"Fuck," Frank says suddenly, grinning and slapping Gerard lightly on the cheek. Mikey feels his brother's body jolt. Frank looks up and meets his eyes. "He is so ready for me to whip my dick out right now."
"What?" Gerard says after a beat, struggling, and Mikey laughs, pulling him back up the bed a bit, not letting go.
"He wouldn't stop asking about it," Mikey confides. Gerard tries to turn his head to look at him but Mikey's got his wrists still pinned so his face just ends up in Mikey's neck.
"No shit." Frank laughs and props first one knee then the other on the bed on either side of Gerard. "Can't blame him."
- desfinado's Sit Tight
The trouble with trying to write up H is for Hawk is that it is such a deeply personal book, for Helen Macdonald, that I don't know what to say about it that won't sell it short or misrepresent it somehow. I often have this trouble with writing about memoirs, in a way I don't with fiction or biographies -- because as you all should know by now, the tone I am most comfortable writing these posts in, perhaps regrettably, is 'flippant,' and what right do I have to be flippant about another person's profoundly personal experience?
And the other thing that makes this hard is that I expect most of you have heard of it, or at least seen it in bookstores on the bestseller table, because it was weirdly and wildly popular for a deeply personal memoir about grief and a goshawk and the author T.H. White, with whom Helen Macdonald has no connection whatsoever except through his own weird book about grief and a goshawk. (The best review of White's The Goshawk was from rushthatspeaks in 2011, and you can read it here. I also read the book, but I couldn't figure out how to write about it any more than I can figure out how to write about this one, so I wrote less eloquently about Sylvia Townsend Warner's biography of T.H. White instead.) So what can I say that you won't have seen on the book cover, that this is a book about those things?
I guess I can say that I felt I understood this book better in December of 2016 than I did in January of 2016, because I was lucky enough, in January of 2016, not to understand grief very well.
And I guess I can also say that when I read it in December of 2016, it was for book club, and the thing we found ourselves talking about the most is that we're not sure after all that Helen Macdonald understands T.H. White very well -- or at least, not as well as she thinks, or at least, none of us were entirely comfortable with her understanding of him, an (apparently?) straight woman putting most of another person's troubles down to the Tragedy of Being A Gay Man. The trouble is, I guess, that Helen Macdonald's book, for the most part, is about discovery; she's learning about her hawk, and she's learning about her grief, which means that neither her own motivations nor the hawk's are entirely clear most of the time. The process of figuring them out makes the book what it is.
But she's not learning about T.H. White, or at least, that's not the way she's writing it. She tells us about him like she knows him and can understand his motivations already. And honestly, T.H. White is a complex enough figure that I don't think anybody does, or can.
Here's how it will go: I will post a list of 10-20 unread books that I own. Sometimes it will be themed, sometimes it will just be random. It will be a poll, and you folks will get to vote F, M, or K for each book.
F means "melannen should have a single night of ill-considered passion with it and then decide whether to turn that into a long-term thing or dump it with prejudice."
M means "melannen should commit long-term and continue to keep the book in her bedroom indefinitely."
K means "melannen should dispose of it posthaste."
This may remind people of a certain familiar game. Unfortunately I don't think DW polls have any way to force a three-way choice like in the game, so it's a free vote for each title. (Also I don't think I could agree to give up 1/3 of my books anyway.)
I will read the book with the most F votes, hopefully within the next week, and then post about it here.
I will dispose of the book with the most K votes, *if* there are enough total K votes on all titles to make a quorum (i.e., if only one person votes K in the whole poll, I don't consider myself bound to their vote.)
All other titles, I will think about very hard and take your votes into consideration!
Feel free to vote even if you only have a vague idea about the book or author. Or even if you've never heard of it but think the title is cool. That's why I bought most of these, after all.
Feel free to vote F on terrible books just because you want to make me read them.
Please leave comments with more information on the book or justifying your votes if you do have things to say!
Anon/no account votes and comments are on. Some background on me and my library if you wander here from far away: I am an SF fan and aspiring SF writer (emphasis on "aspiring" rather than "writing" rn). I would like to keep books that are a) good and/or b) important or foundational texts in the genre and/or c) help balance the proportion of books not by/about white dudes in my library.
Got that? ( Time to vote! )
(Books on the topic I have read and am definitely keeping: the Mike Ashley anthologies, Parke Godwin's Firelord, a mysterly Goldsmith "King Arthur" that is hilariously bowdlerized, Sutcliff's Arthur books, Twain's Connecticut Yankee, White's the Once and Future King, lots of pre-1860 retellings and sources, lots of "nonfiction".)
A different version of this post was originally published at Timeline.
To get some perspective on the long term trend in divorce, we need to check some common assumptions. Most importantly, we have to shake the idea that the trend is just moving in one direction, tracking a predictable course from “olden days” to “nowadays.”
It’s so common to think of society developing in on direction over time that people rarely realize they are doing it. Regardless of political persuasion, people tend to collapse history into then versus now whether they’re using specific dates and facts or just imagining the sweep of history.
In reality, sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not true that society has a direction of change over a long time period. Some social trends are pretty clear, such as population growth, longevity, wealth, or the expansion of education. But when you look more closely, and narrow the focus to the last century or so, it turns out that even the trends that are following some path of progress aren’t moving linearly, and the fluctuations can be the big story.
