Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

I cannot recall a novel written by a man that was described as domestic, as if the male life within a family and household necessarily transcends the bounds of the family home, means something more profound about life itself perhaps. I have had conversations with young women writers about their fear that their novels will be considered “Chick Lit”. They are concerned about whether their titles will doom them to the category. What is the male equivalent? “Rooster-Lit?” “Dick-Lit?” And who fits the category? Who would want to? There used to be “tough guy” fiction, “hard-boiled” fiction, but somehow those are not pejorative. It’s little like the way that the culture has no male counterpart to the term slut. I suppose the closest thing is stud, but that’s not such a bad thing in most circles, however sad that might be.

It goes to the larger question about how women writers are viewed and treated on the American literary landscape. As I mentioned at the onset, I live a rather isolated artistic life, away from that world, so I’m no good source for statistics and verifiable claims about anything. But my friends at Vida, an organization of women writers, were kind enough to supply me with their numbers, numbers that I will not recite here. Except to say that my biggest wonder is how it is that, with women being seventy percent of the book buying audience, women writers receive only twenty percent of book review attention. Read that previous sentence again. I won’t get into the language of reviews and discussion of books by women, because of my own ignorance, my admitted lack of travel though the book world. But much of the language is so ubiquitous that even I can’t miss it.

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