Sunday, April 6, 2014

Game of Thrones: Being A Princess Is A Rough Gig

As I've said before, Game of Thrones* is pretty much the damndest show. It indulges in soft porn exploitation along side some of the most interesting and well drawn female characters on television. Its racial politics are, to say the least, problematic. The dragons are a delight. All the business up at the GoT version of Hadrian's Wall (as well as, as Lindy West put it, the parts that are Wall adjacent), are so painfully dull, I can hardly bother to follow the plot points. It's War of the Roses fan fiction and it's one of the only modern dramatic portrayals of monarchy that actually understands how monarchy works. I might be bored senseless at The Wall, but the parts set at King's Landing is pretty much my favorite show ever.

Many years ago I wrote a play about the wives of Henry VIII, and one of the most important things I learned is that contrary to what all the fairy tales have been telling us, being a princess was a very rough gig. It's been pointed out that the heroines of most fairy tales are very much a peasant's idea of a princess, with their wish fulfillment and autonomy and princesshood as prize. I'm not saying that anyone's life was particularly easy in early modern and pre-modern times (it wasn't), but the privileges held by princesses came at an enormous price. They were used and valued as diplomatic chess pieces, often sent at a very young age to far away places, often to places where they didn't speak the language to live among people who might not care for them or may even be openly hostile. Depending on the individuals involved, they might or might not be expected to immediately have sex with a much older stranger whose language they might not speak very well. If things don't work out for whatever reason (that reason mostly being that you don't give birth to living sons), you will be completely blamed, with possible disastrous repercussions.

Game of Thrones does an extraordinary job of showing what being caught in that particular trap must have looked like and felt like. Some flail, some are lucky, some are doomed, some do their best to turn it to their advantage, some become monsters. In this post, I'm going to take a look at the various Game of Thrones princesses in the context of some possible real life counterparts. Needless to say, spoilers abound, if you care about that sort of thing.

Sansa Stark. Oh, poor Sansa. She obviously exists in the Game of Thrones universe to be used as a political pawn and as a receptacle of misfortune. Her situation was also a sadly common one for Medieval and Renaissance princesses - betrothed to someone important for dynastic purposes, shipped off somewhere far from home, and then (as they usually do) allegiances shift, the marriage is no longer advantageous and the princess is stuck. Catherine of Aragon faced a similar situation after the death of her husband Arthur - at sixteen she was stranded in England and mostly penniless. She had to beg for funds from the crown for food and fuel. One thing I really like about how Sansa is portrayed on the show is that she's so ordinary. She's a typical young teenager, who wants to marry someone handsome and kind and have a nice, happy life without particularly understanding what any of those things mean. She grew up observing her parents' mostly happy (arranged, dynastic) marriage and wrongly assumed that was how things inevitably work out, rather than seeing it as a happy, but hard won, accident.

The historical princess she most resembles is Elizabeth of York, I think - the Starks are the obvious Yorkish counterpart in the Game of Thrones universe and I'm assuming the resemblance is intentional. Daughter of King Edward IV and sister of the murdered princes in The Tower, Elizabeth grew up in the middle of the violent late stages of the Wars of the Roses as the Yorks and Tudors fought for the crown. After her Uncle Richard was killed in battle, she was married off to the newly crowned King Henry VII, uniting the two warring houses and launching the Tudor Dynasty. But, can you imagine it? Like Sansa, she was a great heiress (and had a far better claim to the throne than Henry) and married a man whose relatives had been murdering her relatives for years. But, here's the thing. Henry VII was a decent man, and by royal, late medieval standards it was a happy marriage. At the end of Season 3, Sansa was married off to Tyrion Lannister, a much older dwarf and son of the House that murdered most of her family. But, like Henry, Tyrion is a decent man, and for the first time in a long time, the person most responsible for her intends to protect her from harm. I have no confidence that things will stay remotely happy in the future (that would be boring, plotwise), but as they stand now, she is far better off than when she was betrothed to the odious Joffrey.

