From Clytemnestra to Villanelle: why are we fascinated by women who kill?


This post is by Sean O'Connor from Books | The Guardian


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In both pop culture and reality, women killers both seduce and repel us. The writer behind The Archers’ gaslighting storyline explores our enduring obsession

About 2,500 years ago, an audience took their places at a theatre in Athens for the premiere of a new murder drama. The protagonist, a returning war hero, was savagely stabbed to death, naked in his bath. The crime was thought particularly heinous as the killer was the victim’s wife, Clytemnestra. Her name has become notorious for a uniquely feminine sort of villainy, and the story of the murder of her husband, Agamemnon, seen in Aeschylus’s play of the same title in 458BC, has become an archetypal domestic murder plot.

Even though female murderers are much rarer than male murderers in reality, the image of the female killer continues to fascinate. Killing Eve is just the latest example of popular culture’s preoccupation with attractive young women ...

Adventuring while female: why the relationship women have with nature matters


This post is by Megan Mayhew Bergman from Books | The Guardian


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Going camping alone, I was reminded that the great works of environmentalist female writers are often overlooked – and it’s our loss

It’s Monday in the Adirondack state park. I’m driving through little towns, passing junk stores, lumber businesses, small cafes and adventure outfitters. I have heard people call this part of New York state “poverty with a view”. The Adirondacks are a collision of hardship and wealth, but mostly wilderness. Six million acres of it.

It’s almost LaBastille Day, and to celebrate, I’m going to camp alone for the first time in my life.

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Jilly Cooper tops inaugural Comedy women in print awards


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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The Rutshire Chronicles author received the lifetime achievement honour, with prizes for rising stars Laura Steven and Kirsty Eyre

Reigning queen of the pun Jilly Cooper has been awarded the inaugural Comedy women in print (CWIP) lifetime achievement award “in recognition of her legacy and inspiration to comic women writers everywhere”.

The bestselling author, who at one point describes her hero Rupert Campbell-Black’s aggressive love-making as “like a power drill … her Campbell-Black-and-Decker”, was named winner on Wednesday night.

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What We’re Told Not to Talk About by Nimko Ali review – the body laid bare


This post is by Arifa Akbar from Books | The Guardian


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Women from around the world talk openly about sex, periods and childbirth in a rich, varied study

In a 20th anniversary edition of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler reflected on how seldom the “v-word” was said aloud in 1996, when she staged her groundbreaking show. The play, based on more than 200 accounts, dramatised women speaking about – and sometimes to – their vaginas, and such was Ensler’s fear of backlash that she thought she might get shot.

The lexical evasion that Ensler spoke of, arising out of centuries of cultural shame, fear and secrecy, still takes place. The original title of Nimko Ali’s book was the bolder Rude: There Is No Such Thing as Oversharing (the proof copy had a strikingly suggestive cover design). But Ali was apparently worried that this might suggest the book’s contents were shocking or indecent. The book’s packaging now makes almost no mention ...

I can’t write about a world without rape – because I don’t live in one


This post is by Kaite Welsh from Books | The Guardian


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Women read and write crime fiction as a way to understand real experience. I was raped – and being told by the Staunch prize that books like mine are preventing justice is outrageous

That rape cases are hard to prosecute is no shocker, but the claim that crime writers are partly to blame shocked me. According to the Staunch prize for books with no violence against women, writers who include sexual violence and rape in their books are contributing to a wider culture in which jurors are “reluctant to convict ‘ordinary’ men” because “they don’t fit the idea of a rapist they’ve internalised through the stories and images they’ve received through popular culture”. In great thriller tradition, the call is coming from inside the house.

As someone who analyses culture for a living and often finds it wanting, I’m in the unaccustomed position of noting that what we’re talking about ...

Crime writers react with fury to claim their books hinder rape trials


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Novelists have condemned the Staunch prize – for thrillers without violence against women – as a ‘gagging order’, after organisers said the genre could bias jurors

Crime novelists have hit out at the claim that fictional depictions of sexual assault influence the outcomes of rape cases, after a prize for books with no violence against women asserted that stereotypical portrayals of attackers could “seriously affect justice”.

