Links + Things: Superheroes, Super-Detectives, Super Book Discounts and More Super-ness
Happy Friday, all!
It's time for another edition of Links + Things, a roundup of interestingness around the web. This is a slightly abbreviated version, since I don't have any cover art news and I haven't spotted any got-to-see YouTubes lately. Make sure to scroll down to the end for a selection of discounted books I've found recently.
I’m tired of the way the tension was ruined for me in Spiderman 2 by the sexualized shot of Mary Jane in chains with all its allusions to bondage and sexual victimization. I’m tired of Bruce Wayne taking women to bed but refusing to be straight with them about who he really is (and I’m also tired of him only sleeping with women who have no personality or canned personalities). I’m tired of the general consensus that Tony Stark’s womanizing behavior is “amusing.” (And if I were Pepper, I would dump his sorry ass faster than he could say, “I’ll be home late tonight!”) I’m tired of seeing the smart, competent Moira McTaggert, Charles Xavier’s worthy love interest, disguised as a stripper. In short, I’m tired of women appearing in these movies as though they are one more nifty accessory, like a Batman’s “batarangs” or Green Lantern’s Power Ring, just another perk of being a superhero.
Author C.K. Kelly Martin tweeted this outstanding piece about the problematic nature of recent superhero movies. I have so many mixed feelings--and honestly, a bit of guilt--about my affection for superhero flicks (and action movies in general) and this pretty much nails it.
As unbelievable as WDSD characters are, they would become infinitely more so if their race or gender were changed. In The Mentalist, WDSD Patrick Jane once grifted clients as a fake psychic, but now works as a hard-to-control resource for the California Bureau of Investigations. What if the Jane character were a Latino ex-grifter? Would his arrogance and propensity for sneaking into suspect’s homes and accusing wealthy businessmen of impropriety read as quirky and charming? Would anyone believe that a police force would allow such behavior?
This piece from Racialicious caught my eye in its sharp observation of the phenomenon of the White Dude Super Detective (the non-police detectives ubiquitous in American television). These are some shrewd observations that get to the core of the assumptions made about race in popular culture.
What bothers me about this latest flare-up is that it feels like just one more way for literary women writers to dismiss commercially successful women writers. It used to be a writer could just turn up her nose at chick lit, and say, “Oh, I don’t read those books, I don’t read books with that stuff on the cover, and I certainly don’t write books like that.” Only now that nobody seems quite sure what chick lit is, and everyone has recognized that authors—especially female ones—don’t always have control over how their books end up looking, a new code word is required. That word has become likable. Calling a novel’s characters the L-word doesn’t just imply that the author in question is writing like a girl; it hints that she is writing like the wrong kind of girl—a dumb, popular, easy girl.
So on the one hand, we have women writers who are insisting—repeatedly, at top volume—that their books are real writing, “serious literary endeavors,” and holding up their unlikable characters as evidence. On the other hand, we have writers being urged by their agents and editors to make their characters more likable, in the interest of sales.
I know Jennifer Weiner is a polarizing figure for a lot of people, but I enjoy her willingness to say what she thinks, even when it's unpopular. In a recent Slate column, she takes on the dialogue around Claire Messud's comments about likable fictional characters. Pro tip: Avoid the comments on this piece.
- Sarah Ockler discusses why her wonderful new book, The Book of Broken Hearts, isn't showing up on Barnes & Noble shelves.
- I have a lot of thoughts on the sex in YA fiction discussion that keeps popping up. Malinda Lo's recent post on the subject is by far my favorite, and one that parallels my own viewpoint as a reader.
- Agent Emily Keyes shared some interesting data on the "New Adult" phenomenon.
- John Green wrote an interesting post on Tumblr about the success of The Fault in Our Stars and author Jennifer Lynn Barnes further expands on this topic--both address a lot of the assertions that I've seen made about that book and author's success and are very much worth reading.
- I very much liked this post by Roxane Gay about book publicity. (via @BookGirl96 on Twitter)
- The Englishist has a fabulous roundup of books about middle class black teens.
- This is a sharp take on Stephen King's decision to not have his new book available digitally (which comes from a place of tremendous privilege, since few authors have the clout to refuse digital publishing rights).
- Author Victoria Dahl shared this open letter from a science fiction author to the Science Fiction Writers of America. Holy wow.
- Google's chairman noted that teens today will be the first generation whose youthful indiscretions likely won't be able to be left behind, thanks to the way their digital lives are immortalized online.
- Someone wrote her doctoral dissertation on America's Next Top Model.
- This NPR segment about word choices that date youwill simultaneously fascinate you and make you feel old.
- Sonar may have located Amelia Earhart's plane!
- Here are 50 things you probably didn't know about Chuck Taylors.
The hardback of Sarah Ockler's lovely Fixing Delilah is discounted on Amazon for less than $7--I'd get on that if you haven't read it yet. I haven't read Gabrielle Zevin's Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, but I love her Birthright series, so it's probably a good buy for the paperback at $3.60 (the paperback of the first book in that series is only $4 on Amazon right now). Laura Griffin's short story, Nightfall, is a digital freebie--I haven't read this one, but her writing is usually pretty fun.
I'm currently reading Sanctum by Sarah Fine, and it's a solid YA urban fantasy-type novel with some very unique world-building. I'm not sure if this is the normal price or not, but it's $3.99 for Kindle at the moment (FYI: this is one of those deals where the audio version is only $2 if you buy the Kindle edition). I read (actually listened to) Suzanne Young's The Program recently, and am now excited to read more of her work. A Need So Beautiful comes highly recommended by a number of readers whose taste I respect, it's $6-7 for the ebook and hardback, respectively, on Amazon. I'm a big Elizabeth Scott fangirl, and I always know her books will work for me (Heartbeat--her first with Harlequin Teen is on my most-anticipated list for sure). Love You, Hate You, Miss You is $3.60 for the paperback right now.