Gender and writing….encore

Interesting post at Queensland writer Nike Bourke’s blog Lost For Words, about gender and the Australian literary scene.

This is an oldie, of course, but one that refuses to die. Nike’s done some number crunching about numbers of women reviewers, books reviewed, prizes etc. As one of the comments to Nike’s post suggests, the subject can’t be divorced from the larger influence of the patriarchal inheritance that forms culture, resulting in ‘male’ writing and subjects and all else being seen as the standard, the bench mark, and everything else as a warp, a deformed variation.

By chance I’m also reading Zadie Smith’s wonderful book of essays Changing My Mind, in which she discusses the same subject, and how her fourteen-year old self scorned the idea of books about ‘the love tribulations of women’.

This is what she writes of a novel by Zora Neale Hurston, the novelist who changed Smith’s mind about what it was possible to write about, and how the intimate, domestic world might in fact describe existence:

‘The story of Janie’s progress through three marriages confronts the reader with the significant idea that the choice one makes between partners, between one man and another (or one woman and another) stretches beyond romance. It is, in the end, the choice between values, possibilities, futures, hopes, arguments (shared concepts that fit the world as you experience it), languages (shared world that fit the world as you believe it to be) and lives. A world you share with Logan Killicks is evidently not he same world you would share with Vergible ‘Tea Cake’ Woods. In these two discrete worlds, you will not even think the same way; a mind trapped with Logan is freed with Tea Cake.’

There are many, many ways of describing the world, and stories about bushrangers and surfers and men going out into the desert are only some of the ways.

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