Prizes to be Won, etc

14 Oct

I feel like I really try to keep my mind open to new information – if not for anything else, then because it gives me something to write about – but every so often, the universe will lob a nugget my way that totally takes me aback. A recent example emerged in the weeks of hoopla and controversy surrounding the release of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom, when I learned that men apparently don’t read books written by women.

Call me oblivious, but it had never occurred to me that gender played a role in determining readership. But this too makes sense statistically, since women read more books than men and as male authors continue to appear on bestseller lists, it’s a fair bet that women like myself must not mind reading books written by men.

Perhaps it’s also because I’m an Indian and I grew up in an environment where everyone read Enid Blyton when they were little, graduating to Alistair MacLean and Agatha Christie in their teens and hiding beat-up, much-shared Sidney Sheldon novels in their schoolbags when they got a little older. Content was king, the way I remember it, not the gender of the person who wrote it. I guess I do live in a bubble of my own as my mother has often observed. And I’m getting on a bit in years as my mirror now observes. Who knows what the crazy kids do nowadays. Look at J.K. Rowling, for god’s sake!

Anyhoo, all this is an elaborate setup to announce to you, dear readers, that Women’s Web is running a “My Favorite Female” competition. Now I know what you’re thinking and I just want to say, chee-chee!

Okay, cheap laughs aside, this is the deal:

Pick any female character from a novel, that made you sit up, that made you go wow, that made you laugh or cry, that got you angry, that got you thinking, that made you fall in love – in short, a character that made you feel, ‘I wish I had written that!’ Tell us what you liked about this character in a blog post. Your entry must be dated between 12th Oct and 22nd Oct, 2010.

Click here for more information on rules, prizes, word length, submission, etc. I know there are those of you here who don’t blog and they have a submission option for you too. Or I’ll host your entry as a guest post for you if you’re especially shy. Bottomline is that I can think of at least a few of you lovely people from the comment pool who ought to give this a shot. Men included.

I think this is a conversation I’d like to see, don’t you? In the light of this post, I think I’ll write about my favorite female character written by a man.

[Plus: The Female Character Flowchart & A. S. Byatt Interview]


Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Books, Life, News, Personal


Tags: , , ,

8 responses to “Prizes to be Won, etc

  1. Gradwolf

    October 14, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Nivethitha is one of the judges?!! Hmmm, interesting!

  2. Gagan

    October 15, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Interesting… I read somewhere not sure where and it may have been more than once by different people that all writers have a blend of a masculine and feminine voice, the distribution tending to be more of one than the other depending on the writer. Henry Fielding was cited as almost wholly masculine in one of the articles I read and DH Lawrence more feminine than masculine.Lawrence was by far the superior in that comparison, so it would seem there is no sense of femininity being less. Maybe it has something to do with the subject matter. Even there it seems to me that may just have something to do with expectations and not so much the writers. I’m sure there are so many female writers who write so called male action thriller novels under a male pseudonym just to avoid prejudice. I think it would be useful for all writers just to change their names depending on what kind of book they are writing. If they’re Indian adopt an Anglo name if they want to write about the Western world, an Indian name if they’re Anglo and want to write book with Indian characters and so on.

  3. sachita

    October 15, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Hard to believe the prejudice, if it is true it is the person’s loss. But from just looking at the airports or most public places – I always think only women read.

    Gagan.. had a great sentence – all writers have a blend of a masculine and feminine voice – think it isnt specific to writers alone.

  4. pitu

    October 15, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    2 novels that really shocked me were- ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha’ and ‘Remains Of The Day’. Memoirs sounds so perfectly ‘feminine’ I couldn’t believe it was written by a MAN, and an American (Arhtur Golden) for crying out loud. It absolutely seemed written by a Japanese woman!!
    Also, Kazuo Ishiguro wrote Remains in such a way that I find it truly amazing. It’s so… tony upper crust Brit!

    I guess what I am trying to say is: it’s sad people have preconceived notions and it really is their loss. Judge an author by his/her WORK not by their effing gender or nationality :-/

    I wonder how many people still think George Eliot is a man? 😀 She wrote under a male pen name because she wanted to be taken seriously 😦

  5. Beth

    October 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I’ve heard this same thing about Rowling – that that is why she made Harry a boy AND why she published under initials rather than a gender-identifying name.

    As for that chart, I am _so_ using it with some fillums. Maybe even Endhiran.

  6. Mubarak

    October 16, 2010 at 1:55 am

    I don’t know if I can write 500 words about her right now, but my favorite female character is Arabella Strange (from the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.)

    (I came to your blog through Beth and 24 fps. But this is the first time I’m commenting here. And what made me do so was the line “female character from a novel, that made you sit up, that made you go wow, that got you thinking, that made you fall in love.” Arabella did all that. Oh, how I wish I had written her! If nothing, but one more person reads this novel, I’m happy.)

  7. gomu

    October 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    yup. the prejudice exists. horrifying. and im only recently learning just how much we still really are gender-biased. and we dont even realise it because – the girls think we’re empowered, and the guys think … well, they dont count the girls. it comes SO naturally to them, this bias, in any field.

  8. Amrita

    October 18, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Adithya – maybe you’ve got an in! 😀 write your entry today!

    Gagan – I not only think that’s true, but I also think they’re celebrated for how much they can write against gender. Nicholas Sparks is my favorite eg for this theory: he writes the most unabashedly sentimental women’s fiction you ever read, but somehow his is not women’s fiction, it’s something more elevated because he wrote it.

    Sachita – it’s entirely their loss, yes. I’m usually reading at airports so I dont know what the men are doing 😀

    Pitu – oh the 19th century is just FULL of those examples, isn’t it? Even the Brontes did that. It’s really quite sad. But I read the most heartening quote by Howard Jacobson, shortlisted for the Booker – “I’m not the English Philip Roth, I’m a Jewish Jane Austen.” Lol.

    Beth – my friend and I were talking about it and we have our gender confusing pseudonyms all picked out!

    Mubarak – thank you for coming by! You know, I havent read that one but i’ve only ever heard good things about it so it’s definitely on my list. You should totally write those 500 words on WW!

    Gomu – this just took me aback because it’s such a bizarre way to discriminate. Why would you deny yourself pleasure?

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