Posts by VIDA:
Art + Access at AWP: We’re Nobody, Who Are You?: A Response to the Panel “Numbers Trouble: Editors and Writers Speak to VIDA’s Count”
Claire Lawrence: I was the middle aged woman in the third row from the back, worried that her hair and glasses weren’t cool enough for the writer crowd anymore, worried that she’d never have a book like all the people she went to school with (two top-ranked writing programs), worried about the rapid passage of time marked so clearly in everyone’s faces each time she goes to AWP. I teach a four/ four load at a public university that wants me to care about assessing my students, not so much about teaching them anything. I have a ten-year-old, a five-year-old, and rapidly-becoming-dependent parents in another state. You could almost smell the desperation on me; sitting in that audience I was really feeling the competitiveness and AWP induced angst Steve Almond described in The New Republic.
Audrey Colombe: And I was the woman sitting next to her, marginally okay with how I looked, but desperate to get my stuff published just like CL (who I know from graduate school) while also failing miserably at a bunch of other things in life—like keeping up with my poet partner (she has a good job in another state, so we travel a lot) or my family (“Mom? Remember me?”) or friends (where did they all go?) and getting enough sleep with my 3/3 teaching load and too many committee assignments and my duties as a fiction editor at a lit mag. The editor-in-chief of the magazine is old-school—but I am loath to say anything because he is otherwise, and in most things, a very good man. He sometimes does not speak up in situations of obvious disparity, in the same way that I have sometimes been loathe to speak up about yet another incident of sexism at my university. To balance out, I constantly ask women to submit their work to our magazine.
CL: The VIDA panel at AWP was a discussion of the three counts. Since the first count, a few of the magazines are doing better, publishing more women. Some are the same, some are worse. The situation is not really improving. That’s what I got.
AC: Two men spoke first, editors of lit magazines we all know. The first, Don Bogen, pointed out that his numbers, according to his own count, are very good—like “equal.” The second, Stephen Corey, pointed out that his journal’s numbers were not good—he has been the editor for a very long time, and anyone who knows him or the journal would not be the least surprised. This editor also had some questions re: whether VIDA is really counting binders of…I mean numbers of women or numbers of pages written by women and etc. (The questions of this ilk Katha Pollitt dispensed with later and quickly.) I found this editor a perfect example of what the Vida numbers are all about.
CL: I was too mesmerized by his comb over to pay too much attention to him but I did feel as though he was up there as a bit of a straw man, and wanted to give him props in a weird way for doing that. But then a young woman journalist, E.J. Graff, spoke, and the point she made that resonated so clearly with me was that magazines would publish more women if more women wrote more, submitted more, were more aggressive about pushing their work and selling themselves to editors. And here’s the bone I keep choking on: you have to believe in yourself enough to make that push.
AC: Or somebody has to believe, right?
CL: Middle aged women and their concerns are often invisible, you know. I think that’s part of the socialization thing; we’re less decorative as we get older and therefore less valuable. There’s making art, and then there’s the act of asking someone to care that you made it. The second one is so much harder. Herein lie the silences. How do I believe that someone wants to hear what I have to say?
AC: I want to hear it, CL. And I think other women do, too.
CL: Why? Because we’re women? Friends? Writers? (Almond says the only people who read our work are other writers. Is our audience even more narrowed by gender?) How I answer that question can lead to a lot of self-silencing, a lot of writing stashed in the attic or stuck in a drawer.
AC: Or put out, sent out, returned, revised, put out again—really, “put out” as in put-out-of-its-misery works so much better in my case. When I pick up a magazine or look at favorite websites, I am always looking for what I don’t often find: work by women who are writing about thought and experiences—I’m thinking Amy Fusselman’s “8.” It’s rare.
CL: The women on the panel said act like the men. If someone gives you an assignment make the deadline no matter what. If you pitch someone an idea, don’t crawl away with your tail between your legs if they say no, be ready with three follow-up pitches. The woman bodybuilder I lift with always says “Grab your ladyballs,” if I say something looks too heavy. The VIDA panel was for me the writerly equivalent.
AC: I sat there listening to all of these panelists and felt that I wanted to start a magazine specifically for middle aged women so we could not hear about tedious Dos and Don’ts. When the two women on the panel who work successfully in the media (journalist, critic) insisted that women have to act differently, they reveal a blind side. For instance, saying that women need to be more available and grab the jobs they sometimes say no to—well, I suspect those women say no for two very good reasons: one, they are completely overbooked because they are already expected to do more than any man in their working sphere and, two, they refuse to say yes anyway and then disappoint someone they’ve already promised something to. Because we know those women are not saying no when they really do have the time and really can do a great job. They already know–other people already know–that they do a really great job. Over and over. Also, women might not persevere like men do when they’ve been told no or been rejected for many reasons, including:
The number of words frequently used to describe women who insist;
The number of people who find those words easy to use;
The number of doors that shut once a woman has been described using one of those words;
The ease with which people repeat those words and ideas;
The amount of work a woman must do in order to overcome, move past, prove wrong, rise above or otherwise undermine the undermining that has taken place as a result of one ‘insisting event.’
CL: Then Pollitt said, stop writing about the “girly” things. This bothers me on a few levels. Stephen Elliott made a great point in his post AWP Rumpus email: Column A is making art, Column B is selling it, and you shouldn’t let B interfere with the process of A. If I try to make art for the male dominated marketplace instead of making art about what’s important to me, if I self-marginalize, am I selling out?
AC: Yes, Katha Pollitt (I wanted to hear what Katha Pollitt would say) kinda bitched on younger woman. She complained that some “only want to write about dating and fashion and sex.” But perhaps we need to listen to, listen past, the middle aged woman from the audience (she had an accent—Australian?) who pointed out a problem in the categories used in discussion of men’s and women’s writing: “Why are childrearing, sex, the domestic sphere, and intimacy all considered one small category of subject matter? Isn’t that what most people do all day?” Those young women Katha Pollitt disparaged have had those things (sex, fashion, relationships) forced on them in very specific (meaning commercial) ways since day one. The young women who write, they also think. As a result of their socialization and thinking they’ve begun to realize some key things:
1) The socialization they have experienced was so limiting that their maps have few points of interest. They will have to create new points by bucking a system that wants them to stay in the box. We have to watch them fight their way out of the box—and assist when possible. I’m sorry, but we owe them that.
