Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Missing: One Ivory Tower

Last night, Gentle Reader, Pup Reads and I lay in bed, reading a Book For Pleasure. Well, I was reading it; Pup Reads, rather, was licking the spine, as Library Books apparently are, for the canine-inclined, The Tastiest Of All Books Ever.

I admit this book was For Pleasure rather sheepishly, because The Director occasionally graces this blog with Her Presence, as well as a few of my blog-friendly Colleagues, and if there is anything a graduate student is sheepish to admit, it is her occasional foray into pleasure fiction.

Not that anyone is ever in any doubt that an English graduate student would *gasp!* read a non-canonical book For Pleasure, because if there is anything on which we can certainly Bet Money, it is the propensity English graduate students have for Reading Books. But rather, when one is Dissertating, and Teaching, and Taking A Class, she imagines, quite foolishly, that everyone expects her to work All The Time, and she spends a lot of time worrying over just that very thing.

I offer you this scenario, Dear Friends, because while I, quite scandalously, read this forbidden Book For Pleasure—which now sounds like something Quite Naughty Indeed, but instead is just The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time--Mr. Reads, as he is wont to do, watched The Colbert Report in the living room. And as only one thin door separates our Private Boudoir from the Living Room, I heard him holler out, quite distinctly, "Brad Meltzer just got a shout-out on The Colbert Report!"

Now, Mr. Reads is a Degree-Carting Poet, so I'm sure he said something much more eloquent than that, but you get The General Idea.

Pup Reads and I immediately ran out into the living room, and as we are all proud owners of a brand-spanking-new DVR, I said to My Darling Husband, "would you rewind it, please?" to which he, quite proudly (it *is* brand-spanking-new, Dear Reader!), said, "yes, yes, I will," and rewound to said shout-out.

Now Mr. Meltzer is an absolute favorite in the Reads Household; even Pup Reads finds his books the Tastiest. In fact, the Reads Household marvels at the Marvel that is Brad Meltzer. He writes books, he writes comics, he keeps a blog, he has a family, he walks, he talks, he chews gum, and still, he finds time to be, apparently, The Nicest Person In The Universe. We've experienced this a bit firsthand, but we've also heard, from several sources, that it is just the Plain Truth. Mr. Meltzer is an amazing writer, and he finds time to be a Nice Guy to boot.

This morning, however, much to my surprise, I discovered another wonder about the Wonderful Mr. Meltzer: he watches The Colbert Report! In fact, he heard said shout-out himself! And despite knowing The Wonder of The Wonderful, the Marvel of the Marvelous, still, I found myself thinking, "Brad Meltzer has time to watch television???"

Yes, Gentle Reader, you may stop skimming now. I've come to The Point.

I should know, better than anyone, that it is possible both to produce and to play, yet even I had to feel a bit grumpy about the fact that Mr. Meltzer watches television. In fact, he watches television *and he blogs about it*. Isn't he supposed to be Too Busy to watch television? Are there not deadlines staring him down? I myself have three, yes, three large, looming deadlines in the immediate future, and I still find time to work, to play, to blog, to watch television, and yes, Gentle Reader, To Read Books For Pleasure, so I should have known better. But one cannot argue with years of mythology ingrained in one's head, no?

Today, I had a very interesting discussion with several colleagues regarding the lingering image we all have of the Lone Scholar, locked in her Ivory Tower, scribbling away at her originality and presenting to the admiring throng in a year, two years, three at the most, a work of Unequivocal Genius. Of course, the Ivory Tower Myth allows for none of the following: cooking, cleaning, romantic partnership, parenting, watching television, going to catch a film, vacation, committees, blogging, and certainly *never* reading for pleasure. But despite the fact that I'm sure Mr. Meltzer most likely enjoys and/or participates in all of those things and more, I was still astonished to realize his awareness of television, even though that television was, for the moment, *about him*.

But even further, The Ivory Tower Myth does not account for visions and revisions, all before the taking of toast and tea (gratitude, Mr. Eliot). Nor does it account for said toast and tea. The Ivory Tower is this bizarre and fantastical place in which hard work never happens and only genius (spontaneous genius, perhaps) takes place. Genius doesn't require work, right? And it certainly never requires revision. In fact, I think it is safe to say that we assume Genius Gets It Right the Very First Time. And therefore when we mere mortals don't? We get grumpy, and take it out on Brad Meltzer.

Or perhaps not Mr. Meltzer himself, but rather, what he represents. Because Mr. Meltzer and his like are superstars to me. He seemingly has it all: the career, the ideas, the genius, the life, the fans, the shout-out on the Colbert Report, the time to blog about it, and, most importantly, the novel and comic book contracts (unlike This Humble Author, who would love A Book Contract for Christmas, and A Job Offer for her next birthday!). The one thing Mr. Meltzer doesn't have is The Ivory Tower, and he apparently doesn't need it.

Connie Willis's brilliant novel Bellwether offers the theory that genius and inspiration happen not in a vacuum, or in isolation, but in the midst of chaos. Willis's novel proposes that The Ivory Tower, in fact, is counterproductive to production, to genius, to real work. This Humble Author believes that this theory is 100% Correct, yet still, I long for this idealistic, quite allegoric place. I long for the truth of the reoccurring thought: If I only had more time, I could produce.

The point in fact is that we will produce if we decide to produce. My dissertation will not write itself (more's the pity), nor will my novel publish itself (or even, seemingly, with my help, but that's another post entirely). Blogging, or watching television, or reading a Book For Pleasure will not distract from my purpose if I do not allow them to distract. And I don't. In fact, I believe that I am able to produce *because* I allow myself time to catch a movie, or publish a blog, or watch television, or read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Because with the Ivory Tower Myth comes the Myth Of Constant Production: we work, we only work, and that is all.

Let us instead embrace chaos, and the dirty dishes that must be washed, and the puppies that must be walked. Let us applaud Mr. Meltzer for being so very lucky to be #1 on the Bestsellers List and to have the time to watch Stephen Colbert call attention to it. Let us shun those Ivory Towers until they fall in disarray, and in time, become overgrown with weeds. Because really, no one was ever a genius in isolation, despite what the prevailing Ivory Tower Myth will lead you to believe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Brief Review of Catwoman #59

Before Catwoman #59, Gentle Reader, I had a theory, a very viable theory regarding the paternity of Helena Kyle. It involved Infinite Crises, the compression of several Earths' versions of Selina Kyle, and, of course, Bruce Wayne/Batman. But what it didn't involve was the actual physical act of creating a child, and certainly not with someone Other Than Batman.

***There may be spoilers ahead, Friends. Please read with Caution.***

My theory was a simple one, albeit a bit complex in execution. I believed that when all of the Earths began to melt and disappear, former versions of Selina Kyle merged with the version we have on our Earth. If memory serves me correctly, there was the scene at the end of the Catwoman issue leading up to Infinite Crisis in which Selina is surrounded by a dozen versions of herself, all pressing on her at once.

This is it! I thought. They've teased me about The Birth of Catwoman's Child, and here it is. A spontaneous pregnancy brought on by the smooshing of several versions of her into the one we hold dear. And of course, that means it's Bruce Wayne's child.