The Staunch prize, awarded to a thriller in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered, was launched last year to “offer an alternative narrative to stories based around violence to women”. When it was announced, it was widely criticised by major writers including Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah. McDermid said that “as long as men commit appalling acts of misogyny and violence against women, I will write about it so that it does not go unnoticed”, and Hannah told her ...

Crime writers react with fury to claim their books hinder rape trials


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Novelists have condemned the Staunch prize – for thrillers without violence against women – as a ‘gagging order’, after organisers said the genre could bias jurors

Crime novelists have hit out at the claim that fictional depictions of sexual assault influence the outcomes of rape cases, after a prize for books with no violence against women asserted that stereotypical portrayals of attackers could “seriously affect justice”.

The Staunch prize, awarded to a thriller in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered, was launched last year to “offer an alternative narrative to stories based around violence to women”. When it was announced, it was widely criticised by major writers including Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah. McDermid said that “as long as men commit appalling acts of misogyny and violence against women, I will write about it so that it does not go unnoticed”, and Hannah told her ...

Writing to resist the patriarchy: Olivia Laing on Darcey Steinke, Katherine Angel and Andrea Dworkin


This post is by Olivia Laing from Books | The Guardian


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Steinke’s Flash Count Diary, on the menopause; Angel’s Daddy Issues, on fathers in the #MeToo age; and Last Days at Hot Slit, a collection of Dworkin’s work, are all “books as actions”

Among the epigraphs in Flash Count Diary, Darcey Steinke’s incandescent account of the menopause, is a line from The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir: “The body is not a thing but a situation.” Steinke is being assailed, even menaced by hot flushes. They come with a warning: first an aura, a vertigo-inducing plunge into anxiety, then an explosion of heat. They hit her at work, in bed, bringing insomnia and depression in their wake. They can be generated by the smallest shift in temperature – a plate of scrambled eggs placed too close to her stomach, the door closing on a bus. Lying on her sofa in Brooklyn, “a slab of frozen ham balanced on ...

Bonkbusters are about so much more than sex and shopping


This post is by Sarah Hughes from Books | The Guardian


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Judith Krantz, who has died at 91, was a queen of the genre, putting confident women and their friendships to the fore

It was hard not to see the death of Judith Krantz at the age of 91 last week as the end of an era. Krantz was the “queen of the bonkbuster”, those glitzy novels with their gaudy covers and snappy often one-word titles – Scruples, Lace, Rivals – that dominated commercial fiction in the late 1970s and 1980s, spinning stories of fabulous lives lived at full tilt and stuffed full of sex, secrets and shopping.

As a teenager, I thrilled to those books: to Krantz’s Scruples, in which her formidable heroine, Billy Ikehorn (nee Winthrop), essentially anticipated the hipster shopping experience by about two decades, opening the shop that gave the book its title, a perfect pleasuredome with an on-site bar in which women tried ...

Over 40 and loving it: let’s celebrate fiction with positive older characters


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Too many books feature sterotypical older women who can’t use phones and don’t like sex. Gransnet and imprint HQ are looking for writers to change all that

There is a passage from Jilly Cooper’s Rivals which, despite first reading it in my early teens, has stayed with me, popping into my head with increasing frequency now I’ve stepped over the threshold into the over-40 bracket. Lizzie Vereker, the curvy, middle-aged wife whose rat of a husband is cheating on her, is contemplating her misery and “feeling rather old and dried-up”.

So she rubs “skin-food into her face, only to realise she’d forgotten her neck, which is supposed to betray your age most, so she rubbed the excess skin-food down into it. Then she remembered you were supposed never to rub skin-food downwards as it made your face droop. Would her life have been different, she wondered, if she’d always remembered ...

Saving ‘woman hand’: the artist rescuing female-only writing


This post is by Elizabeth Dearnley from Books | The Guardian


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Kana let women express themselves freely and was used to write the world’s first novel – then it was wiped out. Meet the master calligrapher keeping the script alive

Anyone who has ever fired off a text in haste will sympathise with the first point on 11th-century Japanese writer Sei Shōnagon’s list of “infuriating things”: “Thinking of one or two changes in the wording after you’ve sent off a reply to someone’s message.”

