the holland book

January 7th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Jeanette Winterson just wrote a very funny column in The Times (UK) about buying The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For at her local bookshop, The Borzoi, in Stow-On-The-Wold. That’s an actual place, not made up for effect. I just googled it. It’s in Gloucestershire, which is sort of interesting since I’m in the middle of reading The Tailor of Gloucester. You might think a person could get through the Tailor of Gloucester in ten minutes or so, but I’m on my third night now. It has great soporific powers.

Winterson also talks about being identified as the “homosexual authoress” in her small village. “I suppose I should be writing racy novels in a tweed skirt and brogues, but then everybody else around here wears those.” This calls to mind my own experience of lesbian rustication here in New England, where everyone dresses like a butch dyke, even the gay men, which is sometimes confusing.

But I digress. I think this is Winterson’s influence, as you will see if you read her piece.

98 Responses to “the holland book”

  1. Brigham says:

    Do you have a link to the Winterson piece?

  2. Donna says:

    I was thinking of you in New England as I read that passage, actually. (Lesbian rustication, that’s funny. Could be rustification too, maybe?)
    No rustification going on in L.A. unfortunately. Unless we’re talking board shorts or flip flops.

  3. Donna says:

    I think that’s what’s missing here in L.A.–rusticness.

  4. grrljock says:

    What a funny, wonderful essay. I used to love her books, but found her later ones to be too pretentious. For me, reading this column is like seeing one of my favorite athletes back in fighting form.

  5. Anne Laughlin says:

    I’m trying to think what it would be like to know that Jeanette Winterson bought a book I wrote. Lots of people buy Alison’s books, even lots of famous people! But Jeanette Winterson. I think it would boggle my mind.

  6. Kate L says:

    Hey! I dress like a butch dyke. Oh, never mind… : )
    I get a kick out of telling my intro. geology classes about the type of igneous formation called a dyke. There are always some young women in the class who get the reference to the subtitle in my PowerPoint slides (“Igneous Formations to Watch Out For”). There’s also an International Dyke Conference dedicated to the study of dykes:
    Dykes rock, as we geologists say!

  7. JoVE says:

    That is a fabulous story. And probably even better for the fact that I have been to Stow-on-the-Wold briefly (though not the bookshop) and can picture exactly the kind of thing she is talking about. Although if you bring up your best image of quaint English village, you won’t be far off.

  8. NLC says:

    Concerning Winterson’s piece:

    Speaking as a (straight) male of –or at least approaching– a “certain age”, who once found himself in his local bookstore asking if they had a copy of “Hot, Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For” in stock, I can empathize.

    (P.S. I got the Potter “soporific” reference.)

  9. judybusy says:

    Her Little Britain reference, that she’s “the only one in the village,” made me chuckle! If you haven’t seen this British comedy show, check it out–the skits are some of the funniest evah!

  10. The Cat Pimp says:

    OMFG, I love the “only one in the vill-age” routine from “Little Britain”. That said, everyone in Berkeley dresses like a gansta or a homeless person. I clearly should move to New England, because I don’t dress much like a femmy straight, either.

  11. healing_with_Art says:

    you all are so much fun to read….i learn something new everyday…..

  12. Jen in California says:

    I feel I must follow up on Kate L’s geology-themed post. I followed the link to the conference. Here are the highlights of the conference themes:

    “Regional maps of dyke swarms and related magmatic units”
    (Is this a paper on the Santa Cruz-San Francisco-Berkeley convergence?)
    see also the related “Giant dyke swarm and Supercontinents”

    “Geochronology of dykes”
    (Paris 1920, New York 1950, Michigan annually?)

    I think this one: “Dykes as plumbing system for Large Igneous Provinces”, is an exploration of blue-collar and class issues.

    I have absolutely no clue what this one is about: “Synplutonic mafic dykes”, but I hope it is dirty.

    Everyone please note that an official conference theme is:
    “Miscellaneous: Any other research related to dykes”. I’ll be preparing a paper right away. It sounds like a pretty cool conference, but I think I can wake it up a bit more with a eye-opener 🙂

    Thanks Kate L for bringing the geology-related puns and for keeping your students on their toes!

