#readwomen2014

Ellen Glasgow - a writer who should be read more
Ellen Glasgow – a writer who should be read more

I have been following with some interest the #readwomen2014 proposal made by writer/illustrator/blogger Joanna Walsh. (She also wrote an article in The Guardian). It has attracted a lot of interest around the world. It started with cartes de voeux bookmarks and has since blossomed into a huge Internet meme. Flavorwire has produced a 50 books by women authors list which is interesting though somewhat idiosyncratic. There is a Twitter account and a Facebook account. There has been reference to the Vida count. And Lauren Oyler has an excellent article on How to be a woman writer. Even Time has jumped in, with some suggestions as well. Some commentators, including some men, (though not Walsh herself), have vowed to read only women authors. A quick web search will reveal lots of bloggers and others commenting on the proposal. I do not intend to read only women writers. I have thought about setting aside a few months to read only writers from one specific country which I feel is underrepresented – Belgium, Brazil, Lebanon, Mexico and Norway, for example, though there are several others (and, yes, I have lots of unread books from these countries) – but never for women. However, I have never done it and probably will not. The trouble with having over 200 nationalities on my site is that it is hard to devote much time to one country or, indeed, to one sex. However, as always, I do plan to read more women writers, though I may well fail again. Meanwhile, I am going to do as others have done and mention a few women writers that you might read, focussing on lesser known ones. All have at least one book available in English.

Fausta Cialente - a writer from Trieste
Fausta Cialente – a writer from Trieste

Kathy Acker
I have a soft spot for Acker, a punk, a fighter, a character, who sadly died of breast cancer aged fifty, as she had no health insurance and could not get proper treatment. Anyone who can write a book called Blood and Guts in High School must have something going for them. While perhaps not a great writer, she was certainly a fun and interesting writer.
Louky Bersianik
Louky Bersianik was a fiercely feminist writer, particularly L’Euguélionne (The Euguelionne; The Euguelion) an attack on sexism.
María Luisa Bombal is a wonderful Chilean writer, barely unknown in the English-speaking world, though some of her work is available in English. No fireworks, just good writing.
Carmen Boullosa
I don’t know why Carmen Boullosa isn’t better known in the English-speaking world though her criticism of the USA might have something to do with it. She is witty, iconoclastic, feminist, anti-colonialist and a first-class writer.
Mary Butts
Mary Butts is a very much underrated English novelist, whose reputation has improved somewhat but not nearly enough. She writes about an imagined England of the past.
Rosario Castellanos
Rosario Castellanos is another Mexican writer who is not as well known as she should be in the English-speaking world. She was very much concerned with the poor treatment of the Indians in her country.
Fausta Cialente
Only one of Fausta Cialente’s books is available in English. Sadly my favourite of hers – Le quattro ragazze Wieselberger [The Four Wieselberger Girls] – is not. Cialente was from Trieste and deals with the complex multiracial society of that city.
Alba de Céspedes is another Italian writer who was not part of mainstream Italy – her grandfather was first president of Cuba. She wrote about unhappy marriages.
Elena Garro
Another Mexican writer whose best-known novel – Los recuerdos del porvenir (Recollections of Things to Come) – is a feminist work using magic realism.
Teolinda Gersão
Teolinda Gersão is a Portuguese writer who has barely been translated into English. Her best novels deal with male-female relationships and their respective roles.
Ellen Glasgow
Ellen Glasgow, as I said on my website, is one of those Southern writers who is neglected because she is Southern. This is a pity as she wrote a series of first-class novels, often dealing with changes in life in the South of the United States.

Qurratulain Hyder - she writes in Urdu
Qurratulain Hyder – she writes in Urdu

Qurratulain Hyder
Qurratulain Hyder is an Indian writer who writes in Urdu. She writes about the history of India and Bengal in her novels.
A L Kennedy
A L Kennedy is not unknown but she is a very fine writer and deserves a better reputation than she has.
Rosetta Loy
Rosetta Loy is a Jewish Italian writer who writes about the effects of war on people as well as on Jewish issues.
Angeles Mastretta
Angeles Mastretta is another Mexican writer who really should be better known in the English-speaking world.
Ana María Matute
Ana María Matute is one of my favourite Spanish writers, famous in Spain for her Spanish Civil War trilogy but also the author of many other excellent novels.
Minae Mizumura
Minae Mizumura’s 本格小説 新潮社 (A True Novel) is one of the finest novels to come out of Japan in recent years, at least of those that have been translated into English.
Terézia Mora
Terézia Mora is a Hungarian-born German writer. Only one of her novels has been translated into English so far but, as she won the German Book Prize last year, more will follow.

