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“Help Dudes Read Books By Women?” Wha?

August 21, 2010

Well, this post from Jezebel woke me up on the perplexed side of the bed:

Help Some Well-Meaning Dudes Read Books By Women referring to an Atlantic column by a man determined to read more literature by women, and to examine reading choices as questions of culture. Chris Jackson, writing for the Atlantic, notes

I was going on about some novel I was reading and loving and she cut me off and asked, when was the last time you read fiction by a woman?  And I honestly couldn’t come up with anything for a few minutes.  It was a pretty shameful moment, in part, because I started wondering about early onset memory loss (I eventually remembered that I’d recently read the luminous and terribly titled Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peele), but also because I’ve spent a lot of time advocating the reading of books outside of the reader’s direct experience as a way of understanding the world (through the Ringshout organization, for instance) and apparently I’ve been ignoring the literary output of half the human population.

Both the original Atlantic piece and Jezebel’s riff on it are great resources for books I haven’t read, and great avenues for thought. So many works of literary fiction, even science fiction, I’ve never read! So many authors I’ve never discovered.  I’d better beware, or my tower of books really will get taller than I am.

As I write this, my bookshelf’s in another zip code, but when I get home, I’m going to have a look… and possibly be chagrined. Reading both pieces, and glancing at my book list for this year, I can see that there’s a lot of… reading in my comfort zone, and sameness, and dodging great swaths of the literary landscape.

I keep meaning to read The Help. I keep meaning to read more Sarah Vowell. What I’ve read by Margaret Atwood has scared me. So no more of her, thanks.  Katherine Mansfield and Kate Chopin might be good ideas. Or George Eliot! I know there are giant gaps in my knowledge of the classics. On the plus side, the reading I was assigned in high school and college was decently multicultural, and gave the nod to a good few women.

I haven’t gone all the way back through Jezebel’s comments, but have already seen a good, solid bunch of scifi and fantasy. I’m pretty well covered on women there.

Lingering question: what about women poets? (Don’t even get me started on the poetry I really haven’t read in ages.)

Other lingering question, as I blog while listening happily to Audioslave and the Beatles. I know I’m remiss in my appreciation of female musicians.

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