Demography provides many such examples. For example, although it’s certainly true that Americans have fewer children now than they did a century ago, the Baby Boom – that huge spike in birth rates from 1946 to 1964 – was such a massive disruption that in some ways it is the big story of the century. Divorce is another.
The most popular false assumption about divorce – sort of like crime or child abuse – is that it’s always getting worse (which isn’t true of crime or child abuse, either). In the broadest sense, yes, there is more divorce nowadays than there was in the olden days, but the trend is complicated and has probably reversed.
It turns out, however, that the story of divorce rates is ridiculously complicated. For one thing, there is no central data source that simply counts all divorces. The National Center for Health Statistics used to divorces from states, but now six states don’t feel like cooperating anymore, including, unbelievably, California. Even where divorces are counted, key information may not be available, such as the people’s age or how long they were married (or, now that there is gay divorce, their genders). Fortunately, the Census Bureau (for now) does a giant sample survey, the American Community Survey, which gives us great data on divorce patterns, but they only started collecting that information in 2008.
The way demographers ask the question is also different from what the public wants to know. The typical concerned citizen (or honeymooner) wants to know: what are the odds that I (or someone else getting married today) will end up divorced? Science can guess, but it’s impossible to give a definitive answer, because we can’t actually predict human behavior. Still, we can help.
The short answer is that divorce is more common than it was a 75 years ago, but less common than it was at the peak in 1979. Here’s the trend in what we call the “refined” divorce rate – the number of divorces each year for every thousand married women in the country:
The figure uses the federal tally from states from 1940 to 1997, leaves out the period when there was no national collection, and then picks up again when the American Community Survey started asking about divorce.
So the long term upward trend is complicated by a huge spike from soldiers returning home at the end of World War II (a divorce boom, to go with the Baby Boom), a steep increase in the sixties and seventies, and then a downward glide to the present.
How is it possible that divorce has been declining for more than three decades? Part of it is a function of the aging population. As demographers Sheela Kennedy and Steven Ruggles have argued, old people divorce less, and the married population is older now than it was in 1979, because the giant Baby Boom is now mostly in its sixties and people are getting married at older ages. This is tricky, though, because although older people still divorce less, the divorce rates for older people (50+) have doubled in the last two decades. Baby Boomers especially like to get divorced and remarried once their kids are out of the house.
But there is a real divorce decline, too, and this is promising about the future, because it’s concentrated among young people – their chances of divorcing have fallen over the last decade. So, although in my own research I’ve estimated that estimated that 53% of couples marrying today will get divorced, that is probably skewed by all the older people still pulling up the rates. Typical Americans getting married in their late 20s today probably have a less than even chance of getting divorced. The divorce will probably keep falling.
Rather than a conservative turn toward family values, I think this represents an improving quality of marriages. When marriage is voluntary – when people really choose to get married instead of simply marching into it under pressure to conform – one hopes they would be making better choices, and the data support that. Further, as marriage has become more rare, it has also become more select. Despite more than a decade of futile marriage promotion efforts by the federal government, marriage is still moving up the income scale. The people getting married today are more privileged than they used to be: more highly educated (both partners), and more stably situated. All that bodes well for the survival of their marriages, but doesn’t help the people left out of the institution. If less divorce just means only perfect couples are getting married, that’s merely another indicator of rising inequality.
Putting this trend back in that long term context, we should also ask whether falling divorce rates – which run counter to the common assumption that everything modern in family life is about the destruction of the nuclear family – are always a good thing. Most people getting married would like to think they’ll stay together for the long haul. But what is the right amount of divorce for a society to have? It seems like an odd question, but divorce really isn’t like crime or child abuse. You want some divorces, because otherwise it means people are stuck in bad marriages. If you have no divorce that means even abusive marriages can’t break up. If you have a moderate amount, it means pretty bad marriages can break up but people don’t treat it lightly. And if you have tons of divorce it means people are just dropping each other willy-nilly. When you put it that way, moderate sounds best. No one has been able to put numbers to those levels, but it’s still good to ask. Even as we shouldn’t assume families are always falling apart more than they used to, we should consider the pros and cons of divorce, rather than insisting more is always worse.
Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He writes the blog Family Inequality and is the author of The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
Also, that I've got a free Friday night in a couple of weeks and no idea what to do then. Usually they're scheduled well ahead of time, but this first Friday in March is wide open in a nigh-unprecedented way.
So, anyone in the area interested in going out for something then? I'm usually game for most anything if someone else is coming along.
There's also Families Against Reckless Trump (FART), a "family-friendly" demo from 11am to 1pm designed for people who can't attend the evening demo for childcare or other reasons.
And associated Stop Trump and/or Day Without Us events all over the place: https://www.stoptrump.org.uk/map/ , searchable by postcode -- for example, the Tates are running guided tours "celebrating the artworks which have been created or influenced by migrants".
(According to Swedish data, crime rates have changed little in the past decade. COVER-UP.)
There's an important logical implication of this which the article doesn't address, namely that if "happening last night = "he saw a TV report on it last night", Buttercup apparently believes that when a thing happens is when he sees it on TV.
It's already been noted that people in his team are leaking like sieves partly because the only way to get him to register information is to have it on TV, but this seems like a new insight into the terrifying solipsistic void of his inner life.
(Really, I could have gone through life happily without ever having to think about Buttercup's inner life, but such are the times; we are not to be spared these things.)