This week, blogs hailed forgotten writers, advised us to be sharp in the upcoming elections, and cheered a woman-directed film about the discovery of the vibrator.

Photo: David Tomatoff (Flickr)

  • Whatever your party affiliation, there are some questions you need to ask your local candidate this fall, writes Martha Burk at Women’s Enews. “Women are the majority and we have the opportunity to take control and make the changes we need in every election—but having the opportunity is not enough,” Burk writes. “Knowledge won’t bring change without action, and that means holding candidates and elected officials accountable for long-term solutions.” Both incumbents and challengers of both parties, she adds, should be confronted regularly “with questions not only about their voting records, but also their future intentions on [women's] most vital issues.” This includes, she adds, when local pols appear in public: “Call in when you hear them on the radio. If they don’t mention women, ask why not.”
  • The Millions, a site beloved by writers and readers of fiction, has inaugurated its “Post-40 Bloomer” blog with a bang. Lisa Peet writes of one such bloomer: Mary Aline Farmar, born in 1912 in Englefield Green, England, but better known by her married name.”There is something about Mary Wesley’s work that loves a blurb. ‘Jane Austen with sex’ is the one heard most, but you also find ‘arsenic without the old lace,’ ‘upper-middle-brow potboilers,’ and ‘posh smut.’ Peet goes on to outline Wesley’s biography, intertwined with the century’s events: “Mary found the terror and drama of wartime sexually liberating. This would be a recurring theme in her novels: War makes drunkards and lovers and loosens all values.”  Click over to see how and when Wesley broke through as a novelist, after three marriages.
  • Does writing a biography make you identify with the subject, or has that already occurred? One answer comes from Patricia Bosworth, author of Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, in a post at NYcitywoman  entitled “Parallel Lives.” Bosworth tells how she met Fonda, long before writing about her:—”We were introduced in the 1960s at the Actors Studio, where we were both studying with acting guru Lee Strasberg. I’ll never forget Jane’s entrance: She was wearing a pink Chanel suit and her blonde hair was swept up into a French twist. She had incredible presence and someone whispered, “She carries her own spotlight” before going into a much darker truth in Fonda’s life that was also familiar to Bosworth. Click over to read her story, including photos of Fonda with her father, Henry. Fonda’s latest flick, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, opens this Friday. Here, on CBS, she challenges the usual take on the arc of life—”you’re born, you peak at midlife, and then you decline into decrepitude.” Over the hill, is she? “Yeah, I’m over the hill, but look at all these other hills; nobody told me there’d be these hills—and I can climb them!”
  • Roz Warren has become quite a feature on Open Salon, with two posts that became Editors’ Picks: they love the same combination of smarts and humor for which we love our resident humorist.  And we bet they won’t be able to resist her latest, which manages to be both edgy and welcoming. Her topic? What Andrew Sullivan calls ‘The Cannabis Closet”: “At a gathering of Boomers, pot will often appear, and I’ll happily take a hit. [And] if I did want to purchase weed, there are plenty of folks right in this neighborhood I could get it from. They aren’t drug dealers. Just friends and neighbors who would share their stash. Accountants. Attorneys. Business owners.  Your basic upstanding, pot-smoking citizens.” Click over for the rest, including why Warren found a point of agreement with Rev. Pat Robertson.
  • Every citydweller has at some point designed in his or her imagination the perfect city life that blends the space and breathing room of the suburbs with the convenience and rich cultural life of the city. Unfortunately, for many of us, that fusion is hard to find. It’s either one or the other. Judith Ross already knows what her ideal city would look like. In Contemplating a Mid-Life Migration, she draws from the ways in which birds naturally leave and return to a place without feeling tethered to or obligated to it. She writes poignantly of the affection she has for her home in Concord, where she has raised her family and found many moments of bliss. But Judith, in taking a cue from the orioles that fly by that same home, is open to possibility. That is, the possibility that the ideal home can be elsewhere from the one you’ve built for years. Judith writes, “It’s fun to weigh our options and examine the possibilities. That’s the joy of being middle aged. Even with financial restrictions, we are as free as we’ll ever be to do what we want.”
  • Between comic-book movies and Cannes, it’s easy to overlook new movies that are neither High Art nor full of satisfying explosions. But we’d already been curious about Tracy Wexler’s Hysteria,  and were glad to hear romance novelist Maya Rodale call the film “an absolute gem” at Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen. Rodale first takes a moment to explain the film’s title: In the 19th century, “Hysteria was a ‘catch-all’ term for whatever ailed women. The symptoms were vast: anxiety, depression, Certain Feelings, irritability . . . you know, the way you feel if you’re bored with life and/or haven’t had an orgasm in a while. Historically, the treatments ranged from horseback riding to hysterectomy.” Until someone invented the vibrator, though likely not the ones that our Dr. Pat and Dr. Hilda were trading in last year’s sex-toy Sex Talks. After seeing the trailer below, we really can’t wait.