It was at This Moment that I had to admit to myself that I was a Selina/Bruce 'shipper.

Now, I'm not a 'shipper in the sense with which we are familiar. I like Buffy Summers with Angel, and I like her with Spike. I love Lorelai Gilmore with Luke, but I saw benefit in Christopher, too. I don't get rabid about my fictional romantic pairings very often, but it seems that Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne bring out the worst in my fandom.

When Talia al Ghul showed up in Batman a few months back with a child, I was livid. Not because My Darling Bruce had been intimate with the few-bats-short-of-a-belfry Ms. Ghul, but because I knew, Deep Down Inside, that Selina Kyle would never have Bruce Wayne's child. Of course, I knew this also because I read books, and the amount of finagling the writers at DC would have to do to align all of Batman's books with Catwoman, just so she could have Batman's baby, would be Insanity of Awesome Proportions.

But as hope springs ever eternal, I kept my Fingers Cross'd.

Now I am well aware that the scene in Catwoman #59 with Sam Bradley (Sam?! SAM?! At least make it an interesting Catwoman secondary character, like Slam or Ted) could just be The Ultimate Tease, and I know that the One Year Later storylines are Far From Over. 52 has several weeks and months left to go, and one three-page scene in one issue doesn't mean squat in The Comic Universe. But if it is A Tease, and even if Sam did not father Selina's child, why is it necessary? The words seem forced; the language out of character. "We're getting ready to 'team up,'" Selina says to Sam. And before he can really respond to this rather blatant single entendre, she says, "Now shut up and kiss me."

Selina always has been a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. She wanted money; she got it. She wanted to go straight; she did (well, pre-Zatanna revelation, we can assume so). She wanted Batman; she got him. She wanted the East End protected; she did it herself. But not since before she went legitimate has an action of Selina's seemed so self-serving. Understandably, she was in a bit of a Crisis herself. She had killed Black Mask; she had found out that her conversion to The White Hats may not be a result of a change of heart but rather a change of mind, a la Zatanna. She was lost; she was desperate for comfort.

But Sam freaking Bradley??

I am not appalled by her taste, necessarily; rather, I'm astonished at her awkwardness.

Catwoman/Selina Kyle always has been undeniably sexy. That's part of her inherent charm. But Selina has never been less sexy than she is in this scene. And perhaps that's The Point. This isn't love. This isn't attraction, although methinks the Cat doth protest too much that it is. This is desperation, pure and simple. In the end, I think ultimately what disturbs me about this issue of Catwoman is not the suggestion that Sam Bradley may have fathered Helena, but rather the suggestion that Selina would turn to any warm body—-even the son of her former lover-—in a moment of crisis. The suggestion that Selina Kyle, The Catwoman who has never pussyfooted around (pardon the pun, Gentle Reader!) what she wanted and how to get it, including money, men, and saving the day, would resort to clichés and clumsy innuendo to get a man in bed.

If it were meant to be disturbing, off-putting, and out of character, I'd say Mission Accomplished.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sue Storm Kicks Butt, Takes Names, and Finally (Finally!) Earns My Respect

Gentle Reader, I've never liked Sue Storm.

In fact, I've never really liked the whole Fantastic Four Family. Maybe it's the cookie-cutter family-ness of them, with their kids, their public profiles, their "tolerance" for the sad, angry Thing, which always felt forced to me. Or perhaps it's Reed's silly antics, or Sue's passivity, or Johnny's in-your-faceness. Whatever it is, it's turned me off, from the comics, from the movie, from The Thing action figure holding Mr. Reads' toothbrush in the WC.

Perhaps it's because I am a DC girl, through and through. We've discussed this already, Friends, and really, it doesn't bear mentioning again. But suffice to say that when I give kudos to Marvel, I truly, *truly* mean it. And I give Marvel Kudos for Civil War.

I am a DC girl, but even I admit that Civil War is infinitely more fascinating than One Year Later or 52. Perhaps it's the parallel to the real world (and if Marvel does anything perfect, it's write about real world issues), or perhaps it's the odd sides characters are choosing (Cap anti-reg? Spidey pro-reg? Cassie, freaking Cassie pro-reg?!), I'm not sure. But it's working. And it's Got Me, hook, line, and sinker.

Sue Storm always seemed traditional to me. I don't necessarily mean Suzy Homemaker traditional, but rather, a traditional superheroine. Mr. Reads and I have a Very Dear Friend who is rabid for the Marvel Universe, and Said Friend argued with me, just about every week, over the vast superiority of Marvel over DC. Knowing my feminist leanings, and being Quite The Feminist Himself, Said Friend would work through female superheroes on either side of the Publishing Divide in an effort to Convince Me that Marvel was Better than DC.

He said Elektra; I said Black Canary. He said Jean Grey; I said Zatanna. He said Sue Storm; I said Wonder Woman, Huntress, Gypsy, Big Barda, anyone else but Sue Storm.

Her powers changed over the years, he said. She's become the most powerful member of the team. She can turn invisible, and she can create force fields to protect others. She can even attack with force fields.

She's a woman, I said. She's a woman, and her power is invisibility. Wow, that's original.

As you can imagine, Friends, we never did see eye to eye.

But tonight, I Eat Crow, with the faint patina of Shoe Leather. I was wrong, and Said Friend was right.

***Dear Reader, here there be spoilers for Civil War #4. Read with caution.***

At the start of Civil War, I had a feeling things would change between Sue and Reed. They had nothing to gain or lose from Registration. They were already public faces, and they were loved by society (well, not Latverian society). But Reed became wrapped up in Reed, Johnny was beaten almost to death, and Sue began to suspect that her husband wasn't quite the noble figure she had thought him to be.

In this issue, yes, issue #4, Sue sees the extent to which Reed and Tony have gone over the edge. I don't see them as heroes anymore, and neither, I think, does Sue. In fact, they are perhaps more villainous than the villains themselves, and with Venom and Bullseye in your villainous roundup, that is saying a lot indeed!

Sue leaves Reed. She leaves her kids. She leaves the team. She and Johnny go off to fight with the resistance. She leaves her husband with a plea not to judge her as a bad wife or a bad mother. She puts the future, her children's future, above appearances, and forces Reed to take an active interest in children he's really ignored for some time. Sue sees true horror in the face of her friends and loved ones, in the face of her *husband*, and she stands up for what she believes in.

Civil War and its extending books have had some remarkable moments for me, Friends, and I remember each and every one. But the three that stand out above Spider-Man's unmasking, far beyond the fight between Cap and Iron Man, are the final scenes between Jessica and Luke, Sue Storm protecting the Resistance with her force field, and then Sue leaving, not invisibly, but visibly. She's not hiding her convictions, nor is she hiding behind them. She is walking, head held high, and she is walking towards family opposition. She takes the time to cook dinner, make love, write a long note, and walk out in plain sight, and Reed never once notices.

Sue isn't a passive woman, or a stereotype, or any of the other things I've accused her of being. Nor is she a coward, although in her letter to Reed, she admits that some may view her departure as such.