  13. tea says:

    oh man, i am WISHING for a DTWOF strip where Sydney accidentally submits a paper to a geology conference, thinking it was all queer theory.

  14. val says:

    Kate, I actually had a similar story to yours.

    When I was on a high school exchange to France, we went on a geology field trip, during which time the word dyke – in the geological sense – came up.

    Instructor (in French): “La roche des trois dykes. Dykes – that’s an English word, no?”

    Everyone turns to me, the lone anglophone present.

    After some mumbling that yes, it can mean that but isn’t the main meaning I associate with the word, the instructor proclaims the new name to be “La roche des trois lesbiennes”.

  15. --MC says:

    In before “NO MORE TWIST!”

  16. --MC says:

    Oh, I suck. I posted a spoiler! Please don’t read my comment above if you have not finished the book yet.

  17. R says:

    soporific…reminds me of the runaway bunny lettuce is soporicic…links to the wonderful scene from Wit where The Dad played by the late Harold Pinter explains the term to his daughter (Emma Thompson). Just thought i would share my

  18. Alex K says:

    @–MC: Aawww… **pokes at carpet with shoetip** I wanted to cite that.

    And the description of a colour as cherry-red. We had a sour-cherry tree, so good its fruit!, so very, very red. I knew that colour. But to say that the colour was the cherry…I considered that, in my mind, as the book taught me. And “scar-LET”, was it really stressed like that? No one I knew had spoken the word aloud to me… A book of mysteries, of language for language’s sake.

    Except I knew, guiltily, that I was Simpkin, and not one of the good little mice.

  19. anna says:

    Hrm, my first thought upon looking at that illustration was that an older Sydney had moved to the Hundred Acre Woods and found a new hobby. Clearly, I need to get out more often.

  20. Ian says:

    You’re reading “The Tailor of Gloucester”? That makes me feel better about re-reading “The Secret Garden” and “101 Dalmations” recently.

    AB, if you’re amused by the thought of Stow-on-the-Wold you really ought to visit Hay-On-Wye for the next (annual) book festival. A place revered by bibliophiles, it has more book shops per person than any other town in Britain and quite possibly the world! It’s got pubs, a meandering river that you can imagine Ratty and Mole boating on, castle ruins (with a book shop in of course) – all the trappings of a typical English country village. A little piece of Heaven on Earth.

  21. Ian says:

    PS – Have we inadvertantly discovered the title of the next collection: “Homosexual authoresses to watch out for”? Oh, I know you’ve stopped drawing the strip, but a man can dream, can’t he?

  22. Ready2Agitate says:

    Winterson: “[Virginia Woolf’s] essays are delightful in the way that serious play is delightful. She is enjoying herself, and reading her gives me that leaping sense of being in excellent company.”

    (see previous thread where someone – Pam I.? – wonders if JW fancies herself a bit TOO much, putting herself among the good company of Ms. Woolf…) I see it as: Winterson is elated (rather than feeling silly or overly self-indulgent) to be enjoying her fun self, by the fact that Woolf is doing same.

    Anyhoo, wow, Jeanette Winterson (and probably Rachel Maddow) reading AB. (It’s kind of frightening, actually.) I remember the impact of Oranges are not the Only Fruit (1985) and Sexing the Cherry (1989), and wasn’t I just telling ya’ll this summer that I was only just reading for the first time “Written on the Body”? She’s terrific. What a writer!

  23. judybusy says:

    Tea and Ian, you made me laugh outright with your comments! If AB is letting the characters go, at least we can all have fun imagining what they’re up to!

    I haven’t been able to get into Jeanette Winterson, but somehow got introduced to the work of Ruth Rendell AKA Barbara Vine and am now nearly always reading something of hers.

  24. Ginjoint says:

    Jen in CA and tea, you are making me laaaaaugh!

