Writer’s Block

I think it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a Writer Block post so I’ve decided to write one to give all of you a bit of an update on the life of Bookish Jen.

Tonight is Oscar night, and being a huge movie buff I’m definitely tuning in. Though I think the nostalgic pick for best supporting actor is Sylvester Stallone for “Creed,” I’d be remiss not to pick my favorite actor (and fellow Cheesehead) Mark Ruffalo for his amazing performance in “Spotlight.” And in honor of the talented Mr. Ruffalo (and the Oscars), I’m making a dinner of Mark Ruffalo chicken wings and cheesy baked French fries.

Wednesday, March 2nd, is my birthday. I have the day off and will concentrate on my reading and writing and a delicious dinner from one of my favorite Chinese take-out places. I’m also going to treat myself to watching “Criminal Minds” featuring one of my favorite TV characters of all time-Dr. Spencer Reid (played by fellow Pisces-March 9th-Matthew Gray Gubler).

I only read five books last week

I tend to celebrate my birthday all throughout the month of March so I have a lot of fun things to look for. My list of books to read and review that is almost as big as Lambeau Field. Despite a couple of professional and personal disappointments I’m trying to keep positive, especially with spring coming up.

Well, that’s all for now. Have a great day and a great rest of the week.

Book Marks

lets read book markBookstores are not dead! Long live bookstores!

One of the reasons why bookstore sales are up? It’s the ladies!

Jesmyn Ward’s lovely tribute to the late Harper Lee.

My gay baby daddy, Anderson Cooper set to release both a memoir and documentary about his fabulous mother Gloria Vanderbilt. I, for one, am counting the seconds.

Racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, classist, homophobic bigot Laura Wood of the blog Thinking Housewife wants people to donate money to her so she can keep writing her hateful screeds at her blog. Bitch, get a job.

My literary roller derby name? Holly Gofightly.

As Black History Month comes to a close, let’s all celebrate bell hooks.

Going on a writer’s retreat? Here are some tips on how to handle it.

Bare Lit Festival, which celebrates minority writers, will make its debut in London.

Very cool news for Girls Write Now. Congratulations!
 

Book Review: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

NateLIt often amazes me how writers can get into the minds of people quite different from themselves and write about them in compelling and interesting ways. Wisconsin-based writer Jennifer Morales did this with her collection of short stories in Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories. Matthew Dicks did this with his novel The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs. Now Adele Waldman does this in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Meet Nathaniel Piven, or Nate to his friends and lovers. Without a doubt those of us of the gentler sex are quite familiar with Nate. We have dated them. Some of us have even married a Nate. Who is Nate? Nate is a thirty-something freelance writer living and loving in Brooklyn awaiting the release of his first novel. A majority of his friends are also writers and other assorted creative types. He is also one of the most maddening man-types—the nice guy/douchebag hybrid—the type of guy who has frustrated womankind since the beginning of time.

The nice guy part is the Nate that chooses to be with women are smart, educated and have their own aspirations and ambitions. The douchebag side rejects basically decent women for minor infractions like jiggly upper arms, professional difficulties or showing the wee bit of anger or sadness. In other words, how dare Nate’s girlfriends being actual human beings. And it doesn’t help that one of Nate’s best friends is the detestable Jason, a total jerk who thinks no women is worth it unless she is supermodel hot and has an IQ somewhere hovering around room temperature. Unfortunately, Nate takes Jason’s so-called counsel way too seriously instead of making up his own mind like a grown man should.

At this point Nate is dating Hannah. Hannah is also a writer and is currently struggling with finishing a book proposal for her own book (often writing a book proposal can be more difficult than writing the actual book. Hannah is bright, engaging and seems to have no problem keeping up with Nate’s coterie of literary friends who they hang out with at parties, coffee shops, bars and local restaurants. Like any other woman, Hannah has her own faults (like jiggly arms—the nerve). And she often lets her lack of self-esteem color her decisions like her relationship with Nate, staying with him for far too long. At times, I said to myself, “Hannah, kick Nate to the curb. You deserve so much better.” Of course, I had to take a hard look at myself and examine my own questionable romantic choices.

