Monday, 16 November 2015

Mystery Readers Journal: Scottish Mysteries

Last week saw the publication of the Fall 2015 issue of Mystery Readers Journal. This issue is dedicated to the study and discussion of Scottish mystery and crime writing - such an interesting and complex topic, brilliantly illuminated by the contributors and authors that were part of the issue.  Often referred to as 'Tartan Noir', Scottish crime writing continues to diversify and to challenge English and American crime writing traditions through its use of setting and idiom.  The Mystery Readers Journal issue on Scottish Mysteries presents a fascinating array of short articles, essays by crime writers on their work, and columns including reviews.  You can see the contents page of the issue here.

I am happy to have an article in the journal issue, entitled Performing Scottish Crime: Ian Rankin's Dark Road

I have published on the contemporary Scottish crime short story previously, in my 2013 article 'Bags stuffed with the offal of their own history': Crime fiction and the short story in Crimespotting: An Edinburgh Crime Collection Working on this material challenged me to look beyond the label of 'Tartan Noir' and engage in depth with the questioning and often deeply unsettling texts I encountered.

Having previously explored the Scottish crime short story, with my piece in Mystery Readers Journal I was pleased to have the opportunity to return to Scottish crime writing.  Ian Rankin and Mark Thomson's  co-written play Dark Road provided me with brilliant and troubling dramatic material through to examine an often less well-known or discussed literary form in the detective genre:  the crime play. Rankin and Thomson's Dark Road  demonstrates the range and scope of both crime and the dramatic, and makes brilliant use of the performance-related dimensions specific to the crime play format.  I am interested in doing further research into this genre, and look forward to an opportunity to do so.

Friday, 13 November 2015

"This Book is an Action" - new book on second-wave feminism

Holding my contributor's copy of my latest publication in my hand is a great feeling! 

The book is called This Book Is an Action: Feminist Print Culture and Activist Aesthetics, and is edited by Cecilia Konchar Farr and Jaime Harker.  It is published by University of Illinois Press.  

This Book Is an Action: Feminist Print Culture and Activist Aesthetics explores different dimensions of second-wave feminism, ranging from feminist newsletters and advances in publishing, to questions of sexuality, race and genre fiction.  As the summary on the book's University of Illinois Press page states, "Examining feminist print culture from its structures and systems to defining texts by Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker, This Book Is an Action suggests untapped possibilities for the critical and aesthetic analysis of the diverse range of literary production during feminism's second wave"

The phrase  "this book is an action" opened Robin Morgan's 1970 anthology Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement.  Farr and Harker's book examines feminist literature and print culture, echoing the link acknowledged by Robin Morgan between writing, consciousness-raising and political action.  The idea that literature and other art forms are central to the representation of feminist consciousness and politicization has been key to feminist criticism for decades.  

This Book Is an Action: Feminist Print Culture and Activist Aesthetics also investigates ongoing feminist debates and questions that have preoccupied the movement since the 1960s.  In her review of the book, Trysh Travis comments on the critical conversations the book engenders.  She comments that it: "Builds on the body of scholarship that has examined the key literary texts of the movement, but it's truly original contribution is the way it uses recent theorizing on middlebrow culture and women's reading practices to reframe the essential, insoluble problem that scholars of radical feminism have so grappled with, namely, who is truly radical and who is a sellout? Cutting this Gordian knot may be the work's biggest contribution."

I love the cover of this book - it is brilliant.  It reminds me of so many late nights working on the typewriter, back in the days before computers.  It also reminds me of important times in my life when I have remembered or rediscovered feminism's profound impact on my life and my work, and felt re-energised and inspired by depictions of sisterhood and feminist struggle...

I am very happy to have a chapter included in This Book Is an Action: Feminist Print Culture and Activist Aesthetics.  My chapter is on feminist genre fiction, more specifically crime fiction, and focuses on Sara Paretsky's 1982 debut novel Indemnity Only.  Sara Paretsky has played an enormous role in feminist crime fiction and provided a source of inspiration and encouragement for women women writers generally.  I have previously published a book chapter on her autobiography Writing in an Age of Silence as well as a book review

 My chapter is called '"This Really Isn't a Job for a Girl to Take on Alone": Reappraising Feminism and Genre Fiction in Sara Paretsky's Crime Novel Indemnity Only.'  The title of my chapter incorporates a phrase from Paretsky's novel, used to discourage and belittle V.I. Warwhawski, the female detective figure.  The phrase draws attention to the importance of Paretsky's feminist intervention in the genre and the enduring importance of confronting that question: "This Really Isn't a Job for a Girl to Take on Alone".