2) The young women are in big sad trouble if they want to remain heterosexual because the age-appropriate men available to them are not typically asking the questions that the young women are asking–the young men don’t have to. Nothing about the system encourages it. Even if the young men were lucky enough to have parents who tried to get them to think otherwise, the young men have been socialized (also in the commercial realm) to expect attention, pleasure, advantage, and women. The young men are not socialized to critique their own positions, to ask the young women questions, or to think about the things that young women are freaking out about. In fact, they are taught that this particular line of questioning is a dead end.
The young women are lonely.
The young women were lied to.
The young women have every right to be angry and a little goofy until they can figure out what to do with themselves, how much to fight, where to give in, what help is available.
Frankly, are young women today any more likely than their grandmothers to have a satisfying sex life? Intimacy? A less stressful day?
CL: Yes, that woman who made the ‘categories’ statement was awesome. She had bright red hair and looked as though she had wrapped her whole body in a giant blue scarf. I heard her say that sex and dating and families are kind of the whole human experience, no? You want us to stop writing about that? I thought that was such a great point. I write about relationships (with my partner, my children, my family of origin) because they are the most important things that have happened to me.
AC: I never write about those things—at least not as they reflect my household directly. I’m protective. Sigh. Also, Cate Marvin got up and demanded that we do some things, too: like write or call the editors of the magazines and newspapers we buy and demand more articles by women, about women.
CL: What if, instead of seeing ourselves as in competition with each other we worked together, men and women, as a huge cultural force for art making?
CL: At her reading, Cheryl Strayed called us a tribe. What if we acted that way, collectively not individually?
AC: Oh, this scares me a little bit, because I’m not sure women did very well in tribes, either. Although I did visit the public home of a tribe in Ghana where they explained an interesting structure. There was one powerful woman in the tribal hierarchy who was not the queen—it wasn’t family held, the power—and she got to choose the head man and she was the only one who could get rid of him. She was chosen by a group of men, however. And then she could never be replaced, so they had to choose carefully. They also had a position in the tribe called a messenger—he told the people what the king wanted, had decided, etc. The thing was, if the people didn’t like it, they would kill the messenger. (Yes, this is where the saying comes from.) And here’s the rub: the chief and the councils and that woman at the top would know when they should probably adjust their choices because the people had killed the messenger—they would get the message, so to speak. It went both ways. The job of messenger was appointed—you were told you were it. And the thing is, you also knew that you better talk really, really carefully—to everyone–if you wanted to live. They had a postcard picture of one of these messengers from the mid twentieth century. What a scary looking dude. I sent it to my dean.
CL: Point taken. At least the part about the women and the tribes. Not sure about the messenger part. Does anyone care enough about what we have to say to kill us?
CL: Remember, we’re nobody.
CL: The day after I got home I kept thinking about my responsibility to young women, both as colleague and as teacher – that’s the thing everybody seems to forget about AWP – most of us teach at universities as well and therefore do have some influence about the direction of our culture. Anyway, I bought this little tin of “Empowermints” (with Rosie the Riveter on the top) and as I walked around campus I gave one to a woman every time I heard her express a lack of confidence or silence herself.
AC: How could you tell when someone was doing that?
CL: Two of my female students were saying how much they dreaded oral presentations because everyone would be looking at them. But then I just started giving the mints to all of the women I liked. I think everybody thought I was a little crazy but eventually they got it – every gal could use a little empowerment, no?
AC: I went home and powerwashed the house.
CL: What a metaphor.
AC: And in defense of AWP (Steve Almond gets enough attention–I don’t understand why the hatin’), I did restructure a major writing project (after listening to several panels on novel writing) and got two new short stories started, and bought some books that are completely, it turns out, incredible—not your Barnes and Noble usual.
CL: I guess I’m still on my tribe kick. The AWP conference brings 12,000 writers together every year. (That’s 6,000 more people than live in my small town, by the way.)
AC: I agree it’s intimidating.
CL: But, let’s say the women and some enlightened men start working together. Couldn’t we still get something done in a culture that largely ignores us artists? It seems so, well, linear to see all the writers as a competitive pyramidal pecking order (though I do admit to getting drunk and dreaming a little of fame). And, again, it can make you clam up really fast. As in I’m not one of the A-list so why bother.
AC: I’m always bothering—I never stop writing, I don’t know why. I try not to feel the weight of rejection, because ultimately I’m the one who has to measure what I do. My inner critic is perfectly capable! As I washed the house, I pondered a few possible titles to my new magazine. Freak Out? Middle Age? Middle Age Freak Out?
CL: I still think the magazine should be called “Ladyballs.” But I want to get back to the point of why I wanted to have this conversation with you. What we decided after sitting together in the panel is that we needed more hustle, like Almond and Elliott (who I totally admire for the way they put themselves out there, which might be why I keep mentioning them). But they’re guys; let’s say it’s a little harder for us as women to feel we deserve to be read, listened to, whatever. The answer is what we’re doing right now: collaboration. Encouragement. It’s so much easier to try and think of getting someone to publish this strange little essayish thing when it’s both of us doing it together. I also really loved the idea we had of emailing each other every Sunday evening about the week’s submissions: what have you sent out, where? Why aren’t you sending more? What if all the women who came to the panel (or even the whole conference) started to do that? I was talking to one of my younger female colleagues, a Virginia Woolf scholar, about all of this and she said what we need is no longer 500 pounds and a room of our own but a common room. A place for exchange (ideas, art, influence, whatever).
AC: Men and women, sure—I have less energy towards talking the guys into anything new. The women, I’m totally there. Let’s go. Every woman has a Sunday evening. Near the end of the panel, someone reminded the audience of the Audre Lorde comment, “Your silence will not protect you.” So true. I’m writing and calling the editors of magazines, yes (I’ve done three so far). Of course I’ll continue sending my work out, trying new ways of saying what I consider important or interesting—and I hope I won’t be horrified if something connects, because I tend to write what’s less certain. (I do think critically about my own work, while I pressure myself to say something new, to not complain endlessly, to posit alternative structures and ways of thinking.) CL, your writing on your new daughter was some of the most real and important thinking on motherhood I’d ever read. Your un-complicated mother-in-laws as well. It’s many voices all at once to tell a story—this story about women writing women’s lives. If I have to talk myself into it another day, I can assume that you are doing the same. Sunday night it is.
CL: Let’s make some noise!
