Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Orange Prize

The Orange Prize was announced last night. I'm always a bit dubious about women only magazines or competitions. I've also never attended any of the many women only writers' groups around London, as I just don't think I have anything in common with anybody simply because of gender. I could understand women in pursuits like firefighting and deep sea diving wanting their own little club, as there aren't very many of them, or perhaps Iranian women writers to want to join together, as they might feel excluded from the mainstream. But women writers in Britain, or America? Look around any bookshop. And if I think of the authors I enjoy, they are about evenly spread between the sexes.

Maybe it's because I've never been into female bonding. I was always bemused by the idea of a "girls' night out". Why wouldn't you want to include male friends as well? Perhaps it's because I enjoy crime, horror, and dark fiction, where the female writers certainly aren't girly. Anyway, it's always seemed an odd way to classify a writer, simply because they're female.

Even so, I was pleased to see that Lionel Shriver won with We Need To Talk About Kevin. Yes, she is a woman, she changed her name at 15 because she thought men had a better time. We can debate the merits of that for ages, but why, in God's name, Lionel?!! Or is it a trendy name in America?

WNTTAK is a disturbing novel which I read a couple of weeks ago. It is narrated by Kevin's mother, whose son is in prison having killed several people in a Columbine type massacre at his school. It explores whether Kevin's personality has been affected by the fact that his mother never liked him or bonded with him, in spite of her best intentions, or whether she never bonded with him because he was a disagreeable, psychopathic little s*d from day one. It's not a feel good book, but it's certainly one of the best I've read this year.


Blogger Clare said...

There is still a surprisingly common tendency for people (not just men) to not include women writers amongst the "literary greats". Ask people to list the truly great writers, and those lists will be dominated by men. Even though women make up at least 50% of writers (possibly more?).

So in that sense I guess women's writing awards make sense. People still find it hard to take what women do seriously, in most spheres.

But I confess to feeling some discomfort myself at my novel being published by a women-only publisher. I didn't like the idea that I was only published because I was a woman. I couldn't help thinking - and fearing that others would think - I would never have been published otherwise.

11:04 am  

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