Margaery Tyrell is so much fun. I really hope she isn't murdered any time soon so we can see what it is exactly she's up to. She's an excellent example of a professional princess - one who grew up smart and savvy observing how government and power work, and in a society where women's only way of acquiring it is via marriage she does her best to work within the system to achieve her ends. Her family (as represented by her grandmother, delightfully played by Diana Rigg in full Maggie Smith mode) seems to be completely on board - much as the Boleyns were, embracing the fact that this clever, pretty princess is their best bet for achieving riches and glory. King Joffrey is an evil, creepy, deeply stupid little psychopath who won't listen to anybody, but Margaery just sweeps in and is pretty much calling the shots within minutes and making him like it. I have no idea if she is actually good and kind or if she just wishes to appear so in order to become both beloved and powerful, but either way, kindnesses get done.**

Both King Joffrey and King George II of the House of Bush bear resemblance to the unfortunate Henry VI. Henry was an objectively terrible King who spent his reign having nervous breakdowns and surrounding himself with greedy advisors who gutted the country while massively enriching themselves and letting the actual country they were supposed to be running fall completely apart. This lead to a long, bloody civil war with the Lancasters on one side, ostensibly lead by the young, foolish King Henry, and the Yorks on the other, the powerful northern dynasty who after years of insults and bad behavior on the Lancasterian side, were pushed to the brink. I'm sure this all sounds awfully familiar, but the point I'm getting to is this: with a weak, incompetent king on the throne, the Lancasterian side was mostly being led by Henry's extraordinary wife, Margaret of Anjou. Shortly after their marriage, Margaret proved herself one of the few people in the inner circle around the king who was capable, or willing to actually run the country. Her family was broke, but royal, saw an opening and took it. Within months of their marriage an 18 year old girl was more or less running the English government. I'm assuming this is what Margery is angling towards. A weak king could be a useful road to power for a smart, ambitious woman who wasn't able to achieve her goals in other ways in a repressive society that barely considered her human.

Cersei Lannister is my favorite. Her story is the story of centuries of unhappy princesses and queens. She is Gwenevere, Agrippina and Catherine de Medici rolled into one monstrous figure. In the book, she's pure evil, which is boring. In the show, she's gloriously complicated. Teenage Cersei was the most beautiful, the richest, the cleverest princess and she got to marry the new handsome King. Who was in love with a dead girl and didn't like or want her, so her power evaporated and she had to submit to a life of cold dislike and drunken marital rape. Her children (products of an incestuous relationship with her twin brother, something that was rumored - slanderously - about Anne Boleyn, too) became her life, and she continued to be the pawn of her powerful, difficult father. Poor Cersei, she just can't win. Unlike Catherine the Great of Russia whose family was either dead or hundreds of miles away, Cersei's is constantly looming over her shoulder, snatching whatever bits of autonomy or power she can manage to claim for herself. No one likes or trusts her much.

Cersei is so much like Catherine de Medici which is something I wouldn't wish on anyone, fictional or otherwise. Catherine was one of the richest heiresses in Europe and was married to the handsome, kind and popular King Henri II of France. Who spent their entire marriage essentially married to his mistress, constantly humiliating her. She plotted and schemed (and possibly poisoned) on her husband's behalf and then, after his death, on her childrens'. Much like Cersei, power eluded her because she lacked the talent for inspiring loyalty and trust in others and making political errors due to short sightedness or anger. The most fascinating part of Cersei's character is that she isn't really monstrous enough. I love the "you're a woman now" speech she gives to Sansa when she gets her period (and is therefore available to marry awful Joffrey), and Cersei basically admits that her son is a monster and the best Sansa can hope for is children to love. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire series is when Cersei's father informs her she's to marry a boy half her age for dynastic purposes. She's an accomplished, middle aged women whose son sits on the throne and she still can't escape the trap into which she was born, and seeing her fight uselessly against the bars of her cage is almost unbearable.