It reaches to the Fence -
It wraps it Rail by Rail
– Dickinson, “It sifts from Leaden Sieves”
London Review of Books
New York Review of Books
New York Times Book Review
The New Yorker
The Paris Review
The Threepenny Review
Times Literary Supplement
London Review of Books
The New Yorker
The New York Review of Books
The New York Times Book Review
the Paris Review
The Threepenny Review
Times Literary Supplement
Carol Moldaw and Abigail DeWitt went to the same boarding school in Northern California a few years apart and then met at Harvard after a high school teacher suggested they look each other up. After college, their lives continued to overlap when both lived in Berkeley for a time before both moving back to the Boston/Cambridge area.
DeWitt has lived in western North Carolina since 1994 and is the author of two novels, Dogs and Lili. Moldaw has lived outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, since 1990 and has written five books of poetry, including The Lightning Field and So Late, So Soon: New and Selected Poems. The Widening is her first novel.
CAROL: When I look back on our early friendship, I remember a complete lack of competition, which was unusual at Harvard. Both of us knew when we entered college that we wanted to be writers, but we were a few years apart and I was focused on poetry while you were intent on fiction. I remember us both being very open with each other about our aspirations AND insecurities. I don’t know if you agree, but I think we also shared a certain diffidence and sense of being outsiders, attitudes perhaps honed by having gone to an ‘alternative’ school on the west coast and then moving east, into the heart of the establishment. I think all this is relevant not just because it gives a context to our conversation but because in both our books we strive to write about girls/women from a distinctly female perspective and our main characters, ‘smart bad girls,’ are both outsiders, not least because so much of their realities take place within their own heads.
In Dogs you write: “What other comfort is there between women than to say, yes, me, too, I have done that, too?” Was the idea of women revealing things to each other, things generally considered taboo, a motivation for writing Dogs?
ABIGAIL: Yes and no. What draws me to write is the hope of revealing what’s most hidden in the world. To do that, of course, I have to go into what’s most hidden in me, and to do that, I have to go into a dream-like state. So I never plan a novel or a story, in the same way that I never plan what I’m going to dream.
And I can’t really think about content or audience, or what taboos I may be breaking, because I worry to an almost pathological degree about what people think of me, and I live in a small, rural town. If I started thinking about audience, it would be all over. On the other hand, what’s more taboo than what’s hidden? So in that sense, absolutely—I write in hopes of sharing the unsayable with others.
I keep wondering if, for you, shifting from poetry to prose involved any breaking of a taboo? One of the things I love about The Widening is the way in which each chapter has the force and compression of a poem—and yet it’s very much a novel. I’d love to hear about your experience of turning from poetry to prose, and whether it made it easier to break the taboo of writing so intimately and directly about sex?
CAROL: Writing prose didn’t feel taboo to me, but it did feel daunting! Fortunately, the structure of discrete paragraphs, which felt like the best way to express the lack of continuity and sense of self the main character experiences, is very akin to the lyric strategy of isolating and highlighting singular moments. Having an episodic and disjunctive structure was in my comfort zone and it allowed me to foreground the character’s twinned preoccupations with sex and inner experience, which cause the rest of the world and life to exist only in the periphery of her consciousness.
I’ve written my fair share of erotic poetry, but have never written so directly and transgressively about sex (or anger or disappointment or humiliation) as I did in The Widening. My sense of the speaker of a poem being an “I” related to me can be restricting: my poetry doesn’t usually have that ironic distance of two not quite matched perspectives, which writing in the third person (or writing persona poems) allows. I found the narrator’s voice in The Widening—close to the character but not quite her, and not quite me, either—liberating.
Invention, especially of scene, was another discovery for me. In poetry, I’m often wedded to fact and to extrapolating meaning from it. Is it possible that invention itself, in fiction, is analogous to metaphor in poetry, that fiction writers invent characters and situations the way poets create metaphor?
ABIGAIL: Yes, absolutely, although I think many people don’t recognize novels as fiction unless the invention is very evident—unless it’s historical or crime fiction, or some kind of fantasy. But the point of fiction, the point of its invention, is not that it’s “make-believe”—the events may or may not have occurred in real life—it’s that the story—its shape and meaning—is separate and distinct from any events that may have triggered it, and the story is what matters. The story is the metaphor, and so, to a fiction writer, whether a story works as a revelation of the human condition is always more important than any facts.
One of the questions I get most often is “Why does Molly [the main character in Dogs] have sex with so many different people? Doesn’t she know better?” And I know they’re worried or appalled, thinking that since Molly and I are the same age and have lived in the same places, I must be Molly—I must have slept with more people than I can count. But the truth is, setting aside the question of my resemblance to Molly, the sex in Dogs is as much a metaphor for Molly’s longing and blindness as it is actually about sex. With one important exception, what leads her to sex isn’t passion or desire or any kind of awakening. Although she keeps her sex life hidden from her family, being promiscuous is her way of being the kind of girl her father, who respects only prostitutes, would be proud of. And it’s also—and this is just as important—her way of being kind to men who remind her of the brother her father bullied.
CAROL: There’s a wonderful sentence at the end of Dogs, where Molly reflects that she’s “grown up in the empty spaces of my father’s heart, taken shape from all that he was missing.” It’s interesting how the fictional fathers in both books shape our characters’ sexual acting out. Although the father in The Widening isn’t nearly such a presence as the father in Dogs, who is crucial and pivotal, there is a certain extent to which the girl in The Widening is motivated to prove that her father doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he tells her that “promiscuous people are unhappy.”
ABIGAIL: Yes, and I love the way your protagonist stands up to her parents. Molly’s desire for her father’s approval when she’s growing up is limitless: if her father had respected violinists instead of prostitutes, Molly would have played the violin until she collapsed in exhaustion. If her father had rhapsodized about fine food instead of praising prostitutes for their independence, she would have been a cook. But to return to the question of promiscuity and happiness, would you say more about the word itself, “promiscuous”–what it means to both you and your protagonist?
