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This is a formal apology for not having anything special to post.
But here, check out some of Sabatini’s early short stories. It’s fun to guess beforehand a) whether or not it will be terrible, b) whether or not he recycled the story into a novel later, and c) whether the hero will have a lean sardonic countenance.
If you've been following along with our Fifth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series, we're glad you're back for more. And if you're visiting for the first time, well, we're glad you're here.
Ah Thursday! A happy day that means tomorrow is Friday and the weekend is very close at hand. I have a jumble of things this evening.
I am nearly done with Haggard’s She. I am alternately amused and appalled by it. I have also found the structure of the novel interesting because Danielewski’s House of of Leaves which I am also reading has a similar structure. Maybe structure isn’t the right word, frame or perhaps technique would be better. I find it fascinating that this very Victorian novel and a wacky postmodern novel both use manuscripts from a dead man to tell the story and each uses footnote comments from the inheritor of the manuscript to comment on the the text. It goes even farther than that in House of Leaves. But that I am reading two RIP books from different centuries that both use the same approach is fascinating. I’m not sure what else to say about that yet, perhaps there is a post about it after I finish both books. Oh and House of Leaves, had me feeling the chills in broad daylight.
I did some looking into various books of hers today and it turns out that someone has probably illegally scanned them and made them available online as PDFs. So if you are interested, download them while you can! The titles I am especially curious about at the moment are Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourse on Sexual Politics, Woman Hating, and Right-Wing Women. I have no idea how long these books will be allowed to stay out in the wild, so if you are interested, get them now.
Flavorwire has a list of experimental novels that are worth the effort in honor of the publication in the U.S. of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. I am proud to say the U.S. publisher is Minneapolis’s own independent Coffee House Press. Woo! I am very much interested in the novel. Has anyone read it yet?
As to Flavorwire’s list, I take exception to the “worth the effort” bit. Any good book is worth the effort, so what if it is difficult. The list is good in spite of that. I’ve not read any of the books on it though I have read other books by several of the authors listed. Does anyone have a favorite experimental novel (if that even really means anything) that is not on the list you would recommend?
A somewhat amusing article at Slate, Reading Insecurity. What is it? That feeling that you are not getting as much from your reading as you used to. The worry that you aren’t reading as much and when you do read you are distracted. The belief that you spent all day lost in a book as a kid and can no longer achieve that level of reading nirvana. It isn’t a bad article as these things go.
I was just wondering the other day when the fall readathon was going to be because it has ben a couple years since I participated and I am in the mood. Then today in my feed reader, behold! Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is scheduled for Saturday, October 18th. I have signed up and I am already wondering what I will read! Not only that I am wondering what delicious snacks I can get Bookman to make me to fuel my reading! I’m not sure which I am more excited about, the reading binge or the snacks.
Well, that should do it for now. Off to get in a little exercise and a little reading.
Hi All! "Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari", has been released! I've done the book covers for this new Christian series for tween-age girls. Hope you enjoy!
Fresh off winning a MacArthur Genius grant, and a months-0ong residency at an Umbrian castle, Alison Bechdel has also announced the subject of her next graphic novel. The Secret to Superhuman Strength will be published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin. Having explored the psyches of her father in Fun Home and her mother in Are you My Mother, Bechdel turns her laser sight on her self:
“The Secret to Superhuman Strength” is Ms. Bechdel’s third graphic memoir and chronicles her decades long obsession with various fitness and exercise fads, including downhill skiing, uphill skiing, rollerblading, martial arts, running, hiking, weight lifting and home workout videos and currently, yoga. The book will also explore the history of American fitness fads, and Ms. Bechdel’s efforts to rekindle her creativity through exercise, and it is shot through with her signature darkness.
Given America’s obsession with these obsessions, this could be another best seller.Display Comments Add a Comment
Avast, me hearties! International Talk Like a Pirate Day be soon upon us. Aye, very soon. Tomorrow, in fact.
If this oh-so-fun little-known holiday, celebrated annually on September 19th, has taken ye by surprise this year, never fear. We scalawags here at Bugs and Bunnies have some fun and bookish ways for teachers an' kids ta celebrate the day.
How do you survive as a psychology student? It might be a daunting prospect, but we here at OUP are here to give you a helping hand through three years of cognitive overload. Here are our top tips:
1. Do some essential reading before you start your degree! Psychology is a very broad subject, so build some strong foundations with a wide reading base, especially if you’re new to the subject. Check out our Essential Book List to get you started (and recommendations welcome in the comments below).
2. Stay up-to-date with current affairs. Psychology is a continually evolving subject, with new ideas and perspectives emerging all the time. Read blogs, journals, and magazines; watch TED talks; listen to podcasts; and scan newspapers for psychology-themed stories.
3. Always keep your eyes and ears open. University is your chance to learn beyond the classroom. Pay attention to life – just watching your favourite TV programme can give you an insight into how a theoretical concept might actually work. Use everyday events and interactions to deepen your understanding of psychological ideas.
4. Learn from everyone around you. Psychology asks questions about how we as humans think – so go and think together with some other humans! Compare and contrast different ideas and approaches, and make the most of group learning or other opportunities, like taking part in other people’s surveys or experiments. Joining your university psychology society is a great way to learn from your peers and to balance work with play.
5. Learn how to study independently. This is your chance to learn what you want, not what you have to. You will have much greater academic freedom than ever before. Wherever you choose to study, you will have to take on your own independent research, and if you see yourself building a career in psychology, then independent investigation is crucial.
6. Hone your note-taking / diagram-making skills. On your laptop, tablet, smartphone — or with paper and pens — you’ll be writing a lot of notes over the course of your degree. Referencing and formatting might not seem like the most exciting aspects of your degree, but good preparation and organisation will make them more bearable (and quicker!). Get to know how best you learn, remember and process information.
7. Get enough sleep. Sitting up late staring at textbooks and computer screens is easy, but it’s not the healthiest habit to get into. Studying well is less about the number of hours you put in, than how effectively you spend those hours. Keep up a balanced diet, stay hydrated, do regular exercise, and find someone to talk to if you’re feeling stressed.
8. Don’t be afraid to admit to your own weaknesses. Psychology is a demanding subject, and questions are more common than neat answers.
9. Try to enjoy your studies. There are many ideas to explore, from behaviour to dreams, memory to psychoanalysis. Keep looking at different topics that interest you to stay motivated. When it does get too much, don’t be afraid to step back and take a break.
10. Finally, remember what psychology is about. You can get lost in surveys and experiments, theories and concepts, but try to always keep in mind what drew you to psychology in the first place. In studying psychology you’re taking part in a great tradition of questioning how the human mind works and behaves – be proud of that.