Of course, there are other princesses in the show, more than are contained by a decade or two of Disney movies. Daenerys with her dragons, wandering round the desert on her crusade to free brown people and reconquer a nation of strangers, Arya, who is pure fantasy wish fulfillment (but a really interesting one), poor Catelyn Stark who did what many real life nobles and royals did - settled down more or less happily and created a decent life for their children, and on and on. Unlike in Disney movies or in the dreams of peasants, princesshood was a cage with very narrow parameters that needed to be carefully negotiated. Women have always found ways to transcend them, even if that transcendence was limited, often through the church, or through finally claiming power in their own right as Elizabeth Tudor did. In both of those examples, marriage was the enemy. The trick was being both lucky and savvy enough to sidestep the boundaries, most accurately represented by the bonds of matrimony, but there was still no breaking them. Though, as demonstrated above, some women did live their lives happily and well, working within the parameters set for them, primarily by negotiating marriages of their choosing. Game of Thrones is a product of our world, not theirs, so it shows women like Arya possibly breaking free, something that was impossible in early modern Europe

*Please note: I read the first book and part of the second. I stopped because I was bored. I have found the show to be much more interesting than the books. If you want to argue or talk about the books this really isn't the place.

**Though, am I the only one who wonders if it was Margaery who actually shot Ros with the crossbow at Joffrey's bidding?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Everyone Should Have a Zombie Mermaid In Their Drawing Arsenal


Here is mine. And she is up and available to be voted upon at Threadless. Each month, they print a number of submissions (some of which are really, really lovely) on T shirts, and pay their artists a really good wage, something which should be supported and commended. There are so many so-called contests out there right now in which the prize is "You get to work for us for free!" that those who have a figured out a business model in which the prize is both work and appropriate payment, should be both commended and supported. Yay, paying people!
Actual money!

I plan on submitting a couple a month going forward, so please (if you wish) bookmark my Threadless profile to keep apprised of what I have posted.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Secret Adversary: A Web Series

Recently on facebook, I was alerted to the existence of a new web series when a friend commented on a post. (Really, isn't social media the best?) By and large, the web series I've seen haven't been super interesting to me. I love the idea of the form, but most of what I've seen hasn't excited me much content-wise. This all changes with Kevin Townley and Hanna Cheek's new series "Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary".

I mean, come on. This was clearly made for me.

Anyone who knows anything about me or my blog knows that I am pretty obsessed with classic mystery fiction in general, and Agatha Christie in particular. A while ago, I wrote a blog post in which I sung the praises of what I termed Christie's "Adventurous Flapper" books. Of which, The Secret Adversary is the first. Published initially in 1922, set in 1919 right at the end of the war, it's a completely preposterous adventure starring Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley. Christie went on to write a number of books starring Tommy and Tuppence, taking them into old age in the later entries in the series.

Lots of people consider them among her weaker books, but I've always enjoyed them. One of the main criticisms is that many, many (MANY) people find Tuppence to be a bit insufferable. I watched the BBC versions and thought they were dreadful, they went with the notion that the audience would find Tuppence as entertaining as she finds herself, which is pretty much a recipe for annoyance. One of the wonderful things the current webseries does is embrace Tuppence's self-aggrandizing self enchantment and use it for comedy, and Hanna Cheek is completely hilarious.