But back to Nate. While dating Hannah, Nate muses about the girlfriends he had before Hannah including his girlfriends from high school and college (Nate never fails to remind the reader he went to Harvard) to woman he dated before Hannah. Throughout these passages Nate ponders why he was drawn to these women and dated them while being only too quick to point out the qualities that made them only Ms. Right Now, not Ms. Right. Sure, many of these ladies probably weren’t the type to be the Mrs. to Mr. Piven, but a lot of them seemed perfectly decent and quite lovely. And it’s not as if Nate wasn’t a mere Mr. Right Now to some exes and not Mr. Right. But Nate is a bit too self-absorbed at times to realize that he is part of the relationship equation and he has plenty of work to do to be an ideal husband.

Does Nate stay with Hannah or does he look for greener pastures when it comes to the fairer sex? Well, you’ll just have to read the book. Though at times a frustrating, Nate is an absorbing character. Adelle Waldman expertly writes about a man who at turns is both simple and complex. I also appreciated how she captured the world of freelance writers, publishers, authors and other creative types that populate the Big Apple. And though I live in flyover country I could totally relate to writer scene that makes up Nate’s friends, one of support and competition, pretentious and neuroticism.

And I must admit The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P made me take a hard look at myself and all the time I wasted on the Nates in my life. No doubt female readers of this book will have their own alphabet of Nate Ps. And as for the male readers of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel, I hope this novel makes them examine their own romantic choices and examine them with more maturity and clarity.

Tribute-Harper Lee

Harper Lee quote posterAs many of you know, we lost a true literary great yesterday—Harper Lee—author of the iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird died at the age of 89.

Born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama, Miss Lee later worked as an airlines reservations clerk while pursuing a writing career. It was at this time she wrote and later published To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel about a small-town lawyer named Atticus Finch defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. To Kill a Mockingbird was not told from Atticus’s point of view, but of his tomboyish daughter, Jean Louise, better known as Scout.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year and was both a critical rave and successful bestseller. In 1962 the film adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout was released. Like the novel, the film was both a critical and commercial triumph.

Harper Lee TKAM

However, Miss Lee did not take to celebrity. She was a quiet and very private person who found fame quite off-putting giving her a bit of a Greta Garbo mystique, which is quite refreshing in our age of table-turning “real” housewives and people with the last name Kardashian.

Lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird pined for Miss Lee to write another novel and for decades this wish seemed like a pipe dream. But in February of last year, the world was shocked when the publishing giant Harper Collins imprint Harper’s announced they were going to publish a manuscript of Miss Lee’s that she had written in 1957. This novel, called Go Set a Watchman also became a best-seller.

But it is To Kill a Mockingbird that will truly be Harper Lee’s legacy. It has been translated into countless languages, has been called the best novel of the 20th Century by Library Journal, read and discussed in most high schools and has countless fans, both famous and unknown. To Kill a Mockingbird has also inspired many related books, stage plays and documentaries.

It’s no secret to my readers To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee are close to my heart, inspiring both a Retro Reads and a Reading to Reels post. There are no words I can find at this time to express my love and appreciation for Miss Lee’s talent and her iconic novel other than a mawkish paraphrased quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, “Stand up, people. Miss Harper Lee has passed.”

Under the Bus-How Working Women Are Being Run Over by Caroline Fredrickson

Caroline Fredrickson’s thought-provoking book, Under the Bus-How Working Women Are Being Run Over, couldn’t have come at a better time for me…or should I say…a worse time. Recently, I was dealt a major professional blow that made me go through all stages of grief (right now I’m a weird hybrid of anger and acceptance). Trying to take in Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to “lean-in,” I requested further training and a willingness to tackle new assignments, only to be treated in a less than respectful manner. This incident was particularly bruising because I had worked on various special projects in a multitude capacities for years and had proved myself to be a polished, professional, reliable and skilled employee who could handle any project assigned before me. And the fact I was thrown under the bus while a couple of my co-workers proved to be less than professional (one actually takes naps in her cubicle) just added to the figurative slap in my face.