Heading Image: Student. Photo by CollegeDegrees360, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr
So I wrote this really long post about YA fiction on tumblr, and then I was like ARGH, maybe it should go at Bonny Glen instead, what am I even doing? So now you know exactly how decisive I am.
Well, it’s there, and I’m leaving it there, but here’s a piece of it, and if you have trouble commenting on that site you’re welcome to bring the discussion here.
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Something I’ll be thinking about as I gorge is what stories these writers are telling and why. (Not just how, which is a primary measure of a book’s merit—how is this story being told? How well? How vividly? How compellingly? How convincingly? How searingly? Does it leave something behind? A scar on the mind, a rune engraved on the heart? A face you can’t ever forget? How? How?)
In an endeavor like this, selecting a Cybils shortlist, the what and why questions are equally pressing. What makes this book stand out from the crowd—and a crowd it will be. Why this plot, this narrator, this voice. Why verse, or why prose? When you read a lot of books at once you can’t help but spot patterns and trends. Small details, perhaps, like the naming of cars—in 2010 we had a gaggle of them, including not one but two cars named “Holden,” (totally by coincidence I have no doubt). But larger trends as well, clusters of books exploring similar subject matter. In realistic YA fiction this very often means suicide, addiction, medical or mental disorders, sexual or physical abuse. And that, I think, tells us a great deal about what the world is like for teens. And is why the best YA is both gripping and probing—that’s what teens do: they grip tightly to each other, to ideas, to hopes, to identity, to music, to fears; and they probe and dig and ponder and search. In this light the naming of cars makes perfect sense—the quest for identity, the assignment of personality to objects of significance, the search for the real, true meaning of things. Naming a thing helps define the thing. Naming it Holden—oh there’s so much to unpack there. Holden Caulfield, the original teen gripper and prober.
You can’t read a book that is gripping without being gripped, and that’s what I’m preparing myself for. To have my mind shaken, my heart squeezed.
It’s that time of year again: Cybils Award season. The judge announcements went out this morning. I’m delighted to be serving on the First-Round panel for YA Fiction. My last stint on this panel was in 2010, aka The Year I Read a Million Books. (I’m sure it’s a TOTAL COINCIDENCE that that was also the year I began to need reading glasses.)
My appointment to this panel spurred me to make a move I’ve been considering for some time, which is to dust off my tumblr (again) and try using it for my YA-related content. I’ve got a new YA of my own coming out next year, and tumblr seems a better fit for connecting with teen readers. I’ll add a link to the sidebar, or if that topic interests you enough to want to follow it in a feed reader, here’s the RSS. (I also use tumblr for reposting interesting articles and art I’ve come across, so fair warning.)
Disclaimer: I consider all platform changes to be experimental until they’ve proven themselves convenient, so this may or may not be a long-term shift. I just really like keeping things in different boxes. But if you’ve seen my garage, you know there usually comes a point where I get annoyed by the clutter and dump everything into one big container. (Believe me, you don’t want to see my garage.)
I believe this post may have set a new record for ending paragraphs with parentheticals. (Yeehah!)Add a Comment
Books have a way of wrecking a person’s life. Well, okay, not wrecking, that’s far too strong. Ruin maybe. Well, no not ruin either. Let me try again. Books have a tendency to keep a person from being settled in her opinion of things. The opposite could be true too, books could serve to always confirm a person’s opinions and beliefs. I guess it all depends on what sorts of books a person reads. For me, the first one tends to hold sway.
Most recently my opinion of Andrea Dworkin has been ripped to shreds. I am reading a book of essays called Icon edited by Amy Scholder to review for Library Journal and I just finished an essay in it by Johanna Fateman on Andrea Dworkin. I can’t say that I have ever read Dworkin. I have read bits and pieces, passages, quotes, never an entire book of hers. By the time I came along to college and took a women’s literature class, Dworkin had already pretty much been written off by feminists because of her anti-porn and, purported, anti-sex, stance. I wasn’t especially concerned with porn, but when you are twenty, the thought of being anti-sex, even if you weren’t having any, was preposterous. So I wrote off Dworkin too as a kooky feminist who had gone way too far. I was all, feminism yay! But I just didn’t see the reason it had to go to such extremes.
But this Fateman essay is forcing me to re-evaluate my opinion of Dworkin. To be sure she did go way out there, but she had reasons. And now, from the perspective of 20+ years, I can also understand that sometimes one needs to go to extremes in order to get any sort of attention on an issue that people don’t think is a problem or refuse to believe is anything to be concerned with.
And did you know Dworkin wrote novels? A couple of memoirs? And some supposedly excellent literary criticism? I certainly had no idea. And now this (not) stupid essay has made me want to go and dig some of those things up, especially the criticism, to discover for myself just what made her so known and influential before everyone turned on her.
If I hadn’t agreed to review this book for Library Journal, and if there hadn’t been an essay in it about Dworkin then I could still be going on my merry way with not a thought about the woman. But now, blast it all, I am not going to be able to let it go. I will have to investigate further. Darn books, why can’t you just let me be ignorant? I don’t have time for this. Books have to go an ruin everything.
Like every other custom in life, kissing has been studied from the historical, cultural, anthropological, and linguistic point of view. Most people care more for the thing than for the word, but mine is an etymological blog, so don’t expect a disquisition on the erotic aspects of kissing, even though a few lines below will lead us in that direction. Did the ancient Indo-Europeans, the semi-mythic people who lived no one knows exactly when and where kiss? And if they did, what was their method of performing this “gesture”? Did they rub one another’s nose, the way many people do? Did they kiss their children before putting them to their nomadic beds? Did they kiss goodbye to lost objects, blow a kiss to a friend, or kiss the hand of the woman whose affections they hoped to gain? Alas, we will never know. Even a common Indo-European word for “head” does not exist, and if there is no head, how does one kiss in a truly Proto-Indo-European way? Our records, beginning with Ancient Egypt, the Old Testament, and Vedic texts are quite old but not old enough.
In 1897 Kristoffer Nyrop (1858-1931), a distinguished student of Romance linguistics and semantic change, wrote a book called Kysset og dets historie (The Kiss and Its History; being a nineteenth-century Dane, he stuck to the reactionary habit of writing his works in Danish, but the book was translated into English almost immediately and is still available.) The 190-page study reads like a novel. A week after its publication, all the copies were sold out, and Nyrop was asked to prepare a second edition and do so in a wild hurry, to be ready for Christmas sales. As could be expected, he complied. Regrettably, he said nothing about the origin of the word. Yet the literature on the etymology of kiss is huge.
As usual, I’ll begin with Germanic. The ancestors of the Modern Germans, Dutch, Frisians, Scandinavians, and English had almost the same word for “kiss,” approximately koss (coss). Part of the New Testament in Gothic has come down to us. Gothic is a Germanic language, recorded in the fourth century, and the word for the verb kiss in it is kukjan. As early as 1861, Dutch dialectal kukken surfaced in a scholarly work, and somewhat later an almost identical East Frisian form was set in linguistic circulation. It became clear that at one time Germanic speakers had two forms—one with -ss-, the other with -kk-. Their relation has never been explained to everybody’s satisfaction.