Agatha Christie unfortunately edited this scene out of the published version of her novel
The thing that really makes the series is one simple stroke of genius: the actors all dress in 1920s costumes, but it is filmed in and around modern day New York City. It's brilliant. At first it seems like a stunt, but as I've watched further (I've seen the first four episodes), I realize this has freed them utterly from the strictures of doing a period piece without essentially betraying the material. The dialogue is straight out of Christie, and they intend to film the whole, entire thing. I for one, am thrilled. Co-creator Townley has this to say about the production process:
"My idea was that we'd do an unabridged adaptation of the book (there are 28 chapters in it, so we would be set for content for a while) and that our motto would be "GET IT DONE". Any hiccup that would ruin a normal shoot (tourists walking into frame, "losing the light", bad continuity) would just be incorporated into ours. We'd try to get costumes that are as close to period as possible (whatever we could drum up from our own wardrobes or borrow) and shoot as much "on location" as possible; since we can't get to London, Times Square stands in for Picadilly and so forth. We've been kicked out of quite a few places, but we've gotten away with a lot, too! On some days we have access to super whiz-bang camera equipment, other days we shoot on our iPhones. Whatever happens is fine, so long as we really try our best and get it done! Right now we're trying to air a new episode every other week. If we stick to that schedule we should be done in about six months!  It's totally terrifying shooting guerrilla-style because Hanna and I are both terminally polite, but it's also liberating, not being so precious about one's "creative process". Plus, I've always wanted to be in a mystery story, and if I waited for someone else to cast me I'd be waiting till about Two-thousand-never."
One of the things I love about the early Christie mysteries are their breathless energy and their artless good humor, qualities this series embraces whole heartedly. Watch the first episode here, and if you can spare it, give them money! And (ahem), Townley is not the only one who has harbored dreams of being in a mystery story.

Agatha Christie's original dedication in "The Secret Adversary"

Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Riding The Subway Is Important (and: MUPPETS!)

I draw on the subway pretty much every day. Fairly often people ask me about it, mostly how I keep my hand steady and my usual answer is “It’s no big deal. If you have control off the train, there’s really no difference.” I still mostly think that, but one thing that (I think) might make it a little bit easier for me is that I have always had a very, very light touch, i.e. I don’t use the pressure of the pencil on the paper to keep me steady, essentially I’m drawing in air. So, I guess it’s all my hand. The subway is such a great place to work or read, I find it really depressing to see people playing solitaire or something on their phones.


There is absolutely no question in my mind that the subway is one of the things that makes New York City great. Everyone rides the subway, we live our private lives in public and we learn tolerance. We have to. On my list of possible income generating schemes is a fun class for tourists and people who are new to the city. Lessons will include things like "How To Walk Down The Sidewalk Without Making Everyone Hate You" and "There Are No Such Thing As Dress Shorts, We Are Not At the Club", and of course, "How To Ride The Subway".


And then I realize it will never, ever work. Because people who spend their lives in their large homes, in their cars, in their offices, nearly always eating at home, nearly always in private spaces just don't understand. They don't know how to be private in public, and they don't understand when people aren't "friendly", it's not rudeness, it's because they are being private. Lots of tourists simply don't know the rules, and they're difficult to learn, as they ones of affect and nuance. The main problem is they have little awareness of the space around them, and that's the toughest thing to teach. Some lady hit me in the face with her New York Times while turning the page the other day, and to be honest, this is why tabloids were invented. Sidenote: They taught us how to properly fold the NY Times so we could read it on the train without bugging people in elementary school. It's one of the two or three most useful things I learned in school

Back to drawing. If you want to draw, draw. If you want to draw well, draw a lot. And I like disposable technical (.5mm) pencils. That's all I really have.

EDIT: I had to include this because it's very, very important!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Helen Gurley Brown, Joan Halloway, and the Legacy of the Cosmo Girl

Helen Gurley Brown was not boring. She was a self created wonder who had as much a hand in creating the second wave of feminism as anybody, though nearly all the second wave feminists would be appalled to think so (as, likely would be Brown herself). In some ways, I think Brown is responsible for both the best and the worst about being a woman in these United States at the dawn of the 21st century. She is, in other words, a titan.

