A review of Hanna Rosin's The End of Men
"Equality is the pole star of my own politics, and that made it really tough going for me to read The End of Men
objectively, or maybe even fairly, because it's evident that Rosin believes women to be literally — and inherently — superior to men. This view is not only one I don't share, it is anathema to me. It is the exact reason why I have never been able to call myself a feminist; it transgresses against my deepest conviction, namely, a belief in universal human equality. I believe that each of us — all human beings who share the same seemingly limitless abilities, and the same unfathomable doom — should be able to develop his or her potential and live freely and on equal terms in a condition of mutual respect and support. That is not quite the Rosin view. 'It's possible that girls have always had the raw material to make better students,' she writes, 'that they've always been more studious, organized, self-disciplined, and eager to please, but, because of limited opportunities, what did it matter?' Or: 'Many of us hold out the hope that there is a utopia in our future run by women, that power does not in fact corrupt equally.' (Really, 'many' of us hold out this hope? I for one would be too scared it would turn out like that old Star Trek: TNG episode, 'Angel One.')"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 11, 2012
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2900 words)
The evolution of Charlie Chaplin's most famous character—and the woman who helped shape it. On actress-director Mabel Normand and her effect on Chaplin's work:
"When Chaplin became the Tramp on Normand's watch, he also learned to be a movie actor. As Sennett put it, Normand, 'the greatest motion-picture comedienne of any day, was as deft in pantomime as Chaplin was... She worked in slapstick, but her stage business and her gestures were subtle, not broad.' Normand, the first movie star actress who wasn't stage trained, hadn't been taught the comic conventions of the theater, or to project to the back of the house. She had a movie-bred patience for living in the moment. She was a movie star because while she was beautiful, she let you see inside, and people liked what they saw. Movies are supremely intimate, and Normand was consummate at drawing people in, and holding them. We can watch Chaplin learning Normand's delicate skills."
PUBLISHED: May 7, 2012
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4053 words)
A review of Bissell's new book of essays
—and how the writer both entertains and frustrates:
"The best thing about Tom Bissell: He is fun. I think of him as 'a wild and crazy guy.' I'm by turns entertained and completely aghast at his antics. He is totally obsessive. He's watched that appalling movie The Room a bajillion times. I loved the idea of him and David Foster Wallace negotiating gravely about whether or not they ought to dip tobacco together (they did). Bissell, apparently, travels all over the place with a hardcover copy of Infinite Jest, which is surely the most inconvenient thing outside of, like, a chihuahua, to have to pack in a suitcase. And I don't know if he's given it up by now (I hope so) but he used to drink 10 Diet Cokes every day. Ten! That is terrible, Tom Bissell! I worry about him."
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3487 words)
The killing of three sisters shocks a country where the past decade has seen a rise in violence toward women:
"Since the turn of the millennium, over 5,000 women have been murdered in Guatemala. To give a better idea of what this figure means, consider that if Guatemala, with its population of 14 million, were the size of the United States, this would add up to 110,000 women murdered in a decade. And conditions are only worsening with the passage of time. In 2000, 213 women met violent deaths in Guatemala, compared to 720 in 2009 and 675 in 2010. Worse still, only an estimated 2 percent of these cases have received legal action. The victims are mostly the 'nobodies' of society, poor women, in many cases indigenous, from families lacking resources and education. Their bodies are often found mutilated, with indications of rape. Investigations are routinely botched, if they’re even pursued. 'She was a prostitute,' a police investigator might say if the victim has a belly-button ring or is wearing a miniskirt. The investigation is closed before being opened."
PUBLISHED: April 4, 2012
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3709 words)
The story of Dan Marlowe, a pulp writer who suffered from amnesia, befriended an ex-con, and later inspired writers like Stephen King:
"Physicians thought the amnesia was psychosomatic, brought on by stress and money troubles, but there were hints of physical problems too. Before his brain emptied out, Marlowe had been laid low by crushing migraines, and there was evidence he’d had similar problems during his youth. In time, Marlowe would tell people the memory loss resulted from a stroke, and the symptoms he described (weakness on his left side, for instance) seemed to bear that out.
"In any case, his creative-writing ability vanished, and his life fast-reversed 20 years. He was trapped in a noir plot eerily similar to that of Never Live Twice, the 1964 Marlowe thriller in which amnesia blanks out the mind of government operative Jackrabbit Smith, who has to fight his way back to his old life, blasting bad guys and spanking a woman psychologist along the way."
PUBLISHED: March 10, 2012
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3170 words)
Another perspective on the city's struggles, and the attempts to revive it:
"A recent New York Times article lauded Detroit as a 'Midwestern Tribeca' of socially aware folk; but off of its bustling main drag, Corktown is surrounded by Detroit’s burned-out industrial structures and houses, weedy lots, and subsidized housing. For every white entrepreneur in an inner-city neighborhood, a score of young, college-educated kids live in dense, hip suburbs like Royal Oak and Ferndale. The Detroit perceived by artists like Catie and Marianne — often from privileged, suburban backgrounds — is radically different from the city visible to EMS workers. I have doubts about the city’s oft-vaunted creative scene, which I was part of for much of the year: to what extent were we dancing to electro-pop while Detroit burned?"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 17, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3401 words)
Before Wonder Woman there was Miss Fury, the first female superhero, introduced in 1941:
"Miss Fury was created, written, and drawn by a woman, June Tarpé Mills, who published under the more sexually ambiguous Tarpé Mills. Had Miss Fury entered an enduring canon like DC’s, it’s possible that the template for female superheroes, as well as for superhero comic readership, would have depended more on the influence and perspective of actual women."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 12, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2177 words)
Joan Williams said it best herself when confronted with William Faulkner’s curious and cutting response to a book-jacket-blurb request from her editor. “It was obviously,” she said, “a very petulant kind of thing. Why couldn’t he have just given me a nice quotation?”
Yet she knew why. For five years, 1949 to 1953, Williams and Faulkner experienced an ongoing tug of war over the personal and professional. Faulkner tried the personae of mentor, father figure, and literary conduit in an effort to have a love affair that trumped the other roles. Williams at 20 was no match for Faulkner at 50. She knew she had much to gain in the literary world from his affection and attention — and much to learn from him about the craft — but her reluctance to have sex with Faulkner made a sustainable love affair impossible.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 11, 2011
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3309 words)
And so began the improbable last chapter in the fall of a major newspaper, as chronicled by O’Shea in The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers. Among other things, the book is a reminder that whenever you think things can’t get worse, they can. They can get much, much worse.
I was there, at the paper, working at the magazine, with a good critic’s seat, up close and on the aisle. As we were living it, we knew this tawdry drama signaled yet another sea change for newspapers, with potentially devastating consequences for our democracy. It was also, thanks to Zell and his cronies, more entertaining than it had any right to be.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 9, 2011
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7414 words)