Barack Obama's mom to be published posthumously

Posted at 10:30 AM Nov 25, 2009

By Andrea Grimes


Big nightmare: your doctoral dissertation becoming a bestseller, ultimately to be scrutinized within an inch of its life by nitpickers the world over with only a limited understanding of anthropology.

Bigger nightmare: your doctoral dissertation becoming a bestseller, ultimately to be scrutinized within an inch of its life by nitpickers
the world over with only a limited understanding of anthropology, and also you gave birth to the first black(ish) president of the United States and are now dead and no longer available to defend said dissertation.

If you have the bigger nightmare, you are Barack Obama's mom, S. Ann Dunham, who famously raised her son in Indonesia while she was doing her field research. According to Publisher's Weekly, Duke University Press will print a revised edition of Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia. Masses, meet ethnography!

Read more Barack Obama's mom... >>

Twi-hards are not going to twi-like this very much

Posted at 3:28 PM Nov 19, 2009

By Andrea Grimes


When it comes to Robert Pattinson characters, I'd rather be romanced by Cedric Diggory than Edward Cullen--especially since, at this point, Cedric love would be zombie love, which is > vampire love. Twilight rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning, so on the eve of this New Moon, I am loving Dazzle Me This, Mr. Vampire, a Twi-hating blog written by two anonymous women who are, amazingly, shitting on Twilight chapter by torturous chapter. They explain:

In the blog entries that will follow, we plan to go through each "Twilight" book chapter by chapter and offer our commentary. "Commentary" can and may include any of the following: a plot synopsis, character psychoanalysis, the best worst quotes, a running tally of the use of the word "dazzle," our alternatives to Meyer's descriptions (especially when it comes to long rooms and crooked smiles), and anything else that comes to mind as we read ...

Lastly, we'd like to add that we are reading these books aloud to each other so we can offer moral support and encouragement along the way. If you are like us, we don't recommend reading these books on your own. It's just too painful. Don't put yourself through that.

The synopses are better than actually reading the books. Of Twilight, chapter one (they skipped the preface, "because it's just too dumb to even write anything intelligent about") they write:

Read more Twi-hards are not... >>

A guide to "Going Rogue" with Sarah Palin

Posted at 4:24 PM Oct 01, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

The cover of Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue was released today. At first, I wasn't sure that there was anything rogue about it. But after some careful thought (honestly, it took me forever to decide on Helvetica Neue) I realized that there is TONS that is rogue about the cover. I made an infographic so you can understand better.


Harry Potter and the Overreactions To His "Alcohol" Consumption

Posted at 8:00 AM Jul 30, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

"Does Hogwarts have a drinking problem?"

Uh, did Snape kill Dumbledore out of malice?

The fact that anyone's panties are in wads over the supposed alcohol consumption in Harry Potter is ridiculous, if not surprising. Lord knows that with global warming, nuclear war and the rising cost of celery, parents don't have enough to worry about. Thank goodness the New York Times has the scoop on boozy HP:

Love potions and adolescent yearnings are central to the evolving story line, and Harry, Ron and Hermione enjoy new freedoms as 16-year-old students at the mythical boarding school Hogwarts, including unchaperoned trips to a pub in the nearby town of Hogsmeade. But recreated on the big screen, the images of teenage drinking are jarring. Previous Harry Potter movies have shown drinking, but this one takes it to a new level.
Sure, I've often wondered about the proof of Butterbeer. And sure, I've pondered just how much firewhisky it might take to get Cedric Diggory--corpse or living--in bed. But when I was taking in the lovely sixth installment of the Harry Potter film series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I was not taken aback--which is to say, I was not "jarred"--by the teenage drinking. And I can't imagine anyone else but the Times'  Tara Parker-Pope was much bothered, neither. Unfortunately, she's the one with the byline:

As the mother of a 10-year-old Harry Potter fan, I was taken aback by the reaction of the young people in the theater. They snickered at Hermione's goofy grin and, later, guffawed when an inebriated Hagrid passed out. While I don't think my daughter fully understood what was going on, I wondered how other parents, educators and addiction experts would react.
Read: "I decided to go out and interview some people I could find who felt the same way as me. This is what we call a story." And wouldn't you know it:

Liz Perle, a mother of two teenage boys and the editor in chief of Common Sense Media, which reviews books, movies and Web content aimed at children, said she was bothered by so many scenes showing alcohol as a coping mechanism.
If your entire universe was being threatened by the Hitler equivalent of the wizarding world, I think the least you could expect folks to do would be down a shot or two. But these moms are complaining that Hagrid drinks--a theme that's been ongoing throughout the books--and that Hermione seems buzzed from a Butterbeer. Their evidence? She smiles after she drinks one. I guess Parker-Pope has never seen a 7-year-old with a Capri Sun.