No, Sue Storm is not a coward. She is the bravest person in Civil War thus far. She, more than anyone else in the entire Marvel Universe, knows what it means to sacrifice for a cause she believes in, for the good of humanity, for the future of her children.

And I respect the hell out of her for it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Darkly Viewing Dexter!

Oh my goodness, Gentle Reader! Jeff Lindsay's amazing Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter books have been turned into a television series on Showtime! What wonderful news! This ranks right up there with the Sookie Stackhouse series set to come out on HBO, and the Harry Dresden series to come out on Sci Fi! Let's hear it for good books becoming (hopefully) good television!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why Publishers Do Not Read My Blog (because I know they have better things to do!)

It has been suggested, Gentle Reader, that the feminist comic book fans are nothing but rabid, blinded, single-minded harpies. This Humble Author is quite above pointing fingers, but in this case, there really are too many places to point. A sly insinuation here, a discreet jab there, posters across the blogosphere are blaming female fans, yes, even We Few, We Happy Few, for executive decisions made by The Big Houses Of Comic Publishing. Without the prettier words, that means that some people believe that Publishers are making *executive plot decisions* because a hundred or so women call them to task in their blogs for not making comic books more feminist-friendly.


This kind of post hoc, ergo propter hoc publishing argument is quite ridiculous.

If The Houses are making *bad* plot decisions, i.e. tiptoeing around Big Issues, it’s not because they don't want the feminists to get in a tizzy. The notion that Big Publishing Houses would Censor their stories because of *bloggers* and *critics* is a Very Silly Notion indeed. By all means, if bloggers and critics are making publishers and writers become more socially aware and making them consider gender issues, then huzzah! That's a *good* thing. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the very idea that multi-million dollar corporations would *make plot decisions* based on their worry over the internet reaction. To wit, if it's true that Publishing Houses are beginning to consider controversial plot choices in an age in which many people are reconsidering controversial decisions across the board, perhaps brought on by a rather conservative and censorial air in the world and a desire to always, always "protect the children," that doesn't mean that they're doing it because they're afraid they're going to be blogged about.

Dear Reader, I have as much of an inflated sense of importance as anyone else posting his or her thoughts out on the internet, and even I know that there is a *very* slim chance that The Houses give two good what-fors about my blog and/or the things I have to say. And on the outrageous chance that they *did*? I consider it My Fandom Duty to make sure that I never, *never* pussyfoot around The Big Issues At Hand: rape, prostitution, preposterous body types, marriage, sexuality, motherhood, fatherhood, censorship, fashion, and the poor, horrific plight of the maligned partridges stuck in those wicked pear trees.

Why do people believe that when someone calls attention to a problem, then that person must automatically want to shield the world from that problem? That the person wants to *censor*? Rape is a *very real problem* in our society. Women and men are raped *every single day* and more often than not, a person who has been raped will *not* report it because he or she is afraid that *no one will believe him or her*. Therefore if I'm angry that Sue Dibny was raped, it is *not* because Mr. Meltzer wrote a rape scene, but rather, because *a woman, even a fictional one, was raped*. This Humble Author has applauded Mr. Meltzer, again and again, for his wonderful story in Identity Crisis. This Humble Author is currently working through Mr. Meltzer's thriller novel oeuvre because she enjoys his writing so. If I criticize Identity Crisis, and the depiction of Sue Dibny's rape, it is because I want the world to TALK about it, not brush it under a rug and pretend it doesn't exist. If we pretend it doesn't exist, then we allow it to exist, and we never, ever force ourselves to take action *against it*.

When I talk The Big Feminist Issues, when I call comic book stores to task for ignoring me in favor of their male customers, when I discuss the overwhelming amount of intangible powers female superheroes possess rather than tangible physical powers their male counterparts do, it's because I *want* people to pay attention to these things. I *want* them to ponder, to discuss, and, if they desire, then dismiss. I want the world to consider the impact that female superheroes' bodies have on impressionable youth (will no one think of the children?!?). But for Heaven's Sake, I certainly don't want anyone to *stop* talking about these things, whether in blogs or in the comic books themselves, because then, we have to pretend that they don't exist. And that is the True Crime.

And if These Wicked Rumors Are True? Well, then, I would call The Houses of the Comic Publishing World into question for *not* talking about these issues anymore. If any House decides to stop publishing controversial storylines, then I may just Stop Reading. Literature, and yes, This Author considers Comic Books to be Literature (with the capital L), is a safe space in which to talk about important social, cultural, gender, racial, economic, political, and personal issues. We discuss these very things as they happen in the stories because it's easier to discuss X-Superhero's drug problem than, say, our sister's or brother's or best friend's. It's easier to express horror over society's reaction to women's accusations of rape as it appears in Z-Book than as it appears in our own towns. It means that we are reading, we are aware, and we are trying to do something about it.

(Talk may be cheap, but sometimes, the best stuff in the world is cheap. Consider your favorite Burger House. Chances are, it's the cheapest place in town.)

Thanks to When Fangirls Attack!, I've recently found out that some Publishing Houses actually *do* read blogs, and actually *do* consider seriously what bloggers have to say. And This Humble Author would like to add that thank goodness they're reading smarter blogs than Mine! Marionette has recently announced that a comment she made caused a higher up in the Publishing Echelon to think, yes, *think* about important social issues and how they appear in comic books. Congratulations, Marionette!

It is this success on Marionette’s part—-getting The Houses to Actually Listen—-that caused me to retract the original version of this post late Saturday night and reconsider my somewhat snarky attitude regarding The Houses. It’s not that This Humble Author believes that Publishing Houses don’t care what their fans and customers have to say. Rather, I question Joe Blogger’s insistence that political correctness has gone “too far.” I question Janet Blogger’s argument that the rampaging feminists and their criticism of comic books have frightened The Houses so much that they have pulled storylines just so said rampaging feminists won’t get angry and blog about them.

That is Absolutely Ridiculous.

There is a huge difference between censoring material to appease fans and customers, and reconsidering a sexist or racist or homophobic or economic bias in a market product. If Publishing Houses are discovering that their expanding customer base includes educated/professional/working-class/what-have-you women in their twenties and thirties, then by all means, *consider comic books for this market audience*. If Publishing Houses discover that people prefer to wear purple hats while eating green apples, they will shift their marketing a bit to better suit those people, no? Don’t believe me? Then please, Friends, open up your latest issue of Z-Book and examine the advertisements contained inside. If you would buy or participate in any of those products, then they’ve done their job.

The very idea that The Publishing Houses are listening to bloggers who make intelligent and informed criticisms is a lovely one. The very idea that The Houses are considering their expanding customer base is a lovely one, too. If we are ever to elevate comic books to the arena of Literature—-and that means, Dear Reader, that they will be considered seriously across the board—-then we need not only to read, but also to examine, compare, contrast, argue, develop, and most importantly, critique. I take comic books seriously. I take them seriously enough that I discuss them as I discuss Eliot, or Bronte, or Gaskell. Because what is Good Literature but something you enjoy to read because it makes you think?

So, a message to The Publishers, just in case they really *are* reading, although honestly, I think they should have better things to do, like tell me who fathered a certain feline-esque superheroine’s baby! (Get to Work, People! I’ve waited long enough!)

