Readersforum's Blog

May 6, 2013

Stop Saying That Men Don’t Read Women

belovedIt holds woman writers back, and it’s just not true.

By Ester Bloom

It has become a truism that “men don’t read women.” The assertion is taken as self-evident by feminist publications like Salon (“while women read books written by men, men do not tend to reciprocate”) and shown anecdotally by blogs. It is also perpetuated by male bastions like Esquire, which recently released a list “of the greatest works of literature ever published” featuring one (1) book by a woman out of a total of 75. (Dudes like stuff that is “plot-driven and exciting, where one thing happens after another,” helpfully explains Esquire’s editor-in-chief, who introduced Fiction for Men e-books to widespread scorn last year.)

To be sure, the inequalities of the literary world are as plain as the nose on Jonathan Franzen’s face, and many writers and readers alike remain outraged about this unbalanced state of affairs. The Women In Literary Arts numbers for 2012 (compiled annually by VIDA) have barely budged from 2010 and 2011—men still dominate the major outlets as tastemakers, reviewers, and authors whose works are deemed worthy of review. The Nation recently published a cri de coeur by novelist Deborah Copaken Kagan lamenting “centuries of literary sexism, exclusion, cultural bias, invisibility. There’s a reason J. K. Rowling’s publishers demanded that she use initials instead of “Joanne”: It’s the same reason Mary Anne Evans used the pen name George Eliot.” And a recent Salon interview with Meg Wolitzer addressing these frustrations is titled “Men won’t read books about women.”

The truth is more complicated. Of course men read books about women and have for centuries—what are Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina if not classic books about women? Those canonical examples are merely a couple of the ones explicitly named for their central character. Nobody picking up those lauded works of fiction could claim to have been misled by the title to think they were reading about Hitler’s Germany, or fishing, or fishing in Hitler’s Germany, or whatever else men are solely supposed to want to read about.

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April 18, 2013

One Hundred Literary Rumors

Eggers and his flawless skin

Eggers and his flawless skin

By Blake Butler

Lydia Davis can’t stand the sight of children wearing bike helmets.

Richard Brautigan never crossed state lines except on foot.

Jack London loved braiding men’s hair.

Matthew Rohrer claims never to have been inside or to have seen an ad for Chili’s.

Jack Kerouac was addicted to licking stamps.

Jhumpa Lahiri has collected more than 200 autographed head shots of Al Pacino.

“’Wow, cool sky!’” was the original first sentence of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Gertrude Stein was on the payroll of the New York Mets.

Virginia Woolf passed the bar exam in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine.

T. C. Boyle ghostwrote the screenplay for Mrs. Doubtfire.

Gordon Lish religiously eats at the Applebee’s in Times Square on the 13th and 18th of every month.

Michiko Kakutani‘s Gmail password is wolfdickfourteen.

Barry Hannah hated the sight of charcoal.

Gary Lutz has beaten Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! more than 400 times.

From age eight to 18, Ann Beattie earnestly believed she was born wrapped in a shower curtain.

Dave Eggers bathes in almond milk every Sunday and video-records it.

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December 13, 2012

Why Women Writers Still Take Men’s Names

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen,author, "Out of Africa" (1937). Ms. Blixen said she chose the name Isak because it means "he who laughs" in Hebrew. Her maiden name, Dinesen, means the same thing in Danish.

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen,author, “Out of Africa” (1937). Ms. Blixen said she chose the name Isak because it means “he who laughs” in Hebrew. Her maiden name, Dinesen, means the same thing in Danish.


In ‘City of Dark Magic,” a new fantasy novel about a Beethoven scholar and a murder mystery in Prague, no one is quite who they seem to be.

Neither, it turns out, is the author, Magnus Flyte, a supposed international man of mystery, who is actually a pseudonym for the book’s authors, Christina Lynch and Meg Howrey.

Ms. Lynch and Ms. Howrey decided to use a male pseudonym for their first thriller partly because they read studies saying that while women would buy books by either sex, men preferred books by men, says Ms. Lynch. They didn’t want to risk losing a single reader. “Why would we want to exclude anyone?” says Ms. Lynch.

The Brontë sisters published their 19th-century masterpieces as the Bell brothers, because, Charlotte Brontë wrote, “we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” More than 150 years later, women are still facing the same “prejudice” in some sectors of the publishing industry.

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December 2, 2012

Hollywood’s 25 Most Powerful Authors

Power_Authors_Reese_Witherspoon_Flynn_a_h_300“I don’t expect anything to be like ‘Twilight’ again,” says Stephenie Meyer, who joins J.K Rowling, E.L. James and Suzanne Collins on the list of writers who have the industry hanging on their every word.

When THR contacted James Patterson about being on its inaugural list of the 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood, he scoffed. “Power list? More like powerless list”

But while conventional wisdom puts writers far down the totem pole, the truth is that from The Hunger Games to the upcoming The Hobbit, books remain the most durable source of content for films and TV.

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November 8, 2012

Shakespeare, Potter & the Bodleian

Bodleian Library

On this day in 1602 the refurbished Bodleian Library at Oxford University was officially opened to the public. Sir Thomas Bodley, a wealthy retired diplomat, made it his cause to restore what had been in ruin for a half-century, spending four years and his own and his friends’ money to repair buildings and fill bookshelves. Sir Francis Bacon praised Bodley for “having built an ark to save learning from the deluge,” though not all books — including Shakespeare’s — were welcome aboard.

