In the Media: May 2017

In the media is a fortnightly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous fortnight and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as as traditional media are likely and the categories used are a guide, not definitives.

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In prize news, the Granta Best of Young American Novelists list was announced:

Fiona McFarlane took The Dylan Thomas Prize for her short story collection The High Places, Maylis de Kerangal won The Wellcome Book Prize, and Sarah Perry and Kiran Millwood-Hargrave were winners at The British Book Awards. While Kit de Waal and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan were shortlisted for The Desmond Elliott Prize.

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Chris Kraus and I Love Dick are having a moment:

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And The Handmaid’s Tale has generated even more pieces:

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The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

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Personal essays/memoir:

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Feminism:

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Society and Politics:

Film, Television, Music, Art, Fashion and Sport:

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The interviews/profiles:

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The regular columnists:

In the Media, March 2016, part one

In the media is a fortnightly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous fortnight and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely and the categories used are a guide, not definitives.

Jackie Kay

It’s Mothers’ Day in the UK today, so inevitably there’s been lots of writing about mothers – being one, having one, not having one – this week. Contributors including Jackie Kay, Jeanette Winterson and Helen Simpson wrote about ‘… my mother before I knew her‘ inspired by Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Before You Were Mine’ in The Guardian; Liz Dashwood asks, ‘What do I *really* want for Mother’s Day?‘ on The Pool; Rivka Galchen talked about ‘The Only Thing I Envy Men‘ in The New Yorker; Robyn Wilder wrote, ‘Maternity leave: the reality versus the expectations‘, Emily Eades wrote, ‘Becoming a mother without your own mother to rely on‘ and Sinéad Gleeson wrote, ‘Mothers, and the pram-in-the-hall problem‘ all on The Pool (Do follow the link to the Anne Enright clip on that last piece. Spot on and very funny); Susan Briante wrote, ‘Mother Is Marxist‘ on Guernica; Kate Townshend asked, ‘Is it possible for a mother and daughter to be *too* close?‘, Samira Shackle said, ‘Returning to my mother’s homeland helped me to make sense of my place in the world‘, Cathy Rentzenbrink said, ‘There is no such thing as a smug mother, we’re all terrified and struggling‘ and Rosalind Powell wrote, ‘I didn’t give birth, but I became a mother‘ all on The Pool; Sarah Turner wrote, ‘Mother’s Day Without Mum‘ on The Unmumsy Mum

Louise Rennison

Sadly, Louise Rennison died this week. Philip Ardagh wrote, ‘My Hero: Louise Rennison‘ in The Guardian. Shannon Maughan wrote her obituary for Publishers Weekly.

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The woman with the most coverage this fortnight is Sanjida Kay with ‘Where’s the Diversity in Grip-Lit?‘ on The Asian Writer; ‘on Switching Genres‘ on The Literary Sofa, and ‘Fairytales‘ on Women Writers, Women’s Books

Exciting news as forthcoming novels from Jilly Cooper, Zadie Smith and Ali Smith were announced this fortnight.

And I’ve added Kaushana Cauley’s new Intersections column for Catapult to the regulars list at the bottom of the links. It’s well worth a read.

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The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

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Rosalind Jana

 

Personal essays/memoir:

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Feminism:

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Society and Politics:

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Film, Television, Music, Art, Fashion and Sport:

Author Petina Gappah 'brilliantly exposes the gap between rich and poor.'

The interviews:

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The regular columnists:

Alif the Unseen – G. Willow Wilson

Alif is a 23-year-old ‘computer geek with girl issues’ living in an unnamed city called the City. All we know of it is that it’s situated somewhere in the Middle East, it’s divided into four districts and it seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to those states involved in the Arab Spring.

As the novel begins, Alif’s lover Intisar – a pure Arab from a wealthy family – has agreed to marry another wealthy Arab, chosen by her father. Both she and Alif know that her father would never consent to her marrying Alif who’s both poor and mixed-ethnicity. Before they part, she says to him:

“Make it so I never see your name again. Please, God, please – I can’t stand it.”

Alif does two things: one, he devises a programme named Tin Sari that he hopes will be able to identify Intisar regardless of whether she’s working from her regular IP address or not. His intention is that it will recognise keystrokes and idiolect and then ensure that, as she wished, she never sees his name online again.  Two, he sends Dina, the girl next door (yes, literally, you can see where that one’s going), to Intisar’s house with a box containing their soiled sheets. Both of these things form the basis of the novel’s plot.

Dina returns from Intisar’s with a book called Alf Yeom wa Yeom. The Thousand and One Days. Moments later, Alif returns to their flats to discover a man standing outside their block. From this point on, he and Dina are on the run. But what does the man want? Revenge for Intisar? Tin Sari? The book? And who can they turn to for help in a city where there are spies everywhere – IRL (in real life) and online.

Alif the Unseen is not my usual sort of read. It has fantastical elements that (pardon the pun) bring a different dimension to the story and are used to further explore the theme of the unseen and whether it is possible to remain anonymous in a world where we have online identities and real life identities. It’s also an exploration of the Arab Spring and the power of the internet to bring down a regime, a regime that might not have the support of the people you might expect. And it’s a love story, as well as being a piece of metafiction about the power of stories.

Yes, it’s another book that tries to pack too much in. Which is unfortunate because, once I got to the second half, I quite enjoyed it. The first half I found difficult partly because there was so much going on and partly because the computer plot line centered around concepts that I struggled to get my head around – particularly the idea of a quantum computer, which I had to resort to Wikipedia to try and understand. (Turned out to be quite a fascinating concept.)

Overall, this is a good book but unfortunately not brilliant. I say unfortunately because learning about other cultures is one of the reasons I read and G. Willow Wilson can write/tell a good tale. I look forward to what she does next.

For someone much more au fait with this (I hate to say it) genre of writing, check out Matt at Reader Dad’s review.