Solomon in The Song of Songs mentions passionate kisses on the mouth, and Judas must also have kissed Jesus on the mouth. At least, such was the general perception in the Middle Ages (for example, this is how Giotto and Fra Angelico, but more explicitly Giotto, represented the scene), so the Hebrews and the Romans kissed as we do, and Wulfila, the translator of the Gothic Bible, probably had a similar image before his eyes while working with the Greek text. So the speakers of the Germanic languages called “kiss” a kuss- (the vowels might differ slightly) or a kukk-.
Whenever the ritual of kissing came into being, some kisses were used to show respect and in other situations served a purpose comparable to shaking hands (think of a handshake sealing a bargain). Kissing the foot of a king or the Pope belongs here too. Dutch zoenen has the root of a verb meaning “reconcile” (a cognate of German versöhnen). Consequently, people kissed to mark the end of hostilities. Later the Dutch verb broadened its meaning and began to denote any kiss. Something similar happened in Russian, in which the verb for “kiss” is akin to the adjective for “whole”: tselovat’ (stress on the last syllable), from tsel. A kiss must have been a gesture signifying “be healthy, gesundheit.” Another Dutch verb for “kiss” (this time, dialectal), with a close analog in dialectal German, is poenen ~ puunen and seems to have meant “push, plunge, thrust; come into contact.” Here the emphasis was obviously on the movement in the direction of another person. Then there is Engl. smack, believed to be sound-imitative: apparently, when one kisses someone, smack is heard. Onomatopoeia is always hard to prove, but compare Russian chmok, which means exactly the same as smack. Latin savium, of obscure origin, designated an erotic kiss, while osculum goes back to the word for “mouth” (os). Neither is sound-imitative.
Where then does Old Germanic kuss- ~ kukk- belong? Many researchers have suggested that it is sound-imitative, like smack. Perhaps we really hear or think we hear smack, chmok, kuss, and kukk when we kiss. However, even an onomatopoeic word can have a protoform. Reconstructing any protoform is pure algebra. For example, the Gothic for come is qiman (pronounced as kwiman). Its indisputable Latin cognate is venire. To make the two belong together, we should posit an ancestor beginning with gw-. In Latin, g was lost, and in Germanic it yielded k, according to the law of the consonant shift (b, d, g to p, t, k). Did the ancestors of Latin speakers ever say gwenire? Most likely, they did.
In the same way, kiss was tentatively connected with Latin gustare “to taste,” on the assumption that at one time the sought-for form began with gw-. Although this suggestion can be found in one of the best Germanic etymological dictionaries, it now has few, if any, supporters. More instructive is the fact that the Hittite for “kiss” was kuwaszi, and it resembles Sanskrit ṡvaṡiti “to blow; snort” (k- and s- alternate according to a certain rule, while u and w are variants of the same phonetic entity). Add to them Greek kuneo “kiss,” in whose conjugation -s- appears with great regularity: the future was kuso and the aorist ekusa, earlier ekussa. On the basis of this evidence, several authoritative modern dictionaries posit a Proto-Indo-European form of kiss. Can we imagine that three or so thousand years ago there was a common verb for kiss that has come down to our time? Possibly, if “kiss” designated something very common and important, that is, if, for example, it existed as a religious term, something like “worship an idol by touching the image with one’s lips.”
Other hypotheses also exist. Kiss was compared with the verb for “speak,” from which English has the antiquated preterit quoth; Engl. choose and chew; Swedish kuk “penis,” Low (= Northern) German kukkuk “whore; vulva,” Irish bel “lip,” and especially often with Latin basium “kiss” (noun) ~ basiare “kiss” (verb), recognizable today from its cognates: French baiser, Italian baciare, and Spanish besar. All those conjectures should probably be dismissed as unprofitable. The origin of basiare is unknown, and nothing good ever comes from explaining one obscure word by referring it to another equally obscure one.
We are left with two choices. Perhaps there indeed once existed a proto-verb for kiss sounding approximately like it, but who kissed whom or what and in what way remains undiscovered. Or, while kissing, different people heard a sound that resembles either kuss or kukk. Neither solution inspires too much confidence, but, in any case, the long consonant (-ss and -kk) points to the affective nature of the verb. Perhaps an ancient expressive verb belonging to the religious sphere had near universal currency, with Hittite, Sanskrit, and Germanic still having its reflexes. If so, the main question will be about the application of that verb. The sex-related look-alikes (“penis,” “vulva,” and the rest) should, almost certainly, be ascribed to coincidence.
To prevent the Indo-European imagination from running wild, one should remember that alongside kiss, Engl. buss exists. Although it sounds like Middle Engl. bass (the same meaning), bass could not become buss, and it is anybody’s guess whether bass is of French or Latin origin. Swedish dialectal puss corresponds to German Bavarian buss, which is remembered because Luther used it. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Persian, Turkic, and Hindu have almost identical forms (Spanish is sometimes said to have borrowed its word from Arabic), while Scottish Gaelic and Welsh bus means “lip; mouth.” Even Engl. ba “to kiss” has been recorded. This array of b-words seems to tip the scale toward the onomatopoeic solution, the more so because, to pronounce b, we have to open the lips. For millennia people have kussed (no pun intended), kossed, kissed, kukked, bassed, and bussed, to show affection and respect, to conclude peace, and just for the fun of it, without paying too much attention to origins. This is not giving a kiss of death to etymological research: it is rather a warning that some things are hard to investigate.
Nowadays the question where does a certain sentence occur? has lost its edge. Google will immediately provide the answer. So find out who wrote: “‘A gentleman insulted me today’, she said, ‘he hugged me around the waist and kissed me’.” Then read, laugh, and weep with the heroine.
Image credits: (1) “The prince awakened Sleeping Beauty.” From Kinder und Hausmarchen, von Jakob L. und Wilhelm K. Grimm; illus. von Hermann Vogel. Dritte Auflage), 1893. NYPL Digital Gallery. Digital ID: 1698628. New York Public Library (2) The Kiss. Gustav Klimt. 1907-1908. Austrian Gallery Belvedere. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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THE DATE: 18 September 2014, Fateful Day of Scotland’s Independence Referendum
THE PLACE: A Sceptred Isle
Alexander the Great, First Minister of Scotland
Daveheart, Prime Minister of the Britons
Assorted Other Ministers, Attendant Lords, Lordlings, Politicos, and Camp Followers
A Botnet of Midges
The Internet (A Sprite)
St George of Osborne
Boris de Balliol, Mayor of Londres
UKIP (An Acronym)
ACT I: A Blasted Heath.
