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Wilderness Tips, by Margaret Atwood

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Reading Wilderness Tips pretty much confirmed what I’d suspected about Margaret Atwood for a while now, which is that the lady can do no wrong. At least in her writing. I just seem to love it no matter what, even if some of the stories themselves don’t appeal so much to me plot-wise (title story, I’m lookin’ at you). Does this set me up for unfulfilled expectations the farther I delve into her repertoire? Perhaps, but I haven’t been let down yet.

The stories in Wilderness Tips all share a certain longing, regret, and despair at the passing of time and opportunities missed. I guess they’re all kind of downers, but I never felt too completely trammeled by the pain of them. I also sensed in these stories as well as some of her other books, especially Cat’s Eye, that many of Atwood’s characters have a really interesting and complex relationship with feminism and the women’s movement of the ’60’s and ’70’s, which interests me. I’m tempted to attribute this tension to the feelings of Atwood herself, though I know that’s not quite fair and could be completely inaccurate. In any case, lots of her women protagonists encounter the the women’s movement at some point in their lives and seem supportive to some extent, but though they don’t feel at home in “a man’s world” they never seem to feel quite at home amongst other women, either. It’s become a dream of mine to be able to sit down and have a conversation with Atwood about this some day!  

Anyway, the highlight of the book for me was definitely the story Hairball. Oh, how i love it. It is so disturbing, so sickeningly sweet. It’s about a 30-something woman, Kat, who’s in the fashion business but losing her edge. She has been having an affair with a co-worker who she has shaped in her own image. She has made him stylish, successful, and now he is poised to usurp her power. At the same time, she has a benign growth removed from her body, and develops a real fascination with it. It sits in a jar upon her mantelpiece, and as Kat begins to lose control, she comes to depend upon this separate part of herself–this “hairball”–as a sort of emotional leverage, and when she decides to enact revenge upon her backstabber, she knows just how to use Hairball to her advantage.

Sound gross? IT IS. IT IS SO GROSS. So so gross. But also really satisfying, and so perfect, in the end. Upon finishing, I wanted to laugh, cry, and do it all again immediately. I brought this book home with me for the holidays so that I can share this story with family and friends (it’s okay, they expect this sort of sadism from me ;)). I would love to film their reactions as they read, as I have no doubt their facial expressions will be priceless. Anyway, read this story, if you dare. But not on a weak stomach 🙂


Written by Emily Jane

December 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm

A Novel Gift Campaign

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I stumbled across this update the other day and thought I’d pass it along–Readergirlz and First Book are working together to get books to low-income teens. They say:

Let’s get organizations serving these teens registered with First Book so they can be matched with inventory during the holidays.

Here’s what we need you to do:

Post to Facebook and tweet your beak off about these books using the hashtag #novelgift.

Here’s a tinyurl link to their registration page:

Or you can link to this blog post:

Then, get in touch with every group you can think of that works with young adults–schools, after-school programs, church youth groups, community centers, etc.—and let them know that these books are available now.

The five-minute online registration these groups can use is here:

First Book is also eager to answer questions, either by email to, or by phone at 866-READ-NOW or 866-732-3669.

If you participate, drop us a note at to be included in our blog roll of thanks to run December 31.

A worthy, giving project in the spirit of the holiday season. As readers, I’m sure we can all appreciate the positive impact that a new book of our own can have on us. Everyone deserves that warmth every once in a while 🙂

Written by Emily Jane

December 3, 2010 at 1:44 am

2011: A Year of Feminist Classics!

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I’ve committed to my first year-long reading project, starting this January: A Year of Feminist Classics. I’ll be co-hosting with Amy of Amy Reads, Iris of Iris on Books, and Ana of Things Mean a Lot. A bunch of the books we’ll be reading and discussing have been on my back burner for quite some time, so I’m really pleased to finally be making time for them (The Second Sex, ahem). And Amy, Iris, and Ana are three of my favorite bloggers, so I’m honored to be included!

Visit our new group blog and check out our reading list. Note, though, that it is subject to change a bit as we’re currently working to include some non-Western feminist classics. Have some suggestions? Let us know! Still think we’re lacking and must include X, for whatever reason? You’re undoubtedly right–maybe you’d be interested in writing a guest post for us! Surely there are thousands more unmissable feminist texts the four of us can’t cover in a year 🙂

Of course, we’d love you to participate in any way you’d like. This could mean joining us for just one book, or all of them. Or just leaving your thoughts in comments every once in a while.

We’re all very excited about this project, so do check it out and let us know what you think!

Written by Emily Jane

November 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Lit Tats!

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I like tattoos. I have two myself, and am planning on a few more eventually. I’ve been contemplating a book-related tattoo for a while now, but haven’t come up with anything particular yet. So, I was really excited to stumble upon this post last week at The Feminist Texican [Reads] about The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos From Bookworms Worldwide, a photo book by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor. These all take inspiration from specific books, whereas I’d like something generally bookish, but still: inspiration.

Watch the book trailer and check out the associated photo blog.

YES. Right up my alley.

What do you think? If you were to get a literary tattoo, what would you choose? And even if you’re not a tattoo person, do you have a favorite lit-quote or bookish image you could hypothetically imagine making a nice/interesting tattoo? Let’s talk!

Written by Emily Jane

October 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Friday Fun

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A few cool book-ish links from Boing Boing:

1. Learn how to make your own secret hollowed-out hiding place in the book of your choice! Looks like fun, doesn’t it? What would you hide in a book? I would love to accidentally stumble upon somebody else’s one day…and I love the one they have pictured! It’s strangely spooky.

2. Check out these “portable lighthouse keeper libraries of yesteryear”. I have a thing for lighthouses, old things, and libraries too, of course. So, awesome!

Written by Emily Jane

October 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm

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Brooklyn Book Festival

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I’m taking this opportunity to complain that tomorrow is the fifth annual Brooklyn Book Festival, and I won’t be attending. I’ll be working. This is probably a good thing, really, since I have no extra money to spend right now at such an event, and the temptation would. be. endless. I’ve gone the past two years and had a blast. Check out all the wonderful events that will be taking place, all the writers that will be there, and all the great publishers who will be set up with books. I know, I know: drool. By all means, if any of you are in the area and have the time, go!–I don’t think any of my readers are, but hey, worth a shot.

Oh, and you might get a kick out of How to Open a New Book at Boing Boing. I can’t stand to break a book’s spine, myself. Does it make you cringe, or are you unphased by it?

Written by Emily Jane

September 11, 2010 at 10:40 pm

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Jane Austen’s Fight Club

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OMG. Full-length, please!

Via Boing Boing.

Written by Emily Jane

July 25, 2010 at 11:11 pm

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