The best is what she accomplished for herself and her part in sexually liberating ordinary women in the United States. She grew up poor in Arkansas, moved with her family to Los Angeles as a teenager, worked in factories, and then held many secretarial jobs. Her big break came, much like Peggy Olsen's did, when she was promoted to copywriter at an ad agency. In some ways, I find it sort of risible, that in five seasons of Mad Men, Brown has never been mentioned. Her book "Sex and the Single Girl" was unleashed upon the world in 1962 and sold millions and millions of copies. I own a 1963 edition (see above) and it's a pretty remarkable piece of work. Remember, in 1962 married men and women weren't permitted to be shown sleeping in the same bed in movies or television (the first television couple shown doing so were Herman and Lily Munster!).

I think perhaps Brown is never mentioned in the Mad Men universe because the Joan Holloway of the early seasons is, in many ways, Brown's book made flesh, though Joan, unlike Brown, is both beautiful and college educated. Brown wrote that her readers should have jobs and careers, because money equals freedom, and having a career gives one something to be. Removed from its pink, exclamation point strewn trappings, these are radical and essential statements of self actualization. Brown made these ideas palatable to women who couldn't afford to take time off to find themselves, who had roommates and no college education and had never read Virginia Woolf. Brown told these women, in no uncertain terms, that wanting things is okay, that being single is probably a better time for most women than being married, and you can have sex (with multiple partners if you want!) and still be a lady. The Cosmo Girl was born. Bless her heart.

That said, Brown isn't perfect and is not only a product of her time but probably a great influence on some of the more unfortunate trends in ours. Brown was all about upward mobility, which is fabulous, but she was also all about avariciousness. In true Ad Man fashion, she was focused on surfaces and she liked those surfaces shiny. She scrimped to dress well on the way up, and advocated dressing for the job you want, something I've certainly advised, as well. But she focused on these surfaces, placing their importance above whatever was going on inside of one's head. Brown was also a dinosaur in terms of her views of the workplace. She didn't see any problem with sexual harassment, and thought women's problems with it ridiculous. In her view, any girl worth her mettle should be able to stave off unwelcome advances with aplomb and wit, much like a character Katherine Hepburn would play in the movies. Sadly, this doesn't always help. Also demonstrated by Joan as she is quietly raped on the floor of Don Draper's office by her fiance. Not everything can be solved by a saucy remark and a disdainful flip of the hair.

Brown was profoundly apolitical. She wrote of a world of her own creation and it's a remarkable place. She said you don't need to be pretty (and used herself as an example) to get men or jobs or have a great life - But you should help nature along, by surgical means if necessary. Just, no, Helen. I saw her in person in the ladies' room at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center about 20 years ago, and she looked both terrifying and twice her age because of the amount of work done. At least a small part of the blame of this society we now have, in which perfectly ordinary women are shamed into thinking they have to look like supermodels belongs to her.

Helen Gurley Brown's legacy is complicated, indeed. The most lasting part of it, I hope, is her joyful insistence that women are sexual beings, and that the best way to please a man is to enjoy oneself. That single women aren't simply women who haven't gotten married yet, or have been left behind. That their lives should be fun and exciting and, most importantly, their own.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Etsy Store is Officially Open For Business


Just a quick note to let all of you delightful people that my Etsy store is open for business. Right now, I have two prints available and more items will be added soon. If there's anything in particular you would like to see, please let me know.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

FringeNYC 16: Immaculate Degeneration


I hate the idea that one person shows, or one woman shows in particular, are in need of any sort of special pleading, but I find that is so often the case. I like seeing people tell their stories and the stories of others, lives as led and adventures taken and embarked upon, both fictional and true, hilarious and heart-rending and all stops in between. And it will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog, that the lives of American teenage girls are of endless interest to this particular critic.

Pamela Sabaugh's Immaculate Degeneration hit me on a lot of those levels. I share with her a suburban/urban punk rock girlhood (mine in NYC, hers in Detroit), the need for escape and the wanting of better things common to most artists of all stripes.  The great thing that distinguishes Sabaugh's journey to independence in these United States as an artist, is her partial blindness, caused by a congenital disorder (juvenile macular degeneration) which presented itself in Junior High. She talks about how the onset of blindness interfered with her social life, her schoolwork, and her badass-ery. And most movingly, about how it limited her freedom, about growing up in the motor city unable to drive. 