  25. @Greg: thanks for the link…duh! I put up the post quickly then ran out of the house all day.
    @Ian: I re-read The Secret Garden lately too! I was very struck by something…I’ve never read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but I saw the movie “Lady Chatterley” last year. And the parallels with “The Secret Garden” are striking! The little girl who brings the garden to life with the help of the Pan-like little Yorkshire boy Dickon, and their triangle with the wealthy quasi-disabled boy? Remember when Dickon takes the rich boy out to the garden in his wheelchair? There’s a scene just like that in “Lady Chatterley.” Lady C and her lover the gardener take the crippled husband out in a wheelchair? It’s not inconceivable that DH Lawrence read this book, which was first published in 1911. And decided to make an adult (and I do mean adult) version of it! Lady Chatterley’s Lover came out in 1928.

  26. @Tea: what a brilliant idea about sydney inadvertently ending up at a geology conference!
    @NLC: You flatter me, as usual. I wasn’t making a Harry Potter reference. The book just makes me sleepy!
    @MC: damn you! now I won’t even bother finishing it.

  27. NLC says:

    No, no, no… Not Harry –but Beatrix– Potter. Since you were reading The Tailor of Gloucester I assumed you were referring to the Flopsy Bunnies finding Mr McGregor’s lettuces “soporific”. (A cool word to find in what is, ostensibly, a “kid’s book”.)

    [sigh… perhaps this is just one of the unintended side effects of having read all those books twelve godzillion times to my daughters when they were younger. Once my wife was in the next room reading “Cat in the Hat” to our daughter and happened to accidentally drop the book in the middle of the second page. I immediately started up where she had stopped and and was able to recite the entire rest of the book from heart, without conscious effort, simply from having read it aloud so many times! And, dammit, just what is it about kids and “Goodnight Moon”??!?]

  28. BettyMpls says:

    I’ve been to that bookshop in Stow. It is awesome. I had to be dragged (drug?) out of there by my family.

  29. cybercita says:

    i have “a little princess” on my nightstand.

  30. Amyx says:

    Buying EDTWOF:
    I live in a medium-sized city in the Northwest with a major university and a very liberal reputation. The university bookstore is the only place in town where I’ve been able to find EDTWOF in stock, so, after buying a copy as a gift before Christmas, I went back this past Sunday to buy a copy for myself.

    It was the day before classes started and the trade book section of the store was all rearranged to make room for long lines of text book buyers. A helpful student employee offered to help me when I looked bewildered, “where’s the gay and lesbian section?” I asked. She blanched slightly, and went to go ask her manager. I heard her say to him “Where’s the (whispering) gay and lesbian (full voice) section?” After helping me to the “Gender Studies” section with the help of a store map, she bolted. Well, at least I gave her a good story to share with her roommates after work!

  31. Ready2Agitate says:

    Is that Portland? E-gads!

  32. April says:

    Tres amusant!

  33. Antoinette says:

    My third grade teacher read “A Secret Garden” to us when I was a wee one, and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since. I re-read it in times of anxiety; it’s the bookly equivalent of a frequently tugged-on security blanket.

  34. Ian says:

    Isn’t it weird that, like JW in the bookshop, after many years we still feel the need to be discreet? Although I love the instant use of euphemism.

    On the one hand in my town, just last month there was a memorial for a victim of gay-bashing. And yet a friend of mine was told by her son that two teenage boys were kissing in the playground at his High School and weren’t bullied. If that had happened 20 years ago when I was at school I don’t think either would have left the playground alive.

    I made myself laugh because my reaction to the snogging teenagers wasn’t one of “oh isn’t it fabulous how much progress we’ve made” but one of jealousy!!! I went off into a grumpy old man speech along the lines of: “the lucky *******s! When I think of all the crap I got at school …” 😉

    I find it all very confusing, really.

  35. Oh, BEATRIX, not Harry!
    Of course.
    I wasn’t thinking of the Flopsy Bunnies, but I have no doubt that’s where I learned the word “soporific.”

  36. sapphicapuella says:

    If I remember rightly, there’s a lovely little bit in Adam Mars-Jones’ new novel ‘Pilcrow’, where the (gay, child) narrator is made very happy indeed by learning the word ‘soporific’ from the Flopsy Bunnies. Alison’s last post made me remember this and smile.

    Love the idea that the ‘Dykes’ series are now the ‘Holland’ books too. Great stuff.

