The Sexist Reader

I freely admit it: I’m a sexist reader. With a few exceptions (Michael Ende, Terry Pratchett, James Patterson’s romances), my pleasure reading consists of books written by women. Granted, my favourite novella ever is Ludwig Tieck’s “Der blonde Eckbert”, I love Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s stories are always charming, but for real flop-onto-the-couch-drink-cup-of-tea-cuddle-cat pleasure reading I inevitably turn to women writers.

In former years this was done entirely unconciously – first there were Enid Blyton, Auguste Lechner, Rosemary Sutcliff, Helen Cresswell, Joan Aiken, Tamora Pearce, and Susan Cooper; then Anne Rice, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley (of course!), Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Roberson, Dorothy Gilman, and Victoria Holt; eventually Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley, and Dorothy Dunnett; and then I discovered the world of romance fiction.

By now, though, it is a conscious decision. I know I prefer the way women tell stories to the way men go about the business. Women’s stories are much more relevant to my experiences and to how I see the world than men’s.

A few weeks ago I read Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Literature, and it made me feel sick and angry all at once because the same mechanisms she describes in that study are still at work today. And so, I decided to act. Inspired by Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Domesticity, I’m now collecting books by forgotten women writers which I intend to read once the Dratted PhD Exam Thingie (DPHET) is over and done with.

Among the authors on my list are:

  • Nancy Mitford
  • Elizabeth Taylor (not the movie star!)
  • Jan Struther
  • Dorothy Whipple
  • Marghanita Laski
  • Winifred Watson
  • Julia Strachey
  • Barbara Euphan Todd

In addition, I’m thinking of offering a course on “Lost Voices: Forgotten Women Writers” next winter.

2 thoughts on “The Sexist Reader

  1. Kate Walker

    Enid Blyton, Check
    Rosemary Sutcliff, Check
    Helen Cresswell, Check
    Joan Aiken, Check
    Susan Cooper; Check
    Anne Rice, Check
    Anne McCaffrey,Check
    Marion Zimmer Bradley (of course!), Check (of course!)
    Victoria Holt; Check
    Susanna Kearsley, Check
    and Dorothy Dunnett; Check
    and then I discovered the world of romance fiction. Check

    – are we reading twins separated at birth?

    Great selection of great writers


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