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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Orange Prize Long List and a Comment on Female Writers

The Orange Prize is a British Prize given to the best fiction written by a woman (they do not have to be British though).  They just announced their long list, and in my opinion, it is the best in years.

The Guardian took the list and turned it into a slide show with the book covers and a bit about each book and its author.  Click here to view.  I like the British cover of Swamplandia! better than ours.

In past years, there have been complaints that there was not enough great literary fiction by women to fill the list. There was criticism that the bottom of the list was very weak, and that books landed on the list purely because they were okay and had a female author.  Not so this year.  This is a VERY strong list of some of the best books from the last 12 months, period:  The Tiger's Wife, A Visit From the Goon Squad, Room, and Swamplandia! to name a few.

Here is an essay discussing how much better the list is this year.  It even talks a little about why and discusses the importance of the list.  I am not a feminist, more post-feminist.  I personally believe that the world is co-ed, so women have to battle in there with men if they really want to prove themselves.  But I will concede that when it comes to literary fiction, sometimes women are forgotten in the mix.

The solution: women should write better books; books so good that the world cannot deny them even when judged against men.

Case in point, in the last 12 months, A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan won the National Book Critics Circle Award, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon won the National Book Award,  and Deborah Eisenberg won the PEN/Faulkner award a few days ago.  They beat men.  Very prominent men (Egan beat out Franzen, for example).

So thank you women for writing books that have been judged on an equal playing field with men and have come out ahead.  This makes the Orange Prize Long List a true list of some of the best new books out there right now, regardless of the gender of their authors.

So if your patrons want excellent literary fiction by a woman or just a list of some of the best literary fiction out there, period, pass on the Orange Prize Long List to your patrons.

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