The weekly links, opinion and personal updates post
1. Links of Interest
I’ve announced the winner of my Romcon ticket giveaway (Jacqueline). If you are still in search of a free ticket, there is another contest on, at the Borders True Romance blog.
I’ve put up a page with a list of RomCon attendees. It is woefully incomplete, I realize. If you plan to attend, comment or shoot me an email and I will add you.
Faced with the happy prospect of choosing between a Kindle and an iPad for reading? Take this helpful quiz at Dirty Sexy Books.
Nick Carr on the difference between social media addiction and dependency, discussing the results of a University of Maryland study which asked students to unplug for a period and write about their experiences (from @jafurtado).
Fan fiction folks took your power away. It used to be that the Anointed Few stood at the front of the room – sometimes a tiny classroom, sometimes a giant lecture hall with video cameras catching each golden word for those not lucky enough to hear it in person – and spoke. And everyone else was just audience: the listeners, the readers, the passively entertained. Fandom has turned your lectures into seminars. We keep speaking up. We keep having our own ideas. We don’t even have the courtesy to raise our hands and ask to speak. And sometimes we lock you out of the room altogether.
Marg at Reading Adventures The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader on When a New Book isn’t a New Book:
Not too long ago, there was a Nora Roberts novel released under the name of Big Jack. What wasn’t particularly clear was that this work had previously been released as the first half of Remember When, which was a novel where half had been written as Nora Roberts and the other half was written as part of the In Death series that she writes as J D Robb. If I had been buying her books only to realise that this was a poorly publicised re release I would not have been happy.
Also by Marg, who is on blogging fire (with a lovely new design to boot), “You Haven’t Read That?”:
Some times one particular book seems to be popping up everywhere. Maybe part of the reason for that is that as a blogger I tend to gravitate towards the blogs of people who I know have a similar reading taste to me. Some times though, that hype is more manufactured that organic and there are times when it isn’t easy to tell the difference.
At The Millions, All Great Works of Literature Either Dissolve a Genre or Invent One: A Reading List. It’s a fun list (although the choice of Elizabeth Costello among Coetzee’s works is baffling). But you know what I liked best about it? In my Google reader, it was followed by a big ass advertisement for:
Last week was the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. Gail Collins had a good op-ed on the importance of this little pill, the utter absurdity of its continued controversial status, and why we cannot relax our efforts to protect women’s reproductive rights:
Even though 100 million women take the pill every day, to the great relief of 100 million or so of their partners, the terror of mentioning birth control is so great that the humongous new health care reform act has managed to avoid bringing it up at all. Advocates are hoping that when the regulations are finally written, they will require health insurance to cover birth control pills like any other drug. But nobody is sure.
The trend to turning a literary genre into a self-help manual continues, as there is another nonfiction romance book on the horizon, Make Love Like a Romance Author. I think readers know I generally turn a jaundiced eye to these kinds of projects. But we’ll see.
I have no comment on it, but please follow one of the links provided if you would like to participate in the ongoing discussion.
I do want to respond to one claim: that no minor should be reviewing anything on a blog that also reviews books with adult content.
I have run afoul of his rule by allowing my older son to review children’s books here on occasion. I also review erotic romance on occasion, and write posts on things like rape in romance. Have I placed my child in some kind of danger by allowing him to post on this blog? Obviously, I don’t think so. As his parent, it is my job to to control, mediate, or share sexual information in ways I deem appropriate, in accord with the sexual ethic in which I believe. My son doesn’t read the erotic romance reviews, or indeed do anything online of which I am not aware (helpful tip: keep the kids’ computer in the kitchen. Works great for us!). Sharing this blog with him is a way to share my love of reading, and to include him in a hobby which has become very important to me.