And lo! Some people disagree with Parker-Pope:

Other parents were less concerned. Daniel Isaacs, a New York advertising copywriter, said his 9-year-old daughter didn't notice the drinking scenes. "The Harry Potter universe is not our own," he said. "Trying to put 2009 American norms into play seems kind of silly."
Why, I do believe what we have here is what we Muggles call a "non-issue." But hey, why not dedicate 1,000 words to unnecessary, pseudo-provocative hand-wringing, anyway?

Are Hermione's looks--or lack thereof--a problem?

Posted at 12:22 PM Jul 24, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

Is Emma Watson's Hermione Granger too pretty? It's a topic of discussion over at the Feministing community forum where "Sunfollower" describes herself as being "in a snit" over Watson's looks and, as a result, the character of Hermione as portrayed in the Harry Potter films:

Watson is undeniably pretty, beautiful even, and for awhile now I've been mad that the hair-and-makeup crew, the producers of the movie, even Watson herself did nothing at all to hide that fact. Nothing at all in spite that fact that Hermione is supposed to be the smart one of the trio, the talented and ambitious one... not the pretty one.
Apart from the perhaps misguided thought that Watson should somehow be responsible for uglying herself up in the faces of makeup artists and producers, Sunfollower's concerns do bring up issues surrounding beauty, brains and who is allowed to have one or both of them. But what I have always loved about Hermione as a character and Emma Watson's portrayal of her is that her beauty and her sexuality are, I feel, appropriately acknowledged and ignored, depending on the particular situation. (Cases in point: can we really complain that Hermione is too pretty considering what hyper-sexualized teenage girls wear in Bring It On, Gossip Girl, etc?) Like a lot of teenage girls, Hermione gets gussied up sometimes. And most of the time, she doesn't, because for heaven's sake, she used a Time Turner to take extra classes. Who's going to do that in heels?

Rowling certainly described Hermione early-on as a child with buck teeth and bushy hair, but is that to say she can't also be beautiful? Or plain? Or fat? Or thin? We know almost nothing about the way she looks besides a few key characteristics. Why? Because that's part of the excellence of Harry Potter -- the story is about the characters, not what they look like beyond some key elements that help explain who they are as people. Really, how much do we know about Ron and Harry's appearances? We know about their hair, their height, their scars, their glasses (or lack thereof). We know that Harry found Cho Chang pretty, but we do not really know what she looked like. It's a brilliant way of creating a world where physical appearance is extant but not emphasized.

I find the fact that Emma Watson's good looks are a point of discussion--rather than how handsome Daniel Radcliffe is or how gawky Rupert Grint can be--to be more than a little dismaying. No one is asking whether Radcliffe is too handsome to play Harry.

Too often, women are marginalized--and marginalize themselves--because society needs to classify, place and sort women into easily understandable terms as if our little lizard brains can't handle the non-male default. This furthers the conception (which is backed up by, oh, I don't know, every women's magazine ever) that women are problems that need to be fixed instead of humans who need to be celebrated.

And so I say hooray for Hermione and Luna and Ginny and all the wonderful Harry Potter girls.

