Saturday, 12 February 2011
The Thorny Issue of Writers and their Muses, and the Sex thereof...
The Thorny Issue of Writers and their Muses, and the Sex thereof...and Writing Like a Man (grrrr...)
I dunno – been reading all these posts from those who must mean well, and no doubt seek to redress a perceived imbalance in male v female publishing opportunities. But really, do publishers seriously discriminate? Don’t they just want to sell books and stay in business? Why would they discriminate if more women buy and read books than men? Doesn't make sense to me. But then, it also does not make sense for people to whinge that more review space is given to male writers. Is it? Pick up a women's magazine and the books reviewed will be mostly by women. Are the blokes screeching about that? Maybe, just maybe the books that came in that week to the broadsheets, by men, were more interesting reads for the reviewers? Oh my gad the sacrilege.
My shelves are groaning with male writers because in general, over the years, and with some notable exceptions, I have preferred their work. Sorry and all that, if I am offending any delicate sensibilities. I am being honest, if that's OK?
But while looking at one of the early articles that flagged the need for female writers to ‘write like men’ if they want to get on, (whatever that phrase means) here, in Washington Post of December 30 2009 the old brain was working overtime... one minute I was wanting to laugh, and the next, not...and at the same time I was also reading about the poet M A Griffiths today, an Anglo-Welsh female poet who published her work solely on the internet, and sadly died early... but her work was so loved by her colleagues that they have collected it all together. ‘Grasshopper’ is published by Arrowhead Press.
But what interests me about her, specifically here is not how lovely her work is (and it is) but the fact that many of her colleagues on poetry forums thought she was a man – when all they had to go on was her work, or her forum monikers – Maz or Grasshopper. Read this here, from one of her female colleagues, Rose Kelleher:
Why did they think she was a bloke? Having read round this a bit - I think it is because of her boldness with language, and her interest in many many things, her need to write about them, from the intimate themes to the wider ones. And no doubt lots more reasons.
I used to take great pleasure in colleagues thinking a piece of my work posted anonymously for feedback, was by a male writer. Why? I’ve been thinking about that – and I think the answer is, because the stereoptype I would least want to fit is ‘ the woman writer’ because that stereotype (in my head - OK...)is a female who is mostly preoccupied with the things I am not.
Yes, I know, I AM a woman and I am a writer. But I would really hate it if anyone said – ‘Oh yes, I knew immediately I read your work – it’s got ‘written by a female’ written all over it.’
But then I re-read Rose Kelleher’s post about M A Griffiths. ‘Maz and the Male Muse...’ and I started thinking about the muses. Mine is not, never has been and never could be a female. Maybe the muses were depicted as females because they were invented by – er- men??
So what sex is your muse? Are you a woman writer who writes with one of the female muses wafting about in your study? Or are you, like me, fed by someone different? Is your muse something intangible, of the air? Or is it a solid person? The great painters had them. Why not us lot?!
Lots of links to M A Griffiths here by the way.
A quick peek at The Bookseller Top 20 booksales this week shows female writers on 12, men on 8. Maybe the statisticians need to get on with something else. Or get a bloke to do it? We all kow us girls can't add up for toffee....Bookseller.