Don't Go where I Can't Follow

Obligatory Statement on LJ

I've been crossposting between LJ and DW since the servers were being moved to Russia; I've also deactivated my auto-renew account for lj because I don't want them to have access to my financials. I don't think the recent LJ TOS statement will be legally enforceable in the US, but I also don't foresee any organizations going to the mattress about it either.  That said, if LJ ups and closes shop, all my stuff is at my DW account: 

Good night and good luck, I guess.
Cait Yatta!

Two Links

Roxane Gay Says "Cancel Culture" Does Not Exist


[on the term "culture wars"] It doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I think it’s the kind of thing that people say when they’re too lazy to engage with the world as it is, and they want to dismiss the very material realities of most people’s lives. I get really frustrated when people are like, “Oh, it’s the culture wars.” What precisely does that mean?

This bit was super interesting to me since "culture wars" was the term of choice from the 90s and 00s that was used to encapsulate grappling with all the isms. I'm not sure that a better term ever came along, but the old one is certainly passe. (Will still keep the tag tho since I've got, yikes, nearly two decades worth of stuff there.)

Cancel culture is this boogeyman that people have come up with to explain away bad behavior and when their faves experience consequences. I like to think of it as consequence culture, where when you make a mistake—and we all do, by the way—there should be consequences. The problem is that we haven’t figured out what consequences should be. So it’s all or nothing. Either there are no consequences, or people lose their jobs, or other sort of sweeping grand gestures that don’t actually solve the problem at hand.

All this. At some point I need to write up something on the shenanigans and intellectual laziness inherent in that reaction, especially in terms of scholarship.

How Crying on TikTok Sells Books


Many Barnes & Noble locations around the United States have set up BookTok tables displaying titles like “They Both Die at the End,” “The Cruel Prince,” “A Little Life” and others that have gone viral. There is no corresponding Instagram or Twitter table, however, because no other social-media platform seems to move copies the way TikTok does.

“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”

I'm baffled at the notion of purposefully reading something that will make you cry, but at the same time I feel like there's something heckin' Enlightenment about it. Something something culture of sentiment and performance of reading. Also, it would be super interesting if the reporter had connected the video for The Song of Achilles with how that book has been adopted in transformative fandom. Shades of Crush.

Cait Yatta!

Harriet the Queer

I reread Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh for the first time in, like, almost thirty years. This came about because I read a review of a new biography of the author which talked about her life as a queer woman midcentury--her various partnerships intellectual and domestic--and it's really one of those things where once you've seen something in a new light, it can't be unseen.

Harriet is queer.

If you didn't read the book (I know the 90s film was popular but I never saw it--it came out when I was an older teen uninterested in babyish fare), Harriet is an 11 year old girl in 1962 New York who wants to be a writer and a spy. She carries a marbled composition notebook--seen clearly in the illustrations Fitzhugh created--which I did remember led to a lifelong preference for such notebooks. She writes about everything she observes with the acerbic voice and casual cruelty of a child, dismissing various schoolmates and neighbors as ugly, dumb, etc. The final third of the book is when this notebook is found by her classmates who turn against her.

If this isn't a parable of outting, what is?

On top of that, the beloved nanny Ole Golly who has done the better part of raising and caretaking Harriet leaves/is fired, leaving a hole in the kid's life and sinking her into a depression on top of the bullying at school. Her parents take her to a therapist, and Ole Golly writes a letter telling her to grow the fuck up and imparting an invaluable piece of adult wisdom: Sometimes you have to lie.

What I had remembered of the book most clearly was Harriet's "spy route" as she walked through her neighborhood making observations and writing them down, and the other kids' finding her notebook and being angry. I had forgotten how thoroughly cruel they become, stealing her lunches and pouring ink over her. The fix at the end with the apology isn't convincing, except as a metaphor for the social contract. If Harriet acts in a certain way, she will be "accepted." 

