Mar 19, 2012

Has the New York Times gone far enough in covering female authors?


Many authors have voiced concerns about the lack of female authors being reviewed in the New York Timer' Sunday book reviews. Twitter has become a popular venue for the criticisms.

Perhaps things have gotten better since the out cry began more than two years ago, it seems the New York Times still has long ways to go to write about women in the same way that they do men. But two years ago, it was bad. Real bad - as this tweet from 2010 illustrates.

Author Jennifer Weiner put together this piece on her blog where she broke down the numbers by gender – as she notes compiled by her assistant – on Jan. 17.


“In 2011, the Times reviewed 254 works of fiction. 104, or 40.9 percent, were by women, and 150, or 59.1 percent, were by men.
Of the works of fiction that got two full reviews, 21 were by women, 22 were by men.
Of the works that received one full review plus a mention in a round-up, 5 were by women, 11 were by men. (This can be largely explained by Marilyn Stasio’s weekly round-up of crime novels).
Finally, of the works of fiction whose authors were reviewed twice (either with two full reviews, or review plus roundup) and profiled, one was a woman and ten were men.”

As the numbers have gotten better, part of a problem recently has been the way the New York Times covers female authors. This past Sunday, reporter Gregory Cowles put together a roundup that included a mention of Jodi Picoult and how her new book “Lone Wolf” was being advertised on a Times Square billboard.

For any author this would seem a gratifying moment. Who doesn't imagine walking through Time Square and seeing an ad devoted to you? But the Times didn't use this space to marvel at Picoult's success, but rather take a moment to look like Page Six.

The piece was straight gossip.
“Picoult, who enters this week’s hardcover fiction list at No. 1, hasn’t been shy about criticizing her fellow novelist (and Eugenides’s friend) Jonathan Franzen. On her Web site, she complains about his “lack of grace in the face of success” — probably an allusion to his Oprah Book Club dust-up — and she was among the writers venting on Twitter when his novel “Freedom” landed him on the cover of the Book Review and Time magazine in 2010.”
Is that what this was really about? Using a moment such as a billboard in Time Square to talk about a so-called feud between writers. Franzen has recently made some waves with his essay in The New Yorker on Edith Wharton's looks was or how he finds Twitter “unspeakably irritating.”

But instead of talking about how out of touch Franzen seems, we'll talk about how some women have taken an opposite viewpoint of his.

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