Enter THREE WITCHES
When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the referendum’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
That will be when Salmond’s gone.
Where the place?
Better Together unto death!
Is that your phone?
Daveheart calls: anon! –
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the plebs and filthy air.
ACT II: The Scottish Camp (Voters at Dawn)
Enter a SMALL FOLKS’ CHORUS, Botnet Midges,
Who flap their wings, and then commence this chant:
See here assembled in the Scottish Camp
The Thane of Yes, Lord Naw-Naw, Doctor Spin.
Old folk forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But we’ll remember, with advantages,
This Referendum Day. Then shall that name
And date, familiar as our household words –
Alex the Great, the eighteenth of September –
And many, many here who cast their votes,
A true sorority, a band of brothers,
Long be remembered — long as “Auld Lang Syne” –
For she or he who votes along with me
Shall be my sibling; be they curt or harsh
This day shall gentle their condition:
Scots students down in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed, they were not here,
Casting their votes in this our referendum.
ACT III: On Arthur’s Seat, a Mount Olympus
Near the Scots’ Parliament at Holyrood
Proud Edward Milibrand, Daveheart, Nicholas Clegg,
And Anthony a Blair perch on the crags
With English Exiles. Now Lord Devomax speaks:
Stands England where it did? Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself, a stateless
Nation, post-imperial, undevolved;
Still sadly lacking its own Parliament,
It commandeers to deal with its affairs
The British Parliament, whose time it wastes
With talk of what pertains to England only,
And so abuses that quaint institution
As if it were its own, not for these islands
Set in a silver sea from Sark to Shetland.
[Exit, pursued by A. Blair]
ACT IV: The Archipelago (High Noon)
Enter THE INTERNET, A Sprite, who sings:
Full fathom five Westminster lies;
Democracy begins to fade;
Stout, undevolved, John Bull still eyes
Imperial power so long mislaid;
England must suffer a sea-change
Into something small and strange,
MPs hourly clang Big Ben:
Come, John Bull, and toll Big Ben.
ACT V: South London: top floor of the Shard
Boris de Balliol, St George of Osborne,
Attendant Lords, and Chorus Bankerorum,
Et Nympharum Tamesis et Parliamentorum
Sheet lightnings flash offstage while clashing cymbals
Crescendo in a thunderous night’s farrage.
ST GEORGE: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
Ye exit polls and hurricanoes spout!
Come, Boris, here’s the place. Stand still.
And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!
The crows and choughs, that wing the midway air
Seem gross as bankers’ apps: here from this Shard
See floors of smug short-sellers, dreadful traders
Inside a giant gherkin, and the City
Fraternity of inegalite
Spread out around us while its denizens
Appear like lice.
ATTENDANT LORDS: Scotia and Boris, hail!
BORIS: O Bella, Bella Caledonia,
Hic Boris Maior, Londinii Imperator,
Fanfare of hautboys, bagpipes, and a tucket.
ST GEORGE: A tucket!
BORIS: Tempus fugit.
Pipers, desist! Your music from this height
Has calmed the storm, and, blithely, while we wait
For the result to come from Holyrood,
So charms the ear that, clad in English tartans –
The Hunting Cholmondesley, the Royal Agincourt,
And chic crisscrosses of the National Trust –
Our city here, ravished by this fair sound
Of tweeted pibroch, YouTubed from the Shard
To Wapping, Westminster, and Heathrow’s tarmac,
While gazing up from bingo and Big Macs,
Brooding upon our disunited kingdom,
Stands all agog to hear Dame Scotia speak.
Scotia descends, ex machina helecopteris
SCOTIA: O England, England, your tight cabinet’s
Sly Oxbridge public-schoolboy millionaires
Fight while your country sinks beneath their yoke;
It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash
Is added to those wounds: new Europhiles
Repulsed, the world repelled; England whose riots
Failed to stop students’ fees for your own folk
Or to contain their escalating cost.
Sad, catastrophic, calculating drones
Miscalculating loans, kicking the arts,
England betrayed by Scoto-Anglish Blair
Into wrong wars and then to Gordon Brown,
Jowled lord of loss and light-touch regulation.
O England, England! Rise and be a nation
United under your own Parliament!
Methinks I am a prophet now inspired
And thus, inspiring, do foretell of you:
Your Europhobia must not endure,
For violent fires must soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short.
Learn from the Scots: plant windfarms, make yourself
A Saudi Arabia of tidal power,
Though not of gender; learn, too, from the French,
There is no need to stay a sceptred isle,
Scuffed other Eden, demi-paradise;
No fortress, built by UKIP for themselves,
Against infection in their Brussels wars;
Be happy as a nation on an island
That’s not England’s alone, a little world,
This precious stone set in a silver sea,
Which serves to link it now with all the globe,
Or as the front door to a happy home,
Be, still, the envy of less happier lands,
And set up soon an English Parliament,
Maybe in London, Britain’s other eye,
Maybe in Yorkshire, so you may become
A better friend to Scotland whose folk love
This blessed plot, this earth, and independence.
She zooms northwards.
Heading image: Macbeth by John Martin (1789–1854). Scottish National Gallery. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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China has all but overtaken the United States based on GDP at newly-computed purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, twenty years after Paul Krugman predicted: “Although China is still a very poor country, its population is so huge that it will become a major economic power if it achieves even a fraction of Western productivity levels.” But will it eclipse the United States, as Arvind Subramanian has claimed, with the yuan eventually vying with the dollar for international reserve currency status?
Not unless China battles three economic foes. One is well-known: diminishing marginal returns to capital. Two others have received less attention. The first is Carlos Diaz-Alejandro. Not the man, but the results uncovered by his research on the Southern Cone following the opening up of its capital account that culminated in a sovereign debt crisis and contributed to Latin America’s lost 1980s. If the capital account is liberalized before the domestic financial system is ready, the country sets itself up for a fall: goodbye financial repression, hello financial crash. The second is the “reality of transition”: rejuvenating growth requires hard budgets and competition to improve resource allocation and stimulate innovation, counterbalanced with a more competitive real exchange rate. This is the principal insight from the transition in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which was far simpler than anything China faces.
China was able to raise total factor productivity (TFP) growth as an offset to diminishing marginal returns to capital, especially after joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, and faster growth was accompanied by a rising savings rate. But TFP growth is hard to sustain. Any developing country targeting growth above the steady state level given by the sum of human capital growth, TFP growth and population growth (the latter two falling rapidly in China) will find that its investment rates need to continually increase unless it can rejuvenate TFP growth. China’s investment rates have risen from around 42% of GDP over 2005-7 (prior to the global crisis) to 48% in recent years even as growth has dropped from the 12% to the 7.5% range. Savings rates have hovered around 50%, reducing current account surpluses (numbers drawn from IMF 2010 and 2014 Article IV reports).
