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It’s a Privilege

If you haven’t yet dipped into the conversation about how writers balance their income-streams and their creative output—or, more to the point, how many writers are subsidized or supported by their spouses—use this piece as an opportunity to retrace the path through the links to Ann Bauer’s Salon piece, Laura Bogart’s response, and more.

I was thrilled to first read Bauer’s essay, suggesting that for as long as “sponsored” (or, less kindly, “kept”) writers omit their status as such from their narratives of themselves and their careers, they are perpetuating problems of privilege. Of course, the same is true well beyond the writing world. Forget envy of productive writers who also have cute outfits at literary parties and manage to attend yoga classes in the middle of the day. Full-time mothers, editorial assistants, public school teachers — these jobs are all ripe for spousal sponsorship.

In the years between graduating college and seeing friends build careers and families, I slowly began to notice a pattern. Not — not! — universal. But noticeable. Men were choosing power-and-money jobs, women were choosing careers of passion or purpose. Freelancing, teaching, participating in the publishing industry, pursuing PhDs. And then these men and women paired up, and women making modest salaries jumped up in purchasing power and comfort, their gripes about the cost of insurance, loan payments, and rent fading into silence. (Some already had the safety net or outright support of financially comfortable families.) New York is a city that seems to be stuffed with investment-bannker—associate-editor marriages.

As an unmarried person, my financial-familial life story isn’t written yet. Neither is my career’s. But even single, I have plenty of my own privilege to acknowledge and to be grateful for. The cultural and political structures that I imagine create these patterns we unwittingly follow deserve much, much more excavation and discussion. I’ll leave this morning’s post to be the first part.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Dubai-Property-11Hananah Zaheer weighs in on the recent discussion in Salon, Dame, Missouri Review, Bustle, Medium and on various personal blogs, about writers, money, privilege and support. (Gentle Readers, we’ll do a round-up on those posts later this week).

It’s a privilege.

I often joke that I wish I was a writer in the old days. Non-specific, old days where artists had patrons who took care of their expenses and living, and all they were responsible for was writing, creating, painting. My husband likes to remind me that I do: him.

This is true. Much like Ann Bauer admits in her Salon piece I, too, must confess that I do not have the pressures that come from having difficult financial circumstances. I live in Dubai in a nice neighborhood. I have help at home, I drive a nice car; I had never considered the word exactly, but I fit the description of…

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Was Susan Sontag the Last Public Intellectual? Nancy Kates on Making ‘Regarding Susan Sontag’

Please oh please let this documentary end up on HBO Go…


Trying to capture the range and brilliance of the late Susan Sontag, perhaps our most illuminating public intellectual, is a heady task, but documentarian Nancy Kates does a wonderful job of it in her documentary Regarding Susan Sontag. I went into this movie seeing Sontag as an idea, a voice on a page, and I came out of it with far more clarity about who Sontag was as a woman. Not just the quick-witted, sharp-barbed thinker who was able to clarify and elucidate our greatest achievements and most horrifying fears; she was, above all, a person, with all that entails — difficult and prickly, brave and curious, maddening and enlightening. Regarding Susan Sontag premieres on HBO Monday, December 8, and I took the chance to talk to Kates about how the documentary came together.

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On Turning Down Reading Invites: What’s a Writer’s Time Worth?

It’s not like I’m being asked to do out-of-town speaking engagements, but I like to prepare for the problems of my aspirational future today. I found this a useful reminder of a question I’m often grappling with—what’s my time worth, to who or what do I owe my time, and what uses of my time will make my own life best and honor my most important commitments and relationships? Phew! And, just as important, is Lev Raphael’s suggestion of what to say when you’re thinking “Gosh, what can I say when I don’t have to but just really want to say no?”

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Lev Raphael Lev Raphael

A guest post from Lev Raphael:

Years ago, when I was speaking on a panel at the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh, I met the writer Evelyn Torton Beck, who was personable, wise, and funny.  She was the first author to talk to me about accurately assessing what my time was worth when I was invited to speak out of town.

It’s not just the day you’re there, she said, if it’s only a day.  It’s the day before, getting ready, and then at least one day of re-entry into your regular schedule, sometimes more, depending on how complicated your visit was.

I’d never thought of doing a gig in those terms and it was immensely helpful.  Like the time I was invited to speak in San Francisco, and the speaker’s fee was good.  But that’s as far as it went: they weren’t even offering to cover hotel…

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2014 Was — Secretly — the Year of the Jewish Woman

I’m not sure what to make of Gaby Hoffman’s “Honorary Jewess Triple Crown,” but I’ll take any opportunity to reiterate and celebrate how fantastic Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are, and what a radical (double meaning intended) movie Obvious Child was.


Jewish women have generally done well in America. From Emma Goldman to Erica Jong, Susan Sontag to Pink, they have broadened our cultural horizons. Sure, they are often portrayed in the media as JAPs (Jewish-American Princesses), like Cher in Clueless and Fran on The Nanny — or else, god help us, as the overbearing mother or background sister to a creep like Portnoy. But who isn’t stereotyped on the big screen? At such a tiny percentage of the population, it’s impressive Jewish women make an impact at all.

2014 has been different, though. 2014 was the year that Jewish women got their hands on the wheel – not the mainstream-media wheel, exactly, but still, the wheel of a perfectly functional, increasingly visible car — and drove off in a new direction, with all the exhilaration (but, thankfully, none of the impending doom) of Thelma and Louise, as Harvey Keitel’s police…

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2014’s Gender-Equitable ‘NY Times’ Year-End Book List Shows How Far We’ve Come in Just a Few Years

Something else to be thankful for — and motivated by — this season!


