Whole mess of things

March 9th, 2007 | Uncategorized

1. I didn’t win a National Book Critics Circle Award last night. Daniel Mendesohn won in the autobiography category for his memoir about his relatives who were killed in the Holocaust, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. Awards are funny things. I hate getting sucked into caring about them, but it’s hard not to on some level. Still, I don’t really mind losing so much. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true: it was a great honor just to be nominated. Any lingering disappointment was dissipated at dinner later, when I shook hands with the very august Taylor Branch, who also didn’t win. The third book in his trilogy about Martin Luther King, At Canaan’s Edge, had been nominated in the biography category. The high point of the evening for me was John Leonard’s lovely insights into the art of criticism as he accepted a lifetime achievement award. I won’t go on an on about who won what. If you care, you can look here.

2. I don’t mean to be tiresome, but speaking of awards, I just found out Fun Home has been nominated for a Lambda Book Award.

3. Here’s an interview I did with Bookslut, while I was at the Comic Con last week.

4. Here’s a picture of me at the NBCC reading on Wednesday night. Thanks to Lori McFadden of the Strand Bookstore for sending it to me. Oh, and thanks to cybercita for coming to the reading! Isn’t it cool seeing that giant drawing of my dad looming behind me?

NBCC reading

5. I missed Town Meeting Day in Vermont because I’ve been away from home for a long time. But I just learned that nearly thirty towns passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for misleading the country into war.

6. In the past two weeks I attended four panels at the New York Comic Con, visited Franklin and Marshall College to talk about my work, spent a week with my mom, then returned to NYC for this awards hoopla. Monday I go to Middlebury College, and Tuesday I fly to Florida for three days to do a bunch of classes and things at Miami Dade College. Somehow between this morning and Sunday night I have to drive home to VT, do my laundry, pack it up again, and, oh–produce two comic strips. I wonder how that’s going to happen.

108 Responses to “Whole mess of things”

  1. Silvio Soprani says:

    I can’t help taking a step back from the continuing bounty of your new columns, travels, commentary, pictures, and..oh yes, awards that keep appearing here on your site to remember all those two-week intervals back in the early 90s and onward when the appearance of each new strip was just a prize (to me). At that time you could be quietly seen in the craftswomen’s tent at your booth at the Michigan Festival and elsewhere. There was no hoopla at all to enjoy, yet your work sustained me quite adequately on its own.

    I often thought to myself, “How does Alison crank out this work so consistently without even charging the women’s newspapers to run it? She deserves a lot of credit…someday.

    So it is so righteous to see you taking your rightful place with other dedicated artists and moving through the world making so many connections across genre. I am so glad you have lasted this long to get what you deserve. (You look great at that podium with the panel of your father projected behind you.)

    So many creative people struggle financially and politically and socially just to pay the rent and still have time and energy to keep practicing their talent.

    It is a joy to see you be able to succeed. My best to you.

  2. Eva says:

    If I may make a few suggestions…Is it possible, since it sounds like you have your car with you, to have a friend (or someone) do the driving, and also have someone do your laundry for you, so you can get some rest and have some quiet time to finish the strips in your head (if you do that sort of thing), and then complete them at home? Hope this isn’t too intrusive.

  3. Silvio Soprani says:

    oh, and one more thing: please no more apologies for posting the strip “late.” We’re damn lucky you are still posting it at all!

  4. Eva says:

    P.S. What Silvio said, plus ultra.

  5. Ellen Orleans says:

    Amazing photo.

    This culture does seem to have a fetish with the whole nomination, finals, and awards phenomenon. I have another friend who was nominated for a Lammy and is wondering if it is worth going to the ceremony since the odds, technically, are five-to-one against “winning.”

    If we can reframe the winner and non-winner concept (how can anyone who has been nominated for a freaking National Book Critic Circle Award be any kind of “loser”?), award ceremonies should be about exactly what you did, meet and listen to other accomplished writers.

    Also, having been a judge twice for the Lammys, and having read about the judging of other contests, I believe it is incredibly arbitrary who wins. It comes down to the judges’ personal style and topic preferences, unresolved personal hang-ups, what they are elated about or ticked off about the day they read them.

    In any case, sounds like it’s time to give DTWOF another short hiatus. If anyone asks, show ‘em your itinerary for the past month…

  6. --MC says:

    I understand .. you get the merest glimmer of hope that you’ll win an award or contest, and if it doesn’t happen it still bugs you.
    Did you know I had a finalist in the New Yorker Caption Contest a couple weeks back? Even though it was just that, I was still somewhat bummed when the readership chose another caption as the winner.

  7. Eva says:

    MC…good for you for getting that far…which cartoon was it?

    And while we’re on the subject of the New Yorker, has anyone else seen the advertizement for the New Yorker Conference, with Malcolm Gladwell (and dozens of other really interesting people)? I’d give a lot to be a fly on the wall at that event (but not as much as they’re asking for)!

  8. Anne says:

    “Tiresome”? If you can’t brag a little for your self-identified fans on your own website then what is the world coming to? We’re so proud of you Alison and happy the rest of the world is beginning to figure out what we’ve known for so long: You have worked hard to develop a gift for storytelling that leans equally on words and images.

    You go girl!

  9. little gator says:

    How can you be tiresome when we’re all chubby and infatuated?

  10. Deb says:

    I love the contrast of the pictures. The panel in light and you dressed in dark. I’m glad you posted that you had to do your laundry! Kept you in perspective for me. Ditto to everythiing Silvio said.

