Monthly Archives: November 2009

E-Readers: Just what are they good for?

A great article on the state of the e-market now, below. (Notice how we can just attach e- to anything and be understood these days?)

http://tinyurl.com/ycmvjof

I’m tapping my foot, waiting on the Apple Tablet. Which kind will you choose? And will the e-reader take over print, or become an adjunct to our multitudes of gadgets?

Want an opinion as recompense for clicking here. Okay here goes. I know I will love it for traveling. I would love to get magazine and newspaper content over the e-reader instead of dealing with those messy recycling piles.

I will still buy books that I love just to hold them in my hand.

Technology is fleeting and ever-mutable. A great book is not forever, but at least good for ten years beyond the life of the next gadget.

So my vote is, terrifically useful gadget, maybe a boon to the environment, fantastic for document reading, but no substitute for a well-stocked library.

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The inevitable––a new list––is happening. The last time we had such a controversy about the lack of recognition for women’s writing, it was Modern Library’s “100 Best Novels” that began the uprising in 1998. ( See http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html). Now WILLA (see blog post below) has started a list of the best women’s books of 2009 to counter Publisher’s Weekly’s inability to find even one book by a woman for its “Ten Best 0f 2009” list. Want to add one? Go to http://willalist.wikia.com/wiki/The_WILLA_List_Wiki.

My take on all this is that lists are fine, but what will matter in the long run is if women’s books get reviewed and if people–especially women, who are by far the largest share of book buyers and readers–buy them and nominate them for prizes. If professors, male and female, teach them. And, yes, we will still have to fight to win the nominations, but at least we will have some well-heeled women writers to throw their weight around when those prizes are being determined. Practical applications of justice are always better than any pedestals we might climb.

Furor over Women and Literary Awards

Linda Lowen on About.com says it about as well as it can be said. Of course there's a bias against women writers in virtually every part of the publishing industry and in the organizations that sponsor major awards. And, maybe, among us, the readers. Otherwise, how do you account for the fact that most readers are women but the publishing industry and the judges have not fallen to our anger like a picnic to ants? (Read Lowen here: http://womensissues.about.com/b/2009/11/12/is-there-a-bias-against-women-writers-uproar-against-publishers-weekly-2009-list.htm).

And we applaud Cate Marvin and Erin Belieu and WILLA for stepping up, tackling the issues, and organizing for a women's writing conference that might address these concerns and more. We will all attend and support them, right? Impossible not to respond to a call to action that begins, as Cate's did, with these lines:

[Dear Friend,

I just experienced a moment of vicious self-mockery, in which I imagined myself in the same pose of concentration over the laundry I had spread over my bed as the narrator of Tillie Olsen’s legendary piece in which a mother considers the circumstances of her gender as manifested in her daughter’s (lack of) self-confidence . . . ]

Jane's Stories Press Foundation has been championing the cause of women's writing for almost ten years now, and we shouldn't have to proclaim that we are down with the cause. But I would like to sound one note of caution as we address the immediate issues of why no women made it into Publishing Weekly's Top Ten Books of 2009, and why the National Book Awards just this past month also eschewed all books published by all women for the past year, except in –guess what? Children's literature, because women know about kids, don't you know? (Not that writing for children isn't worthy work! I'm just pointing out a pattern here.)

My note of caution is this: Feminism is not about why you and your friends can't get ahead. Feminism is about why one gender is excluded from power structures and how that skews life for both genders, as a result. In other words, it's about the stories of women's lives in all their diversity and scope, and why those stories are bent, pushed, and otherwise twisted to make a pedestal for the powers-that-be to stand on.

It's not enough for more women to win awards, any more than it's enough for a woman to be president–although both would be advances all women and men should support. We will have won when a male prize judge reads a book with a central character who is female and doesn't compare her to a male, but sees himself in her, and vice versa.

It's fine, as Linda Lowen points out, for men to be lauded for writing about domestic matters, but so should women be praised for the same subject matter, and also for writing kick-ass military satire or anything else they want.

In other words, we have to expand the territory for all women, sisters, not just celebrate a few of us being allowed on the battlefield.

Motel of the Stars: Coming in Apalachian Heritage

Watch for my review of Karen Salyer McElmurray’s Motel of the Stars (Sarabande Press) in the Winter 2010 issue of Appalachian Heritage.

What gives me the gall?

I’m updating and renaming my blog to note what I’m doing now: writing book reviews, promoting work I think deserves attention, and writing my own novel. Soon, I suppose that will include trying to interest an agent. But for the moment, what you will find here is my unvarnished opinion about women in the literary world: how we’re doing, overall; what’s new to read; major prizes won by women; and other topics that evolve from what I’m reading and observing. Send me books to review and I’ll give you my best assessment. What gives me the chutzpah and why should you care? Well, the answer to the first question is that I’ve been a feminist bookstore owner, a small press editor and owner, a Women’s Studies and writing teacher, a long-time feminist activist, and founder and current President of Jane’s Stories Press Foundation, which supports women’s writing. If you want me to review your work, write for my address to gbaileymershon@mac.com.