I ignored the dust-up in the book community between Franzen and Picoult. At least, I tried to ignore it. I knew what was being said, and honestly, I’m tired of bookish drama. However, I found myself reading an article by Lionel Shriver that actually prevented me from sleeping the other night.
Shriver’s article was all about the idea that female authors do not generate the literary accolades as their male counterparts. She even took it one step further and said publishing companies are complicit in this favoring of male over female authors by forcing female authors to beautify their covers, making them appeal to female readers by removing anything that women may find offensive. Her examples imply that publishing companies try to present all novels written by women to appear romantic in some fashion, one step short of being a bodice ripper whether the subject matter of the novel fits the cover or not.
I cannot agree with the fracas that female authors are treated differently than male authors. As for publishers being complicit in bringing female authors down, publishing companies are trying to sell books. From their eyes, if romance is one of the top-selling genres out there, then I can understand why they try to create covers that mimic other proven covers. So what kept me awake the other night?
It’s this – who cares? I suspect that the assumption that men win more awards is true only in proportion to the number of male versus female authors out there. If there are more men releasing books, then they are going to win more awards. It’s simple statistics. As for the cover debate, as I was laying in bed, I thought of several female authors who had covers that were in no way pretty or romantic or girlie. Kathy Reichs. Patricia Cornwall. Margaret Atwood. Stephenie Meyer. J.K. Rowling. Tana French. Suzanne Collins. Even Nora Roberts, queen of the romantic suspense genre, does not show a woman gazing forlornly into the distance or portray a heaving bosom on her covers.
Even more, look at that list that I generated in a thirty-second brainstorming session. These are all women who have generated more publicity than Franzen ever will. Stephenie Meyer alone, love or hate her books, regularly makes the list of top celebs each year solely by releasing six novels. Do I even have to mention J.K. Rowling’s success?
Let’s face it, award-winning books can be something of a catch-22. I’ve seen enough debates on the long and short lists of the Booker Prize and other awards to know that people will always disagree with the award winner itself. Also, just because a novel wins an award does not mean that it is going to become a commercial success. I honestly never knew which books were award-winners until I started blogging because I never paid attention to that designation. Ultimately, what is truly important in this discussion?
I do have certain, very strong, feelings about the originating complainers and their reasons for making such statements. Let’s just say that I feel that “poor sportsmanship” is a huge factor in this argument. I also feel that such discussions do nothing to help any real gender discrepancies that may indeed exist, and it certainly does nothing to help women’s cause for equality – no matter what the topic.
What does everyone else think? Did anyone else immediately generate a list of female authors whose book covers are not “girlie” and whose popularity surpasses that of most male authors? Is anyone else tired of the endless debates about who is better or the unfairness of everything?