  37. Ellen O. says:

    I have a ceramic, 3-D version of the mouse sitting on a stool on the cover of The Tailor of Gloucester. I received it when I was a child. I didn’t know (or once knew and have since forgot) that it was from an actual book. Now I want to read it.

  38. Donna says:

    Serendipitous reference sapphicapuella, but what are the Holland books?

    Ian, sometimes I feel the same way you do. Other times I’m grateful to be 41, I am way too modest and shy to be having the kind of wild and wooly fun the youngins are having today. Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself :).

  39. June says:

    sapphicapuella, it’s so funny that you mentioned Adam Mars-Jones. I used to LOVE his writing (I’m still haunted by a long short story he wrote about the kidnapping of Lesley Whittle that I must’ve read more than 20 years ago), and then I sort of forgot about him–other than occasionally seeing his book reviews here and there.

    Yesterday I got the Granta with Alison’s graphic essay in it and saw that A M-J has a piece about his father, who was a high-court judge.

    It made me want to read him again, and now you tell me he has a new novel. Clearly I must acquire it at once!

  40. A yokel says:

    I’m FROM that part of the world. Jeanette Winterson may be enjoying the bittersweet distinction of feeling alienated from the local home-grown posh people, but the main story is wealthy incomers – gay or not – buying up the picturesque Cotswold villages so the locals can’t afford to live there any more.

    England is actually real, you know.

  41. Juliet says:

    I recommend re-reading Peter Pan (the novel rather than the playscript). It has everything:

    – Mrs Darling’s secret kiss that no-one can reach (except Peter);
    – Allusions to sex with mermaids;
    – Body-fascism ‘Peter measures you for your tree as carefully as for a suit of clothes…Peter does some things to you, and after that you fit’;
    – Peter’s murdering of Lost Boys;
    – Heaps of fascinating gendered stuff (if, like me, you’re into that kinda thing);
    – Grammatical pedantry.

    Who could wish for anything more…

  42. Kate L says:

    A.B. and Tea,

    About Sydney at a geology conference… many women geologists like to wear jeans and plaid shirts and hiking boots, and keep their hair short so it won’t get in their face when they work on outcrops! On my first trip to San Francisco, I really did think to myself, “You know, there are a LOT of women geologists here in San Francisco!”. : )

  43. meg says:

    I’ve been there! (all gleamy)… and I love Winterson’s writing. 🙂

  44. NLC says:

    To Donna (and others who might be wondering):

    Concerning the meaning of the “Holland Books”, check out the article by Jeanette Winterson linked to near the top of this thread.

  45. an australian in london says:

    Re your first comment on this post –
    as a (not straight) female of an uncertain age, I also found myself blushing, when in a GAY bookshop in London, asking for “Hot, Throbbing, Dykes to Watch out For”. And blushing about the fact that I was blushing.

    I too can not possibly imagine myself snogging a girl in a playground. Well, certainly not now, as I’m a teacher and that would be VERY bad, but I meant when I was a kid. Course I was 21 before I ever managed to snog a girl at all. How do kids have the audacity and the confidence? (I mean gay or straight or other carbon based identities.) Yes, definitely way too shy for my own good.

  46. Anonymous says:


    I’m guessing Eugene. 🙂

  47. Deena in OR says:

    Oooops. Anonymous was me.

  48. Dana Harris says:

    I went through a similar experience: My mother-in-law asked my husband what she could buy me for Xmas. He knew that I desperately wanted TEDTWOF.

    “Oh, there’s a book you can get for her that I’ll order through Amazon,” he said.

    “What is it?”

    “Uh… ‘Bikes To Watch Out For.'”

    ” ‘Bikes To Watch Out For?’ What’s it about?”

    “It’s this long-running comic strip about this community that really loves… bikes. Like ‘Doonesbury,’ with bicycles.”

    I spend Christmas morning snuggled up with my Bikes. Thanks, Edie.

  49. off topic says:

    anyone seen the film “Happy Go Lucky?” not a bad movie, and there’s a scene in a bookstore with a dtwof cameo. also, i recently visited Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal. that was fun. piked up the new one from lynda barry.

