Heather Havrilesky

  • Sisterhood Is Hilarious

    Women aren’t any less funny than men, but they are more sensitive to environmental cues. Where funny men might share an impressive ability to complete that imitation of a dog in heat or an anesthesia-free bowel resection whether they’re greeted with weak smiles, nervous titters, or visible agitation, funny women are less likely to press the point. This attunement to psychosocial feedback, usually interpreted as a lack of conviction or commitment (or, if you prefer, cojones), might better be greeted as a sign of robust mental health. Still, this perceptual gap in what counts as truly laugh-worthy—which

  • House of Worth

    OUR CULTURE LOVES A STORY about winning through raw determination, against all odds, almost as much as it detests a story about losing due to a complex, systemic failure of epic proportions. This might help to explain why the past decade’s wild fluctuation in global markets and property values, caused largely by the greed and blundering of the financial industry and its regulators, is stubbornly portrayed by investment professionals as yet another natural cycle of market corrections. While someone with even a glancing familiarity with the recklessness and willful suspension of disbelief behind

  • The Mommy Trap

    Indoctrination into the practices of modern motherhood can feel like showing up at Navy SEAL training camp without any discernible desire to, say, swim several miles through strong ocean waves fully clothed, and then proceed to trudge through the sand for fifteen miles in wet boots. Even with hormonally induced romantic notions about bonding with this small, as-yet-unseen human, it can be tough not to feel wishy-washy among the hard-core marines of motherhood. The current ideal seems to call for a total surrender to the baby’s putative desires—natural childbirth, home birthing, on-demand

  • Femme Banal

    God bless Caitlin Flanagan. Without her, who else would give voice to the sorts of anxieties that make upper-middle-class women break out in hives? Whether she’s wringing her hands over the prevalence of sexless marriages, the costs of overscheduled children, the depravity of hookup culture, or the advantages of stay-at-home mothering, Flanagan is never afraid to take a sharpened stick to the hornets’ nest, just to see what trouble she might stir up. Curiously, though, once the hornets are circling, mad as hell, and everyone is shrieking and running for cover, Flanagan is already safe

  • Left Out to Rot

    Artists can be fascinating creatures: stubborn, arrogant, passionate, yet so fragile. How do we accommodate or even tolerate these strange birds, so obsessive and tenacious when it comes to their craft, so distracted and self-involved even when they’re not working, so fixated, no matter how successful they are, on the question of their own brilliance (or lack thereof)? And how do artists navigate a world that’s largely indifferent (if not hostile) to their species?

    Harry, the poet narrator of Kate Christensen’s latest novel, The Astral, embodies the finest qualities and most lamentable flaws

  • In the Context of No Content

    We know by now that pop dominatrix Lady Gaga is the ultimate brand for the new millennium. She dresses and moves like an alien whore from a Bob Fosse film. She sings and dances like Madonna 3.0. She Tweets, updates her Facebook page, appears in the gossip pages, make odd short films for YouTube, and never strays far from the headlines. She is a vocal supporter of everything all the kids already love: pop music, art, fashion, men, “sexual, strong women,” homosexuality, David Bowie, Judy Garland, Andy Warhol, Led Zeppelin. But most of all, Lady Gaga loves, loves, loves her fans—to the point where

  • Married to It

    “Which wife are you?” The audacity of this question, often posed to Norris Church Mailer, sixth wife of Norman Mailer, reflects the particular challenges of marrying a larger-than-life literary icon with a checkered reputation. Consider for a moment the skill set required to be Mailer’s wife: an ability to play second fiddle to an outsize ego (Mailer’s pugnacious self-infatuation was legendary), a willingness to overlook the past (Mailer stabbed his second wife, Adele, with a penknife at a party) without also neglecting its spoils (Mailer already had seven children), the capacity to support a

  • Jack Pendarvis’s second collection of stories, Your Body Is Changing, is populated by a preposterous assortment of oddballs and losers. Whether he’s describing an embittered failure with a superiority complex who rambles about the hamburger restaurant he wants to start, a self-proclaimed prophet traveling along an Alabama freeway with his nine goats, or an aging professor who grasps clumsily for hip lingo to impress the young folks, Pendarvis delights in exposing a range of chafingly self-involved blowhards and dithering freaks.

    At times, this kaleidoscope of weirdos is a bit too arbitrary