  11. shadocat says:

    Jeezuz! What a schedule-I guess that wasn’t hyperbole on your last post–you have been crazed!

  12. --MC says:

    Eva .. it was in the issue with the Eustace Tilly cover this year (yes!), the cartoon with the couple in bed and the guy bursting in.

  13. Jana C.H. says:

    I vaguely recall my comic strip Pagan Cowboy Joe getting an award for Best Comic Strip from some pagan publishers organization back in the ’90s. I learned about it in a round-about way and was never officially notified, so it was not exactly the sort of award the provides ego-boo. I had forgotten about it until people started mentioning their awards on this thread. I don’t think it actually counts.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Thucydides: Praise of others is bearable only insofar as each man thinks he is capable of doing what he hears praised.

  14. Silvio Soprani says:

    little gator,

    I understand what “chubby” means (did you know there is a fishbait called “chub”? ) but why is the word “fat” embedded in “infatuated?” And if you think of it phonetically, the word “chew” is in there too. Is this a subliminal message that people prone to idolize others are in reality fixated on food?

    Would any of you lingophiles (there, I invented a word…I think) care to take a crack at the derrivation of “infatuated”? Be my guest.

  15. Eva says:

    from Merriam Webster’s:

    Main Entry: in·fat·u·ate

    Etymology: Latin infatuatus, past participle of infatuare, from in- + fatuus — fatuous
    1 : to cause to be foolish : deprive of sound judgment
    2 : to inspire with a foolish or extravagant love or admiration
    – in·fat·u·a·tion

    I thought little gator was using “chubby” in the sense of, eh-hem, tumescense. And, I think in this case infatuated is used as in definition #2.

    And Silvio? Let’s not even go NEAR conflating fat and food fixation…

  16. little gator says:

    Nah. I was just quoting someone else’s flame.

    Actually, I hate the word chubby, and prefer the word fat, though both apply to me.

  17. Eva says:

    MC- hey! That’s really cool! I actually liked your zinger the best of the three, and I’m not just saying that to be nice.

    Whoo. I’ve been busy on this site today. I think it’s time for me to stop contributing to the topic drift, at least for the rest of the day…have a nice weekend everybody!

  18. PixieLauren says:

    Oh Alison, what an adorable picture of you.

    And Hell yes it was/is an honor to be nominated! I would say so!

    Don’t you stop being “tiresome” in posting your achievements.

    Lastly: Make sure you get some rest in between all that wonderful success you are enjoying.

  19. PixieLauren says:

    I, of course, meant it’s an honor for Alison to have been nominated. Now that I’m re-reading what I wrote, it sounds like I’m declaring that I was nominated for something.

    I’m feeling sheepish.

  20. AmandaTheGreat says:

    Oh wow, you really look like your dad there, except for the hair. Very cool.

  21. annoyed lawyer says:

    The photo of you in front of the enlarged drawing of your dad is amazing. I wish I were still in NY and could have come to the readings at the New School, ComicCon, etc. Thanks for knocking yourself out like this to produce such moving and thoughtful work and to comment on it in public fora, answer reader questions, and the like. I hope you can catch some rest and not worry too much about when DTWOF comes out next — I mean, I (and the rest of your fans, too, I’ll bet) love seeing every new strip as soon as it appears, but not at the expense of your mental and physical health.

  22. Silvio Soprani says:

    Eva (and L. Gator),

    Yes, I was just being silly about aforementioned [old] “flame” (it was a troll who said we were all “chubby, infatuated dykes…” and being a merry bunch, we all jumped on it and made a lot of hay.)

    Let us all (well, those of us in Non-Arizona-except-for-Navajo-Nation-Territory-and-rest-of-) USA) remember to change our clocks late tonight.


  23. cybercita says:

    that is one fabulous photograph.

  24. little gator says:

    I admit to extravagant admiration and fattitude.

    And an overactive silly gland.

  25. Deb says:

    Speaking of making up words, has anyone seen any trailers for the movie, “Snowcake”? The scrabble scene is fabulous in regards to made-up words. Alison is ‘Dazzleious’!

  26. Jennifer says:

    “Somehow between this morning and Sunday night I have to drive home to VT, do my laundry, pack it up again, and, oh–produce two comic strips. I wonder how that’s going to happen.”

    Author magic. I have guilt for not going to comic con as I live in NYC. When are you coming back? I’ll bring my copy of Fun Home for an autograph.

    As to the awards hoo-hah, if Hollywood is high school with money what would the NBCC awards be? High school with tenure? Gravitas? Less money?

    You’re right, Taylor Branch rocks.

  27. Jaibe says:

    That is a truly amazing photo — I’d put it on my wall if I were you! Her other photos are great too. I do hope you manage to draw your strips 🙂 And your next book!

  28. cybercita says:


    i have a serious alan rickman fetish, so i’m anxiously awaiting snowcake myself.

  29. Jaibe says:

    Wow, the review is really great too! You sound so much more mature & confident & relaxed than you were sounding just last year. It really sounds like you are coming well to terms with all your success, hurrah! 🙂

    Also, this has got me the most excited about your new book of any of the previous rumours; what a great topic!

  30. Jaibe says:

    sorry “interview”, not “review”. I should be working on a review…

  31. little gator says:

    Just to be clear, by “flame” I meant abusive writing and not any other meaning of the word.

  32. Lisa Guidarini/Bluestalking Reader says:

    Alison, I’m a member of the NBCC and plugged your book to the board. I was so impressed with it, but I honestly didn’t get the chance to read the other nominated books so I’m of course being completely biased! But it’s such an honor even being nominated, and I’m glad to know you aren’t feeling terribly disappointed. Very well done.