This configuration has forced China to choose between either investing even more, or lowering growth targets. It has chosen the latter, with its leaders espousing anti-corruption, deleveraging, environmental improvement and structural reform to achieve higher quality growth. The central bank, People’s Bank of China (PBoC), has reaffirmed its goal of internationalizing the yuan and liberalizing the capital account.
China’s proposed antidote is to “rebalance” from investment and exports to domestic consumption. But growth arithmetic would require consumption to grow at unrealistic rates, given the relative shares of investment and private consumption in GDP, even to meet scaled-down growth targets. Besides, households need better social benefits and market interest rates on bank deposits to save less and consume more. Hukou reform alone, or placing social benefits received by rural migrants on a par with their urban counterparts, could easily cost 3% of GDP a year for the next seven years as some 150 million additional people gain access to such benefits—quite apart from the public investment needed to upgrade urban infrastructure, according to calculations shared by Xinxin Li of the Observatory Group. And the failure to liberalize bank deposit rates has led to the rise of “wealth management products” in the shadow banking system. These “WMPs” offer higher returns but are poorly regulated and more risky.
Indeed, total social financing, a broad measure of credit, has soared from 125% to 200% of GDP over the five years 2009-2013 (Figure 2 in the July 2014 IMF Article IV report, with Box 5 warning that such a rapid trajectory usually ends in tears). Local government debt was estimated at 32% of GDP in mid-2013, much of it short-term and used to fund infrastructure projects and social housing with long paybacks. Housing prices show the signs of a bubble, especially away from the four major cities. Corporate credit is 115% of GDP, about half of it collateralized by land or property. While the focus recently has been on risks from shadow banking, it is hard to separate the shadow from the core. Besides, WMPs have become intertwined with the booming real estate market, a major engine of growth yet the centre of a “web of vulnerabilities” (to quote the IMF) encompassing banks, shadow banks, and local government finances. A real estate shock would ripple through the system, lowering growth and forcing bailouts. The gross cost of the bank workout at the end of the 1990s was 15% of GDP in a much simpler world!
2014 began with fears of a hard landing and an impending default by a bankrupt coal mine on a $500 million WMP-funded loan intermediated by a mega-bank. The government eventually intervened rather than let investors take a hit and risk a confidence crisis. And starting in April, stimulus packages were launched to meet the 7.5% growth target, a tacit admission that rebalancing is not working. But concerns persist around real estate. Besides, stimulus will help only temporarily and China is likely to be facing the same questions about growth and financial vulnerability by the end of the year.
With rebalancing infeasible, and investing even more prohibitively costly, virtually the only remaining option is to spur total factor productivity growth: China is still far from the global technological frontier. This calls for a package that cleans up the financial sector and implements hard budgets and genuine competition, especially for the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), while keeping real exchange rates competitive. The real appreciation of the past few years may have been offset by rising productivity, but continued appreciation will make it harder for the domestic economy to restructure and create 12 million jobs a year to absorb new graduates and displaced SOE workers.
In sum, China must heed Diaz-Alejandro. No one knows what the non-performing loans ratio is in China and few believe the official rate of 1%. If the cornerstone of a financial system is confidence and transparency, China is severely deficient. This must first be fixed and market-determined interest rates adopted before entertaining hopes of internationalizing the currency. China must also accept the reality of transition; the formidable remaining agenda in the fiscal, financial, social, and SOE sectors reminds us that China is still in transition to a full-fledged market economy.
The combination of a financial clean up and the policy trio of hard budgets, competition, and a competitive real exchange rate will improve resource allocation and force innovation, boosting total factor productivity growth. But doing this is hard—that’s the essence of the “middle-income trap”. Huge vested interests will be encountered, evoking Raghuram Rajan’s description of the middle-income trap as one “where crony capitalism creates oligarchies that slow down growth”. Dealing with this agenda is the Chinese leadership’s biggest challenge.
The era of cheap China is ending, while the ability of the government to virtually decree the growth rate has fallen victim to diminishing returns to capital. Diaz-Alejandro and the reality of transition are no less important as China seeks a way forward.
Headline image credit: The Great Wall in fall, by Canary Wu. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Hadrian’s Wall has been in the news again recently for all the wrong reasons. Occasional wits have pondered on its significance in the Scottish Referendum, neglecting the fact that it has never marked the Anglo-Scottish border, and was certainly not constructed to keep the Scots out. Others have mistakenly insinuated that it is closed for business, following the widely reported demise of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust. And then of course there is the Game of Thrones angle, best-selling writer George R R Martin has spoken of the Wall as an inspiration for the great wall of ice that features in his books.
Media coverage of both Hadrian’s Wall Trust’s demise and Game of Thrones’ rise has sometimes played upon and propagated the notion that the Hadrian’s Wall was manned by shivering Italian legionaries guarding the fringes civilisation – irrespective of the fact that the empire actually trusted the security of the frontier to its non-citizen soldiers, the auxilia rather than to its legionaries. The tendency to overemphasise the Italian aspect reflects confusion about what the Roman Empire and its British frontier was about. But Martin, who made no claims to be speaking as a historian when he spoke of how he took the idea of legionaries from Italy, North Africa, and Greece guarding the Wall as a source of inspiration, did at least get one thing right about the Romano-British frontier.
There were indeed Africans on the Wall during the Roman period. In fact, at times there were probably more North Africans than Italians and Greeks. While all these groups were outnumbered by north-west Europeans, who tend to get discussed more often, the North African community was substantial, and its stories warrant telling.
Perhaps the most remarkable tale to survive is an episode in the Historia Augusta (Life of Severus 22) concerning the inspection of the Wall by the emperor Septimius Severus. The emperor, who was himself born in Libya, was confronted by a black soldier, part of the Wall garrison and a noted practical joker. According to the account the notoriously superstitious emperor saw in the soldier’s black skin and his brandishing of a wreath of Cyprus branches, an omen of death. And his mood was not further improved when the soldier shouted the macabre double entendre iam deus esto victor (now victor/conqueror, become a god). For of course properly speaking a Roman emperor should first die before being divinized. The late Nigerian classicist, Lloyd Thompson, made a powerful point about this intriguing passage in his seminal work Romans and Blacks, ‘the whole anecdote attributes to this man a disposition to make fun of the superstitious beliefs about black strangers’. In fact we might go further, and note just how much cultural knowledge and confidence this frontier soldier needed to play the joke – he needed to be aware of Roman funerary practices, superstitions, and the indeed the practice of emperor worship itself.
Why is this illuminating episode not better known? Perhaps it is because there is something deeply uncomfortable about what could be termed Britain’s first ‘racist joke’, or perhaps the problem lies with the source itself, the notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta. And yet as a properly forensic reading of this part of the text by Professor Tony Birley has shown, the detail included around the encounter is utterly credible, and we can identify places alluded to in it at the western end of the Wall. So it is quite reasonable to believe that this encounter took place.
Not only this, but according to the restoration of the text preferred by Birley and myself, there is a reference to a third African in this passage. The restoration post Maurum apud vallum missum in Britannia indicates that this episode took place after Severus has granted discharge to a soldier of the Mauri (the term from which ‘Moors’ derives). And has Birley has noted, we know that there was a unit of Moors stationed at Burgh-by-Sands on the Solway at this time.
Sadly, Burgh is one of the least explored forts on Hadrian’s Wall, but some sense of what may one day await an extensive campaign of excavation there comes from Transylvania in Romania, where investigations at the home of another Moorish regiment of the Roman army have revealed a temple dedicated to the gods of their homelands. Perhaps too, evidence of different North African legacies would emerge. The late Vivian Swann, a leading expert in the pottery of the Wall has presented an attractive case that the appearance of new forms of ceramics indicates the introduction of North African cuisine in northern Britain in the second and third centuries AD.
What is clear is that the Mauri of Burgh-by-Sands were not the only North Africans on the Wall. We have an African legionary’s tombstone from Birdoswald, and from the East Coast the glorious funerary stela set up to commemorate Victor, a freedman (former slave) by his former master, a trooper in a Spanish cavalry regiment. Victor’s monument now stands on display in Arbeia Museum at South Shields next to the fine, and rather better known, memorial to the Catuvellunian Regina, freedwoman and wife of Barates from Palmyra in Syria. Together these individuals, and the many other ethnic groups commemorated on the Wall, remind us of just how cosmopolitan the people of Roman frontier society were, and of how a society that stretched from the Solway and the Tyne to the Euphrates was held together.
These are a few of the questions which occurred to me in response to the recent discussions about MY PARENTS OPEN CARRY by Brian Jeffs and Nathan Nephew (White Feather Press). The publisher kindly sent me a review copy of the book in response to my emailed request and it arrived yesterday, giving me time to examine it carefully and to share it with my coworkers.
Though formatted as a picture book, the character whose parents “open carry” is a 13-year-old girl named Brenna. And despite the title, she doesn’t narrate the text. As the authors indicate in their, “…note to home school teachers: This book is an excellent text to use as a starting point on the discussion of the 2nd Amendment,” which suggests that they are hoping to reach a market with a broad age-range.
I was hoping the book would be well-enough written that I would find it a plausible purchase for our collection, but my hopes have not come to fruition. The text is tedious, the conversations are repetitious and attempts at descriptive writing fail to convey information.
Here are some examples of the writing:
“One morning, Brenna was sleeping and dreaming dreams only a 13-year-old girl would dream.” (p. 1)
“All in all, Brenna had a great day with her mom and dad. She again realized how much they loved her and how lucky she was to have parents that open carry.” (p. 21)
And then there are the creepier moments: “To increase Brenna’s awareness, her dad often tries to sneak up on her to catch her off guard; it’s a game they play.” (p. 15)
In addition, the robotic figures depicted in the illustrations with their stiff postures and eerie, fixed smiles are rather discomfiting.
I confess that the level of paranoia Jeffs and Nephew express to justify their need to carry guns in plain sight whenever they go out in public disturbs me, but I won’t debate the Second Amendment here. Whatever our personal opinions on the matter may be, we librarians still must grapple with the sorts of questions I’ve framed above.
I feel honor-bound, however, to point out that Jeffs and Nephew espouse the consumption of canned spinach and this is a sentiment that any right-minded person would find abhorrent. Fresh spinach is delicious and frozen spinach is an acceptable substitute in recipes calling for cooked spinach, but canned spinach is an abomination. The only proper use for a can of spinach that I can think of would be to aim at it during target practice.
But spinach aside, if this book had received a starred review, would you add it to your collection?
Miriam Lang Budin, ALSC Intellectual Freedom CommitteeAdd a Comment
ALSC Personal Members are invited to suggest titles for the 2015 Batchelder Award given to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during 2014. Please remember that only books from this publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award. Publishers, authors and illustrators may not suggest their own books.
You may send recommendations with full bibliographic information to committee chair, Diane Janoff, at email@example.com. The deadline to submit suggestions is December 31st, 2014.
The award will be announced at the press conference during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2015.
For more information about the award, visit the ALSC website at http://www.ala.org/alsc/. Click on “Awards and Grants” in the left-hand navigation bar; then click on “ALSC Book & Media Awards.” Scroll down to the “Batchelder Award Page”Add a Comment
Scottish women are said to hold the key to independence, as they predominate in the ‘no’ camp. Men have been repeatedly estimated from poll data to be around 50:50 for and against, while those women who were sure of their intentions were 60% against.
This has been represented as an alarming gender divide, but a look at the history of women fighting for the vote in Scotland shows they have long been resolute in their positions, more concerned with what politics could do in real life than the grandstanding of political ideas, and much more internationalist than their sisters south of the border.
The Scottish route to women’s suffrage started in 1867 with the Edinburgh National Society for Women’s Suffrage; similar societies were established in Manchester, London, and Dublin. Later these suffragists were joined by the suffragettes, who attracted considerable publicity for arson, vandalism, and hunger-striking in the cause, to the disdain of the constitutional campaigners who thought this sort of behaviour counter-productive. This major division in tactics has served to obscure the fundamental similarity of both campaigns as both sides were directed towards the same objective: for women to have the vote on the same basis as men, which was then on a property-owning franchise. They also both steered away from engagement in other social activities. The vote was all-important, it was a millennialist objective, which once achieved would inaugurate an era of social justice and peace. Other social activity was at best a distraction and could wait till after the advent of the franchise. For this reason English suffragists such as Millicent Fawcett were not involved in important campaigns like those against the Contagious Diseases Acts and for temperance, whatever their personal views may have been.
Scottish women took another path, with a much more inclusive vision of the purpose of political activism. For them the vote was one of a number of issues on which to campaign, and temperance was another. Using the vehicle of the Scottish Christian Union, Scottish women allied with the American Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the most powerful women’s suffrage organisation in the world.
The temperance cause was part of a set of progressive measures as disparate as anti-slavery, ‘social purity’ (sexual control), universal education, and promoting enhanced domestic skills to the poor. All had women as prime movers or playing a prominent part – the so-called ‘feminine public sphere’. Scottish women embraced this ‘woman’s mission’ with a vengeance, for example eagerly seizing on the municipal vote which was granted to Scottish women in 1881, in order to favour candidates who wanted strict alcohol licensing. Other areas of activity included such practical institutions as the Glasgow Samaritan Hospital for ‘diseases of women’ and rescue homes for ‘female inebriates.’ It has been said that alcohol more than slavery or suffrage or any other single cause politicised American women. Megan Smitley in The Feminine Public Sphere (MUP, 2009) has convincingly argued that the same can be said for Scottish women.