Sabaugh's story, like all deeply personal stories worth telling, is bigger than herself. She tells about growing up in a subdivision in which pedestrians are viewed with suspicion. About a decaying city in thrall to the almighty automobile, in the epicenter of the public transportation-free rust belt. Her visual impairment made her dependent on others in a way that was both humiliating and sometimes dangerous (having a friend wander off with a guitarist at a local rock fest when the bus never shows). For her, moving to NYC meant not only artistic freedom, but having a true personal autonomy. She has a song about the MTA that actually made me cry. Her songs and voice are are lovely. I was really hoping there would be a CD in the press kit as I would have immediately loaded them onto my ipod.

Mostly, this is a joyful piece of work. Sabaugh is a delightful person to spend 90 minutes with, and in the spirit of full journalistic disclosure, I have to say that I do know Pamela, and her director/husband Fred Backus has long been a friend and a collaborator on various projects throughout the years. I'm not certain if Fred has directed before, but Immaculate Degeneration hits that really difficult balance of being both really tight (there's nothing I would cut, and I almost never say that, friends or not), yet being loose and casual enough that you feel a part of the event in a really nice way.

Pamela has had a lot of challenges, but for my money, her considerable gifts, both personal and artistic have enabled her to embrace them and allow them to inform but not define who she as as both a person and an artist. A very difficult balancing act, which it was my pleasure to watch her not only achieve, but transcend, with grace.

Immaculate Degeneration (click for tickets)
Woodward Avenue Productions
Writer: Pamela Sabaugh
Director: Fred Backus
The Huron Club, 15 Vandam St.
Remaining Performances: Tue 14 @ 4pm, Sat 18 @ 1:45,  Sun 19 @ 7pm,  Wed 22 @ 4:30

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy birthday, Ronnie Spector!


I love the girl groups of the early to mid 1960s and Ronnie Spector was (and in some ways, is) the best. La Diva Ross was the most elegant, the most polished, but Ronnie Spector's tough New York City girl voice always got me. Happy birthday!

FringeNYC 16



You know how when you get together with your siblings or cousins you can say super disparaging things about your grandpa or aunt or mom? But how if some person not in your family said awful things about your grandpa or aunt or mom you'd be really, really mad? Yeah. That basically sums up my feelings about criticism of FringeNYC in a nutshell. Unless you were in certain rooms round about 1998 or 1999, I don't want to hear about it. However, if you were, let it fly!

The 16th edition of the New York International Fringe Festival begins tonight, something that makes me feel shockingly old. This also marks the first festival since the very first in which I am a complete civilian. I haven't been on the festival staff since 2003 (nine years!). For better or worse, I did all my mourning for the early years of the festival in slow motion while I was still involved with it so, honestly, what I mostly feel is relief.

Let me explain.

A number of years ago I attended a book event at which art and performance luminaries of the 70s and 80s spoke about the downtown art scene back then, and about the state of the current art and performance scene. I remember Bogosian speaking and a few others, and person after person went on and on about how much more creative, what a better sense of community, how exciting it all was compared the scene now. Needless to say, I was furious.

Then the sainted Michael Musto got to the podium. The very first thing he did was blast (nicely) all the previous speakers for their criticism of the current young artists. He said (and I'm paraphrasing wildly - this is from my memory of an event like seven years ago), "It seemed so great back then because we were so young! Of course everything seemed so much better, we're all old and cynical now." Bless him!