Elsa Morante, a writer who should be remembered in her own right
Elsa Morante, a writer who should be remembered in her own right

Elsa Morante
Elsa Morante is all too often remembered primarily as being the wife of Alberto Moravia which is a pity as she was a very fine writer in her own right.
Anna Maria Ortese
Anna Maria Ortese is another Italian writer who really should be better known in the English-speaking world. Her two best novels have been translated into English and are well worth reading.
Elena Poniatowska
There do seem to be a lot of Mexican novelists in this list and here is another one. Elena Poniatowska was the daughter of a Polish prince, though her mother was Mexican and she was brought up there. She was a journalist as well a novelist and wrote books about those less fortunate.
Mercè Rodoreda
This list could not be complete without a Catalan writer and Mercè Rodoreda is one of the finest of either sex. Like many writers of the period, the Civil War affected her as a writer, as can be seen in her best-known novel, La plaça del Diamant (UK: The Pigeon Girl; US: The Time of the Doves).
Joanna Scott
Joanna Scott is a very much underestimated US writer who often writes about the US past but, above all, writes superb, intelligent and very readable novels.
Alexis Wright
Alexis Wright is an Australian from the Waanyi tribe whose novels deal with the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Australia.

This is a small selection. You can find more on my women writers’ page. Read them and you may well be surprised at both the quality and variety of writing you find.

A Reading List for David Gilmour

Aargh! A book by a Canadian woman - a no go for Gilmour
Aargh! A book by a Canadian woman – a no go for Gilmour

As has been extensively reported Canadian writer and professor David Gilmour (no, not that David Gilmour) has made a bit of fool of himself, basically saying that there are no interesting women, Canadian and Chinese writers and saying that he only reads Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth. Quite apart from the sheer stupidity of making such a statement, essentially condemning a whole range of writers purely because of their sex or nationality, and then going public with it, Gilmour’s comments are wrong-headed for other reasons.

Masturbation in public - do Roth & Gilmour both like it?
Masturbation in public – do Roth & Gilmour both like it?

1. His condemnation of women writers and his statement that he only reads heterosexual guys shows that he clearly has concerns about his masculinity. His interview appeared on the Random House Canada blog. If you look further down on that blog, you will find this post. Now we know that one of Gilmour’s literary heroes is the second-rate Philip
Roth, a man who loves masturbating in public. And Henry Miller (who reads him now but the sexually frustrated?) Is this Gilmour’s problem? I think we should be told.
2. More importantly, there are lots of very good women, Chinese and Canadian writers, David. Perhaps you should try reading them. Here is a list to get you going. I have even put links to Amazon Canada for some of them, so you can buy them.

China produced a whole range of first-class prose literature, well before your heterosexual guys were born.

Story of the Stone (aka The Dream of the Red Chamber. Hey, it starts off with the story of a young man who prefers girls to studies. A real heterosexual guy.
The Water Margin. Lots of brawny heterosexual men here, David. Just your sort of man, even if they are not, you know, white.
Journey to the West (aka Monkey, with a monk fighting demons. Tough and maybe even heterosexual.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. More heterosexual guys fighting.

There are modern Chinese writers as well. Gao Xingjian and Mo Yan both won the Nobel Prize. Xiaolu Guo is a woman but she is heterosexual and was on the list, though she is Chinese. Mao Dun was producing great literature when Chekhov and Tolstoy were.

And, yes, your own country produces some great writers (beside you, of course). Up on the top at the left, you will see the cover of a book by a Canadian writer – Margaret Atwood. She is very well known, very well-respected and a woman. There are other good Canadian writers as well – Michael Ondaatje, Timothy Findley and Rohinton Mistry. Some of them write in French – Marie-Clair Blais, Nancy Huston and Gérard Bessette. Here is a detailed list to help you.

As for women writers, I would not know where to start, so I will start with my women writers page. Many of the early writers were women. A Celebration of Women Writers can help you there. Oh, I see that you have apologised. A bit late, David, but do read some of these women, Chinese and Canadian authors. You might even enjoy them.