This list, her messages, and her Pillow Book in which they’re recorded – a sparklingly acerbic, blog-style frolic through the lives of Heian-era aristocrats – were written using kana, a Japanese script mainly used by women for nearly a millennium to write literature, arrange secret assignations and express themselves freely within the confines of court life.

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Author Lisa Taddeo: ‘I wanted to explore desire, not sex’


This post is by Rachel Cooke from Books | The Guardian


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In her extraordinary book Three Women Lisa Taddeo charts the intimate lives of real American women. Below, we print an extract

In 2010, a young American writer called Lisa Taddeo published an article in New York magazine about the women who work as highly paid hosts and cocktail waitresses – the so-called “bottle girls” – in America’s most exclusive clubs. It was (and is) quite an eye-popping piece of immersive journalism; among other things, she managed to interview Rachel Uchitel, a host whose affair with Tiger Woods had recently hit the headlines. At the time, however, its author had no idea in what unlikely direction this report would shortly take her, nor for how long. It was an assignment, just like any other.

Soon after its publication, an editor at Simon & Schuster rang Taddeo and asked if she might consider writing a nonfiction book that connected to it in ...

No luxury: book containing tampons is runaway hit


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Protest against Germany’s 19% tax on sanitary products sells out first print run in one day

Open up a book and you can find a whole world. But the first book from the German startup the Female Company offers something more straightforward: within its covers are 15 tampons. And it is flying off the shelves.

The Tampon Book is a protest against Germany’s 19% tax on tampons as “luxury goods” – and a way of getting round it. Books are taxed at 7% in Germany, and so the founders of the Female Company, which sells organic sanitary products, decided to publish one and include tampons inside it. Released earlier this spring, the first print-run sold out in a day and the second in a week, said the publisher, with around 10,000 copies sold to date. Only the English-language edition is currently available.

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Kylie Jenner’s party was stupid. But it won’t curtail the power of The Handmaid’s Tale | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett


This post is by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett from Books | The Guardian


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Celebs can drink their Gilead cocktails. Margaret Atwood’s story remains a pertinent warning about misogyny’s mission creep

I felt a small spark of joy yesterday, as I imagined Margaret Atwood’s facial expression when confronted with the news that a member of the Kardashian family – Kylie Jenner – had provoked internet outrage by organising a Handmaid’s Tale-themed party. The novelist is known for taking no prisoners, and the footage, which shows Jenner and her friends squealing as they are confronted with Handmaid-themed costumes and cocktails, lays bare some of the most flagrant stupidity I think I have ever witnessed.

Was I particularly offended? Before anyone cries “snowflake”, I was not. But I was astonished at the ignorance and privilege of the women in the video, who will never suffer if Roe v Wade is repealed, abortion is outlawed in the US and women’s bodily autonomy is drastically curtailed. The ...

The Apology by Eve Ensler review – my father, who abused me


This post is by Arifa Akbar from Books | The Guardian


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The Vagina Monologues writer revisits her childhood in a powerful imagined letter from her father – the words of repentance he never uttered

Eve Ensler begins her memoir with a simple dedication: “For every woman still waiting for an apology.” Ensler counts among these women herself. The award-winning American playwright and activist who has spent decades campaigning globally against anti-female violence, was ritually assaulted by her father, Arthur Ensler. It began as sexual abuse when she was five. By the time she was 10, he was choking her, punching her in the face, threatening to stab her and beating her with belts and paddles in sickening acts of pain and humiliation. Eve’s mother looked on in silence. Her family was pitted against her. Arthur died 31 years ago; he had not uttered any words of repentance.

Earlier this month, the TV presenter and comedian, Ellen DeGeneres, spoke of her ...

