PRIME SUNNY DAY I’M GONNA REVISE MY NOVEL AND EAT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES MUSIC
"Is [your female protagonist] supposed to be smart? Or is she just a bitch?"
Someone find me these shoes for my feet and this woman for my friendship.
One day in your life, or perhaps every day, you will discover that someone has succeeded in the exact avenue in which you desire to succeed. Said usurper of your dreams might be a friend or a nemesis; perhaps they are a ghost who lives inside Twitter making up facts about themselves designed exclusively to rile you (i.e., Sooo excited President Obama is reading my new book! I made four million dollars today). Whatever space they haunt, you will require methods of handling the intense uncharitable feelings these creatures invoke in you. Here are some that work for me:
- Visit an antique store in a hidden alleyway in Paris in the rain. In the store, you will find a heavy wooden box, dusty and locked, encrusted with jewels. In a language that you shouldn’t understand, but do, the owner of the shop will tell you the key for the box was lost in the war. What war? The Crimean War. But you touch the box and it opens. The shopkeeper’s eyes grow wide and she throws you out of the shop with the box, because the prophecy has come true. “What prophecy?” you ask her, and she responds, but you suddenly no longer understand her. Don’t worry; she probably made that part up. Out on the street, pour your uncharitable feelings into the box. Then throw the box into the sea. (Alternately: keep the box in your home. Make a lot of martinis. When someone succeeds in the exact avenue you wish to succeed, throw the martini in their face and then squeeze the glass until it breaks, letting your blood run into the box. Wait until the box is full to the brim with blood, and then throw it into the sea.)
- Using ancient magic, transform the hateful energy you carry around like a knot inside your chest into an eagle. Your hate eagle will be grand and majestic, but she will also be very violent toward small children. After she claws out a neighborhood boy’s left eye, escape on your hate eagle’s back. Fly to Nepal, Bermuda, Kentucky. Wherever. Hide in the mountains. Write down all your uncharitable feelings on pieces of paper; use the paper to create a campfire. Teach your hate eagle to sing Old Earth songs (“I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Mercedes Benz,” “The Way” by Fastball); sing them while eating hot dogs. Your hate eagle is the only being on Earth who truly understands you, but she was not made for this planet. Hold onto her talons and let her fly you both to the farthest reaches of space. Set her free. She will dip her beak to your ear and tell you a secret about believing in yourself. But then she will bite off your ear. Float back to Earth—this will take one million years.
- Bury the hatchet with your friend/nemesis/Twitter ghost by baking them a celebratory cake. The cake can be any flavor except vanilla, but traditionally, it is gingerbread. It should be a complicated recipe that takes upward of nine hours. When it is cooled, discover that you have no desire to give the successful person this cake. Instead, carve a little tunnel into the cake and climb inside. You will find there a micro-community where you are hailed as a god. Live there for the rest of your days, or until you have eaten the entire cake from the inside—whichever happens first.
- Do not compare yourself with others. Do not equate the success of another person with your own failure. Sometimes this is the case, but often success yields further success. In any case, you will never be rich enough; you will never be famous enough; you will never be beloved enough. The same is true for your nemesis. All any of us can do is work hard and believe in our work and hope someone out there comes to believe in it too. Take deep breaths. Unfollow your Twitter ghost. You’ll be okay. (Note: success rate of this is extremely low.)
How do you deal with your uncharitable feelings toward the success of others? This is a rhetorical question, obviously, as I have just covered in detail all known methods.
First you’re taught to fear a phantom, a man in black, a man with a knife, a man who’ll pounce in dark alleys. Well-intentioned women—mothers, aunts, teachers—will train you to protect yourself: Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail; it’s easier to grab. Hold your keys in one hand; hold your pepper spray in the other. Avoid dark alleys. When you reach young adulthood, the lessons change. They acquire an undertone of disgust: Don’t drink so much. Don’t wear such short skirts. You’re sending mixed signals; you’re putting yourself at risk. If you follow the advice and it never happens—if you end up one of the three out of four—you can convince yourself that safety is a product of your own making, a reflection of inherent goodness. But if you’re paying attention, you realize something doesn’t add up. Because it keeps happening: to your sisters; to your friends; to little girls and grown women you’ll never meet, in places like Cleveland, Texas; Steubenville, Ohio; New Delhi. Good people, bad people, neutral. It keeps happening in TV shows and novels and movies—they open on the missing girl, the dead girl, the raped girl. If you’re paying attention, you begin to realize that it isn’t happening. It is being done. And you are not safe. You have never been safe. You were born with a bulls-eye on your back. All you have ever been is lucky.