When I was an earnest early-20-something, I used to angrily count the gender ratio of the New York Times Book Review‘s annual “100 Notable Books” list, always sure that it would be far from 50-50. My scornful prediction inevitably proven right, I would immediately take to the keyboard and rant about it on my personal Blogspot blog.

So much has changed in a few short years! Now I’m a jaded early-30-something, and Blogspot rants have been replaced by a whole new generation of earnest 20-somethings on Tumblr. And also, far more significantly, the New York Times Book Review has actually made progress on gender.

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How to Cook Black Beans

Oh, mama mia, thanks to / cursed by this innocent, helpful post about cooking dry beans, I’ll have yet another source of anxiety when I go to the grocery store: the potential toxicity of BPA-free (!) canned beans. I am internally weeping. Back to the bulk bins.

The Zero-Waste Chef

Click here to go straight to the recipe.

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I don’t eat canned beans (or canned anything for that matter), for several reasons:

  • Cans are lined with plastic that often contains BPA. Because of heightened consumer awareness of the hazards of this chemical, food companies have been quick to adopt alternatives —which may pose similar or worse health dangers.
  • Canned food tasted bad. I find that canned beans taste like plastic and have a slimy, mushy texture. Food cooked from scratch always wins.
  • I can control what goes into my food when I cook it myself. Canned beans usually have a ton of sodium. Mine don’t.
  • Dried beans can cost less than canned. A pound of dried beans makes about three cans worth of cooked beans. Three cans of organic beans will almost always cost more than a pound of dried organic beans.
  • Dried beans consume less oil in their…

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Getting A Tune-Up For An Old Timey Radio

“Iconoclastic economist Herman Daly helped popularize the term ‘steady state economics.’ … [A]t its essence steady state economics is a closed loop system that mimics nature in that it does not need new inputs or materials to keep running. It runs at a steady state and doesn’t grow lest it overshoot the carrying capacity of the natural resources on which it depends. Repair, repurposing, and recycling are what make the system work.” – Stet Hollbrook in Make Magazine

I get my first glimpse of the inside of a radio.

I fall into that gray area between “worrisome hoarder” and “worried environmentalist” when it comes to dealing with STUFF. My floor fan that blows as much air as a kitten could breathe onto you? Not dead yet! My grandparents’ little radios from the 1950s? Sentimental and retro! But having a lot of STUFF, especially stuff that isn’t working well, is a bummer. After years—literally years!—of knowing about this group called The Fixers Collective, who meet monthly to tinker with broken stuff, I managed to get myself coordinated enough to bring two old radios and a rotating floor fan to one of their Thursday evening sessions.

I was probably there for three hours. You might say that’s a lot of time to get some electronic appliances repaired, but I promise you I would have spent as much time trying to find a repair shop and schlepping there and back. Plus, this way I got to see the magic that happens behind the (plastic) curtain!

I asked the curly-haired, skateboarding young guy working on my fan how he got involved in this unglamorous volunteer gig and he said he “just liked doing it.” Another gal about my age with very Etsy-chic style seemed to have an art/design background.

At a very pleasant evening’s end, they had cracked the mystery of my very cantankerous fan and had it finally blowing at a proper speed. But it still wouldn’t rotate. The radios were really fun to look at and play with, and I got to lend my fingers to the task, holding this or that in place while others tinkered. I left with both radios seeming to work better (they used to lose their connection to the stations at the slightest nudge or breeze) and a sense of relief similar to when you finally get that dentist’s appointment over with.

Then, just this week, Vincent, who oversaw the whole evening, sent me an email saying that he had a knob belonging to one of my radios, and that Make Magazine had written an article about them! See Make Magazine’s article on the Fixers Collective and the stubborn niche of people who refuse to go along with planned obsolescence. 

I don’t wish any of my things to break, but if they do, I’ll be excited to get them fixed.

How Will My Next Mayor Affect What I’m Having For Dinner?

With so many lefties to choose from in the upcoming mayoral primary, how will I ever decide? I’m no one-issue pony, but I do like a helpful digest of each guy and gal’s take on the biggies. So thank goodness The New School is offering the recording of this forum on food issues and PolicyMic wrote a helpful summary of each candidate’s responses.

Mayoral Candidate Forum on the Future of Food in New York City – on

Summer Circadian: I Slow Down, But Weeds Speed Up

Aaand … we’re back! Let’s not get bogged down in why it’s been several seasons since I’ve posted. I’ll give a quick recap / excuse: I’ve been living an increasingly-ish plenitude-style, four-hour-workweek-aspirational life. Even though the idea of getting off the corporate racetrack is to have more time, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll become an expert in time management.

As a peace offering to my own little blog, I will now share digital versions of several recent bouquets I’ve brought home from my garden plot — some of these items were grown deliberately by moi, and some were thrust upon me by mother nature. Weed bouquets? Oui oui, I say.

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Telling Your Kids What Elephants Used To Look Like

Telling Your Kids What Elephants Used To Look Like

“Come back, come back! Come back to us, you great, dead creatures of the earth.”

Which animals captured your imagination as a kid? Who was plush — a bear, a cow, a pig or bunny? (For me: yes, yes, yes, and yes.) Who was plastic? (A Brontosaurus, a.k.a longneck, for you Land Before Time fans.)

Which animal did you see at the zoo, or in a forest, that would break your heart to describe to a child this way: “No, those don’t exist anymore.”