A. M. Homes: May We Be Forgiven

may

The latest addition to my website is A. M. HomesMay We Be Forgiven, the winner of the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Most people, including me, thought that Bring Up the Bodies would win and were quite surprised that this novel won. While I very much enjoyed Bring Up the Bodies, I think May We Be Forgiven is a very deserving winner. It is one of the funniest novels that I have read for a long time and very original. However, the humour is very black and is probably not to everyone’s taste though, as I have something of a warped mind, it is very much to mine. It tells the story of Harold Silver, brother of George, a successful TV executive who inadvertently kills two people in a traffic accident. This profoundly affects him and he is placed in an institution. He manages to leave it and comes home in the early hours of the morning to find his wife in bed with Harold. He smashes the lamp over his wife’s head and she dies soon afterwards. Harold is now left to bring up his nephew and niece, though his wife leaves him and he loses his job. Things can only get worse and they do. Homes has great fun mocking Harold and George but also a whole host of US institutions, people and behaviours. If you are not too sensitive to black humour, I can thoroughly recommend this book, a very deserving winner. of the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Women’s Prize for Fiction

The favourite?
The favourite?

The shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced and nearly got lost in the shuffle, as it was announced the day after Granta’s Best Young British Novelists list. Fortunately for it, there was something of a controversy, as Hilary Mantel was nominated for yet another prize for her book Bring up the Bodies. Some commentators felt that it was time to give other writers a turn but the Prize Chair, Miranda Richardson, forcibly defended the decision. I am with Miranda Richardson on this, not only because I think that she is a first-class actress but also because, if Hilary Mantel has written the best book (and there is no question that it is a brilliant novel), she should win the prize. Just because a football team has won a prize, it is not stopped from winning another. The other controversy was the same old one – why should there be a separate prize for women writers? Answer: too many of the top prizes seem to prefer men (see the Prize FAQ, first question) and, if men feel that they are done down, they can always set up their own prize. End of discussion.

A dark horse?
A dark horse?

Of the six books on the shortlist, I have read three – Bring up the Bodies, Zadie Smith‘s NW and Kate Atkinson‘s Life After Life (not to be confused with Jill McCorkle’s book of the same name). I had not heard of Maria Semple but plan to read her Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Barbara Kingsolver is one of those writers that I have always felt that I might read but probably would never get round to but this may make me change my mind, not least as I have a copy of The Poisonwood Bible in my library. She won the Orange Prize (predecessor of this prize) in 2010. A M Homes is one of those writers on the sadly very long list of writers I really must read but have not yet got round to. In short, this is a very strong list and while Hilary Mantel must be a strong favourite, she does have some good competition.

Women writers Part 3

godwin

After promising in both the first part and then second part of this topic, here is my mea culpa as to why I have so few women writers on my site. Many years ago, soon after it came out, I read Gail Godwin‘s A Mother and Two Daughters. The book, at least in the United States, had done very well both critically and commercially. A couple of women friends said that I had absolutely had to read it and, being aware that I had not read enough women writers (though not suspecting that I would be doing a website and blog on literary matters), I did read it. It really did not work for me. In fact, to be quite honest, I hated it. I tried to read Elizabeth Taylor (the British writer not the British actress. You didn’t know that the actress was British? Born in Hampstead Garden Suburb, kept British citizenship all her life.) The Guardian, in the link, may call her brilliant. Loved the actress, found the novelist, well, boring. Barbara Pym? Same thing. I just did not get it.

A novel by a woman writer which should be better known
A novel by a woman writer which should be better known

When I started doing my website, I made a (very long) list of the writers I wanted to include, many of whom I had already read, many whom I had not. Though I never bothered checking, it is clear, with hindsight that the majority were men. This was not a conscious decision but just that the writers I thought most interesting were mainly men. No Godwin, no Taylor, no Pym, no chicklit. Since then, of course, I have added many, many writers to the list. I do now make something of conscious effort to seek out women writers but still find that most of the writers I want to read are men. This is partially for the reason explained in the previous post , namely that most canonical novelists do tend to be men (rightly or wrongly and, yes, I know, the canon is mainly set by men). As I also showed in my previous post this (unconscious) bias is also shared by women bloggers. Quick anecdote. We had a visit from a woman friend who works for a publisher. She complained that I had too few women writers on my site and said she would send me a list of women writers I should read. She sent the name of just one writer – a man.

