Woman book reviewer chooses books by women shocker
There are titles by men I've enjoyed - Jon McGregor's This Isn't The Sort Of Thing That happens To Someone Like You, Peter Carey's The Chemistry of Tears, Chris Dolan's Redlegs. But as with most years, it's women writers who top the list for me.
Part of the reason for that is that when I first began reviewing professionally, back in 1998, I needed to make a living. In order to make sure I could get enough books to review to pay the bills, I looked for the titles I thought editors would give me, and what wasn't being covered very much. Woo-hoo, surprise, surprise, it was novels by women! Most books reviewers were male, and they tended to choose titles by men. So I carved a niche for myself, reviewing the titles male reviewers didn't want. Fast forward 14 years and I'm still doing it. The bulk of my reading list is fiction and non-fiction by women.
And the reason I still choose women writers to review? Because by and large, the gender divide between male and female reviewers is still there - of the 26 reviews I received for my own book, Between the Sheets, only four were by men. When Jodi Picoult complained two years ago that the New York Times wouldn't condescend to review popular fiction by women, she had a point. Their most famous critic, Michiko Kakutani, probably didn’t face quite the same financial pressures I did when she began building her career as a literary critic. She could probably afford to muscle her way in gradually for those boys' titles. And she would probably see reviewing Picoult as a step down. To be a major reviewer, you have to concentrate on the boys.
But to come back to the point....Are there just too few women out there, wanting to do the job? Or are they not reviewing the kinds of things that papers want? Katy wrote that few female critics chase her for work, yet male reviewers do. I have no statistical evidence (this is becoming a theme to anyone who's read my earlier blogs), but I can't help wondering if there are more female literary critics on blogs than in newspapers. Are newspapers seen as too macho?