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Archives: December 2004

Mediabistro Presents….

“How to Write Like Ms. Curtis Sittenfeld,” A Three-Step Manual for Freelancers

1. Mention past enrollment in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, no matter how irrelevent. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is always relevant.

Nell Freudenberger was, as one of my Iowa classmates announced at a party that night, completely hot. A bunch of us were sitting on someone’s back porch, drinking beer, and the other males present concurred. A debate about the story’s merits ensued; most people had, apparently, been less impressed by Freudenberger’s writing than by her appearance.” ["Too young, too pretty, too successful," Lucky Girls reviewed, Salon, Sep. 4, 2003]

During my first year at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a few of us were sitting around one afternoon when several of my male classmates announced — with far less irony than you’d imagine — that they had become writers in order to attract women. I believe the word they used was ”babes,” as in, I’m in it for the babes. ["You Can't Get a Man With a Pen," NYTBR, Dec. 18, 2004]

2. Break it down. Think categories. Think factors.

Based on conversations with editors, booksellers and fellow writers, I’ve come to believe women can have groupies, or at least there are plenty of female writers who strike the fancy of male readers. The catch is that typically these women fall into one — or both — of two categories: either the woman is very attractive or she writes a lot about sex. In the first category are, from the 70′s, Jayne Anne Phillips; from the 80′s, Susan Minot; from the 90′s, Donna Tartt; and, most recently, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith and Nell Freudenberger. The more sexed-up category includes writers from Erica Jong to Amy Sohn. ["You Can't Get a Man With a Pen"]

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that four factors could lead to one young writer’s becoming the object of other young writers’ loathing. Let’s say these factors are that the writer in question is thought to be attractive, thought not to have paid her dues, known to have gone to Harvard (horrors!), and believed to be without talent. The bad news for Freudenberger is that she represents the overlap of all these factors, thereby becoming emblematic to other 20-something aspiring literati of all that’s unfair and demoralizing about publishing. ["Too young, too pretty, too successful" ]

3. Befriend someone too desperate to know shame. Quote her/him constantly.

A few years later, my friend Jeremy told me he was waiting until his first novel was published to try finding a girlfriend; it would be, he felt confident, a lot easier then. ["You Can't Get a Man With a Pen"]

The most extreme example of organic extravagance I ever witnessed occurred when I accompanied my friend Jeremy (also a struggling writer) to the co-op to pick up grapes before a party. Jeremy carried them to the checkout line without looking at the price. When the total came to $12, Jeremy was too stunned to do anything except hand over the money. ["An organic obsession," Shape, Feb. 2003]

A more serious customer service crush reared up for Jeremy at an Indian restaurant a few years ago. The waitress “had short dark brown hair and was kind of pixie-esque but not too pixie-esque. It was one of those crushes that snuck up on me — a few days later, I was like, hey, I could go back and see that waitress.”

He devised a plan: “I would go by the restaurant, which had big plate glass windows in front, and I would walk really slowly and look in as casually as I could, hoping to catch a glimpse of this girl. Once I figured out that she worked on Tuesdays, I went in and sat down — and she wasn’t there! I had to sit and eat a whole damn dinner by myself, and I had brought these props, like an issue of Harper’s that I didn’t want to read. [I'd planned to say,] ‘Oh, excuse me, let me move my issue of Harper’s so you can put my meal down,’ and then she’d say, ‘I love Harper’s!’ But she wasn’t there and I got served by the typical 52-year-old Indian guy.” Adding insult to injury, the food that night wasn’t even very good. ["Latte, tea or me?," Salon, Oct. 7, 2004]

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The 2004 Diagram Oddest Title of the Year Prize

The shortlist for the 2004 Diagram Oddest Title of the Year Prize has been announced and it’s “your responsibility to select a worthy successor to the original Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, the 1986 classic Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality, and 1992′s sublime How To Avoid Huge Ships.” Vote for your favorite from 2004′s list at

This year’s nominees include:

  • Applications of High Tech Squids (VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, submitted by Jon O’Grady of Burnaby Public Library in Canada)

  • The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox (MIT Press, entered by Jon Woolcott of Ottakar’s)
  • Bombproof Your Horse (J A Allen, submitted by David Evans of Ottakar’s)
  • Detecting Foreign Bodies in Food (submitted by its publisher, Martin Woodhead of Woodhead Publishing)
  • Equids in Time and Space (entered by its publisher, Eleanor Hooker of Oxbow Books)
  • Sexual Health at Your Fingertips (entered by its publisher, Richard Warner of Class Publishing)

DoublePrintDouble the endeavor, double the fun.

Our new hobby: keeping track of literary doppelgangers. Because much more than a book’s content is prone to unoriginality.

Spotted some doppelgangers of your own? Contribute to GC’s upcoming installments.

Murder, She Published

Google bombs can be violent.

From “Hit and Run,” a Reason Magazine blog (read to the last line):

Bernie Kerik: The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

Via Drudge comes this Daily News story strongly indicating the DHS washout had post-9/11 affairs with both a Corrections officer and publishing powerhouse Judith Regan. While I hesitate to spread dirt about a public servant’s private life, this story offers a wrinkle so strange it must be made public: When I did a Google image search on “Judith Regan,” two of the first three images were of P.J. Soles (another no-shit-taking beauty from days of olde) being murdered in Halloween.

Top Ten Moments

from Vanity Fair‘s profile of editor Judith Regan:

10. Few employees have lasted more than a year. Those who have–such as editorial director Cal Morgan and managing editor Cathy Jones, who are married to each other–“have no central nervous system left,” says one ex-staffer.

9. While she professes no personal right-wing leanings … close friends roll their eyes–“She’s to the right of Genghis Khan,” says one.

8. One former friend described the chaos Regan creates around herself this way: “Judith is the sort of person who insists you stay with her, and then you arrive and find out that her ex-boyfriend is also staying in the same room, and there are no sheets, so you have to go buy them, and she tells you to get the best ones and she’ll pay you back, and then she won’t and she’ll say, ‘I’ve noticed that you let people take advantage of you.’”

7. Many staffers–and other colleagues–had epithets according to their sexual orientation or ethnicity: “I was the lesbian cunt,” says one former competitor. “Then there was the black cunt.” When she got mad, people were called “fucking retards” and “fucking idiots”; if she got really mad, she’d accuse people of being either “fags” or “on drugs” or, preferably, both.

6. “She is,” says a woman who has worked happily for other demanding bosses but lasted with Regan less than a year, “a destroyer of souls.”

5. Regan … kept photos of herself dressed as a man around the office, and has been known to shout “I have the biggest cock in the building!”

4. She left topless photos of herself in a table drawer in her office; she also stored voluminous records for her divorce in a closet where anyone could peruse them–and some did.

3. Her enemies, who are legion, say she is (as one former friend put it) “the highest-functioning deranged person I’ve ever known.”

2. At one point Regan told this particular editor, “I’m on so many hormones I could hump the doorknob.”

1. When Arsenio Hall lost his talk show in 1994, she campaigned for the slot. “When [a Fox executive] finally told her she wasn’t getting the job, we all heard her screaming in her office. ‘You know why? Because he has a small dick, and he’s afraid I’m going to eat it. And then I’m gonna eat his testicles. Then I’m going to eat into his body cavity … ‘ It was the most incredible thing I’d heard. But this was my first job out of college. I remember thinking, Huh, maybe this is the way things are in media.”