Another novel by a woman writer that should be better known
Another novel by a woman writer that should be better known

When I became aware of my failings here, I tried to expiate my sins by having a women writers page on my site, with direct links to the women writers on my site. Setting up the links for this site helped me to find out about other women writers that I was not aware of. I have created a list of the best novels written by women on my site. There are some very fine works there and, I hope, some that not everyone is familiar with and that people coming to my site might be tempted to try and read (sadly a few are not available in English). However, knowing how infrequently I add a new name to the list of women writers on my site only brings home to me how few women writers there are on the site.

Maria Velho da Costa - not yet on my site
Maria Velho da Costa – not yet on my site

I spend a certain amount of time seeking out interesting new writers, mainly though not exclusively from other websites. I do try and to find interesting women writers on these sites and certainly I sometimes succeed. But I am not going to continue apologising for failing to do so. So there is no doubt that the ratio of men to women writers on this site will remain about the same. Quality is a highly subjective matter but, for me, many of the most interesting writers are male and while I will continue to read and enjoy women writers and will continue to post women’s novels on this site, men will predominate.

Women writers Part 2

María Luisa Bombal - one of the many neglected women writers
María Luisa Bombal – one of the many neglected women writers

In my previous post on this topic, I said that I would say more in a subsequent post about my own failings in this area. However, I first want to look at other literary blogs. There are loads of wonderful literary blogs out there but I have picked a few favourite ones – you will find all but one on my list at the left and down a bit and the one not there has been mentioned in a previous blog post. However, I have decided to select only blogs written by women. (Quick mildly relevant aside. In my previous life, I worked for a large international organisation, which struggled with the issue of promoting and encouraging women and which had a large majority of men at the top. I was very much involved in this issue and my sad experience was that some women could be just as discriminatory against women as men (I had to make it to the top the hard way, why can’t they?)). This in no way implies that any of these women bloggers are the same. Choosing them is, of course, terribly unfair as they are often constrained by what is out there, I am almost certainly looking at a very limited and arbitrary subset of their output and they have no obligation whatsoever to promote women writers but, what the hell?, the blogosphere is unfair.

  • Blog of a Bookslut is one of the foremost literary blogs out there and is essential reading for all interested in things literary. It is edited by Jessa Crispin. I looked at the entries for the first eleven days of December and the score (depending how you count) was about 3-2 in favour of men.
  • A German (actually Austrian) writer you should not miss
  • Katy Derbyshire’s Love German Books is a superb blog on, well, German books. As she had only had four posts in December, I went back a little bit further and, limiting myself only to writers and not translators and others mentioned, the score was around 1.8-1 in favour of men, despite the fact that the first post started off mentioning seven women writers.
  • Lizzy Siddal’s blog is Lizzy’s Literary Life and, in the recent period, has focussed on German books. Even counting the Brothers Grimm as one, the men led the women 3-1, though she does link to 14 German Women Writers You Shouldn’t Miss (of which, I am ashamed to say, I have only read three of the authors, though own a few of the others).
  • Liza Hayden Espenschade’s Lizok’s Bookshelf is the best blog on Russian literature (at least in English). Again, focusing only on the writers of books, the score is around 3-1 in favour of men.
  • Marcia Lynx Qualey has the best blog in English on Arabic literature. Her score for the period was about 3-1 in favour of men, though that presumably reflects the situation in the Arab world.
  • I mentioned Ann Morgan’s A Year of the Reading the World in a previous post . She has done an excellent job of trying to track down women authors and has partially succeeded. However, her entries at least for countries beginning with A & B, show a 1.8-1 ratio in favour of men.

So, just let me repeat. I am in no way criticising these bloggers but merely pointing out the probably sad reality that male writers of literary novels are more abundant/get more attention/are deemed to be more important – choose your own argument. Let me illustrate it further. Let us take the best-known literary novelists of France, Germany and Italy of the middle of the last century, i.e. around 1930-1970, when the Victorians had died off but who have been round long enough for critics and readers to decide whether they are worthy of being included in the canon or not. I am well aware that taking canonical writers presupposes that the selection of the canon is objective when it clearly is not and almost certainly has a bias towards male writers or, at least, writers writing in what may be deemed to be a more male style (and, yes, there is a difference). Nevertheless, many of us take note of the canon, even if to reject it. So here is what I consider the canonical novelists for this period and these countries:

