In James Meek’s new novel We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, the war reporter Kellas returns to the U.K. from Afghanistan and has a few problems readjusting. At an awkward dinner party that includes his neo-con ex-girlfriend (“I couldn’t help it. The right-wing ones are so dirty”), the host makes the mistake of asking what a real war zone is like.

First, his plate. He picked it up, raised it to shoulder level and dropped it onto the slate floor, where it broke into several pieces, which went skittering over the tiles. He grabbed the plates in front of Sophie and Cunnery, put them together, and hurled them onto the floor, harder this time. The wineglasses! They went with a sweep of his forearm and in what must have been a very short time his feet stood in… More…

 

One of the unfortunate side effects of being female is the constant marketing of products as specifically “for women.” It’s not just deodorant and cheap pink razors. There are books, and then there are books for women.

Seal Press calls itself the publisher of “Groundbreaking Books For Women, By Women,” but theirs is a very specific definition of “women.” Their idea of womanhood is no less narrow than that of the We Channel: Television for Women. The We Channel may define women as those creatures who believe happiness lies in finding the right wedding planner and pilates instructor, but Seal Press defines women as tattooed 20- and 30-somethings who use alternative menstrual products and think that working in the sex industry imbues you with Wisdom.

A large percentage of the books Seal publishes are how-to guides. How to… More…

 

Monday    

There is a romantic notion that much of the literary world exists apart from the rest of mankind. Authors will appear at a festival or two and say things like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, because I have not owned a television in 30 years.” They talk about their time living in the woods, getting in touch with their inner Thoreau, spending three days thinking about the word “blue.” When readers think of the magical process of writing, publishers would prefer the image to be Tolstoy scratching out Anna Karenina in a wintry Russian landscape and not someone staying up all night on Ritalin to cut and paste together a biography of Heath Ledger immediately after his death.

All of the romanticism and art is cut away from publishing at the London Book Fair. There… More…

 

If I live to be 80, I will be responsible for the deaths of 2,400 livestock animals (according to Michael W. Fox in his book Eating with Conscience). So will you, unless you’re one of those namby-pamby vegetarians.

Americans like meat, and a lot of it. We prefer for it to come without a face or any identifying markers that show it was a cow before being cut up, placed on a styrofoam tray, and wrapped in plastic. The preference for ignorance is easy to understand once you start reading about how that meat is raised, slaughtered, and processed – not to mention how what happens to that meat affects your own health. It can be difficult to reconcile yourself as a caring, compassionate human knowing the chicken you’re about to put in your mouth led a horrible,… More…

 

“I start to get the feeling that something is really wrong. Like all the drugs put together – the lithium, the Prozac, the desipramine, and Desyrel that I take to sleep at night – can no longer combat whatever it is that was wrong with me in the first place. I feel like a defective model, like I came off the assembly line flat-out fucked and my parents should have taken me back for repairs before the warranty ran out.”

So began Elizabeth Wurtzel’s 1994 bestselling memoir Prozac Nation. What followed was a flood of depression memoirs. Writers like Andrew Solomon, Jeffrey Smith, Mary Karr, Mark Vonnegut, Susanna Kaysen, and John Falk told their stories of pain, isolation, and eventual recovery.

Peter Kramer had in some ways paved the road for these memoirs with his 1993 book Listening… More…

 

Quick: How do you tell if a woman in a movie is supposed to be intelligent? First off, she’d probably be brunette, but past that. Glasses, yes. Little to no makeup. Her hair is probably in a ponytail. Clothes she probably bought at the Gap in a size too big. You know she’s the smart one because she thinks about more important things than her appearance.

It’s a stereotype, yes, but it’s constantly reinforced by intelligent women who should know better. Germaine Greer rallied women to taste their own menstrual blood in The Female Eunuch and then attacked fellow feminist writer Suzanne Moore by stating that “so much lipstick must rot the brain.” Feminists must reject the male gaze and use those ten seconds it takes to apply lip gloss to bring down the patriarchy. (Why sensible feminists… More…