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November 6, 2012

Vatican slams J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

Only days after giving the new James Bond film a ringing endorsement, the Vatican has slammed the new novel by J. K. Rowling saying it “needed a sprinkle of magic”.

By Josephine McKenna

L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy See‘s official newspaper, subtitled its damning review of The Casual Vacancy with “J.K Rowling’s first adult novel disappoints”.

The newspaper said it had “only admiration” for the billionaire author who had smashed sales records with her Harry Potter series and overcome “wretched times” as a single mother.

It also congratulated Rowling for donating a large sum of her earnings to charity in 2011 “thanks to the power and fantasy produced by her pen” but said her latest book was unconvincing and Rowling’s perspective “disappoints”.

“Fifty-six years after Peyton Place, an up to date – and British – version of that masterpiece of a social chronicle might make sense,” the review says.

“Rowling probably has all the qualifications to be the worthy successor of Grace Metaloius. But there’s something missing.”

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October 2, 2012

Casual Vacancy ‘fastest-selling book’ in UK in three years

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:40 am

 | Charlotte Williams and Lisa Campbell

J K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy has become “the fastest-selling book in the UK in three years”, according to its publisher, Little, Brown, with Waterstones reporting it had been the biggest selling title for the chain yesterday (27th September).

Little, Brown declined to reveal first-day sales figures, but said it had shipped more than one million copies of the print edition to bookshops in the UK and to export territories, including Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa. The publisher said this figure includes pre-order fulfillment. This is shy of the unconfirmed 2.5m million pre-order figure reported on Sky News and in the Daily Mirror on the day of publication, although the Little, Brown number does not contain e-book sales.

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September 28, 2012

Why the embargo on Rowling’s ‘Casual Vacancy’ didn’t hold

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:55 pm

When critics are supposed to abide by rules, the urge to be the first can be irresistible.

By Neely Tucker

The embargo on the J.K. Rowling novel “The Casual Vacancy,” reportedly one of the most draconian non-disclosure agreements in the history of publishing . . . did not quite work. ¶ Thursday is the release date for the first book for adults written by the empress of Hogwarts. Reviews were embargoed until 1 a.m. and book sales until 3 a.m. Since Rowling’s Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, the release of her new book — even though it is set in an unmagical British town called Pagford — is one of 2012’s largest publishing events. ¶ Thus, it is a test case for the common, if unloved, practice of forbidding booksellers from selling the book in advance of the embargo date, and forbidding media outlets from reviewing said tome before the date the publishing company decrees. ¶ The practice generally has several intents: to make sure books are in stores when readers hear about them; to retain the news revelations in nonfiction books; and to try to bottle up interest in big fiction titles, propelling them onto bestseller lists with an unusually high number of immediate sales.

“For franchise authors, you want to drive it to Number 1 by having everyone buy it the first week of release,” said Elyse Cheney, a literary agent in New York.

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August 26, 2012

J.K. Rowling writes ‘Casual Vacancy’ for adults

By Deirdre Donahue and Craig Wilson

Once upon a time, J.K. Rowling set children’s imaginations on fire. Can the creator of Harry Potter ignite a similar conflagration for a grown-up audience?

The British author will find out on Sept. 27, when more than 2 million hardcover copies of her first novel for adults hit U.S. bookstores, along with the digital edition. It will be simultaneously released in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

Set in the little English town of Pagford, The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown, $35) revolves around an election held after a member of the parish council unexpectedly dies. Despite the Miss Marple terrain, press materials describe the novel as “blackly comic … Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.”

“I expect the world to be ecstatic at the range of her imaginative reach,” predicts Rowling’s American publisher, Michael Pietsch. One of the few to have read the embargoed book, he calls Rowling “a genius, one of the great writers of all time.” Reading the 512-page novel, he says, “reminded me of Dickens because of the humanity, the humor, the social concerns, the intensely real characters.”

No wands, apparently: “This book isn’t Harry Potter,” says Pietsch. “It is a completely different concern.”

But the secrecy surrounding The Casual Vacancy isn’t. As with Harry Potter, there are no advance copies for the media, no early reviews.

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August 17, 2012

A prestige-free zone

J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins

The reason why women writers dominate young-adult literature is the reason why many guys avoid it

By Laura Miller

The prototypical YA (Young Adult, i.e., early teen) novel “The Catcher in the Rye” may have been written by the late, reclusive and definitely male J.D. Salinger, but nowadays, YA — like Elvis on “Happy Days” — is a chick thing. So says Meghan Lewit in a recent post to the Atlantic’s website, and she has the numbers to prove it, sort of: A little over half of the titles in a reader poll of the 100 “best-ever teen novels” are by women. This counts as “dominance” because in almost every other poll of best-ever books (whatever the category), works by men greatly outnumber those by women.

Ask anyone in the book business if Lewit is right, and they’ll probably agree; with a few exceptions, the most successful and prominent contemporary YA writers are women. Furthermore, the cultural infrastructure supporting their books — from agents and editors to librarians, teachers and that formidable new force in the YA world, bloggers — is predominantly female. Some observers blame this state of affairs for the drop-off in boys’ reading habits as they reach their teens; it’s a system ill-suited to producing books that will interest boys, they argue. But if YA has indeed become a gynocracy, few ask why.

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