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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Weiner and Picoult stick up for Women Writers

In case you have been living under a rock and didn't know, Jonathan Franzen's new novel comes out on Tuesday.  And although I like Franzen and happen to be the first person on the list for Berwyn's copy, even I am sick of everyone gushing over him. I mean does he really deserve to be the only living novelist besides Stephen King to be on the cover of TIME?  I bet you can figure out where I stand on that question.

Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult have used this extreme Franzen love-in to question the coverage female writers get in the major media outlets. Both writers are intelligent, Princeton graduates who write novels that contemplate the issues that modern American women are facing everyday. Both sell millions of books to readers all over the world.

Today's Huffington Post features an interview with the 2 authors taking their Twitter conversation beyond the 140 character limit.  Anyone who is interested in either gender issues or simply just book reviewing in general should take the time to read this insightful and frank interview. Here is an excerpt:
Why do you feel that commercial fiction, or more specifically popular fiction written by women, tends to be critically overlooked?
Jennifer Weiner: I think it's a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it's literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it's romance, or a beach book - in short, it's something unworthy of a serious critic's attention.
Jodi Picoult: I think you only have to really look at the facts. I don't think it's overlooked in all venues. I think the New York Times reviews overall tend to overlook popular fiction, whether you're a man, woman, white, black, purple or pink. I think there are a lot of readers who would like to see reviews that belong in the range of commercial fiction rather than making the blanket assumption that all commercial fiction is unworthy. But it's not universal. The Washington Post for example, back when they had their book review section, used to do the widest reviews, because there were so many kinds of fiction reviewed, not just literary fiction. That's where my gripe comes from. When in today's market you only have a limited review space for books, I wonder what the rationale is for the New York Times to review the same book twice, sometimes in the same week. I want to make it clear that I have absolutely nothing against Jonathan Franzen. I hope I read ("Freedom") and love it. None of this was motivated as a critique against him or his work, just that he is someone the Times has chosen to review twice in seven days.

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