But enough about me, let’s go onto Fredrickson’s book.under the bus

If you pay any attention to the mainstream media, there seems to be only two paths for working women, opt out (leave the workplace to be a stay-at-home-mom) or lean in (speak up for yourself and riches and raises will be yours). Let’s be real. Totally opting out is usually only an option for women with spouses who make good incomes. And lean-in can often backfire, especially for women who aren’t a part of the well-heeled, yuppie and privileged class (that would be most of us, even those of us with college degrees and serious credentials).

In Under the Bus Fredrickson explains how, during the Great Depression, women were discouraged from working and often fired from jobs because employers viewed them as interlopers. After World War II, when countless women joined the workplace as “Rosie the Riveters” they were convinced they were stealing jobs from men. Furthermore, women, even those with families and other responsibilities, were seen merely working for “pin money.” This ignorant and totally misleading idea completely ignored countless women, especially minorities, immigrants, working class women and women who were single who truly need their paychecks. (speaking of single women, I once read a blog post saying companies don’t have to pay single women that much money because single women can have their parents and extended family support them-clearly this pippy-poo never met my family).

Under the Bus combines hard-core facts with true stories of hard working women for whom opting-out or leaning-in are fairy tales. These are women who aren’t working to buy MAC lipstick from Sephora or stock up on their shoe collection but because they have to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, food in their bellies and pay the bills. In some cases, they are their families’ primary bread winners. These women include housekeepers, home health care aids, restaurant staff, cashiers, day care workers, nannies, bank tellers and other low wage workers some deem as unskilled and therefore, unimportant. Yeah, right. Try making it throughout life without someone cleaning up after you, taking care of your children and elderly relatives or the friendly barista who makes you latte just right.

Though we have the Lily Ledbetter act, and we often talk of equal pay for equal work, the United States has a long history of creating policy that only benefits men, which Fredrickson explains with solid evidence and clarity throughout Under the Bus. Though at times this aspect of Under the Bus to be a bit wonky, I found this information to quite mind-blowing and anger-making. However, I’m so glad I got an education on these policies that are often implemented today only in ways that are less blatant. I know I could write a book about the stealth sexism I dealt with at various jobs.

Fredrickson’s skill at research is just one component of Under the Bus I appreciated. I also appreciated the personal stories she shares even unlike some of her subjects I have a college degree and no children. These stories on women losing out on promotions and raises, treated with a seriously lack of respect, being seen as difficult just for asking to take some time off to take a child to the hospital or ask for an advanced work schedule made me want to throw things. And though Fredrickson focuses mostly on women working in pink collar, working class professions, I, along with plenty of my colleagues and friends, have experienced these injustices in the so-called privileged world of the professional white collar realm. (I would tell you the detestable treatment I received as a researcher and writer for a consulting company but it might bring up some PTSD.)

Luckily, all is not lost. Fredrickson mentions several public policies that will aid women in the workplace. It won’t be easy to implement them, especially with our politicians being so beholden to both corporations and big money, but it is a start.

Furthermore, she also shares stories of brave women who are banding together to improve their workplace issues. These boots on the ground, grass roots efforts really made me think how the workplace should value the contributions made by everyone, not just those in the C-suites.

If I had any quibbles, they are few. I do wish Fredrickson would have focused on a few women like me, college educated, with professional credentials, who are also being thrown under the bus. And though implementing public policy is wonderful, I also want more focus on the private sector and how they should value people not just profits (and it shouldn’t be due to just public policy, but sound ethics, morals and good business sense).

Still, Under the Bus is a very important book and I hope it is widely read by not just women but anyone who cares about women in the workplace, especially during a Presidential election year.