Author: nathalie alyon

The Gender Gap in Publishing: Miral Al-Tahawy on Women Writers

Female writers of the 21st century still face gender bias in publishing their work. I had trouble writing the above sentence. As a sentence, it’s not interesting. It’s expected and obvious with a tinge of whiny. I’m baffled between stating the obvious on the one hand, and the incredulousness of such a sentence being “old news.” The claim doesn’t even need much in the name of evidence. Otherwise, why would female writers still feel the need to use their initials, especially in male-dominated genres such as fantasy or thriller? If you don’t know the first name of J.K. Rowling, it’s because she preferred you didn’t. Nevertheless, the evidence is there for the unconvinced. VIDA, a non-profit organization dedicated to exposing the gender parity in literature, revealed that in 2010 The New York Review of Books covered 306 titles by male authors versus only 59 by female writers. The VIDA count, by no means a comprehensive study into publishing trends worldwide, exposes the gender bias in top tier literary journals. In other words, “venues that are known …

>>> Time Thieves: Eduardo Galeano on “Bureaucracy”

The Bureaucracy/3 Sixto Martinez completed his military service at a Seville garrison. In the middle of the patio was a bench. Next to the bench, a soldier stood guard. No one knew why the bench needed guarding. They guarded it because they guarded it. Day and night, all nights and all days. And generation after generation of officers transmitted the order and the soldiers obeyed. No one doubted, no one questioned. If as such it is done, and as such always have been done, a reason there had to be. And like this it continued until one person, I don’t know which general or colonel, wanted to see the original order. He had to forage the archives. And after much digging, he knew. Thirty-one years, two months and four days ago, an official ordered a guard to be placed by the bench that had recently been painted so that no one happened to sit on the fresh paint. –Eduardo Galeano, El Libro de los Abrazos, Trans. Nathalie Alyon As a little girl, I loved listening to my …

>>>>> 01.01.2017 Quiet on Israel’s Northern Front; Massacre in Istanbul

I entered 2017 at Kibbutz Malkiya on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. On the first day of the new year I woke up to the view of snow-peaked Mount Hermon in the horizon, erect with might. The sun shone strong even at 8:00 am and warmed the crisp air. I strolled through the fields towards the Hermon. I wanted to smell the snow. The Lebanese across the border are simple farmers, my host had said the night before. Outside of Tel Aviv’s urban hum, the quiet of the kibbutz and its surroundings gave me a sense of inner peace. I felt calm despite walking along wires and fences guarding the Kibbutz from Israel’s northern enemies, despite watching tank-like military jeeps patrol the border, despite my knowing that just behind the white snow that graced the Hermon lay the bodies of tens of thousands of people drenched in the blood of the Syrian civil war. On the morning of the new year, I woke up cheerful, filled with hope for the coming year. “2017 is going to be great,” I hollered towards the …

Writerly Advice from Best-Selling Author Scott Turow

You must treat your art as you would any other job: Show up everyday! This might be the number one golden writerly advice. We repeat it to ourselves; stamp it in capital letters above our desk. And no matter how many times and versions we hear the same advice, it is never enough. On Tuesday I attended a master class by the best-selling author and attorney Scott Turow at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. Turow mostly writes crime and mystery novels. His books have been translated to over 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies. Also a successful, practicing lawyer, he writes about what he knows (golden advice two). His first publication was a non-fiction book as a first year Harvard Law student: One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School. And yes, he wrote it while studying at Harvard Law and it became a best seller. In his lecture Turow touched on many topics from the writing life to the doom Amazon has brought on the publishing industry to the …

Your Journey Has a Personality. Discover It!