A graphic novel for girls about girls dressed as boys

Posted at 12:00 PM May 26, 2009

By Andrea Grimes


Between The Double-Daring Book For Girls and the new graphic novel No Girls Allowed, it looks like there are some pockets of pop culture not dedicated to frou-frou-sexualizing our daughters. has the dish on No Girls Allowed, written by children's writer Susan Hughes and illustrated by Willow Dawson, which features real-life women who dressed as men to get ahead in their misogynistic societies:

"It's a great and inspiring read intended for young adults, and it runs from 1470BCE (the Egyptian Pharoah Hatshepsut) to the mid-1800s, and the stories will appeal to anyone who revels in tales of people who overcome the unfair limits others place on them. No Girls Allowed ties the quest for gender equality in with stories of racial and economic injustice, as with the amazing story of James Barry, a woman who lived her whole life as a man, becoming a young army surgeon who went on to lead controversial reform movements in South Africa and Canada, standing up for what was right in the face of punishment and even though she had so much to lose."
There are some familiar faces in the book--perhaps you've heard of Mulan?--and some relative unknowns come from the past to teach us about kicking ass. (Viking princess? Yes please!) Open Book Toronto has a 5-minute video about the book, and I just kind of like watching the intro over and over again. Dramatic music! Playground! Go!

A relationship put on auction, literally

Posted at 4:07 PM Mar 27, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

I can't keep relationship detritus. Barely has the door slammed and the whiskey been poured before I round up everything I can find and start stuffing it in trash cans. T-shirts--no matter how comfy--go to Goodwill and photos find a permanent home under the goopy goo of kitchen waste in the compactor. The hardest goodbye of all is to the mixtapes, my own most personally valued form of romantic communication. I am predisposed toward a longing nostalgia, and keeping meaningful items around makes me crazy.

That's why I love NPR's "Books We Like" feature about the amazingly titled Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry by a NYT art director named Leanne Shapton. The book is a faux auction catalog containing the heartbreaking literal pieces of a relationship gone awry. Quoth NPR:

"For decades, fiction teachers have assailed their students with the admonition to "Show, don't tell." Now, that charge has reached its ultimate expression in the dazzling Important Artifacts, the second work by New York Times op-ed page art director Leanne Shapton. Foregoing narrative entirely, Shapton tells the story of a couple's relationship in the form of a staggeringly precise ersatz auction catalog that annotates the common detritus of a love affair -- notes, CD mixes, e-mails, photos, books-- and places the objects up for sale."
Ohmygod, my heart breaks just thinking about it. What a brilliant idea and a lovely way to imagine a lost love, not as an individual or even as two individuals in the past, but as living objects. Up for sale, no less.

So go forth, Heartless Doll readers, into the weekend, and may you acquire many meaningful artifacts along the way. Or maybe just get some tail. Whatevs.

Gwen's bikini waxer to write a book about Brazilians, sexiness

Posted at 3:37 PM Mar 17, 2009

By Sharon Steel

Yesterday, we told you about The Little Red Book of my-first menses essays. Today, the Observer brings word of another book covering an uncomfortable female ritual -- though, fortunately, this one is optional. Brazilian bikini waxer to the stars Janea Padilha is penning a lifestyle tome titled Brazilian Sexy for Penguin imprint Perigee:

Padilha is one of the J Sisters, the Brazilian doyennes of waxing who run the 57th Street salon where celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Lindsay Lohan, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker and Uma Thurman have gone to get neat and trimmed. (Like many other celebrity clients, Ms. Paltrow has her headshot up in the waiting room with the note, "You changed my life!!")
Strange. We thought Gwen's bowel cleanse is what brought that about.

Brazilian Sexy will not only include tips on "the clean body," but also Padilha's advice "about beauty, about men, about life," which she often imparts on her celebrity clientele. Come 2010, we'll know exactly what sort of life-coaching Paltrow, Lohan, Diaz, Parker, and Thurman receive while they're lying prostrate on one of Padilha's treatment tables. Lucky us!

Surfing the crimson wave

Posted at 11:44 AM Mar 16, 2009

By Sharon Steel

Over the weekend, the Times reviewed Rachel Kauder Nalebuff's new think-y anthology about women and their first menses, opening with the same befuddlement we felt when we saw this illustration:

But . . . periods? Really? What's next, a collection of ruminative essays about bowel movements?

