Women We Read This Week

Emily Gould’s “How Much My Novel Cost Me” on Medium

I am a fan of reading about other writers’ tortured moments of procrastination, drinking, gambling, and thoughts of delusional grandeur. It is always good to be reminded that people can really fuck up and waste time but still eventually get their shit together. Or even that you can seemingly be successful, get a big book advance, and then have your book be panned by critics. I embrace the idea that everything is not what it seems, that goals and paths that we ardently wish for are perhaps not the ones that take us where we most need to go. And Emily Gould speaks to this. She writes, “For many years I have been spending a lot of time on the Internet. In fact, I can’t really remember anything else I did in 2010. I tumbld, I tweeted, and I scrolled. This didn’t earn me any money but it felt like work.” — Alice

Jen Doll’s “All the Single Ladies” in The New York Times Magazine

This essay is a brief reckoning with a wedding ritual often taken for granted: the tossing of the bouquet to single female attendees. Clichéd romantic comedies teach us that there are two types of women who participate in this custom. 1. Sad and bitter single ladies who desperately wish to be the bride or 2. Sad and crazy single ladies who participate so enthusiastically that their lady desperation scares off all the potential groomsmen they are secretly plotting to make their husbands.

Like many (actually let me just throw down the gauntlet here and say most) women, the author, at an age when Society starts glancing sideways at unwed women who aren’t focused on marrying, is neither of these stereotypes. She’s caught in a difficult and relateable moment—not wanting to make a scene but uncomfortable for a variety of reasons with possessing that “flat sack of impending floral decay.” — Rachel

Emily Nussbaum’s “Cool Story, Bro” in The New Yorker and Willa Paskin’s “True Detective Does Have a Woman Problem. That’s Partly Why People Love It” on Slate

I read the initial wave of enthusiastic analysis surrounding HBO’s True Detective – the way its auteur model could revolutionize television, the sleek and stunning cinematography, the novelistic structure and depth – and then I tuned out to criticism completely, being what Anne Helen Peterson labels a “Hold Sacred” viewer of my favorite shows. But after the admittedly disappointing finale, I allowed myself a wary peek inside the cornucopia of passionate critiques.

These were two of my favorites. I’m still not sure where I stand on True Detective’s “women problem,” but it’s exciting to read two fantastic women critics going to town on such a man-centered, bro-tastic show. I tend to agree with Paskin’s insight that the show was so popular because “[t]he ‘best dramas of all time,’ that four-way race between Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and The Sopranos…are all exceedingly male shows, playing around with male-centric cop, mobster, and druglord genres” and True Detective fits squarely among them, “with none of the squishy girl stuff getting in the way.” I’m more reluctant to accept Nussbaum’s claim that the philosophic banter between the two main characters is all bluster, and that the show can be summed up by its opening credits as the story of of “heroic male outlines and closeups of female asses.” But who can’t love a piece that includes the phrase “an utter nothing-burger”? And for as much as I am loathe to admit it, Nussbaum’s critique irritates because that final Mcconaughey-as-Jesus shot confirms that I’ve probably been had. –Sarah

Natalie Diaz’s “I Judas Horse” on Poetry Magazine

I feel like I read a fair amount of essays on the topic of writing from personal experience. Even some really thoughtful ones that dig into the messiness of memory and motivations. But man, I have never read an essay with this much poetic force. In a razor-sharp 1000 words, Diaz takes us from Judas Iscariot to wild mustangs to the brother that inspires much of her own writing. Diaz does not delude her investigation of her writing motives with pseudo-noble ruminations: “I didn’t write it down to build a poem. I wrote it down because that is what I do with the things that unravel me. I drag them across a page.” She is instead searingly honest about her own capacity for betrayal. This essay was so incredibly awesome that it sent me down a mini-rabbit hole that ended in a newly downloaded book that I am ever-so pyshed to start. Really excited to have stumbled upon Diaz’s work.–Lauren


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