Last Sunday I went to see Reverend Father Ernesto Cardenal Martínez read at Vanderbilt. I don’t speak Spanish, so I had to rely on the translations, which is always a bit dodgy with poetry. If you watch the video linked above, you’ll see he read a number of poems including “Gazing at the Stars with Martie” (not sure I have the name of his friend right), “White Holes,” “On the Banks of the Ohio in Kentucky,” “The Cell Phone” and “The Origin of the Species,” after which his latest book is named. The video is worth listening to – don’t know if it’s worth watching, so you could probably just minimize it and multitask. Best line (from memory): “The canonization of John Paul II goes against Darwin’s theory. It is not an evolution but a retrogression.”
In other news, this week was administrative professional’s day, which is what they’re calling secretary’s day now that we’ve collectively decided that “secretary” is demeaning (news in 2020: “administrative professional” now considered demeaning). In honour of my extreme awesomeness, my boss-doctors at the hospital got me a gift card to an online bookstore which shall remain nameless in a pointless attempt not to increase their market share. I got almost everything on my wishlist, and the bulk of it arrived today, including After the Ark by Luke Johnson, who is one of my P&W Speakeasy peeps as well as being a tremendous poet. Plus I got Turko’s Book of Forms, which I’ve been coveting for awhile, and a bunch of Robin McKinley (fantasy) and Jennifer Crusie (romance) books, and Joey Comeau’s One Bloody Thing After Another, which I finished yesterday and which is really fantastic and disturbing, as you might guess from the lesbian young adult romance vs chained-up monster mother plot synopsis.
The finalists for the fourth Man Booker International Prize were announced today. Irritatingly, of the thirteen finalists, only four are women. Even more irritatingly, my kneejerk reaction to that was to be pleased that so many women were nominated, so accustomed am I to only one or two gracing such lists (not the Man Booker specifically, just prizes in general).
Also irritatingly, their website doesn’t link to further information about the authors who were shortlisted. Don’t these people realize they’re on the internet? The finalists are:
The Count 2010 counts female and male authorship in various influential publications (via Jenniey Tallman‘s Facebook feed). These numbers are pretty depressing – just as a sample, London Review of Books reviewed 68 female authors to 195 male authors in 2010; Tin House published 73 women to 226 men; only Poetry crept over the 50% mark for female authorship, and only for interviews (11 women interviewed to 9 men).
What’s going on here? Are there more male writers than female ones? (A commenter on the Jezebel article on the linked article above mentions that 2009’s English Lit PhD recipients were 63% female – not that there’s a one-to-one map between writers and English Lit PhD recipients, but it’s suggestive that, at the very least, women aren’t less interested in literature. Further, Jezebel points to VIDA counts Publishers Weekly in 2010, where works of fiction are reviewed in nearly equal numbers by sex, so it would appear women publish about as many books.) Are men submitting more than women to magazines, and so achieving parity would require figuring out what discourages women from submitting? (Is the problem the “there, there, dear”ing that is so often directed at women writers?) Are editors rejecting women more often than men? Do we need to reassess our cultural tendency to see women as accessories? Is all of this a symptom of a larger societal problem that can’t be fixed absent fixing the larger problem?
Is my a priori assumption that modern female writers are, or have the potential to be, just as good as modern male writers even justified?
I tend to think so, but then, a girl like me would.