No, actually, that's GOOP territory! Still, reviewer Alexandra Jacobs found herself appreciating the diversity of contributors in My Little Red Book, cleverly titled as an homage to Chairman Mao's manifesto. The collection of essays includes writing from Erica Jong (Aunt Flo showed up while she was on an ocean liner), along with Gossip Girl author Cecily von Ziegesar (she was walking goats when she got "IT.") But My Little Red Book also includes "reminiscences from grandmothers and instant-­messaging teenagers; from women in Turkey and Ghana and India; from entrepreneurs and poets -- including one whose daughter's menses inspires her to exult: 'Tonight you delight me like a lover / so that my thigh muscles twitch.'"

However, Jacobs notes that what the book lacks is any kind of instruction, which, "in advance of the big event would be nice." Too true. Just ask Margaret.

Kristen Schaal is writing a sex book

Posted at 6:31 AM Mar 05, 2009

By Sharon Steel

This week's Publisher's Marketplace brought us an unexpectedly titillating book deal: Daily Show Senior Women's Issues Commentator and Flight of the Concords stalker-fan star Kristen Schaal and her boyfriend, Daily Show writer Rich Blomquist, are penning a book together. About sex! They're calling it The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex to avoid any confusion. And also to make you feel a little silly, and proud, when you read it on the subway.

The couples' book, which will be published by Chronicle, will span "from orgies ("the more the hairier") to the latest slang ("Dirty Sanchez, Greasy Monocle, Clever Octopus"), with passages of titillating erotica sprinkled throughout."

According to a interview with Schaal that ran last December, Schaal and her boyf originally planned to write the book under pseudonyms because she didn't want anyone to imagine her "doing those things," despite her girlhood affinity for Harlequin romances:

Like, I'd always go to the library and take a huge stack and find the sex parts, which was always on pages 60 and 180 for some reason in general -- unless they tried sex for the first time and something goes wrong, and it takes until page 180 to get them back together. But anyway, I love that language, I think it's so silly and funny, so I wanted to use that, but it's sort of like, as we speak actually it's evolving almost into a sex guide book. It's a really helpful piece of literature. I think it's going to save lives.
She and her Blomquist even invented their own special descriptions for genitalia. Like macoun apple. According to Schaal, that's "a hot female bottom, juicy and firm, and excellent in a salad." Hilarious. More where that came from in the fall of 2010.

The cover of Lauren Conrad's debut "novel" shocks us

Posted at 6:35 AM Mar 02, 2009

By Sharon Steel

Remember when Lauren Conrad inked a three-book deal with HarperCollins back in September? Conrad has been hard at work, scribbling away. And now the jacket art for her first novel, L.A. Candy, has arrived, courtesy of US Weekly. Feast your eyes:


The stock image isn't anything incendiary, but we've got to give Conrad and her publishers credit for eschewing a cover featuring a pretty blond girl in sunglasses and Jimmy Choos, imbibing from a pink cocktail glass while she's followed around by a camera crew. Perhaps they're saving that for the paperback release?

Life continues to influence art in Conrad's first turn as an author; the 304-page tale follows a 19-year-old girl named Jane Roberts who heads to Shangri-L.A. for an internship, and enlists her BFF Scarlett to "join in the fun." The dynamic duo are then approached by a producer who asks them to appear on a reality version of -- yes indeed -- Sexy and the City. The book hits stands June 16, which will likely be timed to coincide with the finale The Hills. Conrad claims the fifth season of the series will be her last.

Pride and Prejudice, now with extra, ultra-violent zombie and alien mayhem!

Posted at 6:35 AM Feb 19, 2009

By Sharon Steel

We've been so caught up with New York Fashion Week, we completely forgot to catch up on the goings-on at the NYC Comics Convention. One book publisher in particular was attracting the kids in droves, and it's not hard to see why.

A couple of months ago, I flipped through Chronicle Books' catalogue and caught site of the image of Quirk Books' forthcoming revision of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice -- re-dubbed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Shortly thereafter, someone put up the catalogue copy online, and the book's conceit quickly became viral, with bloggers speculating and Austenites pontificating. Thanks to the advance press, Quirk's Editorial Director Jason Rekulak tells Galleycat he's pushed up the pub date and is in talks to sell film rights.

But that's not all: Elton John's Rocket Pictures has already announced plans to produce Pride and Predator, which, to our knowledge, has no adapted literary predecessor. Instead of flesh-eating zombies, an alien crash lands and "begins to butcher the mannered protags, who suddenly have more than marriage and inheritance to worry about," according to Variety.

