Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Male-Dominated Bookshelf

Last week, M.J. Rose made a comment on her blog that nearly all of Oprah's book selections were written by men. I'm not entirely certain of the criteria for being an Oprah Book Club pick, but it seems surprising to me that a female icon picks so many books written by men for her predominantly female fan base. And, isn't she supposed to be about equality?

But before I passed judgement, I stepped away from the computer to take a look at my own bookshelf. Out of about a hundred hardcovers, only eleven were written by women. I was totally surprised. I know that the mystery/thriller genre is dominated by women, but most of my hardcovers are literary fiction, which I thought to be more balanced. Guess not.

Is it simply because there are more male writers out there or is there a difference in writing styles? When I run through my favorite books - PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, SURVIVOR, MYSTIC RIVER - all of them are written by men. Is it just a coincidence? There isn't really a pattern: a crazy Jewish family with a child addicted to masturbation, a collection of short stories about the drag queens and junkies living in one area of Brooklyn, the sole survivor of a creedish cult about to crash his plane, and how a childhood abduction changes the lives of 3 friends forever. Any pattern I see speaks to my tastes in fiction, not my preference in author gender.

As a female writer myself, I'd hate to think that like so many other industries, writing is so male-dominated. But looking at the books on my shelf and thinking back to my days in fiction classes, I have to admit, men definitely outnumbered the women. There are so many wonderful female authors out there. They're making it to bestseller lists, they're winning awards, and yet the playing field still doesn't seem to be level.

Take a look at your bookshelf and see if you have a similar realization. I believe the only exception would be if you only read romance, a genre where women do dominate. Is it a coincidence, do you prefer male authors, or is it simply because there are more books out there written by men?

1 comment:

Brian said...

I don't know if you are familiar with The Bechdel Rule.

It's funny because I had a post scheduled to go up today that I wrote yesterday and then you kind of bring up a similar topic today.

Any way if you want to check it out here it is