In the United States the Women’s Christian Temperance Union saw through enfranchisements state by state, and sent out missionaries to New Zealand (which became the first nation to enfranchise women in 1893) and to Australia (which started enfranchising with South Australia in 1894). Isabel Napier, who was National Superintendent of the Suffrage Department of the Scottish Christian Union, grew up in New Zealand and retained strong links. “When Suffrage became law in New Zealand all their influence was thrown on the side of Temperance Reform,” she said, “and so you have the advanced laws that now obtain.” WCTU speakers toured Scotland from the Shetlands to the Borders, hosted by the Scottish Christian Union.
In contrast, English women considered the US temperance campaign vulgar and did not welcome WCTU speakers; they feared the ‘Americanisation’ of their field. Nor did English and Welsh temperance organisations officially support women’s suffrage (though individual members doubtless did).
The importance of this tradition of social activism for the independence debate has been that Scottish women were not moved by the same arguments as men. The ‘Braveheart tendency’ of independence at all costs as a patriotic ideal, regardless of the consequences, has had limited feminine appeal. As Lesley Riddoch wrote in The Scotsman: “Toughing out controversy and appearing to spoil for a fight may earn respect from male commentators and small armies of cyber-angry, anonymous men. Clever dick answers, snide-sounding put downs and swaggering arrogance turn off watching women as swiftly as they appear to engage watching men.” That was the level at which most of the independence campaign was fought, however, leading to a frantic late catch-up as more ‘woman friendly’ policies were rolled out.
The issues that women took most interest in were: How would either side deal with child poverty, low pay, and poor housing? What could be done about the European-wide disgrace of poor health and low life expectancy in parts of Scotland? Finally (and in a manner that would be instantly recognisable to nineteenth century prohibitionists) how to deal with the appalling levels of alcohol abuse in Scotland which are so damaging to personal health and family life?
Such practical matters of national renewal were often drowned out by masculine bluster.
We might think of the end of summer as a slow news season. Not so for the authors and bloggers we feature today, who’ve been hard at work on some exciting projects recently.
Writer, professor, and media scholar Rebecca Hains often shares thoughtful posts on her blog, especially on topics revolving around gender and discrimination. Earlier this month, she celebrated the release of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years (Sourcebooks), her most recent book. A critique of popular culture and the messages it sends to young girls, the book has already earned rave reviews, including from Brenda Chapman, writer and director of Disney’s Brave.
Danielle Hark founded Broken Light Collective, a community for photographers coping with mental health issues, more than two years ago. We’ve been following that project for a while (and mentioned it in a mental health-focused roundup earlier this year), so it was nice to see Danielle, and Broken Light Collective as a whole, receive the attention they deserve in a New York Times profile. It was published to coincide with the Collective‘s first group gallery show, which closed in New York in August.
Ana Sofía Peláez‘s site has showcased the colorful, mouthwatering delights of Caribbean cuisine for more than five years, mixing in great storytelling with beautiful food photography. Next month, Ana Sofía will see her book, The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History (St. Martin’s Press), hit bookstores (and kitchens) everywhere. A labor of love on which she collaborated with photographer Ellen Silverman, the book chronicles Cuban food cultures from Havana to Miami to New York.
Anyone interested in engaging, wide-ranging discussions on the history of sexuality will enjoy Notches, a blog that has tackled topics like Medieval love magic and the origins of “Born This Way” politics.
Earlier this week, Notches editor Julia Laite, a lecturer at the University of London, wrote a thought-provoking article in The Guardian on another fascinating topic: our decades-long obsession with Jack the Ripper.
Justine Brooks Froelker, the blogger behind Ever Upward, has been chronicling her journey through infertility, loss, and acceptance in posts that are at once unflinching and moving. Now, Justine is preparing for the release of her book, also named Ever Upward, in early October (it’ll also be available on Amazon starting February). You can get a taste of Justine’s writing in this excerpt from the book’s opening chapter.
Are you publishing a book soon? Has your blog made the news? Leave us a comment — we’d love to know.
#WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft are great steps toward an improved public response to domestic violence. There are many, many risks and obstacles that make “Why didn’t she just leave?” at best an ignorant question and at worst the beginning of a victim-blaming spiral that can be as traumatizing as the violence.
Sympathy is a good start and it is truly amazing to see the media and the general public open their eyes to some of the challenges women face when their relationships turn violent. However, there are still many other stereotypes and old ways of thinking that are getting repeated even today. Here are a few items on my wishlist for beyond #WhyIStayed:
(1) Starting asking what is going on with the perpetrators. Batterers create domestic violence and yet we still turn to the victims of domestic violence and ask what they can or should do. Where are the batterers? Where are the men? When a burglar breaks into a house, we do not spend all of our time trying to understand the homeowner. We do not expect an explanation about why they decided to stay in their home or need an analysis of why they purchased that flat-screen TV. We try to catch the burglar and understand that the victims are just going about their lives, trying to get their needs met like the rest of us.
(2) Do not stereotype anyone or any institution. In the last several days there have particularly been numerous negative comments about churches and other religious organizations. Yes, some religious leaders send bad, blaming messages about domestic violence and encourage victims to stay for the sake of the marriage. However, many religious leaders and religious institutions are important parts of the solution to domestic violence in many communities. Many religious leaders stand by victims with years of support, both tangible and intangible, often long after social service benefits are tapped out. We know that many family members sometimes pressure victims to stay too, but we do not start describing families in a negative light. Do not assume that every religious organization is part of the problem.
(3) Awareness is not enough. We need to follow up with better services. The first and most obvious step is to do a better job with safety planning and risk assessment. Risk assessment needs to include all of the reasons people have shared with #WhyIStayed. The Victim Inventory of Goals, Options, and Risks, called The VIGOR, offers a big-picture, holistic approach for risk assessment. The VIGOR allows victims to report all of the risks and obstacles they might be facing, including not only the violence to them, but also threats to loved ones, housing needs, financial needs, legal needs, and issues related to the rejection by family or community members. The VIGOR is also unique in that it asks victims to describe their strengths and resources and helps them brainstorm about their options.
Research with the VIGOR backs up this newly empowered view of victims of domestic violence. The women who participated came up with over 150 different coping strategies for domestic violence. This is far more than any existing safety plan. This can also be the legacy of #WhyIStayed—more comprehensive safety planning that recognizes the complexities and also the many strengths of battered women.
Headline image credit: Blue door by Ana_J. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.
The books in the series are very much running together for me by the time I get to Patty’s Romance, and this one is no exception. Although I guess that’s a funny thing to day about a book that has, as its central incident, Patty’s kidnapping.
