– Daniel Handler, the author best known by his pen name Lemony Snicket, has apologized for a racially insensitive joke he made while hosting Wednesday’s National Book Awards. After Jacqueline Woodson, a children’s author who is black, accepted young people’s literature prize, Handler mentioned she had once told him she was allergic to watermelon—and then he started riffing on that fact.
“Just let that sink in your mind,” said Handler, elaborating that he told Woodson to put it in a book, who then told Handler to put it in his book. “I said, ‘I’m only writing a book about a black girl who’s allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornel West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying, ‘This guy’s OK.'” [Washington Post]
– Barbie dolls are tenuous role models at best. Mattel has occasionally made strange marketing decisions when promoting its iconic toy over the last five decades, including a 1965 doll that came with a fake scale set to an absurd 110 pounds and a 1992 “Teen Talk Barbie” that made declarations like “Math class is tough!”
Now author and blogger Pamela Ribon has uncovered another problematic Barbie product. On her blog, Ribon recounts discovering a book called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer through a friend. The title might sound innocuous, but in the book Barbie accidentally downloads a virus that crashes her computer, before unwittingly transferring it to her sister Skipper’s and eventually calling in two male characters to fix the mess.
Mattel posted an apology to its Facebook Wednesday, claiming that since the book’s original 2010 release, “we have reworked our Barbie books” and “Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.” It also has pulled the title for good. Try to forget the disheartening thought that apparently Mattel did think this characterization of women was appropriate just four years ago, and enjoy one of the book’s many parodies, including a “feminist hacker” version where users can rewrite the story’s text themselves. [L.A. Times]
– Earlier this year, the U2-scored musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark ended its two-and-a-half year run on Broadway. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, the relationship between the Irish rockers and comics continues to grow. Bluewater Comics has released a biographical graphic novel about Bono (presumably in his pre-cycling injury state). “In writing the comic, I wanted to convey the legendary performer as the ultimate Everyman,” said author Michael Frizell. No word yet on whether the e-book edition will suddenly appear on every iPad in America. [Mediabistro]