A week in books
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 07 June 1997
She cited Christina Stead as a prime example of a major figure spurned by the cock-eyed tastes of the male literati. Up to a point. When James Wood used to sermonise from his pulpit as the Guardian's critic-in-chief, scarcely a week would pass without some scornful comparison between the wretched work under review and - the unrivalled greatness of Christina Stead. The general case, however, remains strangely true. Women will happily read the most testosterone-fuelled of writers. Terry Pratchett has a horde of female fans; as does Iain Banks; as does Irvine Welsh.
The reverse - to male readers' loss - doesn't yet apply. One reason for this imbalance may lie in feminist rhetoric iself. At least in the grim, sectarian Seventies, many of its advocates planted huge "Men: keep off" signs around the flourishing terrain of women's fiction. Yet literature is no one's private ground; literature is common ground - as Virginia Woolf once wrote. Ironically, one way to haul male readers out of the self-inflicted literary purdah that rightly bothers Lisa Jardine might be to invite more open-minded male critics to review novels by women. (It was Geoff Dyer who, in these pages, hailed Fugitive Pieces as "an unprecedented imaginative creation".)
One other aspect of Anne Michaels's triumph deserves attention. For the second time - after Helen Dunmore's victory - the Orange Prize has gone to a distinguished poet-turned-novelist. Margaret Atwood - also a poet - contended on the shortlist, while one of this spring's boldest novels (Impossible Saints) came from another twin-track creator, Michele Roberts. At the moment, more women than men seem to manage high achievement in both verse and prose. But literature exists to upend generalities - including that one. John Fuller - a relative latecomer to fiction - belongs in this amphibious company; and you can read about his mysterious new novel over the page.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 3 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 4 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
Miley Cyrus concert banned on morality grounds in the Dominican Republic
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
American film board gives gay film Love Is Strange R-rating despite no sex or violence
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians