On “near-universal”

March 4, 2013 | By | 1 Comment

When you’re a debut author, there are a few things that you do compulsively: obsess over that one word on page 125 that wasn’t quite right, obsess over the three sentences in the entire book that really didn’t hit the nail on the head, check your sales data on Amazon every day even though you […]

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How to make a voodoo doll

November 1, 2012 | By | 1 Comment

Kickboxing. Burning sage. Single-handedly consuming an entire bottle of Chardonnay or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. These are all great, (and perfectly normal!) methods one can deploy when trying to get over an ex. That said, I think there are a lot of advantages to channeling your energy, and your creativity, toward making a […]

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Big Love leads to twelve ladies gagging

October 18, 2012 | By | 1 Comment

Anthropologists have long theorized that when cannibals eat a human heart, it’s a gesture of respect: by ingesting the seat of power of an enemy, they are emboldening and protecting themselves. Inuits, for example, are said to have eaten the hearts of witches they killed so that they wouldn’t be haunted. But the message is […]

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On why Elizabeth mattered, so very much

October 16, 2012 | By | 4 Comments

I’m not a religious person, and yet I believe in heaven. Since I was a teenager, I’ve envisioned my arrival in heaven in minute detail, complete with a welcoming committee made up of loved ones who have gone before me: There! My paternal grandparents, who both died just months before I was born. There! My […]

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“Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”

September 25, 2012 | By | 1 Comment

Last winter when I was researching love and communism, a professor of Russian literature at Berkeley suggested that I watch a film called “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears,” which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film way back in 1980. That poor DVD has sat next to our DVD player for MONTHS, and […]

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Better than a hot bath and a long sob

September 5, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

To any woman hunkering down with her ice cream and/or her chardonnay to get through a break up, I’d suggest grabbing a blankie and curling up with “Lost in Austen,” a 2008 series (streamable on Netflix!) that plays with every well-read girl’s most robust fantasy: trading places with Elizabeth Bennet. (Don’t tell me you haven’t […]

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If you need someone from history to hate today, let me introduce you to Giovanni Pietro Lion

August 30, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

In my last post, I covered the basics of convertites in late medieval and early Renaissance Italy: basically they were holding tanks for marginalized women. In convertites, vulnerable, ostracized women were in essence concentrated under one roof — all the better to take advantage of, as the story of a Venetian priest named Giovanni Pietro […]

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Breasted misfits

August 28, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

While I was researching my book, I became obsessed by nunneries. It turns out there’s plenty of good info out there, in English, on Italian nunneries from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance — particularly on how they were basically permanent storage lockers for unwanted or troublesome women. I wound up learning a lot […]

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The master of heartbreak’s heart

August 23, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

One of my all-time favorite novelists* is Thomas Hardy. No one does heartbreak like he does, and if you’re a literature fan but haven’t yet read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, then you have yet to become a complete person, IMHO. So imagine my delight when I discovered in the course of my research that when […]

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Celebrity couples: the “huh?” awards

August 21, 2012 | By | 2 Comments

Like everyone else in our lovely country, I LOVE me a good celebrity bust-up story — so much that I have among my notes lurks  spreadsheet (yes, you heard me right, a spreadsheet) that is nothing but former couples, with notes and categories. As of now, this list has only four categories: “oldies but goodies,” […]

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