This column has been on hiatus since the springtime and I’m happy to be back. I’ve been reading so much—mostly books by women—this summer. While I’ve been away, I’ve been thinking about gender more than ever, if you can believe that....more
Posts Tagged: women writers
Ferrante’s novels about women like Lila and Lenu are a potent reminder that working-class women’s perspectives are out there, even if we can’t always hear each other, even if we’re sometimes embarrassed and alone, even if we feel exasperated by a system that valorizes experiences and credentials that we can never claim.
Readers are shifting focus from outdated gender expectations and conceptions of identity, and as a result, complex, non-compartmentalized female friendships are blooming in fiction. Books about these friendships are spaces for female writers and readers to explore the complexity of their relationships and selves without the influence of men, whose presence can quickly turn a female character into a label (mother, daughter, lover, keeper) and distract from the potentially subversive nature of female-only friendships....more
Most of these sites were beloved exactly for that same dual sense of security and inclusion members loved — and when that sense was lost, from time or toxicity or something else, the woman who made them moved on to another new place.
Many poets—male poets especially—are secretly anxious that someone will call their poetry a frivolous, feminine pursuit. And instead of embracing the potential charge of frivolity—allowing themselves to be free of it or even to toy with it—those same poets draw lines in the sand with real-and-serious-capital-P-Poetry on one side, and lesser, feminized poetry on the other....more
Writing as art can be what economists call a “non-market” activity. The time we spend writing poems or novels, like the time we spend doing laundry, is usually time not spent earning a dollar, even if we hope to see payment for that work down the line.
For Lenny Letter, Alexis Coe writes on the gendered politics behind book acknowledgements, including acknowledgment of emotional labor, research, and the expectations behind praise for female and male partners....more
Over at Lit Hub, Anne Boyd Rioux discusses the literary genius of the 19-century novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson, and the American tradition of “the diminution of women writers” that continues today:
Woolson’s literary star faded quickly after her death in 1894, a time of shifting literary tastes.
Can women really have it all? Like, all of it? But how could they possibly have multiple things at the same time? How can they even think human thoughts after they’ve subsumed their corporeal selves into an all-encompassing prison of motherhood?...more
It’s not that the books that get someone into the “serious reader” club are all or even mostly by men these days. But the books that get you kicked out of the club are almost exclusively written by women.
Hannah Engler writes for Book Riot on “women’s literature” and the still-unevolved stereotype of the Woman Reader....more
Gay Talese, well-known for being a pioneer of the New Journalism along with writers like Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote, apparently couldn’t name any woman writer who’d inspired him when asked at a recent Boston University event. Amy Littlefield, a journalist in the audience, said:
And then there was a pause and he said, “None.
Henry James found in the stories of Constance Fenimore Woolson “a remarkable minuteness of observation and tenderness of feeling on the part of one who evidently did not glance and pass, but lingered and analyzed.”
There’s a roll call of rediscovered and canonical women writers at Salon....more
I had considered envying men before—I pretend to envy things like their higher incidence of ungrounded confidence and monomania, but I don’t really envy those things, and I’m not sure I even believe in them…
In an excerpt published in the New Yorker from her forthcoming book, Rivka Galchen writes about her first experience of real gender envy....more
Susan Burton profiles Dana Spiotta for the New York Times. Burton praises Spiotta’s work for its “ambitious” subject matter that explores the way we are “shaped” by the material world. In addition, the article discusses how Spiotta’s work has been gendered, and “cited in discussions about whether culture properly values the work of female novelists.”...more
Rachel Vorona Cote writes about how people use beauty to undermine the words of women:
I understood, as I continue to understand with distressing nuance, that too many men navigate the terror of women’s brilliance by reducing them to skin and bone.
Over at NPR, authors Claire Vaye Watkins and Marlon James talk about Watkins’s recent essay, “On Pandering,” which she describes as:
…internalizing the sexism that I’d encountered in the writing world, and the world beyond, and adjusting what I wrote accordingly so that it would be more well-received … by the people I wanted to impress, which was a white male voice that I had in my mind.
Call it “Goldfinching,” after Vanity Fair’s 2014 yes-but-is-it-art interrogation as to whether Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer prize-winning, mega-bestselling book The Goldfinch is or is not literature. It’s the process by which a popular and previously well-regarded novel and, more importantly, its readers, are taken to the woodshed, usually by a critic who won’t hesitate to congratulate himself on his courage, as if dismissing popular things that women like requires some special kind of bravery—as if it doesn’t happen all day, every day.