“People don’t take trips—trips take people,” wrote John Steinbeck about his two-month journey across the United States in a small truck he named Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse. Plan all you want, Steinbeck wrote, but a journey has a personality of its own and it always finds a way to surprise you, to take you places you would have never dreamed of: “Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness… And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.” Steinbeck’s road trip across America in 1960 had a clear objective: after spending over two decades dwelling in bubbles like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, he needed to once again get to know America, to “feel” it. He wanted to know: “What is America? Who are Americans?” On the outermost level, Travels with Charley in Search of America is a chronicle of this inquiry. But Steinbeck’s journey …

Ragnar Kjartansson’s Art Made Me Cry

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota By James Wright Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly, Asleep on the black trunk, Blowing like a leaf in green shadow. Down the ravine behind the empty house, The cowbells follow one another Into the distances of the afternoon. To my right, In a field of sunlight between two pines, The droppings of last year’s horses Blaze up into golden stones. I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on. A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home. I have wasted my life. What do grown-ups do all day? I often thought about this question as a child. Adults’ homebound tasks like sorting out the mail or talking on the phone to strangers seemed so unimportant and boring. Then there was their mysterious life outside the house: magical, thrilling, and filled with adventurous trips. It rarely occurred to me that most adults work to sustain their lives. The way grown-ups spend their waking hours might not be the first thought to pop …

Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern

The most scenic route to the Tate Modern is over the London Millennium Footbridge. The narrow bridge curves like a spine and wobbles over the Thames River. Leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral’s classical baroque dome behind, you walk towards the industrial block that is one of the largest modern art museums in the world. On the other side of the river, a declaration in large, block letters peers from the outer wall of the Tate and draws you into the museum: “ART CHANGES WE CHANGE.” I wondered about this announcement as I walked closer to the brown building that used to be a power station before its conversion into a museum. I was on my way to see the Georgia O’Keefe (1887 – 1986) retrospective. Did it mean to say that as art changes, it changes us? Or do we change independently? Would we not change if it wasn’t for art? Was this a statement about the power of art? Of change? Of cause-and-effect? Of the inevitability of time’s imprint? I thought, maybe the witty phrase wasn’t plastered on …

Swell Waves: A Song for Grandpa

Three days after I arrived in Guatemala in June, I woke up at my dark hostel dorm room in Antigua and rushed out to catch the 9:00 am Yoga class across town. I hadn’t walked two blocks through the cobbled-stoned streets of Guatemala’s old capital when I flopped down on the sidewalk, crying uncontrollably. I had been expecting the news my phone had delivered on that fresh morning ever since I started this journey over one year ago. I knew this moment would one day come and whisk me away from whichever corner of the world I happened to roam. Yet the news came like a flash flood and there I was, curled up like a scared rabbit, frozen on the damp, cold stones of Antigua’s streets, as if the entire world had caught on fire and I was the first to know. “Your grandpa is in a coma,” my father said on the phone. It didn’t look good. My grandfather had been unwell for some time and he hadn’t called me in over two …

Cities, Nature, and Social Media

Written in London. September, 1802 By WILLIAM WORDSWORTH For comfort, being, as I am, opprest, To think that now our life is only drest For show; mean handy-work of craftsman, cook, Or groom! We must run glittering like a brook In the open sunshine, or we are unblest: The wealthiest man among us is the best: No grandeur now in nature or in book Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense, This is idolatry; and these we adore: Plain living and high thinking are no more: The homely beauty of the good old cause Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence, And pure religion breathing household laws. Various studies has shown that overuse of social media can cause feelings of envy and even depression. The studies call it “surveillance use” – in other words, sifting through your friends’ pictures and status updates to see how their lives are so much better than yours. Much has been written about the subject and most people have experienced the phenomenon first hand, so I won’t elaborate. I wonder, though why …

How to Possess Your Travels

Most people can’t help buy souvenirs and take photographs while on vacation. These two activities provide the simplest way remember the journey taken and take a piece of it home. Yet do they really enhance our experience? In an earlier post, I wrote how the impulse to document our lives with photos increases when we travel to beautiful places. The connection between buying souvenirs and taking photographs became clear to me as I sailed to the Manchones Reef on a small dive boat in Isla Mujeres, Mexico off the coast of Cancun. Not long ago, it was a tiny fisherman’s island. As Cancun turned into the decaying resort-town it is today, the island’s sand streets also gave way to paved roads and shabby hotels. Nevertheless, Isla Mujeres still remains a haven of calm in comparison to the degenerated concrete that is Cancun. So I jumped on the ferry and sailed straight to the island as soon as my flight landed. The plan was to get over my jetlag while relaxing on the beach. The only thing I wanted to “do” while over …