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If you’re involved in the same sort of writing universe that I am, you know that there has been a lot of conversation recently around the dearth of women’s bylines in magazines and literary publications. Fellow SLC-grad Anne Hays created quite a stir when she returned her issue of the New Yorker, citing the vast gender gap among its writers. VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts has gotten a lot of press and, more importantly, a lot of editorial responses for their count, which charts the percentages of women contributors in magazines and journals. Around this theme, my friend and UNY co-editor Helen sent me a link to an article called Overlooked and Underread: Five Great Reads by Women on pbs.com. I used the last of a birthday gift certificate to order two of the books. Recently, I completed the first one–Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns.

First of all–hello–that title!!! It immediately called to mind Shirley Jackson for me, which can only be a good thing. Second–the book design of my copy–precious, quirky, gorgeous. Third–the first line is this: “The ducks swam through the drawing room windows.”

Let’s dissect, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »

I just did what I almost never do and looked up a bunch of reviews of Great House before sitting down to write this post. I didn’t read many, but I read a few, and confirmed what I assumed to be true–not everyone disliked this book as much as I did.

Now, I like difficult books. Having to draw diagrams of plot, relationships and themes in order to fully understand them is not something I shy away from–in fact, I enjoy it. But, in this case, whatever textual complications and high literary ideas I liked were overshadowed by the fact that I just didn’t like the writing. Read the rest of this entry »

A Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers, was written in 1946 and set in a small Southern town. The protagonist of the novella is a motherless, friendless twelve year old girl who is desperately searching for, as she says, “the we of me.” How about that phrase, right? Incredible.

The “we” she lands on is not her distant father, nor her loving African-American maid, Berenice, nor her sweet six year old cousin John Henry, but her much-older brother and his bride. Although it is clearly a far-fetched plan, sure to fail from the start, she becomes convinced that she is somehow a part of their marriage and that, after the wedding, they will take her with them to the Alaskan wilderness. She works herself into a hysterical state and tears through the town, telling anyone who will listen about her plan. The day takes several turns, both expected and not, after the little girl, who is very tall for her age, but also very innocent, meets a drunken soldier. The next day, the wedding goes as the reader, though not the poor girl, knows it will. In the last section of the novella, the story turns both tragic and optimistic as some characters grow into their future selves and others are revealed, sadly, to not have a future at all. Read the rest of this entry »