For those who are worried about adult content and minors, let me just add that by the time they are 18, most children in the US will have been exposed to millions of powerful visual images of sexuality and violence — often combined in ways that buttress rape culture — thanks to their televisions, video games, and movie theaters. I would much rather have my ten year old read a review his feminist philosophy professor mother had written of an erotic romance, a book typically written by a woman celebrating women’s sexuality, than be exposed to a portrayal of women like the one of “the girlfriend” (i.e. “tits and ass”) from Transformers 2:
Managing my children’s access to this blog is no different from managing their access to anything else. I appreciate your concern, but when it comes to my children, please leave the parenting to me.
3. Philosophy and taking time
The New York Times debuted today The Stone, a “new forum for philoosphers on issues both contemporary and timeless.” Today’s installment is an essay by editor Simon Critchley on What is a Philosopher? Although my friends in feminist philosophy have already criticized it, I liked it.
He starts by giving the pop culture account of the philosopher:
What is a philosopher, then? The answer is clear: a laughing stock, an absent-minded buffoon, the butt of countless jokes from Aristophanes’ “The Clouds” to Mel Brooks’s “History of the World, part one.” Whenever the philosopher is compelled to talk about the things at his feet, he gives not only the Thracian girl but the rest of the crowd a belly laugh. The philosopher’s clumsiness in worldly affairs makes him appear stupid or, “gives the impression of plain silliness.” We are left with a rather Monty Pythonesque definition of the philosopher: the one who is silly.
And then he continues with his own take:
Pushing this a little further, we might say that to philosophize is to take your time, even when you have no time, when time is constantly pressing at our backs. The busy readers of The New York Times will doubtless understand this sentiment. It is our hope that some of them will make the time to read The Stone. As Wittgenstein says, “This is how philosophers should salute each other: ‘Take your time.’ ”
I understand why many philosophers have reacted negatively to the “otherworldy” emphasis in Critchley’s piece. We — especially we politically engaged philosophers — are all about this-worldliness. But while I don’t like Critchley’s terminology (this is a bit much, for example: “Nurtured in freedom and taking their time, there is something dreadfully uncanny about the philosopher, something either monstrous or god-like or indeed both at once”. Blergh.), I agree with him that creating time and space for reflection is something important that we do.
Prior to writing this post, I was in clinical ethicist mode. I met early this morning with a team of physicians and nurses in our palliative care unit, in their conference room on the 6th floor of the hospital. Just getting this group together was a major feat of scheduling (not mine). And getting them to shut the conference room door and not answer the phone or their pagers was another. I had them for 60 minutes, and we talked about respect, and dignity, and suffering, and moral residue, and ethical dilemmas, and the boundaries of responsibility, and all the things they don’t have time to talk about when they are racing against the clock.
Nothing was officially “achieved” in the session. Nobody’s life was saved, no clinical decisions were made, no papers were signed, no CTE or CEU credits were earned, and there were no “action items”. We didn’t even have an agenda, which I am sure violates some hospital rule of which I am blissfully unaware. But I think it was a good meeting (external signs of this were the clapping, and one doctor asking if she and I could have a mind meld), and I think philosophy was practiced in it. Giving these people the time, space and permission to turn momentarily from the pressing needs of particular patients and families, and to think about the concepts that inform their particular decisions was a contribution I made as a philosopher, and I felt privileged to be able to make it.
By the way, Critchley is a very controversial choice. See Brian Leiter’s “What is the NY Times Thinking”, in which he refers to Critchley as “a complete hack”.
One last thing — not that this has anything to do with philosophy, mind you — but there is a new website, The Versatile PhD:
The Versatile PhD mission is to help humanities and social science PhDs develop and demonstrate their versatility as professionals. We want you to be informed about academic employment realities, educated about nonacademic career options, and supported in preparing for a range of possible careers, so that in the end, you have choices. The key concept here is versatility: the ability to apply your skills and interests in a wide variety of fields
4. Personal update
Not much to report. On Thursday I think I will attend our local library’s book club. This is a practice run at “socializing” prior to RomCon. The books are Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money, and Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking. I am reading them now. I will report back.
I don’t know for sure what I will post this week, but I promise to post the second part of my PCA presentation and probably a review of Felski’s Uses of Literature.
Also, remember that the Jane Eyre discussion begins Sunday.