This begins, as all somewhat wanky things do these days, over tweets.
Basically, Judy Picoult and Jennifer Weiner lambasted the New York times over the man!love for Jonathan Franzen's new book Freedom
. The New York Times reviewers basically fanboyed the book, calling Franzen a genius, etc. etc. so on and wank!wank!wank! When questioned, Picoult and Weiner said that it wasn't so much Franzen's book--but the bigger problem: the consistent pushing of male authors and genres that men read (thrillers and mysteries) but never works by women, especially the commercially successful ones.
Now this exchange of viewpoints (i.e. bitch fight over tea cups) was carried on over to NPR
. Later on, Slate
actually reviewed the NYT Book Reviews, and found out that statistically Picoult and Weiner aren't off mark.
What really made me lean in on this exchange was that:
1. It sounded like a fandom bitchfest between the porny!AH-we-have-the-numbers-beeyatches and the canon/AU!we-have-standards contingents of fandoms, and while I try to be nuanced and not take sides in these sorts of things, I also tend to find such conversation to err on the highly entertaining side....
2. In my kitchen on Thursday M--- who is a 60 year old professional non-fiction writer was explaining to me that he could not write a fictional novel that would sell. There aren't enough people in the demographic that he wants to write to--e.g. men who read "sweet novels." This made me terribly sad. I tend to get sad when people I admire knock themselves, but he was talking about the decline of reading in America. A new kind of commercialization. Because women and the book club circuit are the main source of fiction-reading, publishers are unwilling to consider these other sorts of novels. The way publishing has changed, those smaller novels aren't "worth it."
And I can't help but wonder if this is what the NYT reviewers are responding to.
At the same time, the fact that romance written by men is picked up to review, while romance written by women is dismissed--that pisses me off.
Men who lament the decline of "great literature" can suck my big toe. Now, we have women and minorities writing. Yes, what a great decline
Men who refuse to go on Oprah's book club because they "don't want that label," when she's read Faulkner... um, no.
The thing is, I think Picoult and Weiner were being bitchy by picking on Franzen. Even if they were trying to make a bigger point--they picked on the dorky kid with glasses. From what I hear, he wrote a damn good novel, and to that extent, this seems like the cheerleaders complaining that nerds have higher grade point averages... when, uh duhhhh
At the same time, though, I think this might be a much deeper issue. I think it might be possible that the NYTBR might think about promoting reading as a whole more... but then again. I don't know.
My apologies if this has beeeeeen one long nonsensical rant.