I am a *huge* fan of your work! I've been reading comic books seriously for about 10 years now, but I read them when I was a little girl, too, so don't think I'm not a True Fan! No offense intended to The Big Two, but I'm a much bigger fan of one of you than the other. No, no, it's nothing personal! I just think that one of you writes better stories paralleling and allegorizing big social issues, while I think the other writes the more interesting characters, and I am ever the character-driven plot reader. Oh, and I have personally interested a couple dozen people in comic books who would have never touched comic books before, and I also teach comic books in my classes, so I'm fighting the good fight, too.
Now look, I've heard that you're reworking some of your books better to suit your expanding market, and if it's true, I applaud you for it. But Remember the Ladies, would you? If you give a female character a history of rape or sexual violence, *give it for a reason*. Don't just give it because of the staggeringly high statistics of sexual assault among women. And please, please reconsider some of the body types of the male and female characters out there. Exaggeration, while sometimes tons of fun, gets a little stale after a while. Because really, can Power Girl possibly fight with that belt around her bare hips? That *has* to chafe.

Thanks! Keep doing a great job!

Amy Reads

Saturday, September 16, 2006

We are experiencing technical difficulties....

I've recently deleted a post, Gentle Reader, not because I now disagree with my sentiment, but because new information has come to light, and I would like a chance to update my thoughts. Tune in tomorrow for further installments of Ms. Reads' blogosphere.
Until then, I bid you good-night.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

And There Goes the Bandwagon....


Seems as if I'm a bit late to the party regarding Mary Jane and her supposed death, Gentle Reader. According to Powet TV, that scene is supposedly from an upcoming Spider-Man book by Kaare Andrews, set In The Future.

While the sentiment is true--so many people want to see Spidey single again--the rumor mill, at least, seems as if it's wrong.

Let us hope, Friends, that it is for its Wonder Woman information, as well!

(Here's hoping).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Want to See the Wonder

Gentle Reader, I've Had Enough.

Every day, there's another rumor. Every single day, I check Whedonesque for information regarding the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. I follow link after link, hoping for something, anything about The Amazon Princess.

Instead, I get nothing but insanity, rumor, and speculation.

Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Whomever, Kate Beckinsale, pretty much anyone but Monica Bellucci and Gina Torres (who, along with Morena Baccarin, are This Humble Author's Top Three Choices to play the Amazon Princess) have been "slated" to play Wonder Woman, and the script Isn't Even Finished! The Woman Wonder's age hasn't even been established!

And please, give these three women some cheesecake already!

I am by no means An Advocate for Type-Casting, Gentle Reader, and I appreciate playing outside the box as much as possible. If an actor is talented enough, it doesn't matter whether she is a 6 foot tall dusky brunette or a 4'11 pale blonde, she will do the role, any role, even this role, Justice. But for the love of God, let us avoid the "she'll look H.O.T. in a pair of spankies and a bustier" line of hiring. For the sake of the children, yes?

Will no one think of the children?!

Baccarin, Torres, and Bellucci. Three Talented Women who have proven, again and again, that they can handle whatever is thrown at them. Baccarin has the wide-eyed wonder of a woman leaving Paradise Island for the first time. Torres has the strength, will, and determination to blaze her way to truth and justice. Bellucci has the alienness, the separation, the utter *difference* that one expects from the Amazon Isolated from Humanity her entire life.

To be fair, Lohan had Mean Girls; this is true. It is A Great Movie, and I enjoyed her performance in it quite a bit. But really, that's all she's had. And Beckinsale had The Aviator and Much Ado About Nothing. While her work is Hit or Miss, it's more Hit than Miss, and that's saying a lot in Hollywood, no? But Rachel Whomever... I don't know what she has but apparently, a brief scene in some television show I don't watch in which she appears dressed as Wonder Woman qualifies her to star in the movie.


Dear Friends, I don't care if the actress they cast as Wonder Woman is skinny, fat, short, tall, muscular, flabby, has a lazy eye, a third eye, a fourth, right in the back of the head, as long as she's a Great Actress. As long as she takes the role and makes it her own. As long as she loves, yes, *loves* what she does so much that Wonder Woman comes alive on the screen for me.

Because I've waited so long to see her on The Big Screen. In the late seventies, I had the Underoos, the lunchbox, and the television show, and in the late nineties and the early aughts, I have the comics, the Barbies, the action figures. But throughout it all I've had the Wonder, the Joy, the Amazement that a Woman could be so Powerful, and I don't want to lose that. Ever.

Gentle Reader, rumor has it that there is a young gentleman in Hollywood who is so in awe of The Flash that he is lobbying for the movie, and for the title role. Ryan Reynolds adores The Fastest Man Alive so very much that he is *lobbying for the movie and for the title role*.

That's what I want to see in the actress chosen for Wonder Woman.

I want to see The Wonder.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

To the Moon, Mary Jane!

I have been charged with an Awesome Task, Gentle Reader, which asks me to find an academic article representative of some of the best, most thought-provoking work in my critical field. I hesitate to reveal Too Much about my professional choices in this blog, as I suffer under a delusion of Pseudo-Anonymity, but suffice to say that I work with historical and cultural events and markers as they appear in Victorian Novels. Mainly, I work with women's issues, and most particularly, issues of women's bodies and how those bodies are written in the Victorian era; at one time or another, I have written on maternity, prostitution, The Contagious Diseases Acts, sexuality, fashion, marriage, and suffrage. Sometimes, all of them coalesce into One Giant Paper, but that's a Very Rare Occurrence.

But in struggling to find this Mythic Holy Grail of Academic Articles, I remembered a particularly favorite article of mine, written by a particularly favorite critic of mine, about the Victorian Honeymoon. And *these* thoughts, as thoughts so often do, led me straight back to comic books. Yes, I know, Friends, you marvel at This Humble Author's ability to relate Any Given Topic to Comic Books, but please, remember that This Humble Author is an English Major; she can relate anything to anything, given enough time and secondary sources.

Mr. Reads, as I believe I have mentioned before, is A Marvel Fan Of Preposterous Proportions. Of course, My Beloved Partner enjoys the DC Universe as well, but I am the rabid DC fan in the relationship. While I enjoy Marvel, I don't hear the pitter-patter of little mutant feet in my head the way Mr. Reads does. My obsession with Wonder Woman is eclipsed by Mr. Reads' obsession with Spider-Man. And Mr. Reads has been, if I may be personal for a moment, a bit upset about the supposed upcoming death of Mary Jane Parker.

Not that Mr. Reads is a huge Mary Jane fan. Rather, he's a huge fan of Spidey, and he really, really doesn't like it when he hears other fans say, "Peter's better single," or, "Let's get back to the 'Old' Spider-Man." Instead, he loves to see his Friendly Neighborhood Web Crawler grow and change, and see Mary Jane, a wonderful example of a wife in a medium (that would be Popular Culture At Large rather than just Comic Books) that shows too few wonderful examples of wives, grow and change, as well.

This Humble Author, in turn, is a Mary Jane fan, and can take or leave Peter Parker, but that's another post entirely.

