Well, add another book to my Jane Austen fangurl collection. Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret Sullivan explores the various covers of Austen’s oeuvre. The covers are not only a delightful way to engaged with Austen’s continued legacy, but also to learn a little about what Austen’s books mean to a particular era.
The Twilight influenced cover for HarperTeen makes the angels weep.
Maria Popova of BrainPickings is taking a stand against happiness. Capital H, Happiness for Health, that is. Popova points out that melancholy has traditionally been a deep well for creative types, but also that it can tip over into even deeper depression. She doesn’t want us to be miserable, but rather, to stop fearing times of unhappiness, so that we might make better art.
I myself am deeply opposed to the Tortured Genius myth of creativity. But I am also of the firm conviction that access to the full spectrum of human experience and the whole psychoemotional range of our inner lives — high and low, light and darkness — is what makes us complete individuals and enables us to create rich, dimensional, meaningful work.
Sarah Horrocks reviews Cinder and Ashe, by Gerry Conway, José Luis García-López, and Joe Orlando, over on Comics Alliance. I don’t know what this comic is, but she made me want to read it. This is good writing.
Ashe went to the war as one thing. That thing stayed there, and he came back another. We actually can see this transformation in the changed expressions and posture of Ashe before and after the war. Pre-Vietnam, Ashe rarely covered his face and had a certain wide eyed innocence to him. Afterwards, his face is almost always obscured by a cap or shadows. His eyes are downcast. He doesn’t meet people’s gaze. His shoulders slump a little bit. It’s subtle, but masterful enough that Conway never really has to belabor the point in the script. We see the difference, we know the shorthand of ‘Nam as a cultural touchstone, and the rest we can fill in, in our heads.
Bitch has a nice weekend read on the literary fiction and non-fiction renaissance of trans women writers. (Literary non-fiction, it is the best! A little less journalistic than most writing-by-famous folks, with a little more in the way of poetic and literary devices, it is deeply personal, deeply true, and at its best, beautiful.) But this Bitch piece points to the fact that finally — finally — trans women writers are breaking through in numbers.
Trans women writing literature is certainly nothing new. Rachel Pollack was writing well-received feminist sci-fi before I was born, and a cottage industry of trans women’s memoirs has stocked shelves for decades now. Yet for their many literary merits, older memoirs, like Jan Morris’s Conundrum or Jennifer Finney Boylan’s She’s Not There, were negotiations with the demands of a cisgender public’s lurid taste for intimate details of transition. Although such memoirs were landmarks that have done much good in the world, their template became the only kind of story trans women were allowed to tell: a transition story with its intimacies packaged into anecdotes shorn of politics and designed to answer puerile questions about our bodies.
It became hard for trans women in particular—often fetishized and metaphorically dismembered in a media that lingers over depictions of breasts, necks, legs, and genitals—to mine our experiences to tell stories that weren’t about transition, or, for that matter, stories that went above and beyond being trans at all.
But that has changed rather dramatically. The current renaissance—and it is very much a rebirth—draws on a different, more insurgent tradition of unapologetic writing. From zines to poetry to literary groups to new publishers to video games to a cavalcade of published short stories and novels, trans women are speaking in a soaring, beautifully dissonant literary chorus as never before.
Happy weekend, to those who get one!