  33. Suzanonymous says:

    That is a great photo. I don’t think Alison looks anything like her father. She looks adorable, like PixieLauren said.

    MC, that was the best caption, IMHO. Too bad I rarely vote. 🙁

    Speaking of The New Yorker, accomplishments, and cartoons, there’s a comic with three Buddhist monks, one with a giant award, “The Best Meaning of Life” award. Oh how much satisfaction the award must bring, I mean, the meaning of life is what’s given him the serenity, of course. (Feb 12, p. 63, I’m a little behind.)

  34. Silvio Soprani says:


    I still remember that slammin’ picture of Alison’s mother in The Hat (looking like The Queen.) I think Alison shares some of her mother’s expression. A certain dignified, austere look that says “A lot is going on behind the face.”

  35. Silvio Soprani says:

    little gator, me too.

    cybercita, can’t believe I had never heard of SNOWCAKE! (I have a serious Alan Rickman fetish too. There is never enough Snape in the Harry Potter movies. But my favorite A. R. movie is BLOW DRY.) This is what comes of cancelling my Netflix subscription–I am out of the loop! Thanks for the heads up.

  36. cybercita says:


    i don’t do netflix. i found out about snowcake on youtube. i watch snippets of alan rickman there. i could watch the scene from truly madly deeply when he comes back to life every day and never get sick of it, although it always upsets me and i start sobbing onto my keyboard. you can watch a bit of snowcake there. if you have trouble finding the link, i’ll try to retrace my steps and track it down for you.

    i’ve never seen blow dry. will try to get that from the library or rent it asap.

  37. cybercita says:

    just reserved blow dry from the library. details to follow.

  38. Deb in Minnesota says:

    Well, you didn’t win the National Book Award but you win my undying admiration for your work. 🙂

  39. meg says:

    does it make you feel any better that many of us think you should have won an award? it’s nice to have tangible things, such as awards, for the work you do but i often find it’s more important to have the intangible things, such as the respect and love of the community that surrounds you. we love your work ab and no award can mean more than that.

    and more importantly, you look beautiful in that pic (okay so that’s what really matters)

    and somehow i know you’ll get all that work done. have fun at my old stomping grounds of middlebury!

  40. Silvio Soprani says:


    yes, “TRULY MADLY DEEPLY” is wonderful. It and Blow Dry are two of his rare roles that are of sensitive souls. Usually he plays a great villain. (Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood–forget the exact name of that movie.) He has kind of assumed the mantle that Basil Rathbone wore (when he was not being Sherlock HOlmes.)

  41. Maggie Jochild says:

    Your comparison of Alan Rickman to Basil Rathbone is so apt, Silvio, and nailed down an association for me that I’d not been able to come up with for myself. He is truly a consummate actor — so hilariously over the top in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, but then look at the nuance of his character in “Galaxy Quest” (I’d love to see him and Sigourney Weaver together again in something more serious) or even as Metatron in “Dogma”.

    What is Snowcake about? Anything to do with imaginary enriched uranium from Africa?

  42. Jana C.H. says:

    Snowcake? It’s imaginary enriched uranium from Vermont. I hear there’s an undercover CIA agent disguised as some sort of cartoonist in Burlington who has been on the look-out for it for years.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  43. Silvio Soprani says:

    Oh yes, Galaxy Quest! What a sublimely original pardigm for a movie plot! In a way, Rickman is satirizing his own Shakespearean abilities (kind of the way DeNiro has been poking fun at his mafia characters in those “Analyse This” movies.)

    Rickman has such a recognizable voice. The few other male voices I can think of with that degree of classic sound are James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier,and Harvey Fierstein (in his own non-Shakespearean way…perhaps a modern Fallstaff), off the top of my head. Women? Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, Holly Hunter. Perhaps Winona Ryder.

  44. Suzanonymous says:

    About producing comics under an impossible deadline, I’m not sure this would work, hard to say, but you know how Bill Keene? (Family Circus) hands the strip over to one of his characters when he’s too busy? A character who can’t draw very well (hence, saving valuable time getting those drawings perfect)? Along those lines, here’s a couple ideas:

    Anubis (Samia’s dog), via some sort of translator and rudimentary artist, explains the situation at his house for us.

    Found Items: glimpses of things around the Clifford-Ortiz household as they try to sort out their possessions and lives. Used tissues in among scrawled journal entries, old photos..

    anyone else? 🙂

  45. little gator says:

    Food swoon du jour for the foodies:

    Caramel Delites Girl Scout cookies-with coconut and fudge stripes.

    Crunbled over Ben & Jerry Oatmeal Cookie ice cream.

  46. cybercita says:

    maggie, you’re in luck, the female lead in snowcake happens to be sigorney weaver playing an autistic person.

  47. Silvio Soprani says:

    WHOA! Talk about instant gratification, Maggie!

  48. Pam I says:

    Did you all know that Sigorney Weaver is my exact twin? Except that while I was arriving in Essex, she was making her debut in New York.

  49. cybercita says:

    let us not forget the great performance alan rickman gave in sense and sensibility. how could kate winslet’s character let her head be turned by that young piece of fluff, when the dashing AR was waiting so patiently to sweep her off her feet???

  50. sillipitti says:

    I don’t know if this has been noted above, but I thought I’d just take notice of a rather nice panel done on the CBC’s national book club of the air, Talking Books, yesterday (Saturday). It was, I thought, a very nice and again rather deep consideration of your book and its technical and social implications. I tried to see if it had been posted on the website, but no dice.

