Politics & Policy

The Book of Jezebel

The website is mostly fun. The book is mostly not.

The title of The Book of Jezebel will sound insidious and sacrilegious to some ears. The book, put together by the writers of the feminist cultural-commentary site Jezebel.com, tries very hard to be edgy and provocative, but instead just comes off as cobbled together and awkward. More on that in a minute. First, though, here is what I found most offensive about The Book of Jezebel: It has an extraordinarily large number of typos. Now, I’m not Erasmus over here, but I’ve read a few books in my time, and I’ve never seen so many weird little errors all in one place before (unless “asesomeness,” “hewr,” “wasfired,” and “thehilarious” are words, in which case, pass the crow). Pobody’s nerfect, blah blah blah, but this was really singular, as if the copy editors were typing with their elbows.

#ad#Another problem is that the book is large and slippery, so, for example, if you’re wearing a coat and holding it under your arm as you fumble for your SmarTrip card, you will (note to editor: will, not might or feasibly could — will) drop it on the floor of the metro and look/feel like a drunken klutz who has never held a book before (not that this happened to me).

Anyway, for those of you who are pretty good at holding books and didn’t spend an outsized percentage of your undergrad career poring over newspaper copy for typos (and, thus, have a healthier and more balanced view of the world), The Book of Jezebel will probably still seem like kind of a mess. For the uninitiated, Jezebel.com is a feminist website that’s part of the Gawker media conglomerate. Its writers essentially do cultural analysis from a Third Wave feminist perspective, and it’s a fun read when it’s not demagoguing about abortion or regurgitating DNC talking points. Recent headlines include “Saudi Women Were Protest-Driving All over the Place Yesterday” and “Winter Is Hard on Your Shoes. Here’s What to Do about It.” Seriously, it’s funny and interesting, and you should read it. I do.

So The Book of Jezebel is pretty much what it says it is: a slim encyclopedia-of-sorts that has short articles (from one word to a few paragraphs) on things of interest to the ladies; one page in the C section, for instance, has entries on Cruz, Penelope; crying; Cullen, Edward; cunnilingus; cupcakes; and Curie, Marie. It’s basically a coffee-table book coating a half-finished Women’s Studies senior thesis. It would be the perfect bathroom book, but it’s a little unwieldy to fit on top of the loo, so I assume you’re supposed to casually lay it on the free-trade-coffee table in your Bed-Stuy loft so you’ll have feminist cred when you invite your thirtysomething barista friends over to talk about how your collective memoir projects are going. I imagine most purchasers will flip through a few pages and then call it a day.

The introduction, by editor Anna Holmes, sets the tone for the book; she writes that she and her contributors have put it together “because we love and are in awe of our readers’ diversity, intellect, and exuberance.” Thanks, I’m flattered! At its best, the book is, like the website, amusing and insightful. But at its worst (and it’s at its worst a lot), it’s smarmy, awkwardly earnest, and — for a book that presents itself as flashy and sexy and feminist, oooh — kind of boring. I didn’t count the number of entries on obscure lady artists, but I would estimate there are about a jillion. Are there women in art whose accomplishments were overlooked and undermined because of sexism? Of course. But Wikipediaesque summaries of their careers — “Driggs, Elsie (1898–1992) American painter who depicted the modern landscape and infrastructure of twentieth-century America with a Precisionist take on bridges, factories, and skyscrapers” — do less to rehabilitate their reputations and more to remedy insomnia. Feel free to call me a philistine for not getting more emotionally invested in this stuff; I don’t care about your opinion, because Anna Holmes thinks I’m exuberant!

Anyway, a large segment of the book reads like the kind of frantically cobbled-together Art History 103 study guide that makes me really happy about not being an undergrad any more. But it’s not just insightful insights on 20th-century feminist sculptors; it also has an entry on “the first Native American woman to run for one of Wisconsin’s congressional seats” and a detailed explanation of fistulas that no one but a masochist would finish reading.

And there’s a great, self-parodic bit on Ms. magazine. At the end of the entry, the writer complains that the magazine “feels kind of earnest and serious” — this in a book prefaced with a paean to its readership’s diversity and intellect.

The Book of Jezebel could have been titled The Really Long Series of Blog Entries of Jezebel. The content is much better suited to the Internet, where trees don’t have to die for your typos.

Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute. 

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Broward’s Cowards

It is impossible to imagine circumstances under which Broward County sheriff Scott Israel could attempt to perform his duties with the confidence of the public. He should resign immediately, and if, as he promises, he refuses to go quietly, then he should be shown the door by the people he professes to ... Read More
Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

CNN’s Shameful Town Hall

CNN recently hosted an anti-gun town hall featuring a number of grieving children and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who aimed their ire at the National Rifle Association, politicians peripherally associated with the NRA, and anyone who didn’t say exactly what they wanted to hear. ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More