Breathing into a Paper Bag: A Links Round-Up

Welp, this has been a flatly terrifying week. Everyone take good care of yourself this weekend. Eat some yummy foods. Hug some puppies. We’ll be here for you on Monday. My links are mostly unscary ones because I care about you and I’m guessing your Twitter feed has been scary enough lately.

Writers always wrote for money, so why do we suddenly have this idea that good writing springs purely from love?

Also, why writers are so reluctant to talk about their pay in specific terms. This article is a review of the edited collection Scratch, and the one above is an excerpt from it. Media saturation! (But also I just find this really interesting.)

That new DOJ report on patterns of abuse in the Chicago Police Department is pretty scary and upsetting. (So it’s okay to skip this link if you are scary-and-upsetting-ed out for the week.) They do bad things to children. Why again do people oppose increased transparency/accountability in police departments?

Daniel Handler on creating the new Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix show. I have some issues with the show but love how diverse the casting is! Even in crowd scenes! It is like the showrunners wanted to reflect the real world or something!

Here’s a super nifty and adorable animated representation of the Joseph Campbell model of the Hero’s Journey. It’s useful because we are all becoming heroes in this new administration! Being a hero sucks most of the time, but we can do it.

My sister sent me this v. interesting article on Afghan women’s poetry. It is fascinating but sad, so be aware before you click that sadness will ensue.

Why the band The Slants might depend on the same laws and court decisions that protect the Washington football team (or they may not) (it’s complicated).

Swapna Krishna on punching Nazis and Nick Spencer ferociously criticizing same.

My friend Alice made me cry by talking about keeping our voices lifted even when it seems like we’re not having any effect on those in power.

The myth of the peaceful women’s march (or, why it’s wrong to feel morally superior about no arrests this weekend).

That’s all for now! Have as good a weekend as you can, and I’ll see you back here on Monday to keep talking about books and protesting this presidency.

No Luke Cage Thinkpieces: A Links Round-Up

Look, I know. I know. You want to read the hot takes on Luke Cage. I understand that’s where you’re at. I am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. But I have only watched four episodes of the series, and thus I haven’t read that much criticism of it yet.1 You will have to wait for the next one for that sweet Luke Cage talk. Here’s what you can have:

A complete history of Addy Walker, who I honestly still can’t deal with the fact that they retired her books and her doll. Hmph.

Why clothes for women don’t have any goddamn pockets.

The VOYA thing began during my last links round-up period, yet somehow continued through to the period of this links round-up. I don’t understand it either. Here’s all the receipts. VOYA’s latest and best apology, although it says a lot of good things, does not come with unblocking the YA authors they’ve blocked, or like contacting Tristina Wright or the author specifically to say what happens next, or like twelve million other things. So uh, take it with a pillar of salt.

If you’ve heard about Ian McEwan’s Fetus Hamlet book but do not want to read it, can I recommend this epic live-tweet of it instead? Jeanne also reviewed it and she did NOT like it.

I already thought Lionel Shriver was a dick BEFORE learning that her latest book featured a black woman kept on a leash by a white family, but now I want to kick her in the shins forever. Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen talks about how to navigate the “cultural appropriation” wars.

Girls in houses: Laura Miller on Shirley Jackson.

This review of a Hitler biography is incredible. Honestly. Read this. I don’t want to say it elevates the art of criticism, but like, maybe.

Vinson Cunningham argues that The Birth of a Nation isn’t worth your time. Y’all, the journey of public discourse around this film should be its own damn biopic, seriously.2

Ann Friedman on Kim Kardashian’s recent trauma, the outing of Elena Ferrante, and the place of women in the public eye.

Daniel Jose Older on how (and if and why) to write characters from backgrounds that are not yours.

Angelica Jade Bastién wrote for the New Republic about the price of being a vocal woman of color in the worlds of geek fandom.

Have a good weekend!