  50. off topic says:

    um, picked.

  51. rebecca wire says:

    tangentially, in keeping with a recurring theme on this blog:

  52. Ian says:

    I forgot to say before but I LOVE the thought of DH Lawrence plagiarising Frances Hodgson Burnett in order to write Lady Chatterley. You’re absolutely right – the scenarios are identical. I sometimes wonder just how that little triangle in the Garden played out. Somehow, I think the hysterical neurotic had a thing for nature boy myself.

    @rebecca wire: I heard that Spielberg had revived his plan to make a Tintin movie. And yes, I too think Tintin had a daddy bear fetish.

  53. Jessica Bessica says:

    I LOVE being a part of a blog community in which people mean Beatrix when they say “Potter.” Y’all are the best.

  54. Maggie Jochild says:

    a yokel — just to say, I hear what you said and I appreciate you interrupting the fawning to say so. Class privilege is not entertaining, no matter who’s exercising it. Thanks.

  55. Ng Yi-Sheng says:

    I just saw this article, identifying Tintin as gay:

    And I thought of AB’s dream about meeting Herge/Tintin (and her fascination with the series, natural, I suppose, for anyone in graphic storytelling):

  56. Mercy says:

    Ian: Someone wrote that novel, it’s called Return to the Secret Garden or something like that. Colin and Mary get married, but both of them are in love with Dickon, who goes off to fight in WWI (I forget if that’s before or after the wedding) and comes back with PTSD. Dickon is really the father of Mary’s kid.

    I feel no compunction about spoiling the plot; it wasn’t very well written, IMO.

  57. Amyx says:

    @Anonymous: bingo! It was a kick. I haven’t made someone that uncomfortable since I lived in the rural south briefly after college!

  58. Ian says:

    Completely off topic, and I’m not sure those in the USA could se it, but watch this German cat give the weather forecast:

    Of course, it’s ‘being good’ by being affectionate, but naturally trying to disrupt the weather forecast at the same time!

  59. Dyke Next Door says:

    Who’s fawning? Did I miss a video of deer in Alison’s backyard?

    Seriously. I missed the connection.

  60. Heidi says:

    I’ve spent every afternoon this week digging a little garden plot in my backyard in which I’m going to plant a few fruits and vegetables. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of since I first read The Secret Garden about 25 years ago…now is the first time I actually own a bit of earth to plant something in.

    The books that influenced me most as a child: The Secret Garden, My Side of the Mountain, and a children’s biography of Jane Addams. The ideas in those books still excite me today.

  61. Ready2Agitate says:

    DND, she’s referring to the fawning over writer Jeannette Winterson of England. Gotta follow the whole thread top-to-bottom I guess.

  62. Ian says:

    @R2A: I get the impression that amongst dykes in Britain JW is admired as a writer, but controversial politically. It’s something about Margaret Thatcher in 1979 I think.

  63. tokoloshgrrl says:

    I just read Winterson’s piece and she says at the end that she lives in a village “down from Stow”. The nearest little village that I know there (my aunt lives in Stow and I wander around the area periodically) is Lower Swell — just a mile or two away. There is also, about two miles in the other direction (down Sheep Street) Upper Oddington and Lower Oddington. You can’t make this stuff up.

  64. Ginjoint says:

    I don’t have much time to do this right, because I have to go shovel out my car (again) and get to my McJob. But I’m trying to translate my city’s name (Chicago) into a British village name. Corruption-on-the-Michigan? Getting there, but kinda weak. The river that goes through the city is just called the Chicago River, which makes things trickier. Grit-Upon-Chicago? I have to work on this…

    Anyone else want to try it with their town’s name?

  65. Jain says:

    Amyx–next time try Tsunami. They may have trouble remembering to keep it in stock, but at least they don’t blush and whisper when I ask for it.

  66. Duncan says:

    I don’t know why Winterson is controversial among English dykes, but I’ve always had the impression that she’s a controversial figure generally because she is (or seems to be) so confident about herself and her work. And as far as I’m concerned, her confidence is well founded: she’s a brilliant writer. That’s bound to piss off a lot of people, when someone is as good as she thinks she is. She reminds me a little of Rita Mae Brown in that respect, except that Rita Mae is an absolutely lousy writer — I’ve found her unreadable since her third or fourth book.