CAROL: It’s funny, I never think of the character as ‘standing up to’ her parents; I think of her as engaged in essentially a life-and-death struggle of self-definition as she seeks to differentiate from them. She’s very touchy about the word “promiscuous,” which is used a few times in the book: first (repeatedly) by the father in the beginning; and next, in the second half, by a psychiatrist she goes to only once in college. It is perhaps on the basis of the psychiatrist’s use of the word promiscuous to describe her that she decides not to go back. They argue over the word: she, insisting it is tainted, judgmental; he asserting it is “innocuous, neutral, factual,” and accusing her of defensiveness. It is an open question why she takes the word so hard, but I think it is because it implies not just multiple sexual partners and a moral laxity but a lack of discriminating judgment. She is committed to the idea of freedom and experience and multiplicity; she makes a distinction between cheating on someone and being alone and sleeping around. But she knows that she herself has in fact lacked judgment, which she sees simply as her imperfect execution of her philosophy and is leery of exposing or admitting. I myself do think the word, culturally—in practical usage if not by definition—more often than not implies a negative value judgment. In the book, the last usage of the word is in her friend’s poem, an image of the sky “promiscuous with stars,” which liberates the word.
I know that the word “promiscuous” has very different connotations for Molly; would you talk about what it means to her—and to you.
ABIGAIL: You know, for Molly, it’s a good word! Like “slut” which she and her friends proudly use to describe themselves. Besides Molly’s limitless desire to please her father,
she also wants to be like her older sister, who has many partners (though I suspect she has fewer than Molly in the end—I don’t know because I haven’t written her story, but I think if I did I’d discover that she only had a handful of partners in her life). Like a lot of youngest children, Molly has a confused notion about what her parents and older siblings are up to, but knows that to be “cool” she has to try to be like them. She has never heard anyone use “promiscuous” in a negative sense, and in her mind, having innumerable sexual partners means being immeasurably cool. That’s what I mean about her not really being interested in sex for its own sake—and yet the sexual component of Dogs has been a real live-wire for readers, and I don’t mean to be coy about the effect of using sex metaphorically. It has been a live wire both for its own sake and, as I said, for the concerns it raises about me.
CAROL: The fraught relationship between fiction and life that you bring up is new to me and I find it vexing, even intimidating. One reporter, a punk-looking woman in her 30s who interviewed me for a local paper, shocked me by saying that if she thought I had the experiences of the girl in The Widening, she could never look at me the same way again. Some of the incidents in The Widening are culled and fashioned (a crucial distinction) from ‘life’ and others imaginatively grow out of those. One wants to have it both ways, to use life and deny an identification with lived life: sometimes it feels fraudulent to insist on the fictional distance that there is between me and the protagonist, but it is equally fraudulent to equate us. A man who knew me when I was the age of my protagonist wrote me that he “hoped that not too much of the protagonist’s pain . . . was mine.” I found that moving and thought-provoking—unlike the reporter’s comment!—and it brought me to what seems like a bottom line: the writing of that novel did originate from an enormous amount of unresolved pain and that pain is what is most importantly autobiographical. It’s also the pain–and the protagonist’s obliviousness to it, in herself and others –that makes me most uncomfortable, naked feeling and vulnerable, more than her behavior.
ABIGAIL: Oh, I would say the same thing. The pain in Dogs is absolutely autobiographical, as are Molly’s emotional blind spots, and they do make me feel vulnerable. Now that the book is out, I don’t care so much that many people think the events are autobiographical—though that would have stymied me while I was writing it—but it’s hard for me when people judge Molly harshly because her heart is my heart. It’s hard for me when any of my characters are judged harshly, because they’re all versions of me, whether or not their life stories bear any resemblance to mine. Everything I write comes down to the same story, really—the longing for love, the absence of love, and mercy—and those are, of course, my central preoccupations.
CAROL: Was it a difficult choice to write in the first person, which seemed to me a bold decision?
ABIGAIL: Well, I mentioned that writing is like dreaming for me, but it’s also like acting. When I write, I become my characters, which satisfies a lot of the same needs that acting did in high school. The first person doesn’t feel more exposed to me than the third person—the separation/connection between me and my characters is the same. I am always both the author directing things and the character suffering them—an admission which led, in one book club discussion, to a horrified reaction from the audience: “You become those characters??” It made me laugh—it seems that any connection I might admit to with my characters—either that they’re based on me or that I enter into their psyches or even just that I love them—is disturbing. But how could I write about them if they weren’t deeply compelling to me?
CAROL: I think by definition writing involves a double consciousness; the very weighing of words against what is inchoate that wants to be developed involves a moving back and forth between roles. Some writing disguises this, some highlights it, but it’s always an intricate process.
It took me quite awhile to find the form and the voice of The Widening, but once I did it allowed me into the character’s mind-set, saw me through the book’s first half, and was there again for me when I picked it up to write the second half years later. Using the third person was important to the book’s development. I knew that given the subject matter it would be confused with memoir, no matter how it was structured, but I’m still surprised and uncomfortable when it is misread as a kind of diary, as if it’s the journal her mother reads.
A memoir or a diary would look like something else entirely. Even a fictional memory would look like something.
ABIGAIL: What do you love best about your protagonist?
CAROL: God, what do I love about her? I suppose her vulnerability and naïveté, the things that also make me most uncomfortable. I love that she’s a blossoming writer, though I’m embarrassed that I made her one, as it’s so close to home.
I hope the book evinces a little more wisdom than its protagonist does, more ironic perspective. There’s so much that she, like Molly, doesn’t understand. I’m thinking of when Molly says “I didn’t know how to talk to men in any neutral matter-of-fact way.” Both Molly and the girl in The Widening are so conscious of the sexual potential of any encounter that they are virtually and sometimes comically incapable of interacting with boys and men without sexualizing a situation. But at the same time, Molly worries that she “won’t feel what everyone else does.” My character also has a preoccupation with “feeling too much” versus ‘feeling too little.” It seems to me that these difficulties are related, that the girls (before Molly becomes a woman) have almost too much sensibility to balance or handle. I think this is a real problem for many girls, particularly girls who are sensitive and know they are sexualized by others—they act out, bring to the table, what others are able to repress.
I’m interested in the idea of girls using sex and sexuality to express or act out ideas about life and society, which is what both our characters implicitly do. My character wants to be free, in the sense of being liberated from her emotions. She’s trying to find herself by trying to escape herself; she has an idea that nothing can harm the essential self if you learn from (observe) your experience. It’s an idea of invulnerability at the moments when she makes herself most vulnerable, and she finds it tough going.
