The Wednesday Five

In this week’s Wednesday Five: women are writing the best crime novels now more than ever; Charna Helpern is the hidden architect of modern comedy; an inspiring story of how one  family’s heirloom wedding dress has been worn by 11 brides over 120 years; the Women’s Prison Association is turning the women of ‘Orange Is the New Black’ into prison activists; and Mary Norris is The New Yorker’s comma queen.



Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels


For those of us who love the crime novel and those of us who relish the role of women in publishing, here’s wonderful news: women are writing the (best) crime novels now more than ever! Terrence Rafferty writes in The Atlantic:

A number of years ago—well before Gone Girl—I realized that most of the new crime fiction I was enjoying had been written by women. The guys had been all but run off the field by a bunch of very crafty girls, coming at them from everywhere: America (Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman), England (Alex Marwood, Paula Hawkins, Sophie Hannah), Scotland (Val McDermid, Denise Mina), Ireland (Tana French), Norway (Karin Fossum), Japan (Natsuo Kirino).

Rafferty goes on to unpack various trends that the woman-crime writer is elevating in the genre — themes focused on the drama in domestic life, anti-hero protagonists, and woman-driven casts of characters. “Traditional mysteries are still with us,” writes Rafferty, “but tortuous, doomy domestic thrillers are what readers seem to want now, and dozens of women are ready, willing, and able to oblige.”

Read more at The Atlantic.

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She’s the Hidden Architect of Modern Comedy

As the woman-led cast for the Ghostbusters movie and Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew at The Public Theater are set to light up summer entertainment, The New York Times took a look at the women who have been trailblazers in the comedy club scene. Jason Zinoman introduces Charna Helpern as “the overlooked powerhouse of improv,” writing:

[T]he woman who with little fanfare has played a major role in shaping the current comedy boom. She provided a launching pad to some of comedy’s most famous names — she introduced Tina Fey to Amy Poehler, who took her first improv class from Ms. Halpern — and helped transform improvisation from a marginal art form into a bustling business (with five theaters in New York alone devoted to it and thousands of students taking classes around the world) and cultural force that rivals stand-up.

It’s known that improv comedy has long been a male-dominated — and yet, “Ms. Halpern is seen by some as a godmother of the current explosion of women in comedy . . .”

Read more at The New York Times.

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