Thursday, March 13, 2008

Team Olbermann

I don't watch MSNBC, so this is my first real encounter with Keith Olbermann's commentary:



Hot damn! I totally see why people love this guy. And I've gotta say, I agree with most, if not all, of what he says.

The way Hillary Clinton's campaign has handled Geraldine Ferraro has been disgusting. This failure to condemn what is racist hate-mongering? Way to prove Samantha Power right. And I'm not going to say anything about the double-standard illustrated in the contrast between Power's resignation and Ferraro's--I think Olbermann says it all.

Like Erik, I'm really starting to tire of all this crap.

Friday, March 07, 2008

On pseudonymity and anonymity.

Historically, it has not been uncommon for writers to publish under noms de plume. At times, pseudonyms have offered protection from political persecution and--in the cases of women like Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, George Sand, and George Eliot--have lent legitimacy to to those whose work would otherwise have been dismissed on account of gender, et cetera.

The use of pseudonyms has not been, as one reading Margaret Cannon's review of Inger Ash Wolfe's The Calling might begin to think, pure gimmickry. (Related: I'll be delving into my advance-reading copy of The Calling as soon as I finish Stet--even though by that time the bookstore-employee perk of the "advance" will be a little superfluous.)

The Star's Vit Wagner gets this and, I think, ultimately strikes closer to the truth of pseudonymity:

Sometimes, as in the case of Charles Dodgson writing as Lewis Carroll, the desire to evade publicity was genuine. And then there were the many cases rooted in satire and mischief. When Henry Fielding wrote Shamela, his parody of Samuel Richardson's Pamela, it amounted to one anonymous writer sending up another.

Today, genuine and lasting pseudonymity is rare. Most know that Ruth Rendell is also Barbara Vine, that Anne Rice is sometimes Anne Rampling and A.N. Roquelaure or that Booker Prize winner John Banville has written crime novels as Benjamin Black.

Wolfe, by contrast, professes the purest, most guileless motivations, at least based on an email interview with the author (see sidebar). Who can say? Anonymity author Mullan offers some insights based on the available evidence and his own expertise.

"It sounds like a combination of two fairly traditional things," Mullan says. "When a literary author writes crime fiction, they often use a nom de plume as a mark that they are in a different role. But this is usually advertised, not disguised.
[My emphasis.]

"To advertise the disguise is a publicity thing, surely. There are a lot of crime novels published. But this crime novel will, at least initially, get a degree of attention that others won't. If it's actually successful, critically or popularly, then the speculation about its authorship might begin to snowball."

"Actually trying to remain permanently concealed is very rarely the motive. In the majority of cases, writers either expect or hope that people will try to guess because that, in a way, is a sign of their success or ├ęclat."


Pseudonymity is freeing. Well-established authors are, to a certain degree, released from the expectations of their usual audience. Back in January, Maclean's speculated that Inger Ash Wolfe was actually Jane Urquhart (Urquhart, according to Wagner's article, has since denied this.) From Urquhart, readers have come to expect a certain style, a particular interweaving of past and present, time and space (see Away, Changing Heaven, The Stonecutters, and--arguably her best--The Underpainter.) How would those who fell in love with this kind of writing receive an attempt at genre fiction? (Funnily enough, and maybe Michael would agree with me on this, the Urquhart leitmotivs could arguably constitute a a sub-genre of their own!) How could Urquhart ensure that a new, radically different text be judged on its own merits? By separating the text from the Urquhart brand, of course. Pseudonymity can re-invest first-time author status in the established author and can give him or her the latitude to explore outside the comfort zone.

Pseudonymity--and anonymity, for that matter--also allows one the latitude to speak or write without the fear of reprisal, and so in that way, too, pseudonymity is a good thing.

Yet that same freedom, as I recently discovered, can also be a violent, dangerous thing, if people use it to evade consequences. (Think of this in the context of anonymous hate-speech and Holocaust denial.) Trite as it may sound, freedom really does come with responsibility.

When it comes right down to it, though, I think that while pseudonymity and anonymity are appealing artistically, it ultimately takes more cojones to let your own name stand by what you write. That's what I've tried to do here for the past five-and-a-half years.