ABIGAIL: I do think it’s so interesting that both our characters worry about how much they’re feeling or not feeling sexually, how, as you say, they have “too much sensibility to balance or handle.” Both are such keen observers of their own thoughts and emotions, even as they fail to understand themselves. I’m fascinated by the tension between adolescent unconsciousness and consciousness (a tension, of course, that exists our whole lives!), and all of this—questions about the life examined and the life concealed—leads me to your character’s relationship to her writing. The scenes with her mother around her journal—both the initial violation and then the equally horrifying gift of the new journal—are so powerful, and seem to me every bit as central to the novel as the character’s sexual awakening and exploration.
CAROL: The thread of redemption running through the novel is definitely the protagonist’s slowly developing and strengthening vision of herself as a writer. It is her conduit to self-understanding, and to seeing herself as more than a sexualized being while at the same time accepting her sexual self. Writing is, among other things, an act of assertion.
I agree with you that the mother’s reading of the diary is central to the story. Many people have found it the greatest act of betrayal in the novel (though some mothers have said they would have done the same thing ‘to find out what was going on with their daughter’). There is also the further betrayal of her not revealing (while they are traveling) what she has done. In any case, the mother’s act somewhat mirrors the daughter’s willful behavior and becomes the biggest roadblock in her development as a writer, which means it ultimately is what strengthens her.
ABIGAIL: Do you think there’s a connection between sex and writing?
CAROL: Oh, that’s loaded! They’re both liminal experiences for me, altered states, and I do think that my conscious directive mind can get in the way of either one, but that when it doesn’t there is such a sublime feeling with each. I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes sex elicits from me the desire to write–right then–certain little phrases pop up and I’m torn between getting my notebook out or just trying to remember them for later or just letting them go. I also think that both writing and sex took me a longer time to grow into than I expected or than I was ready to admit to: I wanted each to flow more naturally, more easily than either did.
How about for you? And I’m also wondering what you love best about Molly?
ABIGAIL: All creative acts—all truly vulnerable acts—are pretty much the same for me, I think. My mind gets in the way, and surrender is everything. Sex, meditation, writing, any kind of genuine intimacy, acting–in all of them, I am so naked and exposed.
What I love most about Molly and her brother, Ted, too—what drew me to their characters—is that (like dogs) they haven’t learned to “properly” cover themselves or their innocence.
CAROL: “Raw” is a word you often use to describe both Ted and Molly, especially when they’re young. I’d love to know more about what that word means to you.
ABIGAIL: I associate it with nakedness—anything in its original state, before it has been made presentable or palatable. I forget that “rawness” is most often associated with harshness and violence—something ugly. But extreme innocence isn’t pretty.
I’ve always been drawn to transitional states of being: the process of birth, the process of death, and adolescence. I think our innocence is most revealed when we’re disoriented, whether because we’re half-child, half-adult; or half in this world and half in the realm beyond. But acne-covered teenagers, wrinkled newborns, the nearly dead—none of them are pretty, though they’re all wildly gorgeous.
One of the scenes that struck me most powerfully in The Widening was the scene when the character touches herself and has her first orgasm. The first time I read it, it made me uncomfortable, which is funny, because Molly’s earliest sexual feelings are for a dog—but when I read it again, it seemed one of the strongest scenes in the book, and it occurred to me that a lot of the sex that’s all around us in the popular media and even in some very literary books isn’t especially naked, or even meant to be. I was reading a wonderful Aimee Bender story the other day in which a librarian has sex with 6 men in one day, but the point of the sex is that it’s dissociative, and so, even when the librarian asks to be fucked like a dog and Bender describes the penis ramming inside her, I don’t know that readers would be embarrassed.
I’m curious whether you agree that true nakedness makes people more uncomfortable than the simple mechanics of intercourse, and also if there were parts of my book that made you uneasy at first. (Or still!)
CAROL: Maybe it is the vulnerability that makes people uncomfortable; I think it is also the lack of authorial censure, that there are no overt negative consequences to their actions.
What made me most uneasy in Dogs was Molly’s unflinching and unquestioning love for her father most of the way through the book, when I, as a reader, disliked him from the beginning, a response I assume was intentionally designed! That disparity between what you had the reader see and what Molly saw—her inability to see him—made me very uncomfortable.
ABIGAIL: Oh, yes, I can see that that might make a reader squirm! Until the end of the book, Molly is utterly blinded by her own desire for her father’s love and attention, as well as by the high esteem he’s held in.
I’ve asked you what you loved most about your protagonist—what do you love most about the novel itself?
CAROL: I love the way the concision, metaphoric thinking and precision of poetry flowed over into my prose. The writing of it had many phases and was a difficult pleasure, a challenge, and on a micro-level I’m very proud of it, with a poet’s pride: I think it reads well.
I’m pleased that it is an honest and nuanced attempt to imaginatively enter into a young woman’s unresolved and messy experience of her early sexuality, and to write in a head-on way, without apology, reservations or rationalizing explanations, about the vulnerability, irresponsibility and sense of lostness which that can imply. It would be (is) easy for me to become self-conscious about the book’s pre-occupations, but I firmly believe they’re important. There’s a line in the very first chapter—“nothing and no one had prepared her”—and I’ve always thought that was key: that the whole book can be read as an extrapolation of what can happen, positively as well as negatively, with often the two mixed together, when a girl comes of age without any clue or cultural support. I love how closely the book is able to hew to the girl’s point of view and to express her observations, insights and feelings, without being absolutely identical to her. I’m disturbed that the subject matter seems to overwhelm the response to it and I worry that it’s too ‘sincere’ with no filter, or what seems to many readers, no filter, but as Boris Pasternak wrote to Marina Tsvetayeva (this is from Letters: Summer 1926), “a book is nothing but a cube of hot, smoking conscience.” I like that, and hope that’s what The Widening ultimately is.
Will you talk more about dogs and how you see them? I loved that you named your novel that.
ABIGAIL: Oh, that’s perfect—the “cube of hot, smoking conscience.” I think it describes The Widening exactly.