I'm old enough that those (now curmudgeonly) 70s and 80s artists were a part of what my idea of the world of art was like. Downtown lofts and punk rock and nightclubs (the kind without all that table service nonsense) and galleries in Soho. I read the Voice (back when you had to pay for the privilege) and Interview (when Andy was still alive). I smoked cigarettes in the East Village, I saw bands play at CBGB and The Ritz. I wrote short stories about paranoid, displaced Lizard People living in New York. I became an actor. I drew pictures. I dreamed of Cafe Cino. In the 90s I interned at Circle Rep, Lanford Wilson's company and I became a playwright. That led me to the Present Company and FringeNYC.

You'll likely be reading lots about the early days of FringeNYC in my memoirs one day so I'll keep it short. We were so young. We worked so hard. It was messy and dirty and punk rock. We had the best time and it was hell. It was equal parts magic and exhaustion. We were very, very young. And I want to be very clear about one thing: FringeNYC gave me my life. I can't even imagine what my life would look like now without it and the downtown theater scene of the late 90s, because my life would look 100% different.

So, I look at Fringe NYC now and it looks like an institution. I was a participant last year and there are a lot of rules. I look at the kids working there and all I can think is, "my god it looks dull" and "poor things, they'll never know the fun and horror of what we had". And then I realize that I'm just old. Nothing is new to me and these young people need to find their own way as I did. And their community seems a little invisible to me because I'm not a part of it, and I'm not welcome because I'm not in the trenches. I can keep my memories of the festival's gritty, punk rock past intact. The festival as it now stands may not be my festival, but that's okay. It's theirs. I'm sure I'll be reading some of their blog posts 20 years down the road, writing about how very young they were in 2012.

The New York International Fringe Festival begins today. I will be covering it from the depths of my cold, black heart. Check back frequently.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Which An Old Literary Form Makes An Appearance, And Our Author Expresses Her Approval

There is a brief mention at the end of this article about million dollar book advances that I find so thrilling, so game changing, I can't believe it's the first I've heard of it. A facebook friend posted this morning and most of the commenting (mostly by a bunch of white dude writers in their 30s and 40s*) was the expected (and understandable) sour grapes, and how nearly all the books mentioned by first time authors were about or geared to teen girls.

I've discussed this at length elsewhere on this blog, about how women read novels, women write novels, teen girls consume novels at a rate that cannot be over emphasized. Novel reading was called by the early Victorians a "feminine vice" and in many ways that still stands. The boys will just have to make do with their glowing reviews in the NY Times and their low book sales. The world is deeply unfair, I know.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

Right near the bottom we read that Mark Z. Danielewski (best known for writing House of Leaves), has received a million dollar advance for an upcoming serialized novel. Am I the only person who finds this earth shattering? I've been waiting to see what changes the widespread use of handheld devices would have on books, and I think this is one harbinger of things to come.

As I'm sure most of you know, many of the long novels of the 19th century by writers like Dickens, Collins, Trollope, Melville, and Tolstoy were serialized. The adventures of Sherlock Holmes were famously serialized in The Strand, as was the most significant American novel of the 19th century, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Then, with the decline of the periodical and the rise of the modern novel, with authors such as Hemingway, Woolf, Fitzgerald ascendant, the serialized novel was completely out of fashion. There were a few reemergences in the pre-internet era, most notably Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, serialized in Rolling Stone.

Now, we are once again in a world where serial is king. American movies are in deep decline, but our television, our serials, are in the midst of a new golden age. The conciseness of Modernism is no longer valued above all. And with the vast popularity of the Kindle and Nook and ipad, serialized novels are once again a completely feasible option.

I wonder if one day we'll look at the first years of the Kindle as we do the first years of cinema? Looking at filmed stage plays shot dead on with no editing or close ups seems a waste of this remarkable new technology. Will we view directly transposing existing novels in the same way? What narrative innovations will result? How will form dictate content?

Serialization seems an obvious first step. The medium lends itself to it, all they need is a hit.

Thrilling times are ahead.

*Delightful, all, don't get me wrong, but their perspective is, I think, a little narrow, bless them.

All illustrations © this blog.