CALYX Journal begins its 36th year of publishing fine art and literature by women with its winter 2012 issue (vol. 27, no. 3). This self-described feminist literary journal allows women's voices to be front and center, which is why its four female founders created it in 1976. Referencing a recent survey conducted by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts the introduction in the summer 2011 issue of CALYX points out that women's voices are still highly marginalized in the literary journals and magazines, making their mission as relevant as ever.
One of my 2012 resolutions is to get back in the books game. I'm resolving to read two new(ish) books a month, even if it means cutting down on the number of TV episode recaps I read online. What about you? Do you have any literary resolutions (or suggestions for contemporary books to add to my growing list)?
Sometimes the best books about sex simply state the obvious: masturbation feels good, most women require direct clitoral stimulation to orgasm, fat people have and (gasp!) enjoy sex (and with all kinds of partners!). Hanne Blank's newly released edition of Big, Big Love is a prime example of how sex shame can be fought hardest by basic acknowledgment and normalization, sending us the big, big, loving message that no one should be deprived of a pleasurable, healthy and satisfying sex life. The second-coming (har-har) of Big, Big, Love (first published in 2000) is more of a total overhaul of the old version, complete with new illustrations, modern gender- and sexual-identity inclusion, interviews that tackle everything from "fatshion" to the carnal joys of flesh-folds, and a current resource list that makes it clear that Blank isn't the only one having, promoting, and writing about hot n' heavy, sexy, sexy sex.
Dorianne Laux's fifth book of poetry, The Book of Men, was released earlier this year. Spoiler alert: It is NOT ACTUALLY A BOOK OF MEN. It is a book of earth, and sex, and war, and food, and even a book of Cher. Yep. Cher. After reading The Book of Men I immersed myself in Laux's other books, and have emerged remembering what is best about reading poems.
"Our life here is just like an old horror movie," muses the loquacious, inscrutable Raquel Motherwell near the end of Rebecca Wolff's debut novel, The Beginners. "It's like the skeleton of the horror novel hanging in the closet with all the suits and dresses that we never wear. Young couple moves to small New England town. House drafty, locals suspicious. Strange friends, omens of doom. Unreliable narrator. Cows lowing in the fields, arcane pagan religious festivals."
The Beginners does play tantalizingly on Raquel's friendly and familiar formula for a hair-raising tale, though the reader learns early on that one shouldn't trust any story Raquel's telling. We also can't trust her husband, Theo. And to make matters worse, the unreliable narrator that Raquel so self-referentially mentions is actually neither Raquel nor Theo. That distinction belongs to Ginger Pritt, the precocious fifteen-year-old who guides us along her dreamy and sometimes sinister path of awakening in the tiny Massachusetts town of Wick.
What if the Rapture happened, but it wasn't like anyone had expected? In fact, what if "Rapture" might not be the right word, considering that the millions who vanished were of numerous different faiths and the date didn't align with anyone's holy texts? How would the people who lost everyone they loved live with their grief, and how would untouched families manage their guilt?
The Kirkus Review hails The Leftovers as Tom Perrotta's "most ambitious book," a claim that at first seems obvious for a writer whose previous works have centered on realistic suburban angst. However, despite its more imaginative set-up, The Leftovers is about exactly the same things as Perrotta's other novels: struggling to find contentment, doomed love affairs, and growing up.
Mary is not happy. Simply put, her husband, Joel, is a slob: He leaves garbage, wet towels, and dirty clothes around and ignores her (or, worse, tells her to "chillax") when she brings these habits up. At the start of the story, Mary decides to keep a tally of the times that Joel annoys her and the times he pleases her, with the goal of reevaluating their relationship after six months... and possibly ending it.
The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities is an incredible anthology (that started as a zine) out from South End Press providing essays, accounts, and testimonials about challenging assumptions about interpersonal violence while constructing and sharing new paths to healing and accountability.
Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, two of the three intrepid co-editors of the book, took some time from their busy schedules to answer some questions about the book, and shared some incredible organizations and resources that inspire them, including several mentioned in the book. Read on!
In a nameless yet all-too-familiar city, where "box-mall-churches" and faceless plazas named after the banks that funded them rub up against vegan cafes, yoga studios, and a "mural of neighborhood black people enjoying gentrification," Della Mylinak thinks about what it would be like to set herself on fire. In her attic bedroom in her brother's house, she places pins in maps to mark where others have self-immolated and rips her mail to shreds to make a papier-mâché head of John the Baptist. She buys candy-colored prepaid cell phones in a mall kiosk and uses them to call in bomb threats that she has no intention of carrying out. Meanwhile, all around the city, actual bombs explode regularly. Della watches the catastrophe with detachment and a muted sense of panic, trying to decide what to do and whether anything can be done.