me want to cheer.

Stacy Bias

Nov. 8th, 2006 02:06 pm
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I got to be interviewed by the fabulous Stacy Bias (aka [livejournal.com profile] technodyke) last night, and filmed by the charming videographer Val Garrison. They are travelling the country talking to fat women about their experiences as research for a book by Stacy. Here's information about her beautifully ambitious project, Fat Girl Speaks. Earlier in the week, there was a dinner in Stacy's honor at a local restaurant, organized by [livejournal.com profile] beatgoddess, who took this lovely photo of Stacy and me. More text after the photo below. )
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I had dinner with two very dear friends last night, J&V, who made five spice chicken and squid salad and baked a pumpkin full of raisins and spices. I brought them eggs and wine in the basket of my trike. It was so restorative and good to talk with them.

J gave me a copy of the new edition of Field Guide to the U.S. Economy, which he wrote and edited along with Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Nancy Folbre, and the Center for Popular Economics (where I worked for many years).

I love this book, because it's so full of very easily accessible information about the US economy, designed to be of use to activists. (Plus, it's got cartoons. And charts.)

There's a book party at Food For Thought in Amherst this Thursday at 7. I'm going! And, wow, they've got a bunch of amazing events coming up there this fall. (E, an events programmer there, used to work for CPE, too.)

Thinking about economics and health )

Lucky

Jul. 30th, 2006 10:54 am
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I had dinner with my friend James last night. He had made a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread, and gave the half that was left after dinner to me, since, he said, it has to be eaten today or it will loose its perfect crust and become too soft.

So I toasted slices for breakfast, and ate them, just now, with pepper chevre from Vermont Butter and Cheese, the last slice of turkey, and good tomatoes. While I ate, I read just a little of The Stone Raft by Jose Saramago, which is about what happens when the Iberian Pennisula (with Spain and Portugal and all the people who don't leave) breaks free of Europe and drifts off into the sea.

I have work to do. Also, for lunch, pesto with basil from my love's garden and another tomato to slice for the bread.
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Any sort of landscape is a condition of the soul.

H.F. Amiel

Salons

Jun. 26th, 2006 08:09 pm
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I've seen others on my friendslist writing about how to develop fat culture -- and some of you, such as current and past members of the board of Nolose and fat girl flea organizers, work at it with amazing intensity and persistence, yeah, and of course, there are plenty of writers, artists, activists and thinkers here who are creating culture and challenging existing paradigms in tons of strange, thrilling and persistent ways -- so I thought you might be interested in this exchange. Part of my interest is in how to jump categories and engage with people doing gorgeous, risky work in many forms from all kinds of angles without getting too scattered or neglecting existing relationships or slighting the most intimate and fertile conversations and exchanges.*

In an email, [livejournal.com profile] hhholiday asked me a very beautiful and moving question, a question out of my dreams:

How do we, as a community, get to support you as an artist?

Here's a modified version of what I said. )

Bent

Jun. 8th, 2006 09:37 am
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The individual is helpless without a cultural heritage to work on...Creation is a bending of form to one's will, not a manufacture of form ex nihilo.*

Anthropologist Edward Sapir, quoted by Esther Newton in "My Butch Career," from Margaret Mead Made Me Gay.

Esther Newton quotes this as part of an explanation of why she claims butch identity -- also, "...to paraphrase Stuart Hall, to claim an identity is to place oneself in a narrative of history."

I'm thinking about it right now as a way to talk about why I'm writing about Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, about eighteenth century New England Calvinists. I'm an inheritor of that cultural form, and it feels important (and pretty scary) to me to try to understand at least one story of what it has made in me, in my culture, and what I can make of it.


* ex nihilo means "out of nothing."
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I bought Fun Home this morning at Broadside Books in Northampton, where Alison will be speaking June 24. I’m going to be in Cleveland at a conference, but I marked it on my calendar, anyway (that’s how good I think it'll be). She’s traveling a lot, and the whole tour schedule is here.

This is what I thought of the book.  )

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