Posts Tagged ‘Meg Wolitzer’

Two years ago I wrote here about Meg Wolitzer’s Woolf-citing in The Uncoupling. To my surprise and delight, Meg commented on the post, saying that Woolf would appear in her next novel too.

The InterestingsThat next novel is now out to fantastic reviews, and no wonder. The Interestings is interesting; it’s also riveting and thought-provoking. Meg had me on the first page when she said of her wonderfully-flawed protagonist, Jules: “Irony was new to her and tasted oddly good, like a previously unavailable summer fruit.”

I’ve always enjoyed Meg’s novels for a lighter touch, lots of wit and whimsy. This one’s bigger and deeper. She introduces six teenagers who meet at an artsy summer camp in New England and follows them into their 50s, through ups and downs, sickness and health, fame and fortune, failure and envy. There’s wit and whimsy and a whole lot more—irony isn’t new to Meg Wolitzer; she’s a master at it.

Through it all—the mainstay of the book—is the deep friendship between Jules and Ash, and Woolf shows up in a scene between them:

 Once, looking through a women’s magazine together, they saw an article about a legendary sex toy emporium in New York for women called Eve’s Garden. It wasn’t that their marriages weren’t sexually satisfying to them—both of them had confided that they were—but they got into a discussion about how maybe it was a good idea to have “a vibrator of one’s own, to paraphrase the late, great Virginia Woolf,” Jules said. Then, to amuse Ash, she went off on a Woolf sex riff, saying, suggestively, “Are those rocks in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

The success of The Interestings is well-deserved. Meg, if you’re reading this, thanks for a terrific reading experience.

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Loyal reader Kaylee Baucom, professor of English at the College of Southern Nevada, sent Blogging Woolf a sighting from Jezebel that irreverently proclaims “The Literary Canon Is Still One Big Sausage Fest.”

Writer Doug Barry imagines himself at a cocktail party full of the kind of people who generally don’t make a very fun party — “stony-faced older white dudes” who are “milling around, some of them openly glaring at each other.” The lone woman writer at the event is Emily Dickinson, who flees to the bathroom when approached.

Barry goes on to lambast the way women are slighted when lists of notable writers are compiled by popular magazines. They include:

  • Commentary Magazine‘s list of the top 25 American writers included only five women, and none of them were in the top five.
  • The 2009 list of the ‘100 Greatest Writers of All Time’ on This Recording included just 14 women. The Woolf sighting was the fact that Virginia Woolf was #14 on the list.

Barry also complains that even though women are the main audience for novels, the best press reviews of new books are overwhelmingly written about new books by men, and the rosters of publishing houses of all sizes generally include far more male than female authors.

As Barry puts it:

Just by the numbers, women are minority shareholders in an enterprise whose success they fuel.

Meg Wolitzer takes up the same theme in “The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women” in the March 30 Sunday Book Review of the New York Times.

She expands the argument by discussing how books are marketed differently if they are written by women. From the way the books are categorized on Amazon to their covers designs, the code is easy to read as “Stay away, men,” she writes.

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