I feel like Anne Elliot before Captain Wentworth explains himself: I don't know what to believe. The Elizabeth-Bennett-worshiping, Regency-era-romantic in me is calmly stating, in between erudite sips of English Breakfast tea, that this is hardly an acceptable way to treat the works of one of the finest, wittiest, most subversive novelists to have ever picked up a pen, and that it's just another sad bastardization of her cannon in a series of recent fuck-ups. The Heartless Doll in me thinks this could, possibly, be the best thing ever.

I remain on the fence. But: it would be kinda fun to see Mr. Wickham and Lydia gouge each other's eyeballs out in the end.

Madoff'd "Bag Lady" scores a book deal

Posted at 6:39 AM Feb 12, 2009

By Sharon Steel

Alexandra Penney, former Self magazine editor, has been blogging about how Bernie Madoff ruined her high-end life since December, at The Daily Beast. "The Bag Lady Papers" begin with the very moment she found out she lost her savings and segue into her eventual, forced discovery of cheap pleasures, like $3.49 chicken at Popeye's. Penney may no longer be able to afford any more heirloom jewelery or manicures, but at least the best-selling author of How To Make Love to a Man can now add "memoirist" to her résumé of post-Ponzi scheme accomplishments:

"I think she's really struck a nerve," said Ellen Archer, publisher of Hyperion. "There are a lot of us, even those of us with paychecks, who are worried that we can end up on the streets. Even those of us who haven't invested with Bernie Madoff have taken a lot of financial hits and watching her navigate these difficult waters provides a lot of people with reassurance."

But what we want to know is whether the advance will more than cover Penney for a year's worth of her beloved, trade-marked, crisp white button-down shirts, which she basically writes sonnets about in all of her posts.

Ms. Archer declined to say how much Ms. Penney is being paid for the book, which is scheduled for publication in the fall. Ed Victor, Ms. Penney's literary agent, also declined to name a sum, but said, "It's a nice amount of money."
Fair enough. She'll probably still have to bum bottles of Cristal, but the shirts are a definite go. Congrats, Penney! Madoff gave you your literary groove back.


Diane Keaton will write a book about women, mothers, daughters, choices

Posted at 7:27 AM Feb 10, 2009

By Sharon Steel

Publishers have been competing for quite some time over the rights to publish actress Diane Keaton's memoirs, and the end drew near over the weekend. The Observer reports that the flagship imprint of Random House will publish Keaton's forthcoming tome. And she intends to write it herself, instead of hiring a ghostwriter. The subject matter, however, sounds vaguely similar to Molly Ringwald's new book:

William Morris agent Bill Clegg, who sold Ms. Keaton's book and presided over the meetings, said last Monday that Ms. Keaton's book "could be an enduring book about mothers and daughters and the choices that women of her generation and her mother's could make and did."

Mother and daughter books are as lucrative as humorously feminine essay collections, it seems. In the first round of bidding, one house offered a $2 million advance. No word yet on the numbers on Keaton's check. But perhaps, to cut costs in this bleak publishing environment, Keaton and Ringwald can go on reading tour together?


New books: Nina Garcia on shopping smart; Mystery on more unsuccessful ways to charm women

Posted at 11:39 AM Feb 04, 2009

By Sharon Steel

Two exciting and horrifying new book deals of note this week, courtesy of Publisher's Marketplace. First, Marie Claire editor and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia, author of The One Hundred and the very prettily illustrated The Little Black Book of Style, has scored a contract for her third book. The Style Strategy: A Less is More Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping Smart is being pegged as "a primer on achieving a high-fashion look, with an emphasis on saving as much money as possible when shopping." Garcia wants to help you spread "The New Modesty," Karl!

Then, in the advice/relationships sector, somehow, Villard felt it was a good time to agree to take on another book by Mystery (Erik von Markovik). You know, the original mentor of The Pick Up Artist? Yeah. His follow-up tome, The Mystery Method, is forthcoming. What other "tips and tricks" could this dude possibly have to offer by this point, now that everyone who watches VH1 is well-versed in the art of insulting women you want to sleep with while wearing outlandish magician's capes and peacock feather hats?
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