I mean, it’s not the most dramatic kidnapping. There’s kind of a cool bit where the various members of the Kenerley household, where Patty’s staying, slowly come to the realization that she must have been taken. But after that, there’s not much suspense, just a lot of men talking about how they don’t believe in paying ransom normally, but it’s different when it’s Patty. She never seems to be in much danger, unless it’s of dying of boredom, and we see very little of the kidnappers.
Patty cleverly brings about her own rescue, but it’s then carried out by Phil Van Reypen, which, as you can imagine, doesn’t make me very happy. It’s the high point of Phil behavior in this book, the low point coming when he tells her she’s not smart enough to play golf. That happens post-rescue, when Phil and his aunt take Patty on a trip to…oh, I don’t know, every mountain resort in the northeast. That’s what it feels like, anyway.
Phil gets another shot at rescuing Patty at one of these, thanks to a character who seems to exist solely for the purpose of stealing their boat and leaving them stranded on a small island. But Bill Farnsworth shows up and saves his life/steals his thunder. Which I guess is representative of his now obvious status as Wells’ favorite. Especially if you think about Mr. Hepworth rescuing Patty when her boat comes unmoored in Patty’s Summer Days.
Anyway, at this point if you’re paying attention you know that Patty’s going to fall in love with Bill eventually, and maybe that’s why Wells keeps heaping praise on Phil — because she feels sorry for him, or because she’s trying to cover her tracks. Or because it seems too much like Patty’s in love with Bill already. There’s a fine line between “Bill’s always been kind of special to her” and “why does Patty keep saying she’s not in love with anyone?”
So, this book isn’t one of my favorites, but it’ll do, mostly thanks to Bill. And I’m enjoying him as much as I can, because, if I recall correctly, I’m going to like him a lot less two or three books from now.
Have you ever watched the television show Girls written by and starring Lena Dunham? If you have and if you like the show, you will like Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be. It is like Girls in a book. According to a review in the Sunday New York Times, the reviewer felt the same. He even quotes Dunham saying that Heti is one of her favorite authors. Heti herself said she modeled the book after an MTV reality show called The Hills. Having never seen that program, I can’t remark on any similarity.
What I can remark on is how there seems to be a certain tone and persona that young female novelists have in common. Heti has it, Offil has it in Department of Speculation and Kushner has it in The Flamethrowers. Young, smart woman, fairly self-aware but a bit lost for some reason, looking for something, she is not always sure what. There is a wry sense of humor, the story has something to do with art or artists in some way, there is growth in the protagonist but one is not sure just how much, and the ending is rather open-ended giving you to understand that the story continues but the book does not. Does this count as a trend or just a coincidence? Or is this just the common experience of what it is like to be a young woman in 2014? I’m not certain since I am wandering in the desert known as middle age where I am neither young nor old.
The book is a “novel from life” whatever that means. The narrator and person trying to figure out how a person should be is named Sheila. Most of the characters in the book have the same name and occupation of friends of the real life Sheila. And many of the conversations between Sheila and her best friend, Margaux, are copied from actual conversations they had in real life. In the book Sheila starts recording their conversations in an effort to discover the mystery of what it means to be Margaux and in the process figure out what it means to be Sheila.
In the novel Sheila is writing a play commissioned by a feminist group. She has been working on it for two years and is getting nowhere with it. The problem, with the play and with Sheila, is that she wants both to be a work of art. She believes she has a destiny and she wants her play to be so good it brings some kind of salvation to the masses. But while she wants to be god-like in this respect, she, at the same time, worries that she is not human, worries that somehow she is missing out on what it means to be human. She flip-flops back and forth worried she can’t fulfill her destiny, worried she is just like everyone else, worried that she isn’t like everyone else.
Such worrying could get old fast but somehow it doesn’t. Sheila worries about not being human but that worry itself reveals just how human she is, she just can’t see it. Eventually she figures out a few things.
The novel has no real plot. Things happen but they don’t especially pull the narrative along. The one event that does is a an almost friendship ruining argument she has with Margaux brought on by Sheila buying the same dress Margaux does when they are at an art festival in Miami where some of Margaux’s paintings are being shown. The argument is sparked by the dress, but of course it isn’t really about the dress at all.
There is also an ugly painting contest between Margaux and their friend Sholem. Which of them can paint the ugliest painting? Sholem ends up in a rather depressed place after completing his painting but this not being a tragedy kind of book, his situation is darkly funny and he is eventually brought back to a sunnier frame of mind.
How Should a Person Be? is well written, kind of quirky, sometimes grim, and occasionally uncomfortable. It has an honest quality about it. The pacing is perfect, it never bogs down even with the lack of plot. I’m not entirely sure how Heti manages to make it all work but she does.
HOORAY! Throw the confetti and pop your champagne! Pub Crawl’s very own Kat Zhang has a new book–a book I know I’ve been anxiously awaiting. The third book in the Hybrid Chronicles, Echoes of Us hits stores today!
In case you’re new to the Hybrid Chronicles, they follow Eva and Addie–sisters whose souls share a single body. The first book, What’s Left of Me, has an INCREDIBLE trailer to introduce you:
And here’s the trailer for the second book, Once We Were (which the amazing Kat MADE the trailer for. She’s a regular ol’ Renaissance woman!):
If that doesn’t make you want to read this series, then I don’t know what would. I highly recommend these books. Kat Zhang’s prose is powerful, vivid, and always makes me feel like a complete hack when I read it. :) I’m not even joking, and I’m SURE this final installment in the series will prove just as heart-wrenching (and ego-smashing) as the first two titles.
Now were’s a summary for the latest epic release:
All Eva ever wanted was the chance to be herself. But in the Americas, tobe hybrid—to share your body with a second soul—is not tolerated past childhood. Now Eva and Addie, her sister soul, are constantly on the move, hiding from the officials who seek to capture them. But the tide is changing. A revolution is brewing, and people are starting to question the hybrids’ mistreatment.
Then Marion, an ambitious reporter, offers Eva and Addie a daring proposal: If they go undercover and film the wretched conditions of a hybrid institution, she will not only rescue them, she’ll find a way to free Jackson, the boy Addie loves. It’s risky, and Eva will have to leave Ryan and her friends behind, but if she succeeds, it could also tip the scales forever and lead to hybrid freedom.
As Eva and Addie walk into danger, they cling to each other and the hope of a better future. But the price they might pay is higher than they ever could have imagined.
ACK! I need my copy now!
To celebrate Kat’s release, we’re giving away a copy of Echoes of Us. Or–if you haven’t started the trilogy yet–you can opt for a copy of What’s Left of Me instead. To enter the giveaway, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
AND CONGRATULATIONS, KAT!!
We’re all so happy for you and so proud to have joined you on this trilogy’s journey! ♥Add a Comment