  51. TmcMistress says:

    Not to demean a book about the Holocaust or the obvious horrors that revolved around it, but… is it even possible to beat a book / movie about said subject? It’s like “Oh hell, I’m going up against Schindler’s List / Maus, may as well give up the ghost now…”

  52. Maggie Jochild says:

    Okay, then — I’d also like to win the lottery, have the new Congress decide to ITMFA, and, oh yeah, see AB posing with a Pulitzer. Seriously.

  53. Deena in OR says:


    ITMFA???? ROTFLOL…you’ve been reading *far* too much Savage Love.

  54. shadocat says:

    Can one ever read to much Savage Love? If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t know about “furries” or virtues of being “GGG”. Let alone the meaning of santorum…

  55. Lea says:

    what do you all think about “chubby, infatuated DTWOF” as the title for the next dtwof collection?

  56. --MC says:

    I’d love it but it might be too “meta”.

  57. judybusy says:

    This is completely unrelated, but I must thank whomever it was that mentioned Barbara Pym a week or two ago. I checked out An Unsuitable Attachment and just finished it today. The subtle humor and skill in characterization were so enjoyable! So happy to see she wrote quite a bit and will now happily work my way through it all. Many thanks!

  58. little gator says:

    *Are* any of the dtwof “chubby”? Most of them have fairly slim shapes.

    I pointed out this url to a friend recently. If you are reading this, hi J.C.!

    And no, my friend’s name is not Jesus Christ.

  59. Deena in OR says:

    ummmm…Harriet? Jezanna?

  60. Jana C.H. says:


    Jana C.H.
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  61. Deena in OR says:

    Jana…yes, although Stuart is technically not a *D*. 🙂 A straight ally, perhaps.

  62. Ellen Orleans says:

    Stuart is more dykey than Sydney.

  63. Deena in OR says:


  64. Ellen Orleans says:

    As long as we’re at it, how would you define dyke?
    Does dyke = lesbian = gay woman?
    Or is it trickier than that?
    What is implied? Is a broader definition better?

    More importantly,
    Is Mary Cheney a dyke?
    Is Suze Orman?
    Sheryl Swoopes?
    Rosie O’Donnell?

  65. cybercita says:

    judybusy, that was me who first brought up barbara pym. the reason i read her books was because she was such a favorite of laurie colwin’s, who remains probably my favorite novelist. glad you enjoyed her, and if you haven’t read laurie colwin yet, great pleasures await you.

  66. Deena in OR says:

    Ellen…reminds me of an episode in season one of the ‘L’ word. The one where Alice gets involved with the lesbian identified gay man. Hmmmm. Maybe that’s *really* what Stuart’s issue is.

    And as far as identification goes…

    I’m a woman, divorced from a man, who’s had 2 children conceived in the time-honored fashion. I’ve never had lesbian sex, but identify as lesbian, and don’t plan to ever go back. Am I a lesbian because I say I am, and because I *know* who I’m attracted to? Is that sufficient? My last contact was hetero (ummm…well…I guess you could define it that way…that one’s a complicated, sake fueled story) and quite some time ago.

    It’s not for lack of desire…the right moment/woman just haven’t come along. And I hate bars, and live in an exurban community. Sigh. Dating ought to be easier.

  67. PixieLauren says:


    Regarding “dyke” and who is/is not one:

    I am constantly fascinated by the ways in which genderqueer people identify themselves. I guess I used to think we were all lesbians. Now I realize a lot of femme women, for example, don’t even identify as lesbian, because they prefer transgendered, male-pronouned butches. (“Pronouned” isn’t a word. But let’s move on.)

    I think there are no set definitions for any of the “labels” — And the only thing to go on, is this: How does a person identify herself? In other words, you’re a dyke if you identify as dyke. You’re a “hy” or “he” if you want to be. Otherwise, you’re not.

    Last week (Or the week before?) there was a discussion here in Alison’s comments about the term “life partner” — And what it meant — And I wish I had said then, what I’ll say now: I think it’s really important that we are able to name our experiences as we see fit, label our partners and our relationships in ways that feel right to us. Call ourselves something that fits — And have people honor that, instead of attacking our linguistic choices.

    Our word choices matter,and people need to respect our chosen “labels.” (Hate that word, but can’t think of a better one at this hour!)

    (Bugging me: Firefox’s spellchecker keeps underscoring “dyke” — What, it’s not in Firefox’s dictionary? Disappointing. Unless — At this bleary-eyed hour, I misspelled it? Ha!)

  68. PixieLauren says:

    Oh and, Deena:

    I was in that boat for a while: Calling myself a lesbian while married and “untested” — This was driving me crazy. And then, one night, “I have to know for sure” drove me to a lesbian bar all by myself (You know everyone knows everyone in those places! But I marched right in anyway) and I made out with a girl in her Volvo. (Wait — there’s a pun in there somewhere…)

    Anyway. It was a hard sell for a while — I had people doubting I was “really” a lesbian. But I knew what was in my heart and head. Time is proving I was right all along.

  69. Maggie Jochild says:

    Great article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle about the power of cartoons — available at

  70. Maggie Jochild says:

    Now, to answer the question about dyke:

    I don’t see any alternative to self-definition. You are one if you choose to claim it. Same goes for gender, race, class, etc. BUT — your self-identity may not be accepted by others you wish to group with, and there’s no alternative to that, either. During the mid 1980s, there seemed to be a lot of white progressives in the Bay Area (raised as white, had never been targeted by racism directly) who claimed being people of color because they had some distant ancestor(i.e., not even grandparents whom they had known) who was nonwhite or, in some cases, because they “spiritually” felt like they were not white. And I saw groups of people of color try to deal with this self-definition. When they chose to exclude someone from a gathering where having been raised as target for race was integral to the process because that individual had NOT been raised as target for race, I supported their right to make that choice. Even as I know that, at some point, identification along lines of oppression will have to stop.

