Buzz Bissinger’s “Call Me Caitlyn” (Vanity Fair, July 2015)

Pardon, dear blog readers. Self is only now catching up with her Vanity Fair subscription. She’s been itching to get to the July 2015 issue, the one that has Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, in the white bustier (There is absolutely nuthin’, apparently, that can be done with the meaty thighs. Onward!)

Let’s see, where was self in July 2015? London.

Here’s what the article’s author, Buzz Bissinger, has to say about his subject:

This is the most remarkable story I have ever worked on in 38 years as a journalist, the only writer in the world with unlimited access to Jenner for a story of global interest, witness to the final months of one of the most iconic male athletes before he disappears and a woman appears in his place. I spent hundreds of hours with the man over a period of three months. Then I spent countless hours with the woman. It was initially weird, and virtually anyone who says it isn’t weird is giving themselves far too much credit.

And that, dear blog readers, is such disarmingly charming writing.

Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: On Trump’s No-Show in the Latest Televised Presidential Debate

It speaks volumes about the general disarray of the presidential campaign spectacle that it has now reached its highest pitch over the prospect of Donald Trump remaining silent over the course of a televised debate (OK, technically Trump intends to be absent for the debate — but one can argue that in his case, the only way to ensure silence is via complete physical isolation).

— Chris Lehmann in The Baffler

The reason the quote struck a chord: self firmly believes that the only way to ensure silence IS via complete physical isolation.

The (awfully) big question Lehmann asks is: Is Trump a “big feminized baby” or “a terrorist enabler”?

OMG. Dying.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Selling Lingerie to the Egyptians: Peter Hessler, The New Yorker, Aug. 10 & 17, 2015

Self finds the Peter Hessler essay in The New Yorker, “Learning to Speak Lingerie” absolutely fascinating.

She started reading Hessler because he wrote about his two years living in China (as a Peace Corps volunteer) in River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. Self is a graduate of   East Asian Studies, concentration in Chinese, hence the feeling of connection.

Moreover, Hessler is a very very very good writer.

He wrote his essay about Asyut, in Upper Egypt. Here, in this very conservative place (“Virtually all Muslim women there wear the head scarf”), there is “a Chinese Lingerie Corner in a mall whose entrance featured a Koranic verse that warned against jealousy.”

Along a “three-hundred-mile stretch,” Hessler reports he found “twenty-six Chinese lingerie dealers.” Their product? “butt-less body stockings, nightgowns that cover only one breast, G-strings accessorized with feathers, see-through tops . . . Brand names include Laugh Girl, Shady Tex Lingerie, Hot Love Italy Design, and Sexy Fashion Reticulation Alluring.”

Clearly, this is an essay that demands self’s full and unfocused attention.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Also Reading: The New Yorker, 8 September 2015

Self is reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker article “The Avenger,” about the brother of a man killed in Lockerbie.

Lockerbie.

Self read in the Stanford Alumni Magazine, not too long ago, that the father of yet another victim, a lawyer, had died of cancer. The man was tireless in aiding the hunt for his daughter’s killers, even putting up reward money. As self would do too, if she were in his shoes.

Three years ago, self was in Hawthornden Writers Retreat, only 40 minutes by bus from Edinburgh. Every time she took the bus back, she saw the sign for Lockerbie.

Lockerbie, Lockerbie.

The New Yorker article is about Ken Dorstein, a sophomore at Brown whose brother David had been on the plane.

This is what he did:

He traveled to Scotland and spent several weeks in Lockerbie interviewing investigators and walking through the pastures where the plane had gone down. He read the transcript of the Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry, which exceeded fifteen-thousand pages, and he located the patch of grass where David’s body had landed.

Dorstein tells The New Yorker: “I had found a less painful way to miss my brother, by not missing him at all, just trying to document what happened to his body.”

He also married his brother’s ex-girlfriend. When he told his wife that he wanted to go to Libya to confront the “culprits who were still alive,” he invoked what they call in their marriage “the Lockerbie dispensation.” She could not refuse him.

Dorstein showed the New Yorker reporter a large map of Lockerbie, “with hundreds of colored pushpins indicating where the bodies had fallen.” In death, as in life, there were divisions: first-class passengers clustered in one place, economy passengers in another (But isn’t it interesting that they all ended up in the same place anyway: which is to say, dead)

Shhh, now.

Self has to finish reading the article.

Stay tuned.

War, Literature & The Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities

In a few weeks, it will be time again to remember 9/11.

Self is so glad she bookmarked War, Literature & the Arts, which she’s been dipping into for a very long time now.

Today, she read Donald Anderson’s essay on Phil Klay’s story collection, Redeployment.

It begins:

I’ve long guessed that serious students of “war literature” are not war lovers, that love of war is not why they turn to literature.

Anderson’s first Phil Klay quote is this:

We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose, and we called it Operation Scooby. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.

Honestly, that was truly, shockingly painful to read. But she believes every word. That is, she finds it entirely plausible.