    I agree, though, with whoever it was who said that JW isn’t as good as she used to be. Her more recent work feels thin somehow, though The Stone Gods was an improvement. I’m sure of my judgment because she has a collection of short fiction, and I found that the earlier stories were as good as I remembered her earlier novels being; the later stories fell off in quantity as they went.

    Speaking of good lesbian writers though, when I got the issue of Granta with Alison’s little essay in it, I noticed that it mentioned that Emma Donoghue had a recent novel I hadn’t seen, The Sealed Letter. As Alison said, Emma D is prolific. And mirabile dictu, it was in at the library. It’s another one of her historical novels, which I haven’t enjoyed as much as her contemporary fiction till now. But The Sealed Letter is very good, suspenseful, and readable.

  67. Donna says:

    Fun exercise, Ginjoint! (Can’t think of anything for my city, but if I can come up with something decent I’ll share it.) Anyone else?

  68. Donna says:

    Donoghue does have a huge oeuvre for anyone–especially for someone who isn’t (or is just barely) 40 years old. I just finished a collection of her short stories, and I was not overwhelmed. Then again, I’m not overwhelmed by Amy Hempel either, and she is positively revered by lots of her peers (other famous writers).

    Maybe self-confidence and arrogance depend to some extent on your own opinions of the writer?

    What a strange dual lives artists have to lead with their public persona and their work. Seems uncomfortable.

  69. Anna in Albuquerque says:

    This showed up on a lesbian list serve in Albuquerque. Anyone interested?
    I have for sale a copy of Dynamite Damsels for $ 6. This comic book was written by Roberta Gregory in 1976. Because there weren’t any other comic books about lesbians out there, she published the comic book herself.

    On her web page, the cartoonist writes:

    “. Frieda Phelps, the star of the Feminist Funnies strip, takes center stage. She is an idealistic young woman out to change the world for the better, and soon discovers roadblocks along the way, as well as learning what good things can come about when women work together for change! The comic also has two short fantasy stories, “Superdyke,” a lesbian super-heroine, and “Liberatia,” the story of a women-only land. The ad on the inside back cover is also enlightening, to show how many feminist underground comics (now nearly all unavailable) were being published in the 70s. AND, the inside front cover has me giving an opening monologue… and introducing my cat, two things I have become notorious for in the pages of Naughty Bits.”

    WHERE TO GET IT : You can find the comic book for sale in my booth at Antiques and Things at 4710 Central SE, on Central just west of San Mateo. Ask for Booth # 79. There is a magazine rack in front of the booth with a copy of the comic and copies of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine.
    sidni lamb

  70. Ian says:

    @Ginjoint: If it helps for inspiration, when I lived in Leicestershire we were surrounded by villages that sounded like characters in a 30s detective series – Kirby Lonsdale, Ashby-de-la-Zouche (which has to be the campest name for a town ever), Kirby Muxloe, Peatlings Magna and Parva, Kibworth Harcourt, Beaumont Leys and Stoney Stanton. All within a 10 mile radius! I always thought Kirby Lonsdale and Ashby-de-la-Zouche would be great names for a 1930s butch detective and her femme sidekick.

  71. cybercita says:


    loved the cat vid, thanks for posting!

  72. the weather cat is hilarious, Ian!
    she looks a lot like dr. winnicott. I don’t know any German, but i could make out “studio cat,” when the weatherman picked her up.

  73. Ellen says:

    Boulder, Colorado =

    Entitlement-by-the-Foothills ?

  74. Ellen says:

    Oh, and I have lived in Boulder for 25 years and there is actually a lot I like about my town. I wonder if this recession may weed out some of the over-priced stores and homes and allow the “artist class” to thrive here.

    As far as Winterson, I haven’t read her recent work, but I have felt that her writing, as one friend put it, lacks “heart.” When one’s writing style draws attention to itself without being the subject of the writing, I feel a disconnection.