So, yes, while I do still feel strangely, a-little-guiltily authoritarian for implementing comment moderation here, I feel I'm at least being fair. I attach my name to what I write here; it's only right that would-be commenters should have to do so, too--even if that name be a pseudonym.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I hate to have to do this, but...

Due to a very vile, very personal attack made by an anonymous commenter (whose identity I suspect--gotta love the stats counter), I have had to enable comment moderation.

EDIT: Just to clarify: I have begun moderating comments not because my support of free speech has wavered. Indeed it has not. Anyone has the right to disagree with me and to make that disagreement known to me. However, I do not believe that anyone has the right to make abusive, libelous or harassing comments here--especially not under the guise of anonymity!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Worker Bee.

I've been busier than usual lately.

After months of rejection, it seems that I have all the work I can handle right now. I've gotten some more freelance assignments--and these ones are actually paid jobs! First, I'm writing a couple advertorial-type pieces for the local daily newspaper's ad department (and if the ad department can sell more of this kind of ad, I should have more work there, too.) Second, I'm writing a feature on cottages for a locally-published lifestyle magazine. And while it's not paid in the strictest sense of the word, I'm writing a book review for my editorial association branch's newsletter, for which my remuneration is the book in question.

But that's not all.

About a month ago I started working at my favourite independent book store--the very book store in which I would spend hours on end, first as a child and then as a teenager, dreaming amongst the stacks, lulled by the intoxicating smell of new paper and possibility. If reading for some is a sacrament, this store had indeed been my chapel.

Growing up, I had applied to work here no fewer than two or three times. I always thought that if I had to work in retail, a job in this store would be perfectly suited to me. In addition to playing to some of my strengths--namely, my knowledge and love of books--work there would, I always thought, be a pleasure as it would allow me to indulge in my youthful fantasy and to commune with people who shared my reverence for the written word.

And I have not been proven wrong.

The downside to all this work, though, is that it's become difficult not to feel overwhelmed. I feel that I hardly have enough time to read (in addition to reading for pleasure, my boss at the book store has stipulated that I follow some book sections/columns and trade publications--gotta keep up with the product knowledge!) and to edit (I'm still working on Michael's manuscript) let alone blog (here as well as at this new team blog over here) or work on my stories (I've been trying to prep a piece or two for short story contests and/or journal submission.) I feel instinctively that all the demands on my time will force me to make some hard choices about some of my commitments. Thing is, there isn't anything that I really want to give up. Is that crazy? If only some of these opportunities could have come my way months ago when I was whining about not having any work!

Still, I know that there are worse things to be than overrun with work you enjoy. I really shouldn't be complaining.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

R.I.P. Mr. Ledger.

All the rest of you, please go read the always-wonderful Dana Stevens' "10 Things I Loved About Heath Ledger: What Made Him Irreplaceable.

EDIT: An even more fitting tribute: this anecdote of Chelsea's. [Though I've read her blog before because of Twenty Something Bloggers (and yes, "Twenty Something" really needs a hyphen), this post was brought to my attention by Pajiba.]

Stars and Stripes-Gazing

I've been following the primaries--with particular interest in the Democratic ones--in the U.S. fairly closely lately. Although I'm a Canadian and therefore can't vote, I nonetheless consider it important to know what's going on politically with our largest trading partner.

As I mentioned, the Democratic primaries are garnering most of my attention. I know it's too early to make predictions (and that the pundits have so far been thwarted at every turn), but--given that there are even Republicans who are unhappy with the state of affairs in the U.S.--there seems to be a sea-change brewing, and it seems that the Democrats, if (and ONLY if!) they can stop the divisive squabbling, may be able to tap into that and use it to real advantage.

Now, I'm not sure who'd I'd rather have leading the Democrats in the next election. While I'm leaning towards Barack Obama at the moment, I have gone back and forth on this matter and I have lots more time to do the same. I do know that if the U.S. is to elect another Republican president, I'd prefer John McCain, who is both intelligent and moderate, to the evangelical Mike Huckabee (need I point out what's happened to the church and state divide since the current evangelical commander-in-chief assumed office in 2000?) or to Mitt Romney, who--perhaps irrationally on my part--just doesn't sit well with me. But I digress...