    But with race, gender, class, Jewish identity, disability, and other institutionalized forms of mistreatment where it’s crystal clear who is target and who is not still being crammed down our throats, and generations still being raised with the lies — the ability to not only self-identify but also to select your community based on similar identity are equally important to the process of liberation. Not an end result, but an important developmental lesson along the way.

    Dyke was an epithet to women during the 1950s and 1960s. For women raised in that time, it often still is. Sometimes it meant butch, sometimes it just meant pervert. It was reclaimed by politically-minded lesbian-feminists during the 1970s to mean, as I/we used it, another politically-minded lesbian-feminist. Dyke as different from lesbian, gay woman, woman, bisexual, and certainly as different from gay (which meant male to us).

    I like the Lesbian Herstory Archives’ definition of a lesbian as a woman who has ever had the courage to touch another woman. Not many qualifiers in it. In my head, I define a dyke as a lesbian (using their definition) who is not afraid to be public about it, who was once a girl and likes being a woman, and who claims lesbian as a consistent identity. When it comes to political action, I will work with anyone as long as we can agree on shared values, communication and operate with respect. When it comes to family and close friends, my standards are much more exacting, but the criteria have to do with processing skills and personal integrity, not labels. When it comes to who I will go to bed with, it’s only another dyke, according to my definition of the term. I think it makes sense to have different criteria for different roles in my life.

    It hurts, terribly, to hear “no” from someone we want to group with. It hurts to say no. I don’t think we are responsible for one another’s sense of safety — actual safety, yes, we are responsible for that. But I can’t do anything, actually, about how safe you feel in a given setting. Nevertheless, if someone in a target group says “I don’t share your self-definition”, that opinion is not oppressive. (Power in target-nontarget scenarios flows in one direction — there’s no such thing as reverse-racism, sexism, etc.)

    I’m willing to listen to someone’s hurt feeings about my not sharing their definition, though not their accusations of oppression if I’m just defining things for myself and it’s NOT me as someone nontarget excluding someone who is target. Not all members of target groups do want to hear hurt feelings — one writing group I was in, where I was the only white woman, had a clear policy that I was not to expect my discomfort coming up around race to be listened to by the women of color. I see the reason for that and I support it wholeheartedly. At the same time, some women of color along the way have listened to me, because of friendship and established trust, and that’s been good for me as well. I do prefer that someone ask me to listen before launching their feelings (consent is part of respect). I WANT to hear what it is like for nontarget folks to be dealing with these terrible divisions between us — men dealing with sexism, upper class folks dealing with classism, able-bodied facing disablism, other white people trying to eliminate racism. I am convinced that listening is an active form of revolution. But only if I have had the chance to give consent, and only if that person whose definitions conflict with my own is not trying/hoping to persuade me of their definition.

    Two more brief thoughts: There are some wonderful essays and thinking going on out there, found on progressive blogs, about how the fascist conservatism of our times is founded on classic definitions of masculinity, and how anything they disagree with is labeled feminine. Yet another reason to toss those definitions into the trash heap and never let them surface again.

    And, Deena — I’d definitely agree you are a lesbian. I’d even go to bed with you, if all the other personal criteria were met. (Not an offer, just an honest reaction.)

  71. geogeek says:

    The cartoon article is pretty interesting – for a more detailed take, and particularly with reference to the Danish Mohammad cartoons, Harper’s (I’m pretty sure it was H.) ran a great article on cartoon satire in general and the Danish cartoons in particular, by Art Speigleman. I’ve always been interested to see which papers carry Doonesbury on the comix page (Mpls Star & Trib, Washington Post) and which carry it on the editorial page (Seattle Post-Intellegencer).

    Dyke has any number of definitions, and from my experience with who self-identifies as a dyke, I see (1) nearly all butch lesbians (2) many androgynous and soft butch lesbians and bisexuals (3) some femme lesbians and bisexuals (4) many working class lesbians and bisexuals, though not as many femmes from that group. I don’t know any “totally butch” bisexuals, so I don’t know where they would tend to self identify. The people I know who tend to be hostile towards self-identifing as dykes are the few corporate lesbians and bisexuals I know, and quite a few of the androgynous and femme “earth-mother hippy” crowd.

    I think dyke is approximately associated with the following, in combination or individually: “butchness,” working-class identity, and/or investment in revolutionizing gender in general, not neccessarily in that order. My guess about some of the hippy-types is that some of them feel that any description of gender is constrictive. *Generational warning: I’m totally out of the loop even though I taught college for the last 5 years*

  72. Ellen Orleans says:

    Wow. The “dyke” discussion got serious real fast. Honestly, I was thinking in much lighter tones (haircuts, fingernails, food preferences), but it’s been fascinating to read everyone’s insights.


  73. Deena in OR says:


  74. Deena in OR says:

    Oooops…try that again


    (blushing deeply)

  75. shadocat says:

    Maggie-what you said.