About my title, I couldn’t imagine calling it anything else, though it has disappointed a lot of dog lovers who thought they were going to read a feel good novel about canines. Dogs mean so many things to me. Throughout my life, I’ve had these pitiful dogs, who have been abused, who are desperate in their seeking of love, and totally blind to the irritation they trigger in a lot of people. Dogs who just follow people around no matter what. So there’s that. And when I was a pre-teen, before I had braces, boys used to say I was a dog, and my father used to say the world was “going to the dogs,” so all of that is in there, too. But really, when I think of dogs, I think of a Rumi quotation about how a pack of dogs howling for God is God’s answer to the dogs. The longing for love, or for God, IS love, is God. Beckett has been a huge influence on me and I see in his characters’ disbelief a tremendous longing, and in that longing, that absence, a definition of what is longed for. When Molly talks about having grown up in the empty spaces of her father’s heart, and being the negative of him–that’s what I mean. His absent heart defines the shape of hers– her longing for what is not there in him defines love–in the way that a dog’s howling defines the shape of the thing it longs for. So bleakness defines its opposite. And in coming to that, Molly comes to a recognition that a dog who follows everyone around is not pitiful–that love that vulnerability is really a great and good thing.
As far as the subject matter overwhelming the response goes, I think you’ve nailed it for both of us, and that’s what breaks my heart somehow. I find myself so often defending Molly’s promiscuity—along with her cigarette smoking! (As if people might suffer from second-hand smoke by reading about her.)
But when you mention the absence of filters, the sincerity, in The Widening, that–along with the language–is precisely its triumph, as I see it! So maybe the squirmy responses we’ve gotten are good. Maybe they are an indication of being at the bone.
Do you think people would respond to these novels much differently if the protagonists had been boys? Or maybe a better way to put it is, how different would these characters be if they had been born male?
CAROL: I think both characters could only be female, that their issues and concerns and very beings are absolutely, within the context of our society, female. I partially modeled The Widening on the picaresque tradition, and certainly people respond differently to those protagonists, even when they are cads!
The girl in The Widening wants to have the freedom to express herself as freely as she imagines boys do, and as nonchalantly, but when she comes close to this—“like a man she never wanted to see him again”—is when she feels that she has betrayed herself by not paying attention to her actual feelings–to her nature. She always has a sense, which I think is culturally at least very female, of compulsion–of being compelled–to finish something she has supposedly or actually started. (Was there anything worse than being known as a cock-tease?) There is no room for indecision, for changing her mind, as she finds out on an isolated road near Leon in the 1st half of the book. Molly too is more concerned about men’s feelings than her own, and I found myself thinking of her as a temple prostitute, a tradition that existed in India of women who gave men sexual favors in the temple as a sacred act. But the problem for both of the characters is the problem of self-knowledge.
ABIGAIL: Which is why your protagonist’s evolution as a writer, and Molly’s backward-looking narrative, are so important, I think. They allow the characters to make sense of what they have lived. And though the moralistic responses we’ve received are baffling, I know we’ve both heard from lots of women that they identified with our characters and were really grateful for the novels’ insights. It’s so easy for me to zero in on and become obsessed with discouraging responses, but ultimately I think it’s more important to attend to the positive ones.
CAROL: One woman remarked to me that ‘I’d written everything she had tried to forget’!—a kind of compliment, I guess. The review that angered me the most was a short paragraph that dismissed it as ‘a book that has as many lovers as short chapters,’ or something like that. As if it were a catalogue of lovers, and not a story with pain and growth and insight and even, a bit, catharsis. After I finished it, it occurred to me that college women might relate to it, that it might even be appropriate for women’s studies literature courses, because of the way it deals head-on with emerging female sexuality and cultural norms. But I think what might limit it from being perceived the way I saw it is in the book’s very structure: neither the character nor the narrator make any sweeping claims—the girl never pronounces that she is trying to live as if there is no double standard, that she is trying to create a standard of behavior out of whole-cloth, even though that is what she is in essence doing. I think the fact that her experience isn’t altogether positive is also out of sync with the so-called hook-up culture.
Tell me what you love most about your novel–that would be a positive note on which to end.
ABIGAIL: What I love most about my novel is the central problem it tries to solve: Molly’s love for her father. I really understand how that love could make someone uncomfortable—it was definitely the hardest thing to write, and it may be that I love it the most because it gave me such trouble! It was important to me that her father not have redeeming qualities that would “justify” her love, or soften the difficulty of her reckoning with that love. At the beginning, Molly feels guilty for loving someone who has done so much harm—as if loving him implicated her in his crimes. She reviews her whole life, starting with the early years when she was actually blind to his true nature and just trying to win his approval, through her discovery of who and what he was and her attempts to distance herself from him, and on through to the end, when she refuses to go into the room where he’s dying. But all of those attempts are balanced against her inability to close her own heart, and so, whether she’s in the room with him or not, she struggles with the shame of loving him. On some level, she will always be the child adoring her father and so, because she can’t loathe or punish him, she loathes and punishes herself. Ultimately—and this, for me, is the redemption in the novel—she recognizes that the way she loves people, even those who don’t deserve it, is a good thing—that the point is not whether or not the object of one’s love is deserving, the point is that one loves. It’s like the notion—a notion I very much believe in—that the death penalty is bad not only because it kills people, but because it makes murderers of us all: so love is good not only or not necessarily because of its effect on the beloved, but because it redeems the one who loves. Molly is a person who loves, and in that she is like a dog—no longer in the “pitiful” sense of being willing to take abuse, but in the sense of loving instinctually. And she can see, at the end—or she’s starting to see—that that’s a good thing. That’s what I love best about the book.
I also really liked being inside Molly’s profane, seeking, sometimes funny voice—my favorite line from a review was from Library Journal: “Who knew that a “bad girl” could be so innocent, so smart, so complex?” That made me feel like I’d written the book I wanted to write, because I’ve always been moved by the innocence of so-called bad girls—the almost virginal quality of girls who have hundreds of one-night stands. I am most moved by my characters’ contradictions—and I would have to say that that’s what excites me most about being alive in the world: all the contradictions of the human condition.
CAROL: The Widening kind of leaves its protagonist hanging on the verge of self-acceptance, but in Dogs Molly’s acceptance of her loving nature, her embrace of it as essential and positive, is an immensely redemptive vision, all the more moving for the intensity of her struggle. I love that phrase, “the innocence of so-called bad girls”—it about sums it all up.
In a culture saturated with top-ten lists of everything from books to bikes to baby names — what can we do to right the gender imbalance in publishing besides tabulate our absences?
VIDA decided to start by excavating the spaces behind the lists. We asked our board members and a few other contemporary authors to share sentences about a literary woman we feel is too little mentioned. Our short anti-list is hardly comprehensive, yet seen as a whole the variety and breadth is exciting, and inclusive of poets, memoirists, literary journalists, playwrights, experimental and lyric fiction writers, children’s book authors, and even a couple of editors.
