Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 3rd, 2012

Just Reviewed “Waiting for Teddy Williams” at SBR

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Folks, if you love baseball, or you love coming of age novels, or you just plain love good writing, you need to read Howard Frank Mosher’s WAITING FOR TEDDY WILLIAMS.  This is a book that has it all — memorable characters, some humor here and there, and a plot that, while quite fabulous in every sense, can’t help but make you root for the underdog (or in the case of the Boston Red Sox historically-speaking, underdogs).

This is just an excellent novel about a kid from rural Vermont, his love for baseball, and his wish to play for the Red Sox one day.  Outstanding on every level.

But don’t take it from this little capsule review; go read my longer review already!


Written by Barb Caffrey

March 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Women Writers Get the Shaft (Again); Vida Study Points Out Gender Bias in Literary Mags

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As a woman writer, things like the 2011 Vida study of how literary magazines still have far more male writers working for them than female writers make you go “Hmm.”

Oh, you haven’t heard about that yet?  Take a gander:

Here’s the deal: more men write for literary magazines than women, by a wide margin.  At many magazines, male writers outnumber female ones three to one, while the ones that “beat the curve” do so by having “only” sixty-five percent of their articles written by men rather than seventy-five percent.

And it gets worse; most of the books being reviewed by these publications are also written by men, so there’s a double-jeopardy sort of thing going on that I truly do not understand.  (As a prolific book reviewer, I defy anyone to tell me that I’m not the equal of a male book reviewer.  Yet most of these books, written by men, have male book reviewers.  For shame!)

This is unacceptable and inexcusable.  Don’t these magazines (Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker among them) realize it’s 2011?  And that women writers are surely the equal of men?  How can something like this continue, especially considering that women read just as much, if not more, than men?

Only Granta, which had a few more female authors than male, and Good magazine, which is evenly split among male and female authors through its first three issues of 2012, have made inroads on this problem — because make no mistake, it is a problem.

And these literary mags can’t even say they were unaware of it, because Vida also published a study in 2010, yet nothing was done.  There has to be a reason for it, and Vida believes they’ve found it: gender bias.  As Erin Belieu, co-founder of Vida, pointed out in the Yahoo blog post:

“Gender bias is pretty ingrained–this is a expression in the literary world, but it happens everywhere.”

Amen, sister!

I have news for these literary publications, folks: writers write.  It’s what we do.  And last I checked, having writing talent has nothing to do with your gender — why should it?

There is an obvious answer here that most of these literary mags are missing: hire more female writers.  Because believe you me, we can write, and we’re not afraid to say so.

My guess is that around this time next year, I’ll again have to talk about the literary mags that would rather hire male writers than female ones to write articles, book reviews, and more, because change is glacial in publishing.  (As we have already seen!)  But I would love to be proven wrong — someone?  Anyone?  (Bueller?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Book reviews, Books, Publishing

Tagged with ,

Former Bush Advisor Ken Mehlman Now for Marriage Equality

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Sometimes, life throws you a curveball.

This is the only way to possibly describe Ken Mehlman’s change of heart regarding marriage equality.  Mehlman, as you may now, was a former advisor to President George W. Bush, and was instrumental in getting many “defense of marriage act” initiatives on the ballot in 2004.  These initiatives, rather than defending marriage, were an attempt by the Right to shut gay people out of the process entirely; what they did was encourage many voters who felt scared of the possibility that gay people might want to get married to vote for these initiatives.  Those people, perhaps not so incidentally, ended up voting for George W. Bush en masse.

Mehlman, who came out in 2010 as gay (something I somehow missed), now regrets what he’s done.  Here’s a link to the story at the Huffington Post:

And here’s a relevant quote:

“At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the effort,” he told Salon in an interview published Friday, referring to the campaign’s attempt to draw out the conservative base by attacking same-sex marriage.

“As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved,” he continued. “I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful.”

You see, Mehlman’s role was far from incidental.  He was a key advisor and helped Bush immensely.  Eleven states passed the “defense of marriage acts” in 2004 (Wisconsin passed it in 2006), so this was not a minor thing.  But the only thing Mehlman can do now to make up for the damage that his advice may have caused is to work on behalf of marriage equality — which, to his credit, he is now doing.

This past week, Maryland became the eighth state to legalize gay marriage in the United States; the law won’t take effect until January 1, 2013, but it’s still a major step forward.  In New Jersey, both houses in the Legislature passed bills in 2012 legalizing gay marriage — making marriage equal for everyone, regardless of sexual preference — but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill.  Before that, New York legalized gay marriage in late 2011, which allowed my favorite figure skater, Johnny Weir, to legally marry his husband, Victor Voronov, this past New Year’s Eve.

In addition, the initiative that reversed California’s stance on gay marriage, Proposition 8, has been struck down by a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; gay activists have asked the Ninth Circuit not to take the case up again, because if the full Court declines to take it up, the hope is that marriages for everyone — including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people — will start to take place later this year.  Of course, the people who put the initiative on the ballot in the first place — a number of conservative groups — want the Ninth Circuit Court to take it up, but even if the Ninth Circuit does take it up, that does not mean that they will allow Proposition 8 to stand.  So there’s still hope that GLBT Californians, in the near future, will again be able to legally marry their partners.

Here’s the deal, folks: marriage should be legal for any two consenting adults over the age of eighteen who aren’t already married, or for two consenting adults who are adjudged to be legally adult (meaning emancipated minors should be allowed to contract marriages on the same basis as everyone else).  It shouldn’t matter what your sexuality is, how it’s expressed, or anything other than the fact that two consenting adults who aren’t already married want to get married; the government should not interfere with anyone’s plans to marry.

I applaud Ken Mehlman for the reversal of his stance regarding marriage equality, and for making that reversal public.  Better yet, he’s now working on behalf of marriage equality, which means he’s put his money where his mouth is; that’s an encouraging sign, and it’s one I hope long continues.

So hat’s off to Maryland for doing the right thing, and hat’s off to Mehlman, too.  Now, let’s hope that New Jersey’s legislature somehow comes up with enough votes to override Christie’s veto, or that Christie decides to reverse himself; truly, it’s in the state’s best interest to stop discriminating against people merely because of their sexual preference.


To my conservative friends: you don’t have to like it that GLBT individuals want to marry, but you need to respect it.  Some of you may have brothers, sisters, or good friends who are GLBT, and they should have the same rights and responsibilities that I have as a straight American, including the right to marry the partner of their choice. Anything less is plain, flat wrong.