Cara Hoffman’s 2011 novel So Much Pretty opens on the dead girl. Her name is Wendy White; she’s been missing for five months, and within the first fifty pages we learn that her body “was put to use for months before being found.” In another book, my heart would sink, reading those words. Among many other things, I’m tired of the way this story is told in fiction: from the point of view of the male detective, grizzled and weary, shaking his head over some beautiful broken body. The man represents cynicism; the body, innocence. By the end, his jaded worldview will be confirmed, or he will be saved—either way, he’ll need to see the body. I’ve read enough of this genre to know I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the way it puts women’s bodies to use, as footnotes. The dead girl is the beginning of the man’s story. Being dead, hers has ended before page one.
This is a review I wrote a year ago, and here it is on my dashboard again, because time is a flat circle. Just FYI, I still hold strongly the position that you should read Cara Hoffman’s So Much Pretty, and now I can add that you should read her new novel, Be Safe I Love You, which came out earlier this month. Important, smart, feminist, beautiful books, for real.
Vivian Versus America by Katie Coyle out in August 2014!
Click here to read our Design team’s story behind the cover…
UK readers! This is a thing you can buy in August, and it’s simply the prettiest.
"That was when I decided to take seriously the person I actually am rather than try to be a person whom others define as serious. Leaving academia to write fiction for children and teenagers was a return to that person I had been — the one who laughed easily, who liked makeup and baking and dance. I stopped being afraid of being thought silly or weak and instead pushed myself to be more than competent at the things I loved best to do. I am true now to what brings me joy and to what I do well — and most of the time, to hell with the rest."
When I first got this role I just cried like a baby because I was like, “Wow, next Halloween, I’m gonna open the door and there’s gonna be a little kid dressed as the Falcon.” That’s the thing that always gets me. I feel like everybody deserves that. I feel like there should be a Latino superhero. Scarlett does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie. I don’t care if they make 20 bucks, if there’s a movie you’re gonna lose money on, make it Wonder Woman. You know what I mean, ’cause little girls deserve that.Anthony Mackie (via rexilla)
If you’ll excuse me I have some serious crying to do.
Did you know that when you send Peter Capaldi fan mail he sends you back adorable original artwork? I know this, because I follow no less than five Peter Capaldi fan tumblrs (not because I’ve done it [yet]!). Anyway, what a great guy. I definitely feel a normal amount of appreciation and interest in his career, accent, and face. Nobody would look at my Google search history and say, “…Katie, what the hell.”
When you talk [in interviews] about the shows that have been especially important to you, you always mention Buffy, My So-Called Life, and Freaks and Geeks. Do you think there’s anything to be said about the fact that these are all teen shows, or at least shows about teenagers?
Yes! I actually have this theory that I’ve never written up: that teenage girls and middle-aged men are the source of the best modern television. They’re both emotionally labile figures going through a period of identity formation. They’re angry and horny and they bridle at the dullness of social conformity. They’re unnerved by the way their bodies are changing. They feel like the world is ending.
Those two iconic figures both been the central characters in a lot of the best shows—the cable masculinity dramas (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood,Breaking Bad) and the shows you mention, which are less often considered key to the Golden Age of TV [in the late ’90s]. But they should be, both because these shows are wonderful and because they were stealthily revolutionary, modeling all sorts of important things: They mixed comedy and drama with a free hand; they treated family and romantic drama with sophistication (rather than melodrama or sentimentality); and, just in general, they were shows that managed to be humane without being sappy. Two of them also only lasted one season, in an only-the-good-die-young sort of way, so it seems particularly important to bring them up, so they don’t disappear.
Although some of this is just personal taste, and yes, for whatever reason, I’ve always liked smart teen stuff.
From Why Can’t I Be You: Emily Nussbaum, over at Rookie. Emily Nussbaum is currently one of my top five favorite people with opinions, and I love this interview with her, especially this part, for obvious reasons.