  75. judybusy says:

    Duncan, I, too, just finished The Sealed Letter and admired how well the characters were written. It’s the first Donaghue book I’ve read, and will search out more.

  76. little gator says:

    I figured Mary and Colin both wanted Dickon, but marrying each other? That’s icky even if they weren’t cousin.

    I loveed Squirrel Nutkin myself, even though I didnt undertsand any of the riddles.

  77. kj says:

    Hey, Rachel Maddow likes your book.

    Me, too.

  78. Donna says:

    “Look for me on a stone bench on the Pont Neuf. I’ll be reading Woolf and carrying a spade.”

    I just got this reference. Does she mean that she’ll be carrying EDTWOF? (A book that calls a spade a spade?)

    I think having to use euphemisms is actually kinda ridiculous. Ida said, yeah, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, for me–the homosexual authoress.

    To counterbalance the annoyance that’s built over the years for certain types of straight people I take pleasure in shocking them–especially because they usually assume I’m heterosexual. (But I’m too chicken to do this at work as I’m mid-life career-changing into teaching. Plus, there tend to be hardly any annoying certain-type-of-straight people that I want to shock, really. It’s much more sporting to do this in, for instance, something like the mortgage banking field.)

  79. Andrew B says:

    Ginjoint, for Chicago:

    Lower Grafting
    Excrescence on the Lake

    I usually refer to my smug small town as “Hadleyville”, as in “The Man Who Corrupted…”. More in the spirit of your suggestion, maybe “Prigswamp Bottom”. (It actually is built on drained swamplands, aka wetlands.)

    Ian, thanks for telling us about Ashby de la Zouche. (You aren’t putting us on, are you?) But why not let Ashby be the detective, while Kirby tags along and provides the muscle?

  80. Bookbird says:


    How about going back to the original word that was Frenchified (or Englishified) into “Chicago” and call it Skunk-Stench-on-the-Marsh?

    Though that’s kind of depressing as a place to live.

    But for me the Chicagoland area is more Gridlock-on-the-Tollway than anything else. I try to schedule trips so I’m driving through early on Sunday mornings.

    I’m pretty sure Ashby de la Zouche is the name of the original owner of the place. He bought it or won it in a bet or something like that way back in the Middle Ages.

  81. --MC says:

    I’m going to get in trouble telling one of K’s childhood stories without asking her first, but it’s a good one.
    About “Squirrel Nutkin” .. K’s mom says that once when K was small she was reading the book to K, who sat and listened to the story of Nutkin fooling around and teasing Old Brown the owl with increasing fury and indignation, finally bursting out with “That DUMB NUTKIN!”

  82. Ian says:

    @Andrew B: No, I am most definitely not winding you up. Ashby de la Zouche is real.

    As for the intrepid twosome of Ashby and Kirby, well … a femme top and a butch bottom? Where’ve I heard that before?

  83. Hannah says:

    Help…I am attempting to email Allison and the email infomation for her from the site is bouncing. What’s the correct address for this?

  84. Ginjoint says:

    BOOKBIRD…how dare you remember that! Ha! Now that’s something we don’t like to publicize. Actually, the Indian word referred to the smell of onions – apparently, a lot of wild onions grew all over the place. Talk about humble beginnings.

    Andrew – ouch! “Lower Grafting” I can go along with (well done, actually!), but “Excrescence”?! That’s harsh! My civic pride in my “wunnerful, wunnerful city” (as a former mayor put it), rears up on that one. Keep it up, Andrew, and I’ll hire one of our numerous street gangs to come teach you a lesson. (A culture clash – the Latin Kings invading Prigswamp Bottom. That would be a good reality show.)

    Hey Ian, after I was done laughing at your post about the names, I walked over to the lithograph I have hanging on my living room wall, titled “Detective” by artist Daniel Authouart. It’s a noir-style piece done in comics style, but check out the detective’s name in the upper left corner:

  85. Ian says:

    @Ginjoint: OMG! Spooky! That picture pretty much nails how I was picturing the pair (although Ashby was more Jessica Rabbit), right down to the Bogart fetish.