No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder review – domestic violence in America


This post is by Amy Bloom from Books | The Guardian


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An explosive new book condemns the male culture that sees 50 women a month in the US shot dead by the men they love

What do we talk about when we talk about domestic violence? We talk about the scary, rageaholic man and his hapless female partner. We talk about the sudden boiling over. We talk about, as the American journalist and author Rachel Louise Snyder puts it, “the unfortunate fate of the unlucky few”. We talk about the woman’s (they are mostly women, 50 a month gunned down in the US) tragic pattern of filing charges and dropping them, making complaints and frequently recanting, greeting him with hugs and kisses and a hot dinner the day he gets out of jail.

What is also talked about are the more recent remedies (for most of history, assault of a wife by a husband was not any kind of crime) of ...

Nell Freudenberger: ‘Like many women I believed I didn’t have the right kind of brain for science’


This post is by Lidija Haas from Books | The Guardian


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While writing her latest novel, the American author became obsessed with theoretical physics. She talks about sexism in science, falling in love with teachers and grief

Few things bother Nell Freudenberger more than the way girls and women are still so often held back from studying science. For her new novel, Lost and Wanted, which follows Helen, an eminent theoretical physicist and single mother, as she mourns the death of her closest friend, Freudenberger set out to teach herself as much physics as she could. Growing up in New York City, she was, like so many other young women, encouraged to believe she didn’t “have the right kind of brain for it”. After doing badly in a maths test in her teens, she was told by a teacher that she might as well quit, and by the time she reached Harvard, hoping to study medicine, she was so far ...

What Will It Take to Overthrow Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3?


This post is by Natalie Zutter from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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The Handmaid's Tale season 3 non-spoiler review

The Handmaid’s Tale certainly delights in its own striking visuals. Hulu’s dystopian series kicks off season 3 with the Waterfords’ home on fire—the bedroom, site of Ceremonial rapes; the kitchen, full of quiet rebellions; the empty nursery, all going up in flames. It seems to say we’re going to burn this shit down, borrowing a refrain from protests (in person and on social media) by those who have had enough. Or, a few episodes later, there’s the admittedly badass shot of Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and June (Elisabeth Moss) coolly lighting up cigarettes side-by-side in a room, co-conspirators and, briefly, equals.

But in terms of actual destruction or change, it’s all just smoke. Last season, June turned her back on her chance of escape, handing baby Nichole to Emily (Alexis Bledel) to ferry to Canada and walking back into Gilead to rescue her other daughter, Hannah. And, presumably, burn ...

The Handmaid's Tale season 3 non-spoiler review
The Handmaid's Tale season 3 non-spoiler review
The Handmaid's Tale season 3 non-spoiler review
The Handmaid's Tale season 3 non-spoiler review
The Handmaid's Tale season 3 non-spoiler review
The Handmaid's Tale season 3 non-spoiler review

‘People don’t expect women to be funny’: Marian Keyes on Comedy women in print shortlist


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Revealing the five books in contention for the inaugural prize, Keyes hit out at the internalised sexism leading readers to assume women can’t write comedy

Bestselling novelist Marian Keyes has railed against the sexist attitude that “people don’t expect women to be funny” as she announced the shortlist for the inaugural Comedy women in print prize.

The £2,000 award was founded by the comedian, writer and actor Helen Lederer last year, after Keyes slammed the “sexist imbalance” of the Wodehouse prize for comic fiction. The Wodehouse is the UK’s only prize for funny writing, and has been won by four women in 19 years. Keyes, part of a judging panel for the CWIP that also features comedians Katy Brand and Shazia Mirza, said that “we are all so steeped in internalised sexism that we’re not even aware that it’s there”.

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Interview with Anaïs Nin – archive, 30 May 1970


This post is by Michael McNay from Books | The Guardian


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30 May 1970: Behind the writer’s ceramic surface, the luminous eyes, eyebrows plucked to slender lines, there is a thread of steel

The times are catching up with Anaïs Nin. Today she has a huge young readership in the United States and a growing readership in Europe. Yet in the thirties, when she published her first book, she was scarcely heard of, and when she went to New York in 1939, she had to set up and operate her own heavy printing press.

Related: Before Lena Dunham, there was Anaïs Nin – now patron saint of social media

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