She thinks she may just look for Klay’s collection, next time she’s in a bookstore.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Colm Toibin, The New York Review of Books, 9 July 2015

Self used to have a subscription to The New York Review of Books. Oh how she mourns, mourns, mourns that absence, it was her go-to publication for really good writing, such as the one in the 9 July 2015 issue, Colm Toibin’s essay “The Hard-Won Truth of the North.”

In describing poet Elizabeth Bishop’s move from Nova Scotia to Worcester, Massachusetts, Toibin writes: “. . . the sudden disruption, the end of the familiar, came as a rare and ambiguous gift to the writers. Despite the pain involved, or precisely because of it, they found not only their subject, but their style.”

In discussing the Swedish writer Stig Dagerman (d. 1954, at the age of 31), Toibin writes: “Dagerman was in possession of several tones.”

Isn’t that such a beautiful sentence? It says it all.

Dagerman had “a gift for writing sharp and cool declarative sentences that is close to Hemingway.”

His short stories use “a tone close to that in the early stories of James Joyce’s Dubliners, which Joyce described to his publishers as a tone of ‘scrupulous meanness.’ ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

FLYWAY: 2014 Notes From the Field Contest Winners

Flyway Contest judge Cristina Eisenberg has chosen the following essays as winner and runner-up, respectively, of the latest Notes From the Field contest:

Winner:  Susanna Clark for “House Blend,” which delves “into the stories of the young men behind 2013’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing”

Runner-Up:  Suzanne Menghraj for “Usciolu,” a piece that “tells of the author’s experience on the Mediterranean island of Corsica”

Both pieces will appear in Flyway’s Spring 2015 issue.

Stay tuned.

Ian Frazier for The New York Review of Books (Nov. 7, 2013)

Today is a great day. Sun is shining, after two days of almost non-stop rain.

Tomorrow, self is meeting Connie C. for lunch in downtown Palo Alto. Connie was the Program Administrator in East Asian Studies when self was a grad student at Stanford. And she is still the Program Administrator in East Asian Studies. Not only that, she doesn’t seem to have aged at all.

Self is making some headway into her mighty Pile of Stuff. As she mentioned in a preview post, one pile is mostly New Yorkers. The other is mostly back issues of The New York Review of Books (She ended her subscription to The New York Times Book Review this year, which helped)

She’s begun reading Ian Frazier’s review of Cotton Tenants: Three Families, by James Agee and Walker Evans (Published by The Baffler/Melville House). His review is absolutely engrossing. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Amazing to think that in 1936 the editors of Fortune magazine cared enough about the hard lives of tenant farmers in the South’s Cotton Belt that they sent a reporter and a photographer to Alabama to do a story on them. One explanation is that the magazine was going through a weird period. Henry Luce, who founded Fortune as a business magazine with a target audience of tycoons and millionaires, had recently noticed the Depression. The then-widespread notion that straight-ahead, free-market capitalism did not always work had begun to make inroads upon his mind.

It’s a fascinating essay, dear blog readers. Try looking it up on-line.

Stay tuned.

 

Also Reading Jeremy Denk’s Essay “Piano Man”

It is Thanksgiving Day, 2014.

The best decision self ever made was to order a turkey and fixings from somewhere. And now she has a chance to catch up on all those back issues of The New Yorker that have been building up since last year (and the year before, and the year before).

From The New Yorker of 14 October 2013, an essay by Jeremy Denk called “Piano Man”:

I was saved the first time from financial ruin by a stroke of luck — I entered a piano competition, in London, and won third prize. Years of grad-school indulgences (liquor, Chinese takeout, kitchen appliances) had left me with a Visa bill of forty-five hundred dollars, and I was able to erase it in a flash. All that remained of my glorious prize, of all those months of practicing, was a photograph of Princess Diana handing me my award onstage at Royal Festival Hall, which I faxed to everyone I knew.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Pipeline” Problem, Silicon Valley Edition

First of all, to the entire universe:

HAPPY TURKEY DAY IN ADVANCE

Also, self has geared up her loins, stiffened her spine, and agreed to see “Mockingjay, Part 1” today, even though she knows the closing scene is going to just about kill her.

Now to the ostensible reason for this post, a report on hiring practices at Silicon Valley high-tech companies — a list that includes icons Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter, among others.

A 2008 study found that more than half of women working in the industry ended up leaving the field. The pipeline isn’t just narrow; it’s tapering.

—  James Surowicki, “Valley Boys,” p. 52 of The New Yorker (Nov. 24, 1014)

Further in the article:

Tech companies may pride themselves on being meritocracies, but unconscious biases shape the way they hire and promote. Such biases can be tremendously powerful. A 2012 study asked top research scientists to evaluate job candidates with identical resumés. The scientists judged female candidates to be less capable than male ones, and suggested significantly lower starting salaries for them. Even more striking was a 2005 experiment in which participants evaluated applications for a job as a chief of police, scanning resumés that included varying levels of formal education and on-the-job experience. A male candidate who had less schooling would be credited with street smarts, but a woman with an identical resumé would be dismissed for not having enough education.

Further still:

. . .  until the nineteen-seventies classical-music orchestras were almost entirely male. Once blind auditions were introduced, the percentage of women quintupled.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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