Colette - a canonical French novelist
Colette – a canonical French novelist
  • France: Alain-Fournier, Bernanos, Camus, Céline, Cocteau, Colette, de Beauvoir, Duras, Gide, Giono, Malraux, Mauriac, Montherlant, Perec, Robbe-Grillet, Saint-Exupéry, Sarraute, Sartre, Tournier, Yourcenar. Fifteen men and five women. No Aragon, du Gard, Duhamel, Romains or Sagan but to include them would not alter the ratio that much. You could argue that de Beauvoir should not be included as a novelist but more for her non-fiction. (Wikipedia’s article on the novel of the 1915-1945 has no women (no Colette!) and, in its article on the post-war novel mentions only Duras and Sarraute and eight men.)
  • Germany: Andersch, Bienek, Böll, Döblin, Graf, Grass, Jahnn, Johnson, Koeppen, Lenz, Thomas Mann, Arno Schmidt, Walser, Wolf. Thirteen men and just one woman. No Andres, Gaiser, Hesse, Heinrich Mann, Nossack, Remarque, Renn, Rinser, Seghers. Even if we added Rinser and Seghers to the total, the figures would still be grim. (Wikipedia has a far lower ratio of women writers.)
  • Italy: Bacchelli, Buzzati, Calvino, Fenoglio, Gadda, Natalia Ginzburg, Lampedusa, Levi, Manganelli, Maraini, Morante, Moravia, Ortese, Pavese, Pirandello, Pratolini, Sciascia, Silone, Svevo, Vittorini, Volponi. Seventeen men and four women. (Incidentally, see the Wikipedia suggestions if you consider that I am being biassed. Not a single woman.) No Cialente (almost entirely out of print in Italy), de Céspedes (only a collection of four of her novels in print in Italy; the individual novels have long been out of print), Manzini.

It is not a pretty picture and, even if you disagree with my estimate of who should and should not be in the canon, you can see that Wikipedia’s estimate is even worse. Yes, we know that Wikipedia has a strong male bias (see also here) and it is quite likely that these articles were written by men but I find it hard to believe that any but the most ardent feminist could substantially disagree with my estimate of the canon. Yes, there might be disagreement on who should and should not be in it but I would estimate that the male-female ratio would be unlikely to alter much. I am well aware that the canon has almost certainly been determined by mainly male critics and that there has been a lot of effort in recent years by critics such as Elaine Showalter and publishers such as Virago and The Feminist Press (for more publishers of women’s writing, see the Women page on my website (scroll down)) to help bring neglected women writers into the canon. While we can only welcome these efforts, as we can see above, male writers still tend to dominate in many areas.

I got too carried way on this post so the next post (really) will deal with my failings.

Women writers – Part 1

Kate Mosse’s latest novel

Last week, The Guardian published an article about six British women writers who had a huge influence on British publishing. The print edition had the headline The game changers on the front page of its Review section, with the sub-heading How women dominated publishing this year and, inside, the headline Doing it for themselves (a rather odd headline in my view). Of the six writers mentioned, I have only read one – Hilary Mantel, mentioned in the Guardian article for having won the Man Booker Prize for the second time. Two of the writers – EL James and Amanda Hocking – owe their success to having produced ebooks which appealed to a specific segment of the market, mommy(sic) porn and paranormal romances. J K Rowling has, of course, been around for a long time but this year produced her first adult novel that had mixed critical views but, inevitably, considerable commercial success. Julia Donaldson is famous for her children’s books, particularly the Gruffalo books. Kate Mosse, who I may well read one day, has produced several worthwhile historical novels as well as being very active in the now defunct Orange Prize and its successor.

All this is leading up to a discussion as to why women writers are so woefully underrepresented, both on my site and in book review and blog sites generally. Vida, a Women in Literary Arts site, regularly does a count on how books are reserved by and about men and women respectively in several major US and UK reviewing publications. The latest one – for 2011 – shows that in all but two cases men are ahead and, in some cases, light years ahead. Even though Danielle Pafunda tries to explain these figures somewhat, there is no doubt that the figures are not good. Of course, it is just as bad on my site. Only 21% of the books I have reviewed are by women and only 22% of the authors are women. So why is this the case? Are men better writers? Is there a male conspiracy to exclude women writers? In a previous post (scroll down), I mentioned this and hoped to improve but clearly there is long, long way to go. By the way the writers in the photo are, top row, Evelyne Accad, Elena Poniatowska, Monique Saint-Helier; in the second row, Olga Slavnikova, Elfriede Jelinek, Gisèle Hountondji, in the third row, Luisa Valenzuela , Manjushree Thapa, Anna Maria Ortese, and fourth row, Sharon Maas.

Larry doesn’t do feminism

So there are some possible reasons. I suspect, as things often are, that reality is more complicated or, at least, may well be a combination of these and other issues.

