Thursday, August 23, 2012

Men writing women writing men

Natasha was telling me that she wants to read more books by women. I think the phrase she used was, "I am sick of reading men's stories." I've never given this much thought before.

I think that there are two different issues here.  First, female writers, and the support and recognition (or lack thereof) they receive for their writing.  See: the Miles Franklin prize, the Pulitzer etc.

Second, the issue of men's stories vs women's stories.  This is a very interesting one.  I like to read stories that open up other perspectives. So I like men's stories sometimes.

I realise in hindsight that we were prescribed a lot of 'women's stories' in my high school literature classes: Pride and Prejudice, A Doll's House, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary.  But there were men's stories too: The Grapes of Wrath, Hamlet and A Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich.

And of course, this is a false dichotomy.  The Grapes of Wrath tells women's and men's stories.

So can men write women's stories?  Can women write men's stories?  I think that some men write women, and women's stories, very well.  The contemporary examples that spring to mind are Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom' and Geoffrey Eugenedis' 'The Marriage Plot'.  I found Emma Bovary more convincing than Anna Karenina.

Other men confine themselves to men's stories.  These are the 'boy books': a phrase I used to dismiss a lot of (probably outstanding) literature which is not to my taste.  See: Cormac McCarthy.

An audit of the books I have read this year reveals that of the 23 books read, 13 are by women:  

The Forrests- Emily Perkins
Melbourne- Sophie Cunningham
The Stranger's Child- Alan Hollinghurst
All that I am- Anna Funder
My Brilliant Career- Miles Franklin
Death in Venice, Jeff in Varanasi- Geoff Dyer
[sic] -Joshua Cody
the Observations- Jane Harris
The Bridge- Jane Higgins
Berlin Syndrome- Melanie Joosten
Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
Room- Emma Donoghue
The Sense of an Ending- Julian Barnes
Queen of the Night- Leanne Hall
Everybody Dies- Ken Tanaka
Skippy Dies- Paul Murray
The Young Doctor's Notebook- Mikhail Bulgakov
The Twyborn Affair- Patrick White
How I Became a Famous Novelist- Steve Healy
Mad About the Boy- Maggie Alderson
Club Dead- Charlaine Harris
Living Dead in Dallas- Charlaine Harris
The Convalescent- Jessica Anthony

Of the list, my favourites are: 

The Convalescent- Jessica Anthony
Skippy Dies- Paul Murray
The Twyborn Affair- Patrick White
Room- Emma Donoghue
The Forrests- Emily Perkins
Everybody Dies- Ken Tanaka

 So, I think I'm doing okay.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

There is only one way.

"There was a terminal narrative.  It was a story until it stopped being a story and until then they kept wanting to know.  Give up, the doctor told Donald, kindly.  Surrender your need for detail; there is only one way this is going to end."

-Emily Perkins, 'The Forrests'

Monday, August 13, 2012

Spring I'm Sprung

So I suppose you are wondering where I got this lovely array of blossoms?

Or perhaps this pussy-willow?

From the overgrown park on my way home from work...

I have become a furtive flower thief!! This makes me ridiculously excited and happy. I try to be very stealthy, I don't want some council-worker or 'neighbourhood watcher' giving me a hard time.  I only took a very modest amount! But I'll admit, I took some sturdy scissors on my second trip.

And here are some flowers that I definitely didn't steal: beautiful prints by Lara Cameron (for the blank spots on the wall in the photos above).