Why are fans so eager to dispense with Mary Jane? I've read countless excuses, from the fact that Gwen Stacy is Peter's True Love, to Mary Jane is too Perfect, to, yes, Dear Reader, that excuse that plagues so many great things, like the character Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "we just liked her/him/it better the way she/he/it was!" This Humble Author has heard True Whedonites scream over the changes to Willow following season four of Buffy, simply because she was no longer awkward and cute. And similar people scream that a married, stable Spidey is no longer as much fun.

Heaven Forbid we allow our characters to grow!

I don"t read Spider-Man, or Ultimate Spider-Man, or any book with "Spider" in the title except "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane." This book examines the history of the current Web Crawler and his Lovely Partner, and is told from Mary Jane's point of view. We get the lead up to their relationships in the books, we get the result in their current marriage (which This Author only gets glimpses of in Civil War), but from what I can gather, we saw the honeymoon only through the super-villainous attacks.

The Honeymoon is an odd time because it is both so personal and so public. Mr. Reads and I took that greatest of Honeymoon escapes: Disneyworld and Universal Studios. We rode the Haunted Mansion, we ate our way through the Epcot World, we marveled at The Marvel Island of Adventure, at which Mr. Reads squealed like a school-boy and put us into bankruptcy buying all of the Marvel Legends Action Figures he couldn't find back home. But what we didn't do was wear those "bride and groom" Mickey ears, or matching shirts, or any other cute signifiers of our honeymoon-ness. Yet even so, people constantly stopped us and asked, "are you on your honeymoon?"

Gentle Reader, how did they *know*??

I can't ever recall reading a comic book that involved Honeymooners, and that's not to say that those books don't exist In The World. I just have never read them. Do we scorn the honeymoon texts because we *know* what's going on? Public and private, at the same time, honeymooners are instantly recognizable, more so than first love, or forbidden love. The Honeymooning Couple is a phenomenon that one can immediately see, and from which one must avert her eyes.

Or is it because The Fight Is Over? Sexual tension is gone, the guy got the girl or the guy, or the girl got the guy or the girl, and we've read as far as we want to read. We enjoy strife, heartache, and hardship, and for some strange reason, we enjoy seeing Spidey star-crossed, in pain, and *single again*. Because then we can relive the cycle over and over again. We never have to have the conclusion, only the tension and the hunt. Because the journey's the best part of the adventure, right? It doesn't matter where you’re going, only how you get there? Or is it because once we find love, we believe we have nothing else to do in our lives?

In a recent discussion regarding my blog and its potential audience, Mr. Reads said he believes Arrogant Self-Reliance suffers from "TL; DR" syndrome. As I had no idea what that meant (my InternetSpeak is not very good, Dear Friends!), I asked him.

"Too long; didn't read," Mr. Reads said.


So therefore, a caveat before I cut this post short(ish). I am an ABD Doctoral Candidate in English Literature, Gentle Reader, which means that for the past four years, my written work has been *at least* ten pages or over. One of my dissertation chapters is 57 and counting. Therefore, many, if not all of my posts will be "TL," and it's up to you to declare "DR," if you choose.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Angels falling from the sky

There seems to be a dichotomous standard these days, Dear Reader, that declares women cannot be both feminists and domestic goddesses. Oh, the Barefoot Contessa tells us otherwise, but really, it's a common assumption In The World that if a heterosexual woman is a feminist, then she must shun kitchens, cooking, knitting, fashion, makeup, shaving, men, bad foods, smoking, red meat, Christmas trees, baking, romantic comedies, mystery novels, girls' nights out, and, oh yes, marriage. The problem for This Humble Author is that she is a feminist, by self-declaration, by profession, by degree, and she enjoys all of those things and more.

Well, This Humble Author just (just, Dear Reader!) quit smoking in the last week, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it, yes?

I come to you with this list of wrongs to redress because I had to ask a group of people recently if they knew what feminism is. Because of the strange, almost horrified looks on their faces, I amended my question by noting, "feminism is not a four-letter word." It alleviated none of the horror, and, in fact, made them even more horrified.

There is an image of Feminists In The World that calls to mind She-Woman Men Haters. Feminists are *angry*. Feminists are *rampaging*. Feminists are *misandrists*. These images are usually tied up with bra burning, keeping one's last name upon marrying, and letter-writing, sign-holding protests. This Humble Author agrees that yes, many feminists are angry and some, indeed, are rampaging. Perhaps there is the odd misandrist or two, but overall, feminists are your daughters, your sisters, your girlfriends and mothers and teachers and friends. They look just like you, or someone you know and now you're thinking, "Dear God, how will we ever recognize them when they move to our town?!?!"


But in all seriousness, let us return to the supposed flip side of that coin, The Domestic Goddess. Before her current incarnation as a gourmet cook, a decorator of Martha Stewart proportions, and a knitting-while-cooking-while-balancing-the-checkbook-while-changing-the-baby super-woman, The Domestic Goddess was most infamously identified as the angel sitting in the house, caring for her husband and children with all the duty and self-sacrifice one could ever hope for or expect in a woman. Yes, that cursed writer, Coventry Patmore, inflicted the image of The Angel in the House upon us in the 1850s, and we've been plagued by her ever since. She is selfless, modest, demure, concerned with keeping house (while never getting her hands dirty, Dear Reader, because an Angel never touches dirt or *shudder* raw food!), and always, always busy tending to the mending, or the children, or anyone or anything other than herself.

Never once imagine that This Humble Author pooh-poohs the idea of caring for One's Fellow Human. But This Humble Author pooh-poohs the very idea of sacrificing one's life *solely* for the whims of society or another human being. This Humble Author believes in living one's life in such a way that caring for others and one's self go part and parcel, hand in hand, if you will. You cannot Save Others if you will not Save Yourself. Or, as Florence Nightingale reminds us in that angriest of nineteenth-century proto-feminist tracts, Cassandra, "[Women] have accustomed themselves to consider intellectual occupation as a merely selfish amusement, which is their 'duty' to give up for every trifler more selfish than themselves" (32).

This blog entry has been bubbling on the backburner for the past few days somewhat in response to the very interesting, very serious discussion taking place at Ragnell's Written World. The question posed regarding whether finding a mate is the "best thing" to happen to a woman in a comic book is a rather interesting one, and I began to wonder if there are examples in the comic book world that demonstrate marriage as the *worst* thing that could happen to a woman, particularly a female superhero.

My first thought was Linda Danvers.

Do you remember, Friends, the very end of the Linda Danvers' run of Supergirl? Do you remember the sacrifice she had to make in order to ensure Kara was sent Back To The Right Time to die? And do you remember, perhaps with a pained heart, the alternative life Linda was allowed to live, only to have all of it taken away from her?

Linda took Kara's place, intending to die as Kara was supposed to. She entered an alternate, pre-Crisis world and in an odd, unexpected twist, she and Superman/Clark Kent fell in love, married, and had a child. Then The Spectre came to visit her and took everything, *every-bloody-thing* away from her, including her child. Years of marriage, of love, of motherhood were snatched away from her in a second with no other explanation than "it had to happen the way it was supposed to happen."

