Friday News: Career Romances, women’s work, Goodreads rules, and dogs v. cats
In Praise of the ‘Career Romance’ – A great tribute to Romance novels of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s that highlighted women in different career paths, from private secretary to actress to architect to copywriter. That they were often written to provide an educational theme does not necessarily eclipse their entertainment value. And then there are the lessons for us. You know, there is mistaken perception that Romance is more progressive now than in the past, and I think it’s important to remember that the genre’s history doesn’t really move on a clear trajectory from one point to another. Also, many of these books are still available, which, for those who have not read them, or are not familiar with them, is a boon (and there are recs at the end of the article).
No matter the publisher, there’s a certain formula to these books: Young woman comes to the city, learns a career, vanquishes a rival, is attracted to a caddish smoothie and ends up with a good guy. Sometimes, especially in those books from the ’40s, she leaves her job to get married. In other cases (see: “Author’s Agent”) the heroine and Mr. Right go into business together. Clothes, apartments and meals tend to be satisfyingly described. I can’t speak to their utility for contemporary young women; certainly, “Joan: Freelance Writer,” from 1948, would prove somewhat misleading for a young woman moving to the city, if only because Joan lives in an entire house in Gramercy Park. But as historical immersion, they’re peerless. – New York Times
Hidden history of prehistoric women’s work revealed – I know this will shock you all, but a new study proposes that women contributed substantially to the development of farming economies, and that their physical strength was greater than contemporary female athletes with comparable skills and muscle movements (rowers). You can access the entire study, led by researchers at Cambridge, University of Vienna, and Western University (Canada), here, and its title is very descriptive: Prehistoric women’s manual labor exceeded that of athletes through the first 5500 years of farming in Central Europe.
The Neolithic women analysed in the study (living around 7,000 years ago) had similar leg bone strength to living women but their arm bones were 11-16% stronger for their size than the rowers. The arms of Bronze Age women were stronger still.
The scientists think that prehistoric women may have used stones to grind grains such as spelt and wheat into flour, which would have loaded women’s arm bones in a similar way to the back-and-forth motion of rowing. . . .
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests women’s labour was key to the rise of agriculture.
Dr Jay Stock, senior author on the study, and head of the ADaPt Project, added: “Our findings suggest that, for thousands of years, the rigorous manual labour of women was a crucial driver of early farming economies. – BBC News
Goodreads is changing its giveaways program, making it harder for readers to discover indie books – So this is interesting. Goodreads is now monetizing book giveaways – aka they’re making publishers and authors pay to give away books. It is difficult for me to comment on this new policy without unleashing my longstanding disgust with Goodreads, but I’m curious about how this new policy is being received by authors, readers, and publishers.
Up until now, authors and publishers have only been able to give away physical copies, but authors who publish through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program (Amazon owns Goodreads) will be able to list Kindle editions, something that was only open to established publishers. There’s some other useful perks for readers: both the standard and premium packages will automatically add a contest book to your Want-To-Read list, and users who have already added the book to the Want-To-Read list will be notified if it’s the subject of a contest. Winners will also be emailed eight weeks after the contest to review and rate the book. The new guidelines will begin on January 9th, 2018, and any giveaways started before then will run normally.
Unsurprisingly, someauthorsand readersare unhappywiththe changes to the program. Goodreads has been a useful tool in the world of book discovery, as authors face an uphill battle of trying to get their names and titles out in an ever-increasingly crowded field. Now, they will have to pay to give away their own work. Lesley Conner, the managing editor for Apex Publications says that she thinks it’s a bad move on Goodreads’ part, and that running Goodreads promotions lately hasn’t been as useful. (Disclaimer: Apex is the publisher of an anthology that I edited.) “This new change is like the proverbial nail in the coffin lid,” Conner told The Verge in an email. “We aren’t going to spend the small marketing budget we have on a service that we’ve already noticed isn’t that effective.” – The Verge
Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats? Science Has an Answer – A study soon to be published in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy asserts that dogs have approximately twice as many neurons in their brains as cats do, suggesting that dogs are more intelligent than cats. So does this mean Robert DeNiro is wrong?
Based on the number of neurons found, they speculated that dogs have roughly the same intelligence as raccoons and lions, while domestic cats have comparable intelligence to bears.
For comparison, humans have by far the highest number of neurons in our cerebral cortexes—as many as 16 billion per person. Among our closest cousins, orangutans and gorillas have about eight to nine billion neurons, while chimpanzees have about six to seven billion neurons.
One of the most intelligent non-primate animals the research team has studied are elephants, which have 5.6 billion neurons. Though Herculano-Houzel notes they also have higher-than-typical neuron counts in their cerebellums, the part of the brain that controls motor skills. That may help them wield their hefty trunks. – National Geographic
As an indie author AND as a longtime user of Goodreads, I am not happy about this change in their giveaway policy. :(
I call BS on that study. Neurons be damned…my dog barks at the wind and eats his own poop. My cat knows how to unlock cabinets and bathroom doors and has “trained” me to wake up at 6:30 every morning to feed him wet food ;)
I enjoyed the career romance article. I think I read a fair number of those growing up and I didn’t really identify them as romances. This was in the 70s and early 80s and I mostly got them from thrift stores. I read Cherry Ames and Sue Barton (both nurses) and Vicky somebody, who was a stewardess. My favorite was A Career for Jennifer, about a young woman who grew up in New York and became a photographer.
@cleo: I checked out online used bookstores for a couple of the NYT recommended titles yesterday after reading the article, and the books were going for over $50. Even A Career for Jennifer is listed at $37 and up! Either people still really like these books or the article has driven up their prices.
I immediately thought of Cherry Ames and still have 6 of those from my childhood :-)
@LeeF: I bought an ebook bundle of the first Cherry Ames when they were re-released a few years ago. I’ve only read the first one so far but it held up surprisingly well. Better than the first Chalet School book did for me.
@Janine: I checked on a few of the titles, and if you just want to read rather than collect them, they’re available in quite a few US libraries. If you have ILL you might be able to get them.
I haven’t read these, but the descriptions sound a bit like 1940s and 1950s Mills & Boon but set in the US and written for more explicitly teenage audiences. I’ve noticed that the old M&Bs have much more detail about the settings and context, and a lot of them feature women in jobs. at least while the women are young and single.
@Sunita: Unfortunately, the last time I tried to use an ILL from my library, I was told I had to pay at least $15 in fees and perhaps more if the library they were getting it from charged them additional fees above the minimum. I ended up deciding to purchase the book instead (and it was an $80 research book). When I lived in upstate New York I never had this problem! But I should check and see whether the policies have improved any — it’s been several years since the incident I described.
@Sunita: I’ve wondered how Cherry Ames would hold up!
@Janine: Wow! Too bad I didn’t hang on to Career for Jennifer – I thought I might still have it, but alas, all I kept of that type is a vintage Nancy Drew.
@cleo: That’s sweet of you to think of! Even if you still had it, I’d be afraid to borrow something that’s selling for that kind of $$$ on the used book market.