Best books of 2009: No girl writers allowed!


Many of you are probably making your holiday gift lists, and checking them twice, and I’m guessing that some of my smarty-pants readers are interested in gifting (or being gifted) some of this year’s best new titles, in both fiction and non-fiction.  Well, here’s a funny coinky-dink, courtesy of reader Kathie who tipped me off last month:  all of the very best books this year were written by men!  It isn’t just the STEM fields anymore, girls–apparently, we are clearly inferior at every professional and artistic endeavor:

  • In “Why Weren’t Any Women Writers Invited to Publishers Weekly’s Weenie Roast?” The Green Lantern Press writes, “Publishers Weekly recently announced their Best Books Of 2009 list. Of their top ten, chosen by editorial staff, no books written by women were included. Quoted in The Huffington Post, PW confidently admitted that they’re “not the most politically correct” choices. This statement comes in a year in which new books appeared by writers such as Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, Rita Dove, Heather McHugh and Alicia Ostriker.”  (Who??)
  • Publishers Weekly explained, “We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the “big” books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet. It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male.”  But–we didn’t give it a second thought, beyond this odd acknowledgement of the bias of our list!  (Which implies somehow that in years before, when “gender and and genre” were not ignored, the ladies were the beneficiaries of some kind of literary affirmative action.)  Boys rule, girls drool!  Let’s take a closer look at that top 10 list, shall we?
  • boyslifeHere’s just a sampling of the wide, wide world of subjects covered by teh menz:  a look at the development of the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missle in the Cold War; a “a thrilling narrative of scientific discovery and the spirit of an age;” a “graphic novel to bring us all back to comics;” a novel about “an ex-junkie African-American bus station porter” who gets involved with a rural cult; a “Philosopher and motorcycle mechanic . . . makes a brilliant case for the intellectual satisfactions of working with one’s hands;” a novel about “an aging hipster grinding it out as a freelance journalist who pursues the girl instead of the story;” and a “classic adventure tale. . . [which] follows in the footsteps of early–20th-century Amazon jungle explorer Percy Fawcett.”  Motorcycles, comic books, “classic adventure” tales, and bombs!  Nothing gendered here, friends–just good, old-fashioned story-telling  that everyone can enjoy.  Good thing they didn’t bother with genre or gender, so we can know what the truly superior and totally not gendered people are reading and writing.
  • Funnily enough, the National Book Awards announced last month had the exact same tilt.  Male writers won all of the major prizes (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s literature.)  The only woman awarded a prize was a dead woman, Flannery O’Connor, who’s been safely in the grave since 1964!  A lifetime achievement award was given to Gore Vidal, and Dave Eggers was the “honorary medalist,” completing the near-sweep by teh menz. 

Well, I for one am totally relieved that there wasn’t any dreary political correctness or Soviet-era feminism involved in this year’s prizes.  Isn’t “postfeminism” awesome?  It’s just as comfy and unthreatening as prefeminism.

UPDATE, later this morning:  Why not start our own “best books” list here in the comments below?  I’ve made my suggestion–come on kids, let’s rent a barn and put on a show!  See here too for Knitting Clio’s suggestions for excellent books and commentary on the bias of the PW list.

0 thoughts on “Best books of 2009: No girl writers allowed!

  1. Dawson alone was taken to task for his rather narrow view of authors in his anthology.


    That’s what’s amazing to me. The idea that a little conversation in cyberspace with which one doesn’t agree is going to shake the foundations of one’s entire professional life.

    My theory is that a major contributor to this scenario is that the only “professional life” the vast majority of these rational skeptic d00ds have is rushing around in packs on the Internet vesting their egos in the defense of their celebrity heroes.


  2. In general, I find it to be inappropriate and meaningless for the creators of “best of” lists to presume to tell the rest of us what does and does not count as the “best” fiction, as though something as subjective as literature can or should be made “objective.” Who died and made them the arbiter of all that does and does not count as qualitatively good?

    In a similar vein, don’t forget Mike Ashley’s “The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction” anthology, which includes not a single work by a woman or person of color.


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