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From Phyllida's Desk

Writers' Lives

Anybody who’s worked at writing knows that creative success doesn’t necessarily lead to material success. We tend to think of the award winners and the bestsellers as two mutually exclusive sets of writers; and we hope, even if we don’t always believe it, that if a writer stays true to his or her voice, the work will be recognized on its merits, eventually.  Read More 
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To Beth Massey, raisa, and steamkitty, with Love

Authors of “controversial” fiction go through a steep learning curve. If we get good print and mainstream reviews for our first book, as I did with Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, we eagerly and obsessively check the blogs, the offbeat or specialized online reviews and our sales rankings on Amazon and B&N. And, wow—can that be a bucket of cold water, or, to use an analogy Henry Fielding might have employed, a chamber pot emptied over one’s head.  Read More 
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Algorithms and Genres

People make fun of the Netflix algorithm, the computer program that recommends movies based on how you rate other movies. I’ve certainly laughed at it. Its worst recommendation for me was Jackass 2. And no, I didn’t give Jackass 1 five stars, or even watch it.

The reason Netflix suggested Jackass 2 was that I had given Monty Python’s Life of Brian five stars, as did, apparently, many jackasses.  Read More 
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Beauty and Truth

It’s a truism that people become actors because they want to be someone else. But isn’t it true for everybody?

I went to a Christmas Eve party with a man I met a week earlier, at the holiday party at the Center for Fiction (formerly the Mercantile Library). Steve won me over because he told me, completely spontaneously, that I look like Bette Davis.  Read More 
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The Aesthetics of Porn

In the recent movie The Kids Are All Right, an early joke is that the lesbian couple watches gay male porn. When their fifteen-year-old son discovers their stash and wants to know why they don’t watch movies about women, his biological mother, played by Julianne Moore, tries valiantly to come up with logical explanations.  Read More 
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Disinterested Love

A couple of years ago, when I was a regular participant in a “bisexual social discussion group,” I used to have fun with a good friend, a bisexual man married to a woman, debating the difference between a bisexual man and a gay man married to a woman. We weren’t seriously trying to name names or define other people—it was more of an amusing unresolvable question, the middle-aged successor to those college dorm philosophy all-nighters that some people supposedly enjoyed as undergraduates.  Read More 
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Likes Spiders and Snakes, Hates Art

I’m thinking of the Jim Stafford song from 1974: “She said, "I don't like spiders and snakes, And that ain't what it takes to love me, You fool, you fool.”

Gorgeous, inspiring art, from Oceania to Dutch Masters, from Neolithic cave paintings to Picasso? Hate it, hate it hate it! I hate it all.

Snakes, frogs, scorpions, centipedes and spiders? Love ‘em! Can’t get enough hairy-legged, slimy or scaly creepy-crawlies.  Read More 
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Unfinished Business

I consider myself a “good talker,” someone who thinks on her feet, enjoys speaking in public and can even come up with the occasional witticism. But I find that I’m rarely at my best in book club meetings. People raise questions that require me to think before expressing an opinion (always a challenge).  Read More 
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The Macho Dandy--Not an Oxymoron

There was an interesting juxtaposition of events for me recently, the kind of thing that feels like the heavens opening up to send an earth-shaking message that will Change Everything. Then you mull it over for three days and it’s not such a revelation. But I’m going to post it anyway because it’s all I’ve got for material, and the message, such as it is, bears repeating. Besides, my new computer arrived earlier this week, and what better way to inaugurate it than by talking about my favorite subjects?

The more spectacular event was actor/scholar Ian Kelly’s presentation on Beau Brummell for the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).  Read More 
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Escape Artists

A couple of weeks ago I heard a talk by Francine Prose, author of Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. Like many writers of fiction, Ms. Prose uses the word “books” here to mean novels, and her talk was similar to the first part of Reading, a discussion of the reasons people read, or might want to. First on her list was: Escape.  Read More 
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