"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman."

9 years ago
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As I was tidying the yard with my husband this afternoon, I was thinking about the wonderful Virginia Wolff quote - "For most of history, Anonymous was a woman" - perhaps because half of the six Pulitzer Prizes for drama and letters, which were announced on Monday, went to women. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout won for fiction, Ruined by Lynn Nottage for drama, and The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed for history.

Years ago, Francise Prose gave a lecture at the Sewanee Writers Conference on the bleak position of women in modern literature, in which she sited, among other things, the dearth of significant awards going to women writers, and the substantial imbalance in the number of reviews of books written by women as compared to books written by men. So I dug the mornings New York Times Book Review from out of the recycling bin and did something Francine Prose had suggested in that lecture: I counted from the table of contents. Tally:

Books Written by women that received TOC-level review: 3

Books Written by men that received TOC-level review: 15

The count of books written by women from the bestseller lists in the same NYTBR looks a bit better, though:

Hardcover: 13 of 31

Trade fiction: 11 of 20

And I confess I got bored with counting after that.

Progress comes slowly...

- Meg Waite Clayton

author of The Wednesday Sisters