Wednesday News: Defying convention and the gift of reading
2015: The Year an “Orgy of Specificity” Revitalized Romance – Judy Berman’s contemplation of her favorite romance of the year: Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, becomes a launching pad from which she discusses the construct of identity, as books like Nelsons, and Ann Garétta’s Sphinx defy gender constructions and conventions to deliver what she found to be the most engaging romantic narratives. Berman’s essay is also a great reminder that people engage with different narratives for such complex reasons. As characters can defy convention, so do readers, and I think Berman does a good job of articulating the significance of her engagement with these narratives, while not trying to fit them into prefabricated cultural constructs.
I don’t think The Argonauts was supposed to be the love story that resonated most with me this year, the one that made me want to immediately go out and buy my own copy as soon as I had finished reading the copy I’d borrowed. I am a 31-year-old, cisgender, middle-class white woman in a long-term, live-in relationship with a man; there’s a bit of a gloss on this self-portrait, but even so, in 2015 the entertainment industry pumped out plenty of Generic Romance Product aimed squarely at people who fit my general description. And none of it spoke to me the way Maggie Nelson’s book did. . . .
Nelson writes that “one of the gifts of genderqueer family making… is the revelation of caretaking as detachable from – and attachable to – any gender, any sentient being.” Both authors recognize identity as a prison, and both use love to escape – Garréta by ignoring the lovers’ gender and Nelson by using critical theory to interrogate how it works in her own binary-confounding romance. Amid a cultural conversation saturated with worn-out debates about identity, these approaches offered something not just novel, but constructive. – Flavorwire
The Next Sexual Revolution? A Look at the Estimated Millions of People Exploring Open Marriages – Remember when the idea of a polyamorous Romance was being challenged by RWA’s proposed “one man, one woman” clause? Ah, the good old days. Not. Speaking of unconventional romances, it’s good to see mainstream media acknowledging the diversity of relationships that people have within the bounds of traditional marriage, beyond the usual !POLYGAMY! narrative. It’s also going to be interesting to see if and how women benefit from the expansion of choices and roles both inside and outside marriage. Unlike the standard !POLYGAMY! narrative, where women are confined to the role of “sister wife” and male sexual fantasies are tempered by the ‘burden’ of having to satisfy so many women. Also, will polyamory ever really mainstream in genre Romance?
It sounds counterintuitive, but many people practicing nonmonogamy see it as a way to preserve their relationship, not implode it, says Esther Perel, marriage therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, whose TED talks on marriage and infidelity have been collectively viewed more than 10 million times. “Many people in their 20s and 30s are children of divorce, and they want a different code of honesty,” she says. “The idea of consensual nonmonogamy is in service of the longevity of the couple: ‘With this, we can avoid lying, cheating.’ They’re taking the concept of sexual freedom inside the marriage.” – Marie Claire
The beautiful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve – So apparently Icelanders write, read, and publish more books, per capita, than any other country. A full 10% of Iceland’s population of less than 330,000 will publish a book. And they have a very cool Christmas ritual that doesn’t really need Christmas to be a great ritual, but clearly it happens at this time of year:
Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. This custom is so deeply ingrained in the culture that it is the reason for the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.
At this time of year, most households receive an annual free book catalog of new publications called the Bokatidindi. Icelanders pore over the new releases and choose which ones they want to buy, fueling what Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, describes as “the backbone of the publishing industry.” – Tree Hugger
How to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day – And in case you need some help getting through that book your Icelandic friend just gave you…
Reading an entire book in a matter of hours may seem daunting, but it all comes down to simple math. The average adult reads around 200-400 words per minute. The average novel ranges between 60,000 and 100,000 words total. If your reading speed is right in the middle of the pack at 300 words per minute, and you’re reading a middle-of-the-pack novel at around 80,000 words, you’ll be able to knock it out in around five hours or less.
That might seem like a lot, but it’s totally possible. And you can do it without any skimming or speed reading trickery, which can be bad when it comes to truly absorbing information. For the most part, it’s possible to read at your usual pace, absorb information at your brain’s preferred rate, and all you have to do is buckle down, make the time, and get started as soon as possible. – Lifehacker