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Guiding Lit: lexicon queen Lizzie Skurnick's art + book pairings

Our inner word nerds are rejoicing: today’s new Literary Gallery art + book matchmaking comes by way of wit-packing writer, critic, editor, and woman of many words Lizzie Skurnick. Skurnick’s writing has appeared in tons of publications—take this recent piece in The New York Times for a taste. You might know her name from her former New York Times Magazine feature “That Should Be a Word”, offering pointed, savvy, and supremely satisfying neologisms to help navigate the nuisances and neuroses of modern life. The popular series precipitated her book That Should Be a Word: A Language Lover’s Guide to Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, and 250 Other Much-Needed Terms for the Modern World—exactly the deliciously wry, deeply perceptive lexicon it sounds like it’d be. She’s also the founding editor of Lizzie Skurnick Books, a YA imprint committed to reissuing classic Young Adult lit. (If that piques your interest, you’ll want to peep her book Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We’ll Never Stop Reading.)

But it’s her newest book that we’re sweating especially hard:
Pretty Bitches: On Being Called Crazy, Angry, Bossy, Frumpy, Feisty, and All the Other Words That Are Used to Undermine Women. The second it hit the stands this March, we scurried to scoop up our copies, and we’re so glad we did. Edited by Skurnick, the book rounds up essays from all sorts of inspiring women, exploring the sexist, coded language that’s so often and so casually weaponized to keep women down—and how to turn those traps on their heads. Writers include Amy S. Choi, Adaora Udoji, Rebecca Traister, Monique Truong, (20x200 5+5er!) Glynnis MacNichol, (20x200 Lit Gallery contributor!) Meg Wolitzer, Afua Hirsch, and more. It’s a truly unmissable anthology.

Suffice it to say Skurnick is an authority when it comes to words. What you might have also gathered from all of the above is that she’s uniquely attuned to subtlety, nuance, and the power of implication—which makes her the perfect brain to pick for a Lit Gallery. This series is all about unspoken connections, after all, the curious, cool things that happen when you pair literature with visual art.  
— Team 20x200

The original pairing of books and art is covers, of course! I was raised on the Holbein-like detail on the covers of 70s YA, and the art on the covers has always been part of the emotional experience of the book for me -- not a guide to the plot, but a guide to the novel's emotional landscape.   — Lizzie Skurnick











The 411 on Lizzie Skurnick
Lizzie Skurnick is the editor of Pretty Bitches, an anthology about the words men shouldn't call women. She's also the author of Shelf Discovery, a celebration of young adult classics, and the founding editor of YA imprint Lizzie Skurnick Books. She lives in Jersey City with her son, Javier.