Please explore, enjoy, and share these names and works, and perhaps even consider using this roster as the seed of a diverse reading list for a class syllabus or book group, and help us change the landscapes of literary influence one passionate book discussion at a time. Free free to comment with additions of your own.
—Barrie Jean Borich, VIDA Editorial Committee Chair
Kamala Das (1934-2009) Once called the ‘Sylvia Plath’ of India, Kamala was an all but unheard of feminist voice from south India who rallied to make no shame of celebrating women’s sensuality and the deep undercurrent of sexual and romantic yearning that ran through most of her married life. With the support and understanding of her husband, Kamala wrote poems at night once the family went to bed, typing on the very table where she cooked intricate meals. In addition to poetry, Das was a triple threat, writing fiction and several memoirs– the most famous of which recalls her childhood in an artistic but emotionally distant family; her unfulfilling arranged marriage to an older man shortly before her 16th birthday; and the emotional breakdowns and suicidal thoughts that punctuated her years as a young wife and mother.—Aimee Nezhukumatahil
Jennifer Tamayo: Writer, performer, and scholar Jennifer Tamayo’s Red Mistakes Read Missed Aches Read Mistakes Red Missed Aches was selected by Cathy Park Hong as the 2010 winner of the Switchback Books Gatewood Prize. Hong says of the collection: “[w]hile Tamayo’s poetry deliberately disorients, you can still trace the life stories of a mother and a daughter who struggle for livelihood and legitimate citizenship in a nation swept up in xenophobia; you hear a voice of resistance and resilience from the invisible underclass of the undocumented Latino immigrants.” By interrogating violence, exploring resistance, and occupying a nexus of gorgeous miscommunications, Tamayo also unpacks body and heart, revealing the red thread that stitches together all our rent pieces—Danielle Pafunda
Zetta Elliott, author of Bird and A Wish After Midnight, writes with compassion, wisdom and incredible insight into the history and the ongoing struggles of black communities. Her stark, powerful prose tells it like it is, bringing to life minority experiences that have gone un-talked-about in teen literature for far too long. Her talent for giving voice to previously “unheard” characters and her passion for bringing these relevant stories to the young readers who need them most makes Elliott a powerful and invaluable force in young adult literature today—Kekla Magoon
New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is an artist extraordinaire. The award-winning author and poet of more than 45 books for children and adults is also an accomplished performing artist, fiber artist, and jeweler. Nikki’s inspiring flow of creativity stems from her strong faith, passion for storytelling, and deep roots in Harlem, New York, where she was born.—Mitali Perkins
When I first read Alexandra David-Néel’s memoir, My Journey to Llasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City, I was astounded. In lively, intimate prose, David-Néel narrates her four-month trek through the rugged, high mountains of China to the capital city of Tibet—a city off-limits to foreigners—which she began in 1923 at the age of 55, disguised as a beggar. The author of more than 30 nonfiction books, David-Néel is said to have influenced beat writers and modern day philosophers, but the work of this extraordinary woman has for the most part been lost to time.—Cheryl Strayed
Carrie McGath is the author of a collection of poems, Small Murders (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2006) and three self-published limited-edition chapbooks. Her book Ward-Eighty-One is a response to photos by Mary Ellen Mark taken at the Oregon State Hospital—photos of women who have endured intense suffering, internal, external, or likely both. In this collection and others, McGath reimagines a world that opens to grand possibility while simultaneously remaining painfully claustrophobic, and therefore married to a new kind of truth.—Monica Drake
I encountered Janet Lewis’s poem “Lullaby” when reading Alan Shapiro’s wonderful book The Last Happy Occasion. Like many readers, I had no idea who Lewis was, as her writing career existed quietly for many years in the wake of her husband’s (Lewis was married to the influential critic/poet Ivor Winters). I love this poem for it’s formal rhythmic ease and transparency of voice. I love the invention of taking one of our culture’s most foundational stories and humanizing it so completely. For me, the poem illuminates my own sense of motherhood –specifically, it’s intimacy and interconnectedness. But in its choice of subject and character, Lewis’s poem also hints at the growing disconnectedness most mothers eventually face. So the poem reminds us of the uncomfortable, ironic bargain mothers enter into: if we’re lucky, our children will leave us for their own singular destinies, great or small.—Erin Belieu
Sarojini Naidu (February 13, 1879 –March 2, 1949 ), also known by the sobriquet The Nightingale of India, was a child prodigy, Indian independence activist, and poet who wrote in English. She is remembered as a virtuoso of English metrical forms and romantic imagery in her poetry, and her mastery of such difficult poetic constructs as the dactylic garnered a lot of praise. Naidu’s early poetry evidences the strong Western influence on her Brahmin upbringing, as crafting poems in traditional English metrical forms, she concentrated primarily on Western themes and images.—Supriya Bhatnagar
Some might be hesitant to admit this, but I’ll just come clean: it was that evil empire, Amazon, that brought me to the work of Amelia Gray but if that megasite could manage to recommend to me the work of a writer with sentences like, “The girl with Rapunzel Syndrome claimed she ate her hair out of heartbreak,” then maybe it’s possible—maybe?—that we can’t entirely hate it; after all, Amelia Gray’s stories are filed with women who inadvertently give birth night after night, in which jokes are exploited and deepened (a penguin and an armadillo walk into a bar), and in which fables are re-told and newly invented,. so perhaps it’s possible for Amelia Gray to have the wider audience she so clearly deserves (her two collections have been well reviewed, with the second, Museum of the Weird, having won the prestigious Ronald Sukenick/American Book Award Innovative Fiction Award, and so her unique sensibilities have not been lost). I’ve had a long-standing conversation with a fellow female writer about why it’s more difficult for women writers of experimental fiction to “break out,” and we’ve long since conceded that we’ll be having the same conversation in twenty years; maybe we will; maybe the tide has turned; and maybe—just maybe—Amelia Gray will be one of those who breaks out. After all, she has a first novel coming out this month called, Threats, and I know this because Amazon told me, so, I’ll just give my passing thanks to Amazon and go buy her novel at an independent store, all the same.—Laurie Foos
Adelia Prado: This contemporary Brazilian poet, brilliantly translated from the Portuguese by Ellen Doré Watson, astonishes and confounds in The Alphabet in The Park, a volume of poems selected from her five books. Prado’s is a work of gesture, association, powerful truth and dark humor; one of my all time favorite lines can be found in “With Poetic License,” when the speaker offhandedly states, “I’m not so ugly I can’t get married.” Merging the sacred with the profane, Prado insists, “Poetry will save me,” making certain her reader understands her statement as far from blasphemy by closing: “What is poetry/ if not His face touched / by the brutality of things?”—Cate Marvin
