What is Chick Lit?

Crosley:  No. I don’t consider my book to be chicklit. I don’t really know what that is honestly. Is that a book with a female narrator? In that case, we’re in big trouble because we’re going to have to start extending back centuries, back to Jane Austin, who by the way, I don’t know what the big deal is with Jane Austen. She wrote the same novel 12 times and changed the names of the characters, with the exception of Pride and Prejudice, which is slightly different. If you’ve ever read Emma or-- I’m quicker to sink teeth into Jane Austen than I am into the pink-covered books with the weird women’s body parts in cartoons on the cover. Having said that, if someone had slapped a martini glass with a tiny little cell phone in lieu of an olive on my cover, I think I would’ve had sort of a Defcon 7 conniption fit because I do recognize it as a branding term and it’s not really about the writing itself. I guess chicklet has to have some sort of romantic component which my writing certainly doesn’t. It’s also not fiction. I’m a woman who wrote The Essays. They’re essays by a female voice. That’s certainly not something I’d try to avoid. It’s something I’m proud of. But at the same time, there’s an essay in there about Oregon Trail. I don’t think that Oregon Trail is specifically feminine or masculine.I am looking forward to turning 30 because I feel like I’ve spent all of 29 kind of prepared for it. I’m excited to be at like the base level of a decade again. This is my theory, that I’ll feel like a little bit younger at 30 than I will at 29 because I won’t be saying goodbye to something. Because I feel like while I’m no longer the youngest kid in the room, I feel like a lot of people have that experience of being 24 to 26, going to a party and realizing that maybe everyone’s a little bit older and everyone’s constantly telling you how young you are. “OH, you’re just a baby, don’t worry about.” I don’t have that anymore. I’m no longer the youngest kid in the room but it’s kind of nice. I don’t know if I’d want to be that person. I’m looking forward to 30. I will actually be turning 30 in Alaska. That’s where I’m going to turn 30. That’s where the magic elves come out and they ordain you 30 years old and fully grown. I’m going to a wedding of a friend who’s in Alaska. I’m actually in the wedding. She took a great leap of faith after reading The Wedding Essay in the book, which is rather vicious and asked me to be in her wedding. To be totally hokey about it, it’s actually be a great experience. When she wants me to do things for her, I suddenly feel that urge to do all those sort of girlish things that I had eschewed in the past. I want to be there for her. I want to fold cards and make origami napkins. It’s this weird desire. I don’t know. My origami napkin is ticking. It’s amazing.

Question: Is the term chicklit offensive?

Crosley:  I think it’s misleading. I think there are people that want to write chicklit and it’s misleading on both ends. It’s misleading for people who hate it; I don’t think they quite know what they’re talking about when they say they hate it because it’s become such a huge genre that it’s impossible to pinpoint what exactly chicklit is. And then there are people who talk about wanting to become chicklit writers. Well, what does that mean? You want to become plum sites [ph?]? More chickie? Less chickie? More fashion? Less fashion? It’s all just a big knob that you have to turn and it’s a big pink knob that I do try to avoid, not because I’m grossed out by it but because it’s just not me and I don’t understand it. I think my biggest fear in labeling this chicklit is that someone would pick it up expecting one thing and be disappointed by it. If people read a review that I feel is really accurate and get it and then hate it, that’s their right. It’s also their right to return the book. But if they were misled by a kind of marketing scheme, that seems unfair to everybody.

Crosley on the importance of substance.

To boost your self-esteem, write about chapters of your life

If you're lacking confidence and feel like you could benefit from an ego boost, try writing your life story.

Personal Growth

In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

Ashes of cat named Pikachu to be launched into space

A space memorial company plans to launch the ashes of "Pikachu," a well-loved Tabby, into space.

GoFundMe/Steve Munt
Culture & Religion
  • Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
  • If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
  • It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
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