  • 1. We live in a male-dominated world. Yes and, in other shock news, we learn that the Pope is Catholic. You do not need Wikipedia to tell you that there are relatively few female heads of state, that men earn more than women everywhere except Tavistock, that there are still relatively few women CEOs, MPs or fewer women assistant professors at Harvard, the university where then President Larry Summers famously said women don’t do maths and science (he actually said math but I have anglicised it).
  • 2. Closely related to this, Franzenfreude or men authors, particularly white men who write big books, get more attention than good women authors. There is no doubt that this is the case and why several women authors of yore had to use male pseudonyms (the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, George Sand and many others)
  • The first novel? It’s written by a woman
  • 3. Women are not as good as men. This is patently rubbish as women have been writing good books for a thousand years or more. Sappho was doing it around 2600 years ago and, according to Wikipedia, she was not the only ancient Greek woman writer. Lady Murasaki wrote what some consider to be the first novel around a thousand years ago (and it is well worth reading). Aphra Behn was allegedly the first English writer to earn a full-time living from her writing (Orinooko is well worth reading). England in the nineteenth century produced Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Mrs Gaskell, Harriet Martineau and Frances Trollope. And the 20th and 21st century have produced any number of first-class women writers.
  • 4. Women buy more books and women read more. More to the point, as least as regards my site, women read more novels, while men read more non-fiction. It has also been suggested that women read men and women writers, while men tend to prefer men writers. This is obviously an over-generalisation but probably has a kernel of truth in it. The 75 Books Every Man Should Read has just one book by a woman, while Essential books every man should read, likewise has just one book by a woman. Yes, of course, there are men who read books written by women but men are more inclined to read books by men, particularly when reading non-fiction.
  • 5. The link above postulates that women have more mirror neurons than men, which makes makes them empathise more. It is a truism that this happens in real life (men are traditionally lower, often much lower, in emotional intelligence than women) but it also means that women are more interested in relationships and books about relationships. As a result, such books are often put down as chick lit, romantic fiction and so on, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. Conversely, books featuring ideas, written more by men (but certainly not only by men) are deemed more worthy and get the reviews. (See below for more on this).
  • The Great American Novel?
  • 6. Related to the above, women can’t write the Great American Novel. I have a page on the Great American Novel and you will see that two out of twenty-four writers on the first list are women and two out of twenty on the second list. That does not just reflect my appalling bias. Most of these candidates come from other sources (though I share many of them). Indeed, I am fairly certain that at least two of the women, if not more, were added by me, without any influence. As Lionel Shriver (a woman, despite the name) so aptly said Great American Novel” = “doorstop of a book, usually pretentious, written by a man.. Similarly, what James Wood called hysterical realism (i.e. the big novel, with stories and sub-stories, the pursuit of vitality at all costs and where the conventions of realism are not being abolished but, on the contrary, exhausted, and overworked) is all men. These are the books that get the reviews. Why? Because reviewers – men and women – think it is important. Whether they are deserving of them is the matter for another debate.
  • 7. Women don’t do pomo. On the list in the link, there are forty-three writers. Four are women. Again, this might reflect my bias but I don’t think that women, on the whole, write post-modernist fiction as much as men. Pomo gets the reviews. Why? Because reviewers – men and women – think it is important.
  • 8. Women only write books with happy endings. Or they don’t. As the link points out, women are expected to write happy books but happy books are not considered good literature. As Tolstoy put it Все счастливые семьи похожи друг на друга, каждая несчастливая семья несчастлива по-своему. (Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.) In other words, unhappy is more interesting. Of course, women do write books that are miserable. Just ask Emily Brontë. But I would imagine books with happy endings are more to be found written by women than men writers.
Francine Prose – not impressed with Normal Mailer

I am sure that others can come up with many more arguments. Far better commentators than I have basically summed it up as rampant sexism. Francine Prose, discussing the subject, quotes Norman Mailer as saying I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today. Perhaps looking to Norman as a bastion of feminism might be a mistake but he is probably not alone in that view. Jane Smiley thinks Huckleberry Finn is preferred to Uncle Tom’s Cabin because the former was written by a man and the latter by a woman. Clearly, sexism is the main reason for the undervaluing of women’s writing and it does not look like changing anytime soon, despite James, Hocking, Rowling, Mantel, Donaldson, Mosse and other women writers, like Stephenie Meyer. I will continue on this topic, particularly about my own failings, in a future post