[m2c] Research shows men mainly read works by other men
sandinista at shaw.ca
Mon May 30 04:48:20 MDT 2005
Women are still a closed book to men
Research shows men mainly read works by other men
Sunday May 29, 2005
Men have finally realised what they are missing, but they still aren't all
that keen to do anything about it.
This is the conclusion of a study into sex differences in reading habits,
which found that, while women read the works of both sexes, men stick to
books written by men. And the boys can no longer use ignorance as an excuse.
'Men clearly now know that there are some great books by women - such as
Andrea Levy's Small Island - they really ought to have read and ought to
consider "great" (or at least good) writing,' the report said. 'They
recognise the titles and they've read the reviews. They may even have
bought, or been given the books, and start reading them. But they probably
won't finish them.'
The research was carried out by academics Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins of
Queen Mary College, London, to mark the 10th year of the Orange Prize for
Fiction, a literary honour whose women-only rule provoked righteous
indignation when the competition was founded. They asked 100 academics,
critics and writers and found virtually all now supported the prize.
But a gender gap remains in what people choose to read, at least among the
cultural elite. Four out of five men said the last novel they read was by a
man, whereas women were almost as likely to have read a book by a male
author as a female. When asked what novel by a woman they had read most
recently, a majority of men found it hard to recall or could not answer.
Women, however, often gave several titles. The report said: 'Men who read
fiction tend to read fiction by men, while women read fiction by both women
'Consequently, fiction by women remains "special interest", while fiction by
men still sets the standard for quality, narrative and style.'
In the survey, men were asked to name the 'most important' book by a woman
written in the last two years. Brick Lane by Monica Ali and Carol Shields's
Unless were frequently among the replies, but many men admitted defeat and
confessed they had no idea. At least one who suggested Brick Lane admitted
he had not read it.
The report added: 'Men's reading habits have altered very little since the
Orange Prize burst onto the fiction scene in 1996.
Although no one would admit that the gender of the author had any influence
on their choice of fictional reading-matter, men were still far less likely
to have read a novel by a woman than by a man, whereas women read titles by
'Pressed for a preference, many men also found it much more difficult to
"like" or "admire" a novel authored by a woman - for them "great" writing
was male writing (oh - apart from Jane Austen, of course),' the report said.
'No wonder, then, that each year when the winner of the Orange Prize is
announced a chorus of disappointment goes up from "mainstream" critics: how
could such an undistinguished book have won?'
A decade ago the Orange Prize drew the scorn of many leading writers,
including Kingsley Amis ('If I were a woman, I would not want to win this
prize. One can hardly take the winner seriously'), and AS Byatt ('I am
against anything which ghettoises women. That is my deepest feminist
The prize is now estab lished just behind the Man Booker and the Whitbread
in the literary hierarchy and had huge support among survey respondents,
although some still expressed ambivalence. Julie Burchill said: 'I see where
it's coming from but totally understand the reasons why women don't want
their novels to be entered for it.'
Jardine said: 'When pressed, men are likely to say things like: "I believe
Monica Ali's Brick Lane is a really important book - I'm afraid I haven't
read it." I find it most endearing that in 10 years what male readers of
fiction have done is learn to pretend that they've read women's books.'
This year's £30,000 Orange Prize will be awarded on 7 June.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
Prospero, you are the master of illusion.
Lying is your trademark.
And you have lied so much to me
(lied about the world, lied about me)
that you have ended by imposing on me
an image of myself.
underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,
That ís the way you have forced me to see myself
I detest that image! What's more, it's a lie!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
and I know myself as well.
- Caliban, in Aime Cesaire's "The Tempest"
More information about the margins-to-centre