Women authors must drop domestic themes (not)

I’ve just read the most strangely ill-informed post: Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – books: Women authors must drop domestic themes, by Muriel Gray. She’s a judge of the all-women Orange prize, and writes that if the books selected for this prize are indicative of "women’s literary health then we would have little to worry about", which I take to mean that they are not, on the whole, centred on domestic themes. The rest of the piece is a vague attack on the "increasing lack of inventiveness and imagination" by women authors, urging them to "break free of their gender constraints". There are plenty of sweeping statements like this one: "But while these wonderful authors are representative of the very best women writers they are not, sadly, representative of the majority of women authors currently being published." No examples given.

So according to Muriel Grey, if you are an author and a woman, you should write (or rather, not write) a certain type of book? I think this is to misunderstand the point in the most basic way. People who write, write about what inspires them. They may write about "domestic themes" and be called Jane Austen or Gustave Flaubert. They may write outside the domestic theatre and be called J. K. Rowling or Philip Pullman. Who cares?  A book speaks to the reader. Whether it is written by a man or a woman, or provides insights via focusing on domestic themes or through a broader canvas is irrelevant. Tollope, Dickens, Eliot, the Brontes — pigeonholing is just silly. The idea that women authors are a set of people writing about the ironing, and who will change their ways via a Muriel Grey lecture, is in itself rather a strange world-view. 

Opportunity doesn’t knock

"Blog awards miss the point" says the headline in yesterday’s Information World Review’s blog (IWR Blog – information industry insight from www.iwr.co.uk – Individual Archives).

"Tomorrow is the closing date for the 2007 Brit Blog Awards. No industry can exist these days without an award ceremony it seems. Sadly these awards, sponsored by web search provider Ask and organised by one of London’s free newspapers has failed to recognise that blogging has taken off and offers a whole array of communities the chance to communicate.  There are categories for technology, sport, fashion, politics, arts & entertainment; travel, youth and weird and wonderful…..[but] there is no category for news, nor is there a category for business blogs, science and culture". IWR blog puts this absence down to the fact that the Daily Mail is the parent company of the free newspaper organising the award, and opines that both it and the free paper are poor in covering these areas.  An opportunity missed, given that blogging is "increasingly becoming a serious platform for creating, sharing and delivering information."

Prairie Mary on self-publishing

Mary Scriver (Prairie Mary) is self-publishing her book Twelve Blackfeet Stories — see this link at Lulu.com, where you can buy the paperback for £8.27 (I mention the price to point out that it is hardly prohibitive for a relatively specialist topic), and also see Mary’s other works . About this one: "Roughly twelve generations of Blackfeet Indians have existed since 1776 until now. Here are twelve loosely linked stories, one for each of those generations. These are about Amskapi Pikuni people, the Montana subdivision of Blackfeet. The stories are modern-style fiction, not legends. The stories are meant to be unexpected, slantwise. They are good for discussions."

I received news of the publication via OWL (Dave Lull), and posted about it on Librarian’s Place. Since then, Mary has made some pertinent comments about self-publishing. I’ve read Susan Hill, and others who have not only dismissed but even scorned this form of publishing (see this Petrona post and comments: "unpleasant cargo"). I recommend that those people, and anyone else interested in the topic, read Mary’s comments over at Librarian’s Place. Here are some of them:

Like so many other things, we have a tendency to define something a particular way and then judge it from that point of view, rather than saying to oneself, “I’m going to look at this from at least six points of view.” For instance, can one use Lulu.com to make a family album that everyone can share and that can be financed by the reader? Can one use Lulu.com to simply get printing done rather than doing it locally? Can one use Lulu.com as a way of demonstrating to agents or publishers that one is capable of carrying a concept to completion and showing them how that might work out? Can one use Lulu.com in combination with Blogger.com as a way of getting a book done, generating small bits over time, maybe even randomly, then compiling all the best parts? Can one use Lulu.com to create classroom textbooks and materials? Can one use Lulu.com to build a readership within a very specific and specialized group of readers? I think the answer to all those questions is yes.

I think so too, and appreciate Mary providing me, at any rate, with her forward-looking perspective.