Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When it Comes to Books it's a Man's World and It's Not About to Change

Nora Roberts is one of the most successful authors ever and yet her books never appear in the New York Times Book Review or The London Review of Books. The reason they give is that romance is not considered serious literature, but that's not true. What they mean to say is that romance written by women is not serious literature. A US group just released a study that shows despite the talk men are just taken more seriously in the book world even if they write romance.

"Marina Warner, author and reviewer, described the imbalance as "marked", pointing out that it also applies to which titles are given to which reviewers, "reflecting how readers are subtly influenced to respond – even before starting to read. [So] a romance by a male author reviewed by a male reviewer gains stature beyond the usual expectation of the genre.""

And in fact it is not just romance written by women, it's anything written by women. Even the critiques. Men dominate everywhere.

"But the latest figures show that little has changed since 2010: at the LRB (London Reveiw of Books), in 2012 24% of reviewers were women (66 out of 276), with 27% of books reviewed written by women. At the New York Review of Books, 16% of reviewers were women, with 22% of the books reviewed written by women. At the TLS (Times Literary Supplement), 30% of the 1,154 reviewers were women, and 25% of the 1,238 books reviewed were written by women."

And yet there are people out there who still think we don't need special prizes for women writers (i.e. The Orange Prize, currently in transition but thankfully being saved) and magazines like Mslexia.
We still have a very long way to go.  


Lauri said...

And today the long list for the Women's Fiction Prize (formerly the Orange Prize) is announced. YAY!!

chillcat said...

I have to agree with you here. It's a struggle enough to get published and then to be penalised for your gender and material! Do you think there are more women trying to publish than men? Just wondering. Ciao cat

Vanessa Gebbie said...

It is not that long ago, globally speaking, that I got married. I remember the first dinner party we went to as a married couple, the somewhat ridiculous formality of the thing. The stilted conversation about nothing. And then, after the dessert, the host standing up at the end of the table, and saying, "Right, ladies - I expect you would like to go into the sitting room, and talk about flower-arranging or frocks,... whatever women do talk about..." and the men visibly relaxed, there was laughter.

The terrible thing was, the hostess got up, followed by the other ladies. And left the room, willingly. I stayed put.

I said, 'So what sort of things will you be talking about in our absence?"

The answer came, (I am paraphrasing... its a long time back..) "Oh, the world in general, issues, finance, politics," Then the words... "MEN'S TOPICS".

The point is,

That generation is still acting as the "eminences gris" - they are many of the gatekeepers in the literary world.

(I guess a man writing romance will get through because it does not have too much detail on flower-arranging and frocks? :)

Lauri said...

God Vanessa how horrid!!!

Cat- I read this this morning- "It has been suggested this disparity might be because women publish fewer works of serious fiction and nonfiction than men. The numbers regarding authorship are difficult to pin down, because publishing includes such a mix of genres and styles, commercial and literary. But a small US survey by the writer Ruth Franklin, who looked at 13 publishers – focusing on the books that might plausibly be reviewed – did find female authors represented far less often. Only the Penguin imprint Riverhead approached parity, with 55% of its books by men and 45% by women. For Verso and Dalkey Archive Press, only 11% and 10% of their books were by women, respectively."
Here is the link, quite interesting article: