Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I think I've been insulted

I was very disappointed not to get a copy of The Lace Reader as an ARC and I have been looking forward to its release. After reading the many good reviews among the blogoscenti, I took a look at the review in the New York Times by Janet Maslin and I was absolutely floored by this phrase:

Women write books that other women will want to sit around and discuss, preferably over tea and cucumber sandwiches.

I'm not sure if I'm more insulted by the implication that women readers sit around chatting about books and knitting tea cozies, or the insinuation that this is all that women writers aspire to. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that such a misogynist statement comes from a female reviewer, but I am.

For the record, I knit and I drink tea. And while I read all sorts of novels - historical fiction, spy novels, horror novels, murder mysteries, psychological thrillers, fiction and nonfiction, biographies and memoirs - I have never discussed a book over a cucumber sandwich.

What do you think? Does this strike you as being pretty dismissive of women readers and writers?

14 comments:

kath said...

I completely agree with you. This was a rude and insultingly dismissive allusion to women who read.

Is there somewhere we can write to complain?
lets!

bookfool said...

Yep...we've all been insulted. In fact, I think it was downright snotty, demeaning and dismissive. and I haven't even had the chance to read the book yet! As a woman, it irritates me to be condescended to in such a fashion, makes me want to read the book just to spite them!

kath said...

hah! I wrote to tell her what i thought.


If you read the review, click on the reviewers name, it offers an email option.

Amy said...

Ugh. That's just...ugh.
I like to read books and discuss them. But the first book club I ever was a part of was me and a bunch of guys. So there.

It seems women can't win. If they write happy fluffy stories, they aren't deep enough. If they write romantic stories they're just writing porn for women. If they write thought provoking stories..it's just so women can sit around and discuss it over tea sandwiches. I'm getting angrier as I write this!

Tasses said...

Complete idiot. I'm headed over there now to add my two cents.

Ali said...

I read the whole article, thinking maybe you misunderstood the author's statement, but no. Apparently, women never write books with the intention of being taken seriously by men.

I like to discuss books over margaritas and chips & salsa, myself. With chocolate cake for dessert. So there.

akujunkan said...

Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of dismay here and on LT over that reviewer's dismissive tone.

Maybe she was trying to evoke feelings of "sisterhood," but as anyone writing for the NYT should know, women are just as capable as men of engaging subject matter on a mature level.

Adding insult to injury is that The Lace Reader is a great novel in large part because because it deals with Big Issues...just like "men's" fiction. And I doubt she'd picture the guys sitting down to discuss Hemmingway or Conrad over spiced chai and finger food.

jezebelsk said...

It truly was an insulting remark. I have read thought-provoking literature written by women, and fluff written by men. I don't choose my books by the sex of the author and I never will. I feel like comments like that are setting our entire sex back at least a century or two.

literatehousewife said...

That really makes me angry, but I'm not surprised. There seems to be such a bias in mainstream reviews toward what they view as "literary." If it doesn't fit that mold, they talk it down - if for no other reason than that they need to keep face. I generally do not read "professional" reviews. I would rather be led astray 1,000 times by my fellow bloggers than be turned away from a book just because someone else is so snobby.

P.S. Women certainly can be our own worst enemies. Why is that?

Library Cat said...

I agree with you 100% - I even belong to a book club - and while we meet monthly at Barnes & Nobles, I too have never talked about a book while eating a cucumber sandwich - in fact, I don't know if I have ever eaten one.

Ruth said...

Ugh...just ugh. It's even worse that the comment comes from a woman. I've never even seen a cucumber sandwich, let alone discussed a book while eating one!

Penelope Przekop said...

Gee, and I've been working tirelessly for nearly 20 years, striving to write novels that will change the world! I didn't know that all I had to do was write one that goes well with cucumbers ...

She's wrong about me.

Stephanie said...

What a yucky comment. Guess the writer forgot what President Lincoln said to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin: "So this is the little lady who made this big war."

Not all women write nice little stories to be discussed over tea.

Anonymous said...

I think the comment was intended to show that the book itself was a little fluffy and not really worthy of the hype. It seemed more of a slam on the author than the reader.