To recap this androgynous girl, with her short hair, jeans and jacket, writing constantly, always at the outskirts of her peers whom she despises, learns that lying is the way to fit in. FASCINATING.

Cait Yatta!

Bookmark: 125 Years of Book Reviews - and women

Revisiting the midcentury: "I’d innocently turn a corner and find you back at it, comparing a woman writer to a trout — as praise."

The relevant line from the original review, of an autobiography called "That Pellet Woman!" by Betty Pellet: "Nevertheless, a valiant woman comes through, an indomitable spirit leaping at life with the drive of a Dolores River trout."


It was a clubby world put into a panic by the success of “the lit’ry lady,” as a 1907 article termed her. Early issues of the Book Review were lively with alarm. Why Are Women Using Male Pseudonyms? How Dare Women Write From the Point of View of Male Characters? Why Are Women’s Books Selling So Well? “Is Woman Crowding Out Man From the Field of Fiction?”

(NB All these reviews are hyperlinked in the article.) 
Cait Yatta!

Bookmark: On Book-Buying in the Pandemic



The research, undertaken amid the COVID-19 pandemic, involved surveying over 4,300 qualified individuals across an array of age groups, races, and locales in the United States. To qualify, individuals have to have indicated engaging with one book over the course of the previous year. The data explored three age groups: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. Researchers also looked at five US regions and numerous racial demographics. It is believed to be the first such study and offers conclusions to questions and assumptions many in the industry, from booksellers to publishers to librarians and book influencers, have been eager to learn.

Of the three age groups studied, it was Millennials who engaged with books more than any other. But more specifically, it was avid Black, Latinx, and male-identifying Millennials who engaged with books the most, though across all age groups, it was individuals who did not identify as white who engaged the most. The singular exception was when it came to the context of buying books as gifts. This was the one space where white, female-identifying Baby Boomers outpaced any other group.

Books sales over the last year during COVID-19 saw an increase of over 8 percent, and study participants reported not changing their habits during that time. It was instead avid book engagers — those who engaged with four or more books per month — who helped drive that spike in sales."

Hilariously, they link to the study results which is apparently a Google doc in someone's trash. OOPS.

Academic anxiety and blather

 cw warning: academic anxiety and blather

So I was really, really struck by that article about "burning down the classics" to confront white supremacy which I shared yesterday. Last night I had a dream that was probably related, where I was at a  Problematic Conference and gritting my teeth around Problematic Colleagues. (Thanks, subconscious.) The kind of emotional centerpiece to the thing was the anxiety of academic belonging, and how even in the dream I was skirting events and people to go towards those that made me feel welcome and safe, knowing I was missing out on opportunities but also just too damn tired to want to even be in the room with some people.
There is a disciplinary context here, maybe even a couple. All my work is done at intersections, and for a good time I try to explain that the work I do has through-lines of the history of women and publishing. (I'm handy enough at a multitude of other things that they are always willing to buy this on paper, too.) At the same time I'm always are of exactly how much my work doesn't look much like other people's work, and how easily this can be used against me (as well as the ways other things, like my lack of a dick, have been used against me in the past). Also thinking about the Rebecca Solnit piece on credibility that I shared earlier, and the spaces and places where I am accepted as credible vs. where I am not.
And back to the piece on Dan-el Padilla Peralta, which I am so buying his book as we speak, and wondering about the value of burning disciplines down. I saw Amos Kennedy talk last year where he said something about how, for history to be truly equitable, we'd have to burn down all the libraries. And I'm a librarian, so obviously my internal hackles went up even as I thought about *why* my hackles went up. I'm an archivist too, so I know both how bloody hard it is to build collections in a representational way and how even doing so is an uphill battle most of the time. (Historically this translates to "Build more of this--but not like that!!! And also find the money please. Like now.") Annnnnd I'm a bibliographer, so the constant fight to play bibliographic detective and locate the citations and the evidence and the so on and so forth.
Which is all a roundabouts way to say: Hey, I've fought for over a decade to make academia a better place, and it was hard, and sometimes it is so dispiriting that I wonder why I even bother. But then I also think, having clawed my way to where I am, how I can try to make things easier for other people, some day, eventually, hopefully. Maybe. But in the meantime--in the meantime. Woof.
Cait Yatta!

