Feminist Texts to Read, AP Stylebook Updates, Azealia Banks Controversy, and Short Stories in the Digital Age
This week marks the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedman’s The Feminine Mystique, a groundbreaking novel first published in 1963 that is thought to have ignited second-wave feminism in the United States. In honor of the anniversary, Flavorwire.com has created a list of “10 Essential Feminist Texts That Everyone Should Read,” including Sister Outsider, a collection of 15 essays by black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, an analysis of the Western notion of womanhood.
While there may be 10 essential texts for feminists, for journalists there is The Associated Press Stylebook, the premiere style and usage guide. This week the organization has added an entry online regarding same-sex marriages that will also be included in its updated print edition this spring:
Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.
And on to more crude terminology being used in the media, last month, rapper Azealia Banks, a bisexual herself, referred to blogger Perez Hilton as a “messy faggot” during an argument on Twitter. Afterward, she received a lecture from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and faced significant backlash from her fans.
In spite of the controversy, Banks recently used the gay slur again—this time against Baauer, the DJ responsible for the billboard sensation “Harlem Shake.” After Banks made a remix of the song without Baauer’s permission, the two got into a feud on Twitter, during which Banks remarked, “you guys are all faggots… May you drown in faggotry.” This time, however, she explained her use of the word from a historical standpoint, which might raise a few questions about the meaning of “forward thinking” for the gay community:
Here we go again. Everyone pretending to be so shocked and moved by the word “faggot.” It’s like society is so bored with itself it needs to hold onto these outdated rules of what you can say and cannot say. Why has society accepted “nigger” as a colloquialism… But will not accept “faggot?”
Meanwhile on the Internet, there has been considerable discussion about how digital platforms will affect the publishing industry in the long run. According to a recent article in The New York Times by Leslie Kaufman, the digital age has sparked a resurgence of short story collections because of an increase in “digital options” for writers. It is argued that these provide writers with more opportunities to market their work and subsequently gain revenue. Noted examples of successful collections in published in the past couple of years are George Saunders’s Tenth of December, which is currently a best-seller, and Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, which was a 2012 finalist for the National Book Award.
Writer Amber Dermont surmises that short story collections work well in the digital age because they are “models of conclusion, can be read in one sitting, and are infinitely downloadable and consumable on screen,” and because modern-day readers “want to connect and want that connection to be intense and to move on.”
However, an article in response in Salon by Laura Miller argues that although there does seem to be a resurgence of short story collections, the potential to gain revenue from them because of these increased marketing options isn’t as promising as Kaufman makes it out to be. She points out that Saunders’s Tenth of December is currently the only short story collection that ranks on the best-seller lists for print and e-book. Moreover, she argues that the success of it and other collections like Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her has less to do with digital options and more to do with the fact that these authors published best-selling novels that allowed them to establish a fan base for their work.
Although perhaps these two conflicting articles suggest that in this rising Internet culture, the future success of short stories—and literature in general—remains uncertain, it is clear there has been, at the very least, an increase in the resources readers can use to discover books that might be of interest to them. In light of this are statements from 25 writers stressing the importance of libraries. In the words of Isaac Asimov:
It isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you — and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.