In this instance, I believe that marriage, love, and motherhood are presented as the absolute *worst* things that can happen to a woman, this particular woman, in this particular comic book. In fact, the events are so tragic that Linda leaves Leesburg, never to return. She is so distraught (and rightly so, Dear Reader) over these lost events that she hangs up her cape and walks away. Again, from *every-bloody-thing*.

Before DC let go of the marvelous title Fallen Angel, there was the sly suggestion that Lee, the strange angelic woman in Bete Noire, was the former Fire Angel Herself, Linda Danvers, aka Supergirl. In fact, This Humble Author reveled in such a unique and marvelous storyline. That possibility no longer exists, Dear Reader, because the title has moved to IDW, and therefore has lost access to the DC Universe. But let us pretend, just for a moment, that it hadn't happened. Let us consider instead that run of Fallen Angel in which "Lee" is quite possibly "Linda Danvers" from Leesburg.

She is lost. She is hopeless. She is self-abusive and unloving and trapped in a hellish city that is, quite possibly, Hell Itself. And as far as we can tell, she ended up there precisely because she had lost everything that she had. She is no longer an Angel of fire or otherwise, but rather, a Fallen Angel. She was a strong, self-sustaining, artistic woman who fought through addiction and fear and hopelessness to wear the S with pride. She overcame enemy after enemy, including Bizarro Supergirl and Lilith, to keep her mantle as Supergirl, and in the end, she did have it all: she had the great career and the great family, only to be told it wasn't hers to have.

I don't know if I've said this before, Dear Reader, but the Spectre, whatever his incarnation, pisses me off to no end.

What the Linda Danvers' run of Supergirl represents for me, more than anything else, is not the fact that women "can't have it all," but rather, that The World At Large doesn't expect them to. And no, I don't blame this on the writers. I think the writing of this particular run of Supergirl was smart and poetic and thought-provoking and more than anything, it recognized a problem in our society that declares that Feminism can't meet Domesticity. Feminists can't enjoy cooking or children or red meat or trashy romance novels. To do so would be Bad Feminism. Not according to the Feminists, but according to the World At Large.

Over the past year, thanks to Dear Megs over at Ph(yphen)D, I've learned to knit. Over the past twenty-five or so years, I've learned to cook quite well. And I've heard, yes, I'm afraid it's so, Friends, that I'm Not Supposed To Do Domestic Things. I can have a Career, or I can Play House. I can't do Both.

Understand that My Dear Sister Feminists say otherwise. My Dear Sister Feminists prove, again and again, that you *can* have it all, however you determine "all" to mean. But society, it seems, is against the idea. Daycare isn't affordable. Careers require long hours away from home. Knitting is something Our Grandmothers did. Cooking ties women to the stove, and cleaning ties them to the glove and apron. Pink is stereotypically for girls, and a reclamation of pink is therefore Bad. The Angel in the House is alive and well, rooted deep in her mythology and never disappearing even in these seemingly anti-Victorian times.

Linda Danvers was an Angel, and she Fell, Hard. I believe she fell not because she was a superheroine, but because she was a superheroine, a wife, and a mother, and she was told she could be one or the other, but not all at the same time.

Are feminists angry? Do you doubt that they have reason to be?

Florence Nightingale ends Cassandra with the following: "Awake, ye women, all ye that sleep, awake! If this domestic life were so very good, would your young men wander away from it, your maidens think of something else?" (52).

Now, some 150 years since the writing of Cassandra, we believe we are past domesticity. We believe the fight for women's rights is done. We insist, yes, insist, Friends, that women must be *either* Career Gals or Suzy Homemakers, but never both, and never a third, or fourth, or eighteenth option. This dichotomous split is fracturing half the population and confusing our daughters, our sisters, ourselves. Now instead of telling our daughters that "football is for boys," we tell them, "knitting is no longer for girls, because it's a gender stereotype." I want the happy medium. I want my Sisters to make up their own minds, and damn the strictures society places on their gender. Thirty years ago, those strictures declared that women find their own paths. Now, those strictures declare that women find the path set forth for them *by someone else*.

To say that women can no longer enjoy domestic pursuits *and* fight for women's rights is to say that women can't carry careers, or go to school, or wear pants. To say that women *must* do this, or that, is to counter everything that feminism stands for. I support My Sisters in their informed choices, whether they choose to be Career Gals *or* Suzy Homemakers. But more importantly, I admire My Sisters who happily do it all: write, marry whomever they love, have children or not, vacation, read mystery novels, cook, knit, play football, drink beer, and whatever else they decide to do. Because they know that they can have it all *without* unraveling the Entire Universe.

Our Sister Linda Danvers, unfortunately, didn't have the same option. And she suffered, perhaps suffers to this day somewhere out there in the DC Universe, because of it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I write to you now, Gentle Reader, from my office, in which I have the windows open and a fresh breeze coming through. What's this, Ms. Reads? you ask. Yes, Friends. It's official. Fall is on Its Way. It is currently 64 degrees Fahrenheit in my oven-like little corner of my vast state, and although it will get up to 88 degrees today, that is a far cry from the 102 we saw last week.

Fall is, without a doubt, my favorite season. I've lived in the South all of my life which means I've really never experienced Fall. Leaves change... sort of. The temperature drops... a bit. But Fall brings all the things I love: Halloween, sweaters, crumply leaves, pumpkin spice coffee, school (yes, school—do remember that Your Humble Narrator is A Nerd of the Highest Order), and the prelude to all great things in December, including Christmas (presents!), my birthday (more presents!), and the tiny possibility of That Freak Snowstorm That May Hit Us.

I've never had a White Christmas, Gentle Reader, and Mr. Reads tells me I am Missing Out. I grew up in the South, have lived here all of my life, and while we've had two freak snowstorms I can think of, neither of them produced enough to leave anything on the ground. Mr. Reads, from Ohio himself, is horrified to think that the future Baby Readses may not know what it is to snow-sled or snowball fight or wear such large coats that they can't put their arms down (gratitude, A Christmas Story). Since my Christmas memories are tangled up in something quite different, I myself am worried that the future Baby Readses will not know what it's like to wear shorts on Christmas morning.

We all have our different traditions, no?

But above all else, except maybe Halloween, Fall means The Fall Lineup. Yes, Friends, our shows return to us after a summer hiatus, and we are ready to see what the new season brings.

Currently, Mr. Reads and I watch the following:
Battlestar Galactica
Family Guy
Gilmore Girls
The Office
The Sopranos (whenever it returns!)

We've lost Alias and Arrested Development in the last year, and have given up on Prison Break and Supernatural. We're interested in Heroes (sort of), The Traveler (probably), and a few others here and there. But I really can't imagine adding to my lineup any more than this, and Mr. Reads also has his daily dose of Stewart and Colbert to contend with.

Gentle Reader, can you believe I've yet to see the finale from last season? I was Researching In London at the time, and I've got the VHS tape still waiting to go. I can't explain it, either. I adore 24, and this season, in particular, was phenomenal. No Kim trapped by a cougar; no wishy-washy feelings about Chloe. Just straight up "Dammit!" goodness.