    When I first came out and started some hesitant attempts to connect with the gay community, I too had some women insist that I couldn’t really be lesbian because: I’d been married to a man, and had sex with him; I had kids; I didn’t look butch enough, or dress the “correct” way—one woman dissed me for driving a minivan! What a load of crap.Fortunately, I quit listening to them, and have had a pretty happy dyke life ever since. I don’t care if you wear a pink tutu and a rhinestone tiara, if you’re romantically and sexually drawn to women, that makes you a dyke in my book!

  76. geogeek says:

    To lighten things again, we used to play a game in undergrad school,”Boy/Girl,” where someone would go around the room and point at each person and say whether they were a boy or a girl based solely on one charcteristic, such as hair length, peircings, an pink clothing, boots, etc.etc.

  77. Maggie Jochild says:

    I’m premenstrual as hell, and menopausal as well.
    Maybe that explains a few things tonight…

  78. Esmeraldus says:

    Can’t say I’m sorry you’ll be in Florida. Happy coincidence– so will I, and plan to make the Broward Co. Library reading.

  79. Alex K says:

    As of 2007-03-13, this temporary link should give access to AB’s interview on the CBC programme WORDS AT LARGE —


    — to be replaced by another toward the end of this week, accessible through TALKING BOOKS at


    good luck!

  80. xckb13 says:

    Regarding the Boy/Girl game…When my butch, fairly androgynous-looking (at least for Russia) girlfriend and I arrived home to Moscow yesterday, the border bimbo took her passport and promptly dissolved into giggles with the woman sharing her little booth over passport data versus appearance: “can you believe that’s a girl?” “OMG, that’s so not a girl!” “all I know is that I always look at the shoes!!” etc.

    They honestly think that either no one understands them or that it’s perfectly normal to break an ankle if you ever fall off your sky-high heels. No offense to the femmes out there – I can understand a woman who likes her shoes. But border guards in 6-inch heels are not a pretty sight and are just so very typically Moscow. And then the attitude!

  81. --MC says:

    Geogeek: actually, the Seattle Times, not the PI, carries “Doonesbury” on the editorial page. The PI, to its credit, carries “Zippy”.

  82. Ginjoint says:

    xckb13, how on earth did you keep from smacking that guard?! She was cruel, and frankly, I do hope a broken ankle is in her future. (I know, I know, that brings me down to her level, but…whatever.)

    Maggie, I have to admit, and I so hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but when I first saw your post I thought, “Christ, Jochild, why doncha try and edit a little bit?” But then, as usual, when I read your writing I saw how tightly written and eloquent it was (and is.) You (and several others on this blog) are the blessed ones – able to take thoughts murkily floating around in the head, related but not necessarily properly connected, and put them into a coherent – and so often witty – form. Coming here is a pleasure. Mmmmmmmm!

    The dyke thing? I’m sure a lot of people out there (in all senses of THAT phrase) wouldn’t count me in. I’m neither butch nor femme, and I’m not sexually active. That last part isn’t due to lack of desire for women (hell, spend five minutes in my head, and you’ll see I can put a teeenage boy to shame, what with all the nekkid womens abounding). Rather it’s because of *koff*issues*koff* that I’m currently working on that have nothing to do with women. But not being active, I think, makes a lot of folks think I’m not true blue. Well, feh. Maybe I’ll get there someday.

  83. Ginjoint says:

    Hey! On a completely different note, the Ravinia Festival, a 103-year-old summerlong outdoor music festival outside Chicago (think wine and cheese, classical and jazz), announced that they were moving several concerts indoors this year due to…cicadas hatching! I know everyone remembers the part in Fun Home with the cicadas. The worry is that they make so much noise they’ll compete with the music. I love when stuff like this happens – it’s like Mother Nature saying “fuck you!” to those arrogant humans and their silly plans. A curator at a nature museum said, “They’re really cool to watch. They have these bright red eyes. And you can eat them.” Ewww. (He was referring to the cicadas, not humans, but still.)

  84. silvio soprani says:


    I remember when the cicadas hit Maryland in 2004. They were noisy. It was like a horror movie! I wouldn’t eat them. (In fact, for a while, the sight of them put me right off shrimp.

    To all of those who have been sharing their dyke-ly status, to me being a dyke is an attitude. I only started to understand this after I withdrew from the dyke community for a while in hopes of connecting with men again. (Why? I don’t know. Still trying to figure that one out.)

    The first thing that hit me like a cinder block was that walking into a straight bar is a rather lonely and insecure experience for a woman, compared to a gay or dyke bar, where there is no such thing as a complete stranger. There is no stigma in turning to either gay man or dyke and starting a conversation.(A woman does not walk into most bars alone without having a target on her forehead that says: “Harass me.”) I felt welcome and even entitled, whereas, in a straight bar, no matter whom I tried to talk with, this tape would run in my head saying “He’ll think you are trying to pick him up; she’ll think you are a bore and she won’t want to waste her time.”

    Why would I feel these things in one place and not the other? My answer is that there is a queer culture, but there is no real “straight culture.” Only subgenres, like musicians, wine lovers, lawyers, etc.

    Back in the 70s there was a similarly inclusive culture among hippies, rock concertgoers, vegetarians, musicians. But these days maybe I just don’t move in those circles, or maybe the circles are more rare.

    But when I meet a woman with confidence who goes where she wants to and says what’s on her mind, she usually turns out to be dyke. There are straight, even married women with these qualities, but it seems to me that most of the ones I meet go and do everything with their husbands, forming this fortress around themselves, so they rarely do anything alone or with a friend. This perpetuates that eternal “we” that is so annoying to single people. Hope that does not sound whiny, but it has gotten to the point that when colleagues invite me to a party, I just know it will be all married couples, and I no longer have the fortitude to sit through it, even if they people are nice. It’s like having an ice cream party and you’re the only one with no ice cream cone.