  1. Not for spoiler reasons, it’s just kind of boring to read tons and tons of words about a piece of media you haven’t consumed.
  2. Not seriously.

I Am an Aunt: A Links Round-Up

I’m an aunt, y’all! Wooooooooo! Truly it is the happiest of Fridays! Though I can’t transmit my joy directly into your brains, I will nevertheless do my best to give you some happiness in the form of excellent links. Enjoy!

In case you missed it, I wrote a fandom vocabulary primer for the Oxford Dictionaries blog.

The goddess Alexandra Petri (the woman who brought us Emo Kylo Ren) outlines the Great American Novel.

A history of Harry Potter fandom.

The Seattle Seahawks made a loud noise about the statement they were planning to make before their opening game, but what they said was a whole lot of nothing.

“Modern patriotism has become Kabuki citizenship”: Wesley Morris burns the house down, per usual, in this piece on Colin Kaepernick for the New York Times; as does Rembert Browne for NYMag. These Grantland alums, I’m telling you!

If you believe that a frown is a thing you do with your mouth, this article is going to mess you up.


I know it’s sad when a marriage ends, but also, my first instinct was to be excited for whatever Sam Donsky and Anne Helen Peterson were going to have to say about it, and they did not disappoint. I am just so fascinated by celebrity narrative-crafting.

Kiese Laymon on what the American flag means to him.

It’s time to retire the Rom-Com Bitch, says Bim Adewunmi, with an admirably thorough analysis that includes MY BELOVED While You Were Sleeping.

Review: The Magician’s Book, Laura Miller

I’ve had this book since December 2010. Not in that generic bought-a-book-and-forgot-about-it-until-a-TBR-challenge-happened kind of way, but in the sense that I constantly saw it on the shelf and struggled with fierce opposing forces within my soul. Arrayed on one side of the battle were the numerous things about this book that appealed to me: Laura Miller, founder of, a website I regularly read and enjoy; the Chronicles of Narnia, the books that taught me what stories are supposed to be like; writing about books; critical analysis by intelligent people of literature I love; etc. On the other side was the fact that Laura Miller was going to have negative things to say about CS Lewis and I cannot handle anyone talking shit about CS Lewis. Not Philip Pullman (now sort of my enemy). Not Neil Gaiman. Nobody.*

Nobody. And that side of the battle was always going to win. Because I love CS Lewis that much. And I like to think that although there are things about me and about CS Lewis that would annoy the other one no end, we could focus our correspondence (it would have to be by correspondence because CS Lewis lived in England and I live in New York**) on our commonalities and end up having a deep and abiding friendship. I’d let him talk me into Norse mythology, and he’d let me talk him into the reasonableness of vegetarianism and the value of collective joy. I wouldn’t try to send him any Tony’s because I don’t think any amount of persuading could convince him about that.

So I was worried that I’d read The Magician’s Book and start disliking Laura Miller for talking trash about CS Lewis, and I didn’t want that. That’s what came between me and Philip Pullman; I mean it was that and also the complete unrereadability of his books, which is a shame because I enjoyed them a lot on the first go-round and keep optimistically hoping that if I give it enough time I’ll be in the mood for them again. It’s been close to ten years now, and I haven’t been able to get through those books a second time, but Philip Pullman has been able to keep saying irritating things about CS Lewis pretty regularly, so I think we’re probably never going to get that positive interaction/negative interaction ratio up to where it would need to be for me to be Philip Pullman’s friend again.***

The good news is, I do not hate Laura Miller. That was a silly fear. She doesn’t write CS Lewis off entirely, and her unhappiness with the discovery of Christian themes was not as over the top as Mumsy made it sound. She’s obviously writing from a place of wanting to get back to her love of and belief in Narnia, and that’s something I can get behind. I enjoyed reading nearly all of the first two parts of the book, first where Miller describes what the Chronicles meant to her as a child, and then as she writes about growing older and discovering their flaws. Her writing is easy and entertaining, and she says a lot of things that absolutely nail what made Narnia magic for me. Especially this, which reminded me so much of Legal Sister:

[R]eading the wrong books would leave [the Pevensies] unprepared, making them the kind of children who wouldn’t know that you should kick your shoes off if you happen to fall into deep water with your clothes on…The Chronicles, then, become the same kind of adventurers’ handbooks that stand their own characters in good stead. I can remember thinking that I’d gotten plenty of invaluable information  from them, although strictly speaking most of it was only helpful if you also happened to be a character in an adventure story.