A gifted minimalist, Gina Berriault is an oft-overlooked predecessor to writers like Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Mary Gaitskill and Mary Robison. Her stories, often set in San Francisco, are written with a mercenary attention to detail and to the complicated ways people make and break connection. As self-possessed as many of her protagonists are, they are also beautifully flawed and their stories are lucid portrayals of female lives.—Carmen Giminez Smith
Barely out of her teens, Nellie Bly—the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochran—got a job writing for a Pittsburgh paper in 1885, through sheer force of personality (a brilliant letter to the editor about columns disparaging women caused the editor to call her for an interview, thinking she was a man; the editor tried to dismiss the woman who answered his call, but Bly convinced him she could be a serious journalist). Vivid, personal, laced with her own questions and bodily experiences of abuse and fatigue, Bly’s work anticipated New Journalism by a century; she faked lunacy and had herself committed, blowing the whistle on asylum abuses; worked in a sweatshop making boxes; and traveled around the world in homage to Jules Verne. “I had often wondered at the tales of poor pay and cruel treatment that working girls tell,” she wrote of her sweatshop days. “There was one way of getting at the truth, and I determined to try it.”—Suzanne Paola
When her groundbreaking novel This is My Body, a lacerating roman à clef about her affair with leftist poet and noir novelist Kenneth Fearing, was published in 1930, readers carried their copies in plain brown wrappers. Startling, brilliant, and almost unknown today, leftist-feminist-modernist Margery Latimer (1899-1932) published her work in the same avant-garde little journals where Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and William Faulkner appeared, but her career –two novels and two collections of short stories– was cut short when her marriage to Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer ended with her death in childbirth at the age of 33. Nimble, fluid, muscular, and shocking, her work is gorgeous and audacious and political and smart.—Joy Castro
I don’t recall the first time I heard a Judy Grahn poem, or if the first one was “Edward the Dyke” or “The Common Woman Poems,” or if I read them in mimeograph form, or in a Women’s Press Collective volume illustrated with woodcut prints created by the poet’s lover Wendy Cadden, or on the vinyl recording of lesbian feminist poets circulating between the women I knew in the early 1980s. Judy Grahn is not under-recognized among my generation of lesbian and feminist authors, frequently in years past reading to auditoriums of screaming, boot-stomping woman-identified fans, yet much of the larger literary world is unaware of her impact. Her influence on me was this: “A Woman Is Talking to Death”—a poem I consider the lesbian HOWL— was, from the moment I read it first, both my personal anthem and my bloody bridge into the understanding that women’s literature could be about the lives we were living and had lived, that stories about race, class and sexuality—as subject or experience—could not be extricated from one another, and that everything is related to everything and can’t help but intersect in the most vulnerable regions of our cities and our bodies. —Barrie Jean Borich
Margaret Anderson, who, in 1914, bought a good gray suit and solicited money from readers across the country to establish the Little Review, is best known for standing trial for publishing the first thirteen chapters of Ulysses in this country. But she is under-remembered for the magazine’s other accomplishments; along with her on-again-off-again partner, Jane Heap (who co-edited the magazine until its demise in 1929), and her sometimes foreign contributor, Ezra Pound, she brought the work of such writers as W.B. Yeats, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Emma Goldman, Sherwood Anderson, Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams, Hilda Doolittle, as well as such artists as Picasso, Picabia, Ernst, and Stella to American readers. In other words, Modernism as we know it was not only chronicled, but also shaped, by the dedication of two women who lived by the magazine’s initial slogan—”making no compromises with the public taste.”—Judith Kitchen
Adrienne Kennedy: a writer with a fearless capacity to explore theatrical form, who challenges perceptions about identity and gender and constructions of persona. Kennedy changed the way plays could behave and misbehave, and she has taught a generation or two, who know her work, what it means to be an artist committed to social and spiritual transformation.—Lisa Schlesinger and the VIDA Playwriting Committee.
Magdalena Zurawski writes complex, patient, lyric fiction in a world that often prefers its fiction easy to categorize, easy to understand, and easy to forget. Precise, considered, and compelling, her first novel, The Bruise, deserves the attention and recognition often bestowed upon far less innovative works—Susan Steinberg
Ellen Raskin was best known for her brilliant 1979 Newbery Award–winning novel The Westing Game, a puzzle-mystery that presents more nuanced depictions of class, race, money, sex, pathology, and shame than I find in most grown-up contemporary novels. Raskin was also a brilliant and prolific illustrator and graphic designer who managed every bit of all her books, inside and out, down to their typographic dingbats— after she judged the original page trim too short, the first printing of The Westing Game was pulped on her request. She lived in a haunted house on Gay Street, in Manhattan’s West Village, and I visit it often—Sarah Manguso
Our most recent count examines the contents of the Best American anthologies in poetry, fiction, and essays. When we released our 2010 Count back in February, a common response from our readers was a request for more information about the data behind our pie charts. With that in mind, we have expanded our presentation to include the tables shown below, which are based on the spreadsheets we use to generate our Count pie charts. We think these tables better represent the data, and reveal more of the complex set of questions and issues raised by it.
Gender bias? What do the numbers reveal?
We at VIDA are gratified to hear the response that has recently surfaced in the media based on the numbers we gathered in our 2010 Count. But we also understand that these statistics are simply the beginning of a conversation we believe is necessary—not an end point, but a way to think about the more nuanced questions such numbers beg to be asked.
“Numbers don’t lie.” “What counts is the bottom line.”
Such sayings sound definitive, like the dead-end of a boring story. But as these facts come to light–no longer imagined or guessed at–so does the truth of publishing disparities, the unfortunate footing from which we can begin to change the face of publishing. We are no longer guessing if the world is flat or round; we are wondering how to get from point A to B now that the rules of navigation are public and much clearer. Questions long denied will lead us to new awareness, to challenge current publishing practices, and to query the merits of selection on the level of individual publications and review journals alike. (more…)