Friday, February 15, 2013

I love women.

She DRIVES THE DAMN CAR and still has
to pose like she's on a poster for an auto show. REALLY.
In my last post, I was critical of the female showrunners who created Canada's Durham County--a show which I found to be, quite frankly, misogynistic at its core. It left me feeling like when you meet a girl who "can hang" with the guys, but it turns out she mostly proves how cool she is by being just as willing to degrade and belittle herself and other women as the men she hangs out with are. Danica Patrick has become the poster girl for that of late. Girls like that and shows like Durham County make it harder for the rest of us, because now we're the lame girls with no sense of humor. We're overly emotional. When we point at something and say, "Hey, that hurts me," everyone else can respond, "But Danica Patrick is okay with it, and SHE'S a racecar driver!" or "But the filmmakers are women, so there's no WAY they can have negative views of women." Oops, my bad. You're right. No one in the history of time has ever held any viewpoint or opinion that ran contrary to their own best interests due to the dominant ideologies of society at large. Must be all my craaaazy woman hormones cloudin' up my thinkspace.

But really, I'm hopping off that soapbox now. I want to talk about something different; something positive about creative women. I want to talk about my recently discovered love for female authors. Or, rather, that I have recently discovered that I have loved female authors for a long time, and I just didn't realize it.

Were you to ask me who my favorite authors are, the first ones out of my mouth would generally be F. Scott Fitzgerald, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Erik Larson, and, of course, Norton Juster 'cause PHANTOM flippin' TOLLBOOTH. But lately there's been a shift. I love all of these men, I do. I realized, though, that I was shortchanging a lot of female authors that I absolutely adore.

I noticed this first when I started adding Tana French to my list of favorites. I'm obsessed with Tana French. I read In the Woods shortly after it came out, and from that point forward have pre-ordered the rest of her books so that I could read them IMMEDIATELY upon their release dates. French writes men and women with equal ease, in part because she doesn't go to extreme measures to make her characters sound either male or female. They're just people. I dig that.

This is actually a terrible
movie. For the record.
After adding Tana French to my personal literary canon, I thought about how, approximately three and a half years ago, I went on an Edith Wharton binge. While crashing on my friend Kattie's living room floor in Portland, I started going through the books on her shelf. "Have you read The Age of Innocence?" she asked. I told her I hadn't. "You really should. I think you'll like it." Less than twenty-four hours later, I had read The Age of Innocence. I only put it down, with great reluctance, to sleep. Stupid sleep. The great interrupter of books. Anyway, before too long, I had also read Summer, Ethan Frome, and The House of Mirth. Just swallowed those books whole. Watched all the movies, too. There can be no denying that Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors.

Shortly thereafter, I went through a Joyce Carol Oates phase. 'Cause I mean, she's creepy and I'm creepy. We're a perfect match. Favorite.

Flannery O'Connor? Also creepy and dismal. Favorite.

So I looked back further. What were my favorite books as a kid, aside from every single thing R.L. Stine put out and the Stephen King books I'd lift from my parents' shelves? Well, there was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, any of the sordid tales of Lois Duncan, the entire Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds-Naylor. Then you've got Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Ann M. Martin, whoever the heck wrote all those Sweet Valley books. Plus, duh, J.K. Rowling. Sweet jeebus, I've been reading women my whole life and I never even noticed!


Also terrible adaptations. Hey, what's the deal here, Hollywood?

And I mean that. I didn't notice. If you had asked me instead of what my favorite authors were, if I read female authors, I probably would have said that I didn't really. I thought I didn't. I, like so many before me, didn't take them seriously. I mean, we almost never read any of them in school, and isn't high school English class supposed to be the measuring stick for what constitutes good, quality literature? The classy stuff that I was taught to appreciate was written by men. Meanwhile, my friends and I would huddle in the corner of the library to pore over the Alice books in relative secrecy, reading aloud to each other in hushed voices and hoping the librarian didn't hear. Books by men were to be flaunted publicly; books by women were guilty pleasures.

But let's face it: Alice McKinley, Karen Brewer, Salamanca Tree Hiddle, Mae Tuck--they taught me more about what it means to live in this world, about the human condition, about womanhood, masculinity, and so on than Jay Gatsby or Holden Caulfield ever could. I've read Steinbeck and Hemingway and Kerouac, but it has always been Paterson and Babbitt and Creech who I've repeatedly gone back to throughout my life, when I needed to make sense of the world around me.

So I'm coming out of the closet corner of the library and proclaiming it once and for all: I LOVE WOMEN AUTHORS!

Man, that feels good.

I'm curious, though. What about you? I added this nice little poll to find out how you feel about female authors. Feel free to elaborate in the comments, or to suggest some books by women that you think I should read. I just read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, and, aside from the abuse of the word "literally," absolutely loved it. You?


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