    Are dykes different? I think they are. Even in couples, there is more brazenness, more humor. Maybe I’ve only met boring straight people. Hope I have not offended anyone with my perceptions here. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that the more time one spends alone, the harder it becomes to integrate again into groups.

  85. geogeek says:

    So one of the comix I usually read on-line is Dinosaur Comix, which has the same panels with different dialogue every day. Today;s has some possibly relevant hilarity:


    This link will take you to today’s DC, no matter what day it is, so if you’re reading this after Tuesday, you need to go back to Tuesday to get to the sexuality comic.

    Hee hee!

  86. shadocat says:

    geogeek: I loved those dinos! You are THE MAN!!!…uh, I mean, in addition to whatever else you you are 😉

  87. Lizzie from London says:

    The dyke debate is an interesting piece of synchronicity since I was only saying to my good friend Pam the other day that I felt a bit of a fraud posting here since I don’t identify as a dyke yet being single (and I definitely share Silvio Soprani’s feelings about couples etc.,) and more assertive and ploughing my own furrow more than many women do, don’t really identify as anything else except, perforce, as a woman. Am not particularly sexually active at the moment but it tends to be young men that take my eye and to whom,occasionally, I give my body. Though there have been a couple of women in the past. I have a resisitance to labels I suppose.

  88. judybusy says:

    Off track, but thanking Cybercita again for Ms. Pym…and will definitely look up Laurie Colwin. I envision many a happy afternoon on my porch, reading, eating Girl Scout cookies and drinking fresh coffee. Ah, Spring!

  89. little gator says:

    My father’s explanation as I heard it when I already knew better:

    Dykes are butch manhaters.

    Lezzies are sweet little old ladies who can’t cope with a real man and have to settle for each other.

    Notice the male-centric viewpoint.

    I also knew a man once who heard me discussing our opinions various male hotties we knew with a couple of other hetgirls and said ha was amused by our “reverse hormones.” And he had medical training.

  90. xckb13 says:


    From what I’ve been able to tell, attitudes towards gender in Russia break down as follows: men don’t like queers of any stripe, although the idea of real lesbians, not the straight pornography kind, would never occur to them (my girlfriend and I often got threatened on the street for being gay men even before I had chest surgery). Meanwhile, women just don’t get the concept of androgynous/butch women, but they LOVE the idea of transmen. Just by way of an example, the main Russian FTM message board is perpetually crammed with posts from “normal” (the Russian word for straight) girls looking for the FTM of their dreams.

    When I called a Russian friend of mine, a 60-something woman, to tell her that I was having chest surgery, I didn’t even manage to get the words “I have something to tell you” out of my mouth before she figured out what was up, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Dykey girl does not compute. Nascent transman apparently does.

    I used to get hassled all the time going through passport control until last summer, when I had done surgery and the name change and everything in the States but returned to Russia on my old passport. Like usual, the giggling and the gawking started up, but that time I had finally had enough (fortunately for them, they’re protected by bulletproof glass) and whipped out my name change documents, expecting to be deported on the next plane out for using a “false” passport. Instead, I was taken to an office and some notes were made about the documents (documents are key here) by an extremely polite border guard. Then I was escorted back to the passport line, where I was received with deference by the same ladies who had not ten minutes earlier been cackling over the hilarious joke of my female passport and decidedly un-female appearance. They explained to me how I could change the gender indicated on my visa at such-and-such office in Moscow and sent me on my way with best wishes and a cheery “oh, and make sure you fix your documents! It’s clear you’re not a girl, so next time it will be easier for all of us!” Amazing, slightly offensive, and yet strangely touching.

  91. liza says:

    I was once held at gunpoint at the Moscow airport for having the wrong entry date on my visa – by one week. Not fun. Had to spend the night at the airport and then they gave me two days to find a way to *fix* it. That was the last time I visited. 1994.

    I’m sure by now, post 9/11, American airports are just as bad about foreigners with wonky visas.

  92. xckb13 says:

    That’s the problem with Russian officials – they make being unpredictable into an art form. Every time I work myself up into a frenzy of preparation and paranoia, no one cares. Then, once my guard is down, the axe falls.

    And at least in my experience, many American airports are absolutely awful to foreigners, often for no apparent reason. I fail to understand why the US government doesn’t get that not giving people visas and not allowing them to visit the States doesn’t protect us from them – in fact, it makes them hate us. So many people that I know are now opposed just on principle to visiting or even feeling friendly towards America, regardless of how much they otherwise understand that America itself does not automatically equal its government.

  93. cybercita says:


    let me know how you like laurie colwin. if you are at all a foodie, she also wrote two books of food essays that are exceedingly charming.

  94. Ginjoint says:

    Thanks so much for your very interesting explanations, xckb13. I wonder why the interest/yearning for the transmen from the “normal” (gag) women? Do the women feel better understood by them? I wonder how the straight women feel about MTF transfolk.

    “So many people that I know are now opposed just on principle to visiting or even feeling friendly towards America, regardless of how much they otherwise understand that America itself does not automatically equal its government.” This is sad because this works both ways. While I would love to see more of the world, I don’t venture out because I don’t feel like listening to a stream of invectives about the current administration, which I sure as hell didn’t vote for and don’t support. I know that therefore any nasty comments shouldn’t bother me, but I just don’t want to spend a lot of money just to be spewed at. That doesn’t sound like a fun, or educational, journey to me. In the end, we all lose by not meeting each other, I guess.