I mean, yeah. Every time I see a movie where someone falls in the water I’m like, Kick off your shoes. Kick off your shoes! You always kick off your shoes! I feel this more strongly than I feel Don’t go down there! when I’m watching a scary movie. By, like, a lot. I used to think (and I know Legal Sister felt and feels this much more strongly than I did because it is much more nearly true of her) that I would be extremely well-prepared to have a Narnia-style adventure because I’d know all the things CS Lewis teaches you like that you kick off your shoes if you fall in the water and you always clean your sword and robins are kindly birds. So that was great.

I enjoyed the second third also, where Laura Miller grapples with some of the reasons a grown-up person has to be bothered by the Chronicles of Narnia. There are reasons a grown-up person would be bothered. I do not like the sexism and I do not like the racism and I wish CS Lewis didn’t have to be so absurdly curmudgeonly about ideas he wasn’t accustomed to thinking of. I was looking forward to seeing what Laura Miller had to say to these points, but I thought she oversimplified them sometimes, especially the stuff about gender. There are a lot of things to say about gender in the Chronicles of Narnia, but you can’t say all the dudes are cooler/braver/more upstanding than all the ladies. Laura Miller handwaved the flaws the male characters were shown to have, and played up the flaws of the female ones, and I thought it de-nuanced what could have been a fascinating, thoughtful chapter. Still it was interesting to read, for I love with all my heart the literary/personal essay genre that these first two sections belonged to.

Where Miller lost me was the final third, when she tries to find a way back to the Chronicles. I guess this is maybe because I didn’t need a way back myself? Because I did not freak the hell out upon discovering that CS Lewis was Christian? Or that I just don’t like reading about landscapes? I don’t know. I was bored to the point that I kept reading one chapter, giving up and going to do something else, and then coming back because I’m really trying to get rid of the books I’m not going to read again, and if I didn’t finish The Magician’s Book I’d never be able to send it away on PaperbackSwap. In this section, Miller writes about the mythical influences on the Narnia books, and Lewis’s friendship with Tolkien, and y’all I don’t know. I can’t pinpoint anything that was wrong with the last third of the book. I didn’t enjoy it, is all I can say.

The good news is, I have no gripes with Laura Miller as a person after reading her book and have not come to like her any less. (I know Laura Miller does not care about this, but it was a relief to me because I think she’s a cool lady.) The bad news is, I did not love The Magician’s Book as much as its many appealing qualities led me to hope I might. I still think, and shall always think, that it would be very cool to go to Narnia even though I am a nonsmoker and a wearer of stockings.

A final note since we’re talking about women: Captain Hammer asked us recently what fictional character we would pick to rule the world, if we had to choose a fictional character to rule the world. And everyone else said Dumbledore but I said Lucy Pevensie, and I think my pick was better. Dumbledore would hate it for one thing. For another thing he is a puppetmaster and doesn’t confide in anyone because he’s smarter than everyone. Lucy Pevensie is the way to go. She is smart and brave and kind and humble and would choose excellent advisers. SUPPORT MY CHOICE PLEASE.

Other reviews: Their name is Legion.

*Ana, I am not talking about you. You never talk trash about CS Lewis; your objections to him are completely reasonable. I am just sad that you did not read the Chronicles of Narnia as a little girl because they are magic and you would have loved them.

**We’d also have to have a postman who could travel through time.

***Plus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ bored me to tears and was patronizing. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me but I dislike being patronized.