13 January 2011

Out There

Some things of interest...

If you liked my recent column on Sexing the Body, evolutionary psychology, gender, etc., then you should really keep your eyes on the ongoing series of posts about sex science at the essential (though not essentialist) Echidne of the Snakes. Over the holidays, she read three books on the topic -- one I mentioned in my column, and have also praised before, Pink Brain, Blue Brain; but also two I haven't yet seen, Delusions of Gender and Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young. At the very least, read Echidne's first post of seven short conclusions reached after finishing the books. Great, great stuff.

And if you're curious to know more about this stuff, and Pink Brain, Blue Brain in particular, here's a lecture by its author, Lisa Eliot.

I was hoping Aaron Bady would respond to the New York Times article "In Sudan, a Colonial Curse Comes Up for a Vote", and lo and behold, my wishes came true: Invented Communities in Africa and America. Essential reading. Here's a taste:
One would never want to ignore the destructive effects the scramble for Africa had on Africans, and the last thing I want to do is downplay the extent to which contemporary African politics are organically related to that historical event. But history didn’t stop after that point, and this capsule account of the “colonial curse” relies on your being completely ignorant about almost all of it. The problem with colonization isn’t that Europeans drew up maps “with little concern for ethnic links,” and it isn’t true anyway. The problem is that Europeans drew up the maps they did with the intention of extracting as much in the way of labor and  resources as they could from Africans, and then did exactly that, often by quite carefully seeking to divide and conquer Africans by ethnicity.
The great and glorious Kelly Eskridge has many big ideas, but this week she got to write a Big Idea post at John Scalzi's place in conjunction with Small Beer press's re-release of her novel Solitaire.

Speaking of Small Beer Press, they're on a roll right now -- take a look at their current and upcoming books. Lots of excitement around Mumpsimus Central for Lydia Millet's forthcoming The Fires Beneath the Sea... And Karen Joy Fowler's What I Didn't See is a magnificent collection of stories -- elegantly designed, to boot.

Godard on the subject of e-books.

Jeff VanderMeer, Larry Nolen, Paul Charles Smith, and J.M. McDermott all recently wrote about Michael Cisco's latest novel, The Narrator. I haven't read or even seen a copy of The Narrator, but I've read some of Cisco's earlier work, and Jeff et al. are absolutely right -- he deserves a wider audience. I enjoyed reading all the posts, and especially liked Jeff's "Seven Views" because its form especially appealed to me.

The progressive passive: a peeve for the ages.

"Why All in the Family Still Matters" by Matt Zoller Seitz. My paternal grandmother loved All in the Family, so I remember watching it as a child with her. I've seen some episodes since, and as Seitz says, it's astounding how unimaginable such a show feels today -- it raises not only an appreciation for the writing and production, but raises a question: How did they ever get away with that?!

Have I mentioned the African Women in Cinema blog before? I don't know. I should have. But now's as good a time as any, because they have been running some fascinating interviews with women filmmakers, including Wanjiru Kinyanjui and Fatou Kandé Senghor.

Leviathan 5 news and a free PDF of Jeff VanderMeer's first nonfiction collection, Why Should I Cut Your Throat?.


  1. While I wholeheartedly agree that most of what is written about gender difference is nonsense, and I have a copy of Cordelia Fine's book waiting to be read so that I can skewer such nonsense more effectively, every time I see such a book come out my heart sinks.

    Most people are not good with nuance. They don't like the idea that something might be true in one way and false in another. So gender difference tends to be either "all biological" or "all social". And if it is all social then it is pretty obvious that trans people are either crazy or liars. What social conditioning must have done, social conditioning can obviously undo.

    So the great gender war continues. Bullets fly back and fore. Mostly they don't penetrate the armor of belief with which the troops of either side have equipped themselves. But if a few trans people get shot in the back along the way, hey, at least someone died, right? That must be a success.

  2. Matt, how very kind of you to point folks to The Big Idea and Solitaire. Many thanks!

    Now off to find Pink Brain, Blue Brain....

  3. Cheryl, I think your point that trans people often get left out of discussions of gender is entirely true and unfortunate, because the discussion is one that can be uncomfortable for people arguing for more socially constructed views of gender -- such people (of which I include myself) also tend to be the sort who at least want to think they are not prejudiced against trans people, but an awareness of the complexity such questions cause is, of course, vital. In a world where such tremendous violence is committed against the trans community, where legal recourses are less than for cisgendered folk, gender is not an academic question. Thank you for the reminder.