  86. Kate L says:

    Me again. God, I can’t stop thinking about that International Dyke Conference in India! And am I the only one who noticed that the geologist’s hammer in the conference poster looks suspiciously like a double-headed axe? 🙂

  87. Andrew B says:

    Ian: “Mo’s a catch! Well, in a repressed, butch bottom way.” One of the classic lines. Although I don’t think the detective and the sidekick have to have quite such well-defined top and bottom roles. In one of Walter Mosley’s series, I think the Fearless Jones books, the detective and the sidekick have an interestingly interdependent relationship. I was thinking of Ashby and Kirby more like that. “Provides the muscle” was probably not the best phrase.

    GJ: I apologize for “excrescence”. I was trying too hard for a laugh. I’m not worried about the Latin Kings, though. They would be dead of hypothermia before there was time for much of a culture clash. I know Chicago is cold — but it has nice warm buildings you can duck into. Unlike Prigswamp Bottom, which is almost entirely devoid of public spaces. In fact, I’m not sure we could have a culture clash with the Latin Kings, because I’m not sure we have a culture.

  88. Ginjoint says:

    No worries, Andrew! We’ve been called worse. Far, far worse.

    Kate, not only does that hammer resemble a labrys, but that cement behind it…is…oddly suggestive…

  89. Zeugma says:

    Loving all the references to “soporific”. I vividly remember reading The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, when I was six, and coming across this unfamiliar word. When I asked my mother what it meant, and she explained, it’s something that, when you eat or drink it, it makes you sleepy — well,you know that thing Emily Dickinson said, that you can tell real poetry by how it takes the top of your head off? My mother’s explanation took the top of my head off. You can do that, in one word? Make it mean all that? I can date my life-long love affair with language to that exact moment.

  90. Duncan says:

    Ellen, I agree with you about Winterson’s style and that feeling of disconnection in her recent work. But she does it so well (or rather, did it so well) that I enjoy it. I wouldn’t want every author to write like that, but I’m glad to have one around for that particular pleasure.

    Very soon after I read “Written on the Body,” Toni Morrison’s “Jazz” came out. I found that “Jazz” reminded me of “Written on the Body,” and I enjoyed it more than anything else of Morrison’s that I’ve read. Which means, everything she’s written except “A Mercy.” I respect Morrison, but I’ve never enjoyed her work except for that one novel. Matter of taste.

  91. Kate L says:


    The background on which our most sacred symbol rests in the conference poster is actually a light-colored granite outcrop, and the darker, vertical area that so suggestively cuts through the granite is, appropriately enough, the dyke igneous formation! 🙂

  92. NLC says:

    Just FYI:

    Following up the earlier discussion here of Obama inviting Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at next week inaguration…

    …the NY Times is reporting this afternoon that Obama has invited Bishop Gene Robinson to deliver the invocation Sunday at a concert to kick off the inaugural celebrations.

  93. Liv says:

    Oh wow. I remember going on a date in Stow on a Sunday in the rain. Only Woolworth’s and the greasy spoon was open. We ended up sitting on a bench outside the church and staring at pigeons.

    Representative of Gloucester High School for Girls, present!

  94. says:

    oh my god. i did too.(went to the high school for girls- surely you’re not a dyke?!) and i actually still live in gloucester. i’m not a tailor though.

  95. says:

    i still can’t believe that i log on here for the first time and see someone who went to my old school. seriously. what are the chances of that :p

  96. gyshen says:

    I was thrilled to read Winterson’s article. Not only was it pleasure to read but, her experience had some parallels to mine. A major difference being that I am in Denver where there is no shortage of queers. Yet when I went to the counter of my favorite bookstore looking for “The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For” I got a blank stare from the older man behind the counter. I had to repeat the title about three times and he came to the conclusion that I must be looking for a book about volatile embankments for controlling or holding back the waters of the sea or a river. Luckily, I was able to see the screen of his computer and corrected his interpretation with, “no, Dykes as in queers not dikes as in Holland.” I blushed, the man gave me an odd look while the hipster girl behind the counter bit her lip and tried not to laugh. All and all it was an enjoyable day at my local metro bookseller.

  97. muttertag says:

    Good informations, keep up the good work.