Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Something I've been thinking about

For my next review, I've decided allow myself a veto for my latest randomly allotted book and read a different one. I think that realistically I'll have to allow myself to do this around once a month, as discussed earlier, because I'm not always going to want to read the book the system chooses for me, and that's not really fair on the book. So I'm going to read Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter instead.

I will be getting back to The Eyes of the Dragon after, I swear.

I just wanted to have a brief interlude and explore some ideas that have been bothering me a little bit. A week or so ago I was frustrated after reading This is Where I Leave You, because I didn't enjoy it much and I said I was sick of reading about male angst for a while. Also previously, I had been disheartened by the recently released VIDA statistics, which revealed a very large discrepancy between the number of books written and reviewed by men and women.

Around the same time I had been talking about that, I had been trying to think of female authors which I had read an enjoyed in the last year, and came up with these off the top of my head: Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Catherine O'Flynn, Emma Donoghue, Monica Drake, Jennifer Egan, A.M. Homes, Miranda July, Susie Orbach, Natasha Walter, Kat Banyard, Jessica Valenti, Delphine de Vigan, Charlotte Roche, Audrey Niffenegger and probably some others that I have foolishly omitted from this list.

What I have been trying to work out in my head is whether there is a lack of more 'edgy' and 'cool' women's fiction. Certainly, all of the women I've named on the list above I consider to be cool, but I mean something else, I think. Where are the female Tao Lins, Chuck Palahniuks, Douglas Couplands, Irvine Welshes and Lee Rourkes? I certainly consider writers like Miranda July, Monica Drake and Charlotte Roche to be writing in the same vein, but I feel like there is a gap. Like there are not as many female writers doing the kind of thing that their male contemporaries are doing. I'm not sure if I really know what I'm talking about or if it's all in my head.

I remember when I first chose to read The Help, and feeling that it was so far removed from anything that I thought I would enjoy. I would still stand by that statement and say that for the most part, that kind of women's fiction is not the sort of thing I generally like. I just wonder why aren't there more women out there writing about the same things that young male writers do? Most of the fiction about female angst tends to be more chick-lit centred. Where are the women writing about fucking? About the visceral? About the grotesque? Where are the female Bunny Munros? Have I just missed them? Or do they not exist? Is it because women do not write about these things? Is it because women are not these things?

It's not that I don't enjoy reading novels by male writers about these things - I do. And I'd also like to make it clear that I really do not wish to segregate the genders, as I don't think that's a helpful approach. I'm more just curious about whether women writers are doing this kind of thing, and if not, why not? Perhaps they are and I'm just not aware of it, but could it also be that people are not so willing to publish or publicise the kind of thing I'm talking about? 

I read something recently that a male character's introspection is generally labelled as moving and important, whereas a female's is labelled as self-absorped. Is that fair? I don't think I know enough about what I'm talking about to make that huge sweeping statement. But I can kind of see where the sentiment is coming from. Of all the comment pieces I read after the release of the VIDA statistics, one of the things which was mentioned time and time again was that critics and readers care less about the things which are important to women than the things which are important to men. That men's thoughts were revelatory and that women's were trivial.

I don't know if this is right or not. I'm not even sure if I'm relating what I mean by 'this kind of fiction' all that well. I just know that I'd like to see more of it. I love reading quirky, contemporary stories about young misfits and their hijinks. I just wish more of them were women.

No comments:

Post a Comment