Battlestar Galactica
Of all of my shows, I am most interested in Battlestar Galactica. I didn't expect much from it when I first started watching, and the pilot/mini-series didn't wow me at all, but I was sucked in before I could sneeze and here I am, in awe over this odd little show.

Family Guy
I consider FG to be Smarter Than The Simpsons, and I know some of my Loyal Readers will Cry Foul over such a comparison. But it's just true. FG takes it farther than the Simpsons ever does, and just when you reach that point of annoyance, it takes it one step farther and you're laughing again.

Gilmore Girls
Lorelai, Lorelai, Lorelai!!! Why, why must you break my heart so? And Luke? What is going on in that crazy brain of yours? It's the last season for my Stars Hollow crew, and I am going to miss this show like crazy. But it's been a good run, and I've been there since the beginning. Let's just get these two together already!

Hm. Until that final episode, I was about done with this show. Not because it wasn't good, but because I got tired of the tease. I'm all for character development; most of the shows and books and comics I read are centered around it. But Lost was playing it a little too close to the chest, and I was getting frustrated. But now, four toes? Egad!

The Office
This show just gets better and better every episode, and if you aren't watching, then you must begin, forthwith. Trust me on this. I know good story when I see it.

If you can recommend any of the new shows, Dear Reader, then please, do that very thing. I'd like to know if I'm missing out on anything spectacular. As mentioned, I am very curious about Heroes, but I don't know if it's the superhero factor, or the Milo Ventimiglia factor. He's no Christian Bale (This Humble Author's Celebrity Swoon), but he's a good actor, and a cutie-pie of the highest order.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Holy Discontent, Batgirl!!

(Crisis of Infinite Feminisms, Part III)

"Same job, same employer means equal pay for men *and* women" - Batgirl

Mr. Reads found this promotional video from the Department of Labor and Wage the other day, Gentle Reader, and gave me the link for the express purpose of talking about it on Arrogant Self-Reliance. Some partners bring their spouses flowers, or candy, or perhaps, if very rich, new cars. This Humble Author gets neither flowers nor candy (and certainly not new cars!). What I *do* get? Vamped Angel Puppets, and Harley Quinn Barbie Dolls, and Fantastical Seventies' Feminist Agenda as seen through the eyes of Batgirl.

My husband, if I may be so bold, is the keenest.

The year is 1974, the Dynamic Duo is in trouble, and it's up to Batgirl to save the day. But will she save Batman and Robin in time? Will she receive equal pay? And what the heck's going on in 1974 to give Batgirl some initiative, anyhow? Let's examine the Feminist Timeline and see.

(The internet is ever-surprising, Dear Reader. This Humble Author typed "feminist timeline" into Google, and found an Honest to God feminist timeline!)

1972: Title IX goes into effect
1973: Roe vs. Wade protects women's right to choose
1974: Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur refuses to force pregnant women to take maternity leave, and The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission bans AT&T's discriminatory practices

Many, many exciting events, including, it seems, the Department of Labor and Wage stepping up to the plate and reminding everyone, Batmans or no, that women deserve the same pay as men for the same job.

What do we see now, 32 years later?

One Batgirl is Oracle; the other is "Evil." There have been 4 Robins, one of which was a woman. A new Batwoman is painting the town red. Oh, and women still make less than men.

As previously mentioned, Birds of Prey is one of my Favorite Books Of All Time. In fact, Oracle is one of my Favorite Characters Of All Time. In a tradition that demands I name all of my major electronics (This Humble Author types to you now on "Diana"), I named my laptop "Oracle." But it's not just Barbara's background as Batgirl that intrigues me, but rather, the very idea of what she's become.

In the same way that my field is dominated by women, so is computer science dominated by men. The Chronicle of Higher Education, that occasional Harbinger of Doom for the academic set, notes that "only 17 percent of undergraduate computer-science degrees were awarded to women in 2004, down from 19 percent in 2000." In a generation after Barbie's misogynist verbal faux pas, "Math is Hard!" we still see the trend of Men Are From Hard Sciences, Women Are From Liberal Arts.

But in this world in which men are more computer-compatible than women, we have that Hacker To End All Hackers, Oracle. Batman: The Animated Series plays her as Batgirl *and* a computer genius; Gail Simone has written her as the computer expert that defies the laws of, well, computers, again and again. She does things with a motherboard and modem that the Batboys could only dream about, and that's saying something right there.

What I've always found so fascinating about the Bat Family is the wealth of intelligence located there. None of the Batboys or girls is stupid. In fact, we're most likely looking at some of the smartest non-metas in the comic book universe. I believe that Bruce desires to surround himself with intelligent people, but I also believe that intelligent people are attracted to the Bat lifestyle because of the very challenges it poses. But Oracle fulfills a function for Batman that he himself cannot fill. Bruce does not seem as computer-literate as one would expect from The Dark Knight.

Perhaps it's the generational gap; Bruce grew up pre-home computers, after all, although he does have that rather fantastically large computer in the Batcave. And certainly, he cannot hack street lights and fight crime at the same time. But with Oracle, do we finally see an instance in which another non-meta is better at something than the greatest non-meta himself?

I don't believe that Bruce Wayne/Batman is written as a Mary Sue, particularly not now. Grant Morrison, et al are writing Batman with the very joy and complexity that I want to see in my comic book writers. But let's admit it: Bruce Wayne is damn good at everything he does. Seducing the ladies, making money, saving the day, brooding (let us not forget the brooding!), he does it all and he does it well. But he couldn't do the things that Oracle could. Her kung fu is the strongest, and more importantly, *he knows it*.

The Department of Labor and Wages promo ends with the following questions:
"Will Batgirl save the Dynamic Duo? Will she get equal pay?"

It's been 32 years in the making, Batgirl, but you've gotten your equal pay after all: you are the head of a team of crime fighters, the same as Robin and the Teen Titans (or The Outsiders, whichever Robin we decide to choose!). But more importantly, you've gotten a version of A Book of One's Own in Birds of Prey. Shakespeare's Sister would indeed be proud. Let's not lose sight of all the aspects that make a superhero great: strength, tangible or intangible power, and intelligence.

Babs is a superhero, and This Humble Author thinks she's a better superhero as Oracle than she was as Batgirl. At the end of the day, Oracle is the better story.

And, of course, she defies the "Men Are From Hard Sciences, Women Are From Liberal Arts" bias we see in college graduates today. And anytime a character defies a stereotype or bias, This Humble Author feels the need to sit up and shout, "huzzah!"


Friday, September 01, 2006

The Cult of the "Spontaneous Genius" Myth

"I can't write five words but that I change seven." - Dorothy Parker

I am taking a much-needed break from The Dissertation, Gentle Reader, on which I have worked all morning long. I believe, in fact, that I have made A Breakthrough on this chapter, which has been a long while in the making. I passed my preliminary exams in April 2005, but due to two very time-consuming professional obligations Fall 2005 (which, to be fair, were excellent and necessary and quite career-changing), I feel as if I am a semester behind in my personal writing schedule. There is a chapter in the docket, and another that *shall* be finished at the end of September. After that, there are three more chapters to go.