Watching the Democratic debate on Monday night got me thinking seriously about who the eventual Democratic nominee would pick as a running mate--a choice that is arguably just as important as that which Democrats are making in the primaries.

Seeing how the candidates interact with one another, I'm beginning to suspect that should Clinton receive the nomination, she'll pick Obama as her running mate; however, I think that if Obama gets the nomination, John Edwards will be his VP candidate. Despite their differences, the rapport between Obama and Edwards seems collegial and generally respectful. Not so with that between Clinton and Obama.

I still think, though, that despite the hostilities, Hillary Clinton will need Barack Obama if she wants to succeed beyond the Democratic convention. From what I've been reading, a lot of people--whether they be Democrats, independents, or Republicans--still don't like her. She is a polarizing figure; much has been made, on the other hand, of Obama's unifying, bipartisan appeal.

But don't take my word for it. I'm far less knowledgeable about U.S. politics than all the talking heads that have been proven wrong by primary voters; my predictions should be taken with an even smaller grain of salt (if that's possible.) Still, I'll continue to watch and to think about all this regardless.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice 2008

Today, Blog for Choice Day 2008, is the thirty-fifth anniversary of Roe versus Wade. (Canada's own decision on abortion rights--which, to this day, has actually left Canada without any abortion laws on the books--was written much later.) In the wake of the thirty-fourth anniversary, I posted a link to Frontline's 1983 documentary Abortion Clinic. While Abortion Clinic still warrants, as I put it last year, "watching (and rewatching, if you've already seen it), regardless of your opinion about abortion," I wanted to share a more personal reflection this year.

I am pro-choice. I have never had an abortion, nor have I ever been in the position to have to make the decision whether or not to have one. I don't think one has to have been in that position, though, to know that every woman has the right to make that decision herself--without the intervention of government, religious leaders, or the pro-life lobby.

Nevertheless, sensing that there are many who might call me a hypocrite, I've often wondered how well my pro-choice stance aligns with the principles of non-violence and stewardship that I work to incorporate into my life. I've tried to laugh off the accusation of hypocrisy--which, truth be told, comes more from me than anyone else--by stating how my support for a woman's right to choose at least accords with my ovo-lacto vegetarianism: "I eat eggs and I'm pro-choice, so there you go."

But today it finally occurs to me that to impel, coerce or otherwise force a woman--if you'll pardon the crudeness of this next verb--to grow something inside of her for nine months is in fact a kind of violence; it breaches her right to security of person. It is, in fact, for this reason that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that barring abortion amounted to telling Canadian women that section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms excludes them on account of their uteri!

Part of me feels a little embarrassed to have come to this realization only now. But thankfully, my relief in reconciling, at least provisionally, my apparently contradictory beliefs is greater than any wounds to my pride!

Anyway, here are a few more posts and articles (most much better written than my own) befitting this anniversary:

- Erica Jong, writing over at The Huffington Post, asserts that "If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would be a Sacrament" [via Jezebel.com];

- Salon.com's Eryn Loeb interviews Dr. Susan Wicklund, doctor, abortion services provider, and author of This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor;

- Jill et al give us lots to read with all the "Blog for Choice"-tagged entries over at Feministe;

- Jessica rounds up a lot of the Roe versus Wade anniversary/current American abortion rights coverage over at Jezebel.com; and

- given that Roe v. Wade was an American decision, there isn't a lot of current coverage of abortion rights here in Canada (sadly, not just today, but most days! This is particularly distressing given that there are still a number of issues surrounding access.) Still, there is information out there, if you know where to look. So allow me to direct you to these articles, as well as this page "On the Issues", at the website for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Very busy.

To tie you over, feast on this morsel from Slate.com: Hillary's "Experience" Lie. Some excellent points here. I'm glad someone finally pointed that out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas, um, "gifts"...

So I got my white Christmas after all; we got about two or three centimetres of snow on Sunday night. Unfortunately, that night I also got what I suspect is not the flu, but a mild case of food poisoning.

Drinking vegetable broth and ginger ale while nibbling on dry toast and soda crackers is not my idea of a vegetarian Christmas feast.

While I am feeling a bit better now, I'm still far too weak to do much. And, at the moment, my holiday run-down post falls under "much."