Roxane Gay at Community Bookstore, 5/6/14
"It’s hard not to feel humorless as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away."
"I want characters to do the things I am afraid to do for fear of making myself more unlikable than I may already be. I want characters to be the most honest of all things — human."
Roxane Gay on the importance of unlikeable female protagonists at BuzzFeed Books, Not Here to Make Friends (via housingworksbookstore)
"I watched the first few seasons of The Biggest Loser avidly. The show offered the ultimate fat girl fantasy—go to a “ranch” for a few months, and under the pressure of intense personal trainers, low caloric intake, the manipulations of reality show producers and the constant surveillance of television cameras, lose the weight you’ve never been able to lose on your own."

"It’s hard not to feel humorless as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.”
— Roxane Gay, Ph.D.
"What Gabby Bess captures with her words is the beauty of a fragile time and place. In this collection, she evokes what it means to be young, to be a woman, to have both feet firmly planted both in this world and the virtual. She asks fascinating questions like, ‘Is anyone moved by the plainness of raw skin anymore?’ She makes you trust she has the necessary answers with intelligence and confidence. In this book, Bess builds an identity for herself and tears it down and builds herself anew. It is breathtaking to behold."
Roxane Gay re Alone With Other People  (via seemstween)
10 Classic Essays

As chosen by Molly McArdle

We asked Molly McArdle, writer, editor, avid reader, reviewer, and the brains behind the excellent Library Journal and The Rumpus tumblrs to pick ten favourites essays. This is what she chose:

“Atchafalaya” by John McPhee - This essay changed the way I felt about essays. I have always loved the form: it’s capacity for loopiness, it’s friendliness to digression, the space it made for beautiful language. But here, McPhee proves that the essay can do so much more: it can build worlds.

“Mister Lytle” by John Jeremiah Sullivan - There was a time in which I worked at a job that did not require me to do very much at all, and so I spent my time, tucked away in a tiny corner cubicle, reading. I cried when I read this, and my coworkers thought something terrible had happened to me, but it was just Mister Lytle, raccoon’s sharpened bone-penis and all. John Jeremiah Sullivan writes about the South like a native who’s stricken by amnesia: he has no shortage of not only familiar affection but also bewilderment, even wonder.

“What We Hunger For” by Roxane Gay - I’ve been reading Roxane Gay since she took on the overwhelming whiteness of the Best American Short Stories series in 2010 over at HTML Giant. (She was, delightfully, included in this past year’s edition.) However, this essay—one, if you follow Roxane’s work, you’ve probably read too—was a game changer. There are lines that when I reread them give me goosebumps. “Sometimes, when you least expect it, you become the girl in the woods” and “You think you are alone until you find books about girls like you.” How many girls thought they were alone until they found an essay like this one?

“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed - I am a member of the church of Sugar. I regularly quote her in long, tough, sad conversations with my friends; and they quote her back at me. This essay of her’s is one of the most important to me. (Little surprise: I have seen it make a whole room full of young women weep.) Everything in it, from “Stop worrying about whether you’re fat” to “Be brave enough to break your own heart,” from “Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet” to, especially, “Acceptance is a small, quiet room” speaks plainly and bravely and with heart. There is really nothing else like it.

“The Unlikely Influence of Dungeons & Dragons” by TNC - The reasons I love Ta-Nehisi Coates are too numerous to list here, but suffice it to say I’ve always felt he was a nerdy, inner-city kindred spirit: him reading the Monsters Manual in 1980s Baltimore, me reading Volo’s Guide to the Sword Coast in 1990s DC. I love this post (even though its really a transcript) in particular because he articulates what “high” and “low” culture have in common: beauty.

“The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf - I read this in high school and it remains one of my favorite things by Virginia Woolf. It is aggressively lovely, a kind of poem. “What he could do he did. Watching him, it seemed as if a fiber, very thin but pure, of the enormous energy of the world had been thrust into his frail and diminutive body. As often as he crossed the pane, I could fancy that a thread of vital light became visible. He was little or nothing but life.”

“Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences” by Mark Twain - There are few things in this world I love as much as a really (effectively) mean review, and this is perhaps the finest of the form. This take down of James Fenimore Cooper’s Deerslayer, which Mark Twain clearly loathed, is epic. “Personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others,” he explains, “this detail has often been overlooked” in Deerslayer.

“My Dungeon Shook” by James Baldwin - I love the love in this essay, the love and pain that seeps out of Baldwin’s letter: love for a brother, love for a nephew, pain for what the world has done to them, for what they have lost because of it. Here he says about his brother, “No one’s hand can wipe away those tears he sheds invisibly today which one hears in his laughter and in his speech and in his songs.”

“Chamber of Secrets: The Sorcery of Angela Carter” by Marina Werner - I love fairy tales, literary criticism, and sonorous, pulpy prose. This essay, about Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, has it all: “What reader does not explore with her these passages and woodland tracks? Who does not feel the Beast’s dark carriage like a hearse rumbling towards his eerily uninhabited domain? And who does not sense, through her powerful evocations, the pricking of thorns, the jaw-cracking stringiness of granny, the jangling of bed springs, the licking of a big cat’s tongue, the soft luxurious furs and velvets and skin, and the piercing contrasts with ice, glass, metal?”

“How Men Fight for Their Lives” by Saeed Jones - This is a story I first heard my friend Saeed tell at a party. He held the room with it, it tilted on his axis. It was supposed to be wild, something crazy and, because crazy, funny—but there was always this dark, unsettling thread running through it, even during his magnetic, hilarious jujitsu demonstration. Here the darkness is not a thread but the fabric. Who reading this hasn’t felt the same way, when Saeed says (my favorite line): “I need you to know that, in that unlit, wood-floored room, I was more interested in the story of my life than my life.”

Make sure you check out Molly’s site for stacks of great writng and reviews, or head to the Library Journal and The Rumpus tumblrs for all kinds of literary goodness.


The Year I Learned Everything

I felt like I was about to have the best night of my life so I took a deep breath and I jumped.
"In the wake of something terrible, I am generally stunned into silence. There is nothing to be said that can encompass the unfathomable—news of a pedophile football coach, news of pedophile priests, a bombing in a country far away, a mass shooting in a movie theater, a mass shooting at a high school, a mass shooting at an elementary school, a bombing at the finish line of a marathon, the final mile of which was dedicated to the victims of a mass shooting at an elementary school.

What wearies me is how often I have found myself stunned and silent in recent years. What especially wearies me is having such a finely honed vocabulary for tragedy."