  95. No one says:

    How will you produce two strips–well, you could do it the way other people do when they are overworked. You could move up the apparent breakup of Mo and Sydney and just have some simple panels of both of them packing up Mo’s stuff interposed with old panels.

    There are other cheap tricks like this that I’m sure you’ve seen. Just take out dialogue and have one-figure panels with characters in typical stances thinking something.

    The drawing would be simple–the trick would be picking clever things for the characters to think. And, that might be done at more leisure.

    Well, something to think about–I’ve seen others do it.

  96. shadocat says:

    Mo and Sydney breaking up? Naw I don’t think they’re there yet.

    As far as I’m concerned, I willing to wait as long as it takes for any new strips, I’d rather Alison do it her way–I’m in no hurry, and she’s given us plenty of entertainment over the years; surely we can cut ‘er a little slack.

    xckb13: I’m going to stop complaining about all my petty discrimination issues for awhile-you are courageous, and if I had a medal to give, I’d get you a purple heart

  97. judybusy says:

    xckb13:Ditto what shadocat said!I have often thought transpeople are some of the most courageous I know. I really enjoyed the airport story, which seems ultimately an affirming one.

    Cybercita, I definitely noted the food-related books! I am one of approximately 67 people in this country who still cook from scratch nearly every night, so will dive into the cookbooks/essays with great delight.

  98. cybercita says:

    judybusy, me too! i’m such a crank that i won’t even make instant oatmeal. i only make the kind that takes 30 minutes.

    looking forward to hearing how you enjoy those books!

  99. silvio soprani says:


    I too just devoured a Barbara Pym book over the weekend! (Crampton Hodnet) (all in one afternoon!) Loved it! She is so wicked! Her writing sort of rings my VirginiaWoolf&AgathaChristie chimes!

    Strangely enough, I know many mtf transpeople, but have never met a ftm person. I don’t have a lot of patience with all the makeup, perfume, and barbie clothes that seem to be so much of the mtf experience, although I have had two different mtf friends who dressed more like 70s style hippie girls (but they were musicians, so that makes sense.)But all that is irrelevant; the real point is a person following their heart to transgress against society’s expectations is a great inspiration, regardless of perfume and makeup!

    I did recently read Nora Vincent’s “SELF MADE MAN” (her account of “passing” as a man for about a year and a half as an “experiment”–think “Black Like Me” only a dyke in male drag) and that was quite the revelation. It has forever changed my behavior walking down a city street. I used to always seek eye contact, looking for affirmation as safety, I suppose, but after reading her book, now I don’t ever make eye contact when I walk past men especially at night. In my head I just ignore them, and this is a more powerful technique. It is a shame though, and goes against all my instincts as a friendly human being.

    Anyway, I agree with judybusy about the bravery of transpeople. I have a hard enough time just showing up at work with a new haircut.

    And yes, I also agree that we can leave Alison to her own technique of producing the strip. No shortcuts are necessary!

  100. judybusy says:

    Cybercita, I have three nieces who are growing up in, shall we say, a foodie’s nightmare household…just like the one I grew up in! So anyhoo, when they come to visit, we always make at least one homemade meal. The nine-year old visited last weekend, and we made pasta. After one pass-through with the machine, I turned her loose and darn, if the girl’s not a natural! Natch, the wife and I also see our mission as influencing the girls to be more open-minded and liberal than their parents. I’ll be devastated if they turn out Rebublican. 😉

  101. cybercita says:

    judybusy and silvio,

    don’t forget to check out nancy mitford!

  102. Silvio Soprani says:


    She’s in my book of authors! Last weekend at the library I was already loaded up with Barbara Pym books as well a few others, so I had to defer N. M. until the next visit! Thanks again.

    What a delight to still discover a great new author after all these years…after reading and re-reading all the Agatha Christies and Dorothy L. Sayers and John Mortimers and Sara Caudwells (do you like her? unfortunately she died after only writing 4 books! Tragedy!!).

  103. cybercita says:

    gosh, silvio, i’ve never heard of sara caudwell. i’ll look her up on the library website. i’m assuming, since you’re grouping her in with sayers and christie, that she’s a mystery writer. i’m not much of a mystery fan, although i have really enjoyed the occasional josephine tey.

    and have you read laurie colwin? you’d adore her books, i’m pretty sure. i can also wholeheartedly recommend rebecca west. my two favorite books by her are the fountain overflows {there are two sequels, also very good} and the thinking reed.

  104. silvio soprani says:


    oh my goodnes!! Josephine Tey! Yes, I like her a lot. Nobody ever mentions her. I first heard of her on a “usegroup” back around 1993 when the Internet was just taking off… I ordered about a dozen of her paperbacks from an enthusiast and really enjoyed them.

    Sara Caudwell is one of the wittiest (British) writers I have ever encountered. She has a mystery series about a group of barristers who specialize in tax law. The funny thing is that it is impossible to ascertain whether the narrator is male or female. This makes for some fascinating ambiguity about the relationships between the characters. Also, her books are hilarious. She was so original.

    She went and died and they released her final book posthumously. I highly recommend her.

    I have added Laurie Colwin to my list as well. Thanks!

  105. cybercita says:


    ok, sold. i checked the library and they have all of caudwell’s four titles, so i will reserve one as soon as i’m allowed {as usual, i’m up to my max of 15}.

    please, please promise me though that if you haven’t already, you’ll read the fountain overflows!!!! it is a breathtaking, heartbreaking, thoroughly fantastic novel.

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