I am a Reader and a Writer, Friends, by profession, by degree, by career choice, and, most importantly, by personal desire. It sometimes baffles me that I will be *paid*, yes, *paid* to read and write about books for The Rest Of My Natural Life, granted, of course, that I get A Job when I am On The Market. If that fails, Mr. Reads and I will put the puppy to work and turn her into a bitter Puppy Star who will emancipate herself somewhere around her 16th birthday, and forever blame us for stealing her puppy childhood away.

Hopefully, we never have to resort to such tragic and traumatic circumstances.

But in rewriting and rewriting this current chapter, I began to consider the very act of writing in our lives. There was a time, pre-prelims, during which I wrote Every Day. I woke up, made iced coffee, sat down at the computer and churned out 1 page, or 4 pages, or, on very good days, 12-15 pages in an hour or two. Then I would break, work on school work or work work or any other thing I needed to work on in the world. I am trying, desperately, to return to that schedule, and this blog, this odd little blog, feels like my way back in.

The World Of Writing is not a mysterious and mystical realm although we often feel that way about it. It is, quite simply, the result of lots and lots of work. I often tell my students that there is no secret to writing well; all it takes is lots of practice to do it. My idea of practice includes both reading *and* writing and so often, we, the World At Large, want to do neither.

One of the greatest travesties ever perpetuated on the World At Large is the idea of spontaneous genius. This idea argues that if we sit back and wait, Genius, or Inspiration, will strike us and we will write A Masterpiece.

What utter balderdash.

Gentle Reader, who was it who said, "Yes, I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired at 9:00 every morning"? Darling Google is offering me various authors for the same quote. Regardless of the author, we must look at the sentiment because the sentiment, yes, the sentiment is Absolutely True.

Let's look to the idea of spontaneous genius. I have heard people, have heard my *friends* argue again and again that they write "when inspired." That "inspiration has hit!" Dear Reader, I must confess to you that I, too, once expressed such naïve statements as well. But what is "inspiration" but the reiteration of thought, the plotting out of a problem over and over again until we work towards a viable resolution?

In short, inspiration is nothing but the sudden realization of hours and days and weeks of continuous thought about one problem.

The dissertation chapter I'm currently working on, as previously mentioned, has given me fits over the past two months. The previous chapter, if I may be less than modest for a moment, is actually Quite Good. No, no, Dear Reader, I am not the only one saying this. The Director has said such marvelous things Herself! If my first chapter can be so good, then the second chapter must be even better, and even easier to write, yes?

No. No, no, no, no, no.

I have stared at the computer screen for an hour at a time, typing only a few sentences. I have written five pages, but then changed seven (gratitude, Ms. Parker). I have, in fact, screamed, deleted, cried, whimpered and butted my head against a wall in response to this travesty of the written word.

Until today.

Did spontaneous genius strike? Am I a recipient of that very thing I scorned? Did My Muse glide down gracefully from the Heavens to bless me with An Idea?

Heck no.

I have slaved, yes *slaved* over this problem for weeks now. I have forced myself to write because I needed to produce something, anything, to drain the muck and gunk out of my brain and let the Smart Words Flow. And in the shower, that very place where spontaneous genius often rears its mythical little head, I finally came up with A Solution To My Problem.

Not because of inspiration. But because of work.

The World At Large still believes in the mythology of the writer brought on, I believe, by the cult of genius surrounding such peoples as Thoreau and Whitman. If we lock ourselves in a cabin near a lake, we will be Inspired. If we lock ourselves in a house, a la Emily Dickinson, we will produce such wonderful words that a hundred years after her death, we still marvel. It's simply Not True. Edgar Allan Poe was not the broody, tragic genius we picture him as. No, no, Friends, he was A Writer By Trade. And he wrote. All the damn time.

At a party several years back, I sat next to two people discussing the Novel Without A Hero and its recent film version. Understand, Gentle Reader, that Vanity Fair is one of my Favorite Books Of All Time. Understand that I am writing an entire chapter of The Dissertation on it, that The Dissertation Itself was inspired (how I hesitate to use that word!) by the very novel of which I speak.

To wit, I know it, Friends. Backwards and forwards.

Victorian novels are quite long. So long, in fact, that This Humble Author jokes that instead of Victorian Novels, she should have specialized in, say, Modernist Poetry. The Penguin Edition of Vanity Fair itself is 797 pages. As Thackeray was a Professional Writer, he wrote, I'm sure, every day. He wrote, and revised, and crafted, and sweated, and perhaps cried and hit *his* head on the wall, repeatedly, in an effort to get rid of that idea of inspiration and make something else come out.

But still, despite all of these examples of which some *have* to be true, This Humble Author heard those two partygoers say, paraphrased, "I dunno. I read it, but it seemed like he just gave up at the end. That he just tacked on some ending just to finish the book."

Dear Reader, I fell on the floor in shock.

First came anger. How *dare* they? How *dare they* desecrate a beautiful and funny and wonderful book with such an asinine, bizarre statement? Then came self-righteousness. I wanted to smack Said Partygoers in their big, fat heads. Then came restraint helped mostly by My Dear Friend MGB over at Separation of Spheres, who held me back from doing that very thing to their big, fat heads.

Then came sadness. And finally acceptance.

There are people in this world who are so ignorant of the writing process that they believe, actually *believe* that a wonderful writer like Thackeray would just "give up" at the end of his beautifully crafted novel because he got tired. Or hit a deadline. Or, perhaps, was bleeding from the head after hitting said head against the wall repeatedly. How did this *happen*? How have we divorced ourselves so much from the very act of writing that we could actually consider a writer would just give up at the end?

Mr. Reads, who is a Degree-Carting and Published Poet and therefore An Honest To God Writer, reminds me, and reminds me often, that works are never finished; they are just abandoned. Gentle Reader, you see the difference, yes? How a writer can revise and revise and revise until she is bleeding both from the head and the heart, but the novel, or poem, or dissertation, will never be perfect? Not once in that statement is the idea of giving up because of deadline or boredom or hospital visit to fix said head. No, it's more the suggestion that we parents of works let our babies go off in the world, alone and exposed, and we sit back in the car and cry over the loss of something innocent and pure. It's the suggestion that eventually there comes a time when we just have to let go.

I have let go of my work again and again. I have exposed it to the harsh, ugly light of judgment. Sometimes, it has been found worthy; more often than not, it has been found wanting. But each time is a heartbreak. Each attempted selling of The Novel or each revelation of The Dissertation is a loss of a little piece of me. Each poem read at a slam, each blog entry posted to the internet, is not a window but a peephole into the very processes of me. I am a Writer, and therefore my job requires heartbreak on a daily basis.

But mostly, and most importantly, it requires work. Lots and lots of work. And it is time, Friends, to return to that very thing.

I bid you adieu for now, Gentle Reader, for I must continue to sort out this dissertation quandary. But as I am not only a Reader and Writer but also a Teacher Of Reading And Writing, I leave you with a homework assignment:

Write something this weekend. Write anything at all, and then let it go somewhere to be Read. Hopefully, you will find it in your heartbreak to let it come to me.

Because despite the heartbreak, despite the anxiety and the bills and the tiny little holes in me, I absolutely love what I do.