Start Choppin’ by Dinosaur Jr.

This song is inseparable for me from an early-’90s weekend I housesat on East Fifth Street between A and B for Daniel Fidler, who I worked with at SPIN magazine. (I was a 17-year-old intern, he was in his twenties and worked in research).

Daniel was really nice, loved Fugazi, and had a mother cat and a bunch of kittens nesting under his sink. I took care of them while he was in Israel. I also listened to the above song over and over at his apartment, and it made me feel better about a recent breakup with my first serious boyfriend. I liked staying there, listening to all his albums, reading his magazines, and pretending his studio was my own. I drank a lot of coffee. I did some light snooping.

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“I Love Dick” by Chris Kraus

How had I never read this book before?

Chris Kraus’s 1997 book I Love Dick is part epistolary novel, part exegesis of itself. It’s basically feminist theory masquerading as a doomed rom-com.

The quasi-plot: Chris and her husband have dinner with a colleague of his, Dick. She gets a crush on Dick and she and her husband together start writing him letters expressing–and stoking–her feelings.

As Dick maintains a bemused silence, Chris gets more and more obsessed with him. She travels around the country pining for him and writing him long love letters from grimy motels. Somewhere in all this she leaves her husband. She goes and sleeps with Dick, who isn’t really into her but is doing some kind of very passive-aggressive “not saying no” thing. But then he gets mad and freaks out on her for turning him into an object and invading his privacy. Then she does a whole exegesis of the first part of the book.

It’s the strangest book I’ve read at least since last week’s Fat: a Love Story. (Both were recommended by my weird-book-connoisseur friend Asia.) I agree with nearly every review on Amazon, both 1-star and 5-star ones. It’s both enthralling and repellant. She’s both cool and intolerable. But I am so glad to have read it and wish my friends had too, because it’s relevant to a lot of different conversations, including: Continue reading

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Craziest YA Book of All Time–OF ALL TIME

The 1987 book Fat: a Love Story was recommended to me by my friend Asia. It had somehow eluded my voracious consumption of circa 1990 YA novels. “It’s, uh, pre-Afterschool Specials morality,” Asia said. “Like, you wonder how she got away with that ending.”

Intrigued, I read it immediately, and wow, is she not kidding. This Barbara Wersba is some kind of rebel. Also, she’s a great writer, and she sounds nice. The book is strange and funny and totally, completely, dramatically unconventional. That fourth Twilight book might be perverse, but somehow even with all the supernatural insanity it’s less shocking than Fat: a Love Story. Continue reading

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An Anthology Is Looking for Writing About Girls and Revolution

A woman named Sabine Magnet with a Munich-based press just sent ’90s Woman a call for submissions (in German or English!) for something called THE GRAND GIRLS ANTHOLOGY. The topic is “Revolution.” There’s no money involved, but any profits go to a girls’ charity. If you’re interested, you can send something to submissions@thegrandgirlsanthology. Click here for all the details.

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“Postfeminism” Backlash Flashback, 1998

Carrie Brownstein. This to me seemed very different in the '90s than...

A Facebook friend of mine just posted a June 1998 Time magazine article called “Feminism, It’s All About Me!,” which declared feminism all but over because of the rise of the “quintessentially self-absorbed postfeminist.”

It turned out this was the very article that went with the oft-cited “Is Feminism Dead?” cover! I had forgotten all about that article, and I don’t think in my radical Mary-Dalyfied state I had ever read it very closely, so it was super interesting to do so this morning (instead of working on my book).

It’s such an epic article! Evidence presented for the death of feminism includes: Courtney Love’s makeover, The Vagina Monologues, Bust magazine, the Spice Girls, Gloria Steinem forgiving Bill Clinton for his affair, Bridget Jones, Katie Roiphe, Rebecca Walker, Naomi Wolf, Alanis Morissette, Elizabeth Wurtzel, “sex-abuse-survivor syndrome,” and especially Ally McBeal.

...this.

The author, Ginia Bellafante, suggests that a societal critique is far more important for a feminist movement than focusing on the personal or talking about vibrators. She concludes by favorably quoting “Old Guard feminists” Betty Friedan and Susan Brownmiller describing younger feminists’ focus on sex as “stupid.”

The article’s conclusion: “Is Ally McBeal really progress? Maybe if she lost her job and wound up a single mom, we could begin a movement again.”

Whoa. So much in here. Continue reading

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King Missile, “Detachable Penis”

This was not my favorite song off the 1992 King Missile album Happy Hour (that would be “Anywhere”), but it is the video that most evokes my neighborhood in the ’90s. The peddlers’ market is gone, and so is Love Saves the Day, but the desire for removable appendages is eternal.

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The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Who knew Sloan Wilson’s 1955 bestseller was kind of like Catcher in the Rye, but for middle-aged professional people with kids? I just read the edition with Jonathan Franzen’s smart introduction (although I didn’t have a problem with the second half of the book like he did).

The WWII-veteran exec struggles with his own and society’s phoniness and in the process gets kind of pro-feminist and progressive about sex and power and work-home balance.

If Barbara Ehrenreich is right in The Hearts of Men, and it was in fact men’s dissatisfaction with being breadwinners that helped set feminism’s Second Wave in motion, maybe The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit is one of ’90s feminism’s ur-texts?

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