Bookmark: He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?

Bookmark: He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness. Can the Field Survive? By Rachel Poser


If one were intentionally to design a discipline whose institutional organs and gatekeeping protocols were explicitly aimed at disavowing the legitimate status of scholars of color,” he said, “one could not do better than what classics has done.” Padilla’s vision of classics’ complicity in systemic injustice is uncompromising, even by the standards of some of his allies. He has condemned the field as “equal parts vampire and cannibal” — a dangerous force that has been used to murder, enslave and subjugate. “He’s on record as saying that he’s not sure the discipline deserves a future,” Denis Feeney, a Latinist at Princeton, told me. Padilla believes that classics is so entangled with white supremacy as to be inseparable from it. “Far from being extrinsic to the study of Greco-Roman antiquity,” he has written, “the production of whiteness turns on closer examination to reside in the very marrows of classics. 


Padilla began to feel that he had lost something in devoting himself to the classical tradition. As James Baldwin observed 35 years before, there was a price to the ticket. His earlier work on the Roman senatorial classes, which earned him a reputation as one of the best Roman historians of his generation, no longer moved him in the same way. Padilla sensed that his pursuit of classics had displaced other parts of his identity, just as classics and “Western civilization” had displaced other cultures and forms of knowledge. Recovering them would be essential to dismantling the white-supremacist framework in which both he and classics had become trapped. “I had to actively engage in the decolonization of my mind,” he told me. He revisited books by Frantz Fanon, Orlando Patterson and others working in the traditions of Afro-pessimism and psychoanalysis, Caribbean and Black studies. He also gravitated toward contemporary scholars like José Esteban Muñoz, Lorgia García Peña and Saidiya Hartman, who speak of race not as a physical fact but as a ghostly system of power relations that produces certain gestures, moods, emotions and states of being. They helped him think in more sophisticated terms about the workings of power in the ancient world, and in his own life.

To find that story, Padilla is advocating reforms that would “explode the canon” and “overhaul the discipline from nuts to bolts,” including doing away with the label “classics” altogether. Classics was happy to embrace him when he was changing the face of the discipline, but how would the field react when he asked it to change its very being? The way it breathed and moved? “Some students and some colleagues have told me this is either too depressing or it’s sort of menacing in a way,” he said. “My only rejoinder is that I’m not interested in demolition for demolition’s sake. I want to build something.”


To see classics the way Padilla sees it means breaking the mirror; it means condemning the classical legacy as one of the most harmful stories we’ve told ourselves. Padilla is wary of colleagues who cite the radical uses of classics as a way to forestall change; he believes that such examples have been outmatched by the field’s long alliance with the forces of dominance and oppression. Classics and whiteness are the bones and sinew of the same body; they grew strong together, and they may have to die together. Classics deserves to survive only if it can become “a site of contestation” for the communities who have been denigrated by it in the past. This past semester, he co-taught a course, with the Activist Graduate School, called “Rupturing Tradition,” which pairs ancient texts with critical race theory and strategies for organizing. “I think that the politics of the living are what constitute classics as a site for productive inquiry,” he told me. “When folks think of classics, I would want them to think about folks of color.” But if classics fails his test, Padilla and others are ready to give it up. “I would get rid of classics altogether,” Walter Scheidel, another of Padilla’s former advisers at Stanford, told me. “I don’t think it should exist as an academic field.”


This with some other reading I have been doing plus general observations. The exhaustion of trying to change a discipline, and its necessity.

But also I like the exercise he does teaching in class to get students think abut the shift from republic to empire.