Looking over my book shelves I’m embarrassed to admit that 75% of the books are by male authors. It makes me really sad. There must be more female authors that I can connect with. Most of the female writers I have read are contemporary and have only one published book but I anxiously await more. Muriel Barbery, Monica Drake, Tanya Egan Gibson, Alice Zeniter: more please. So much more please. There are of course, the classics that I read when I was younger. Mary Shelley, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir and Anne Rice. Ok, maybe Anne Rice isn’t a modern classic, but she’s definitely a cult classic.
I only recently discovered Joan Didion because I heard an interview with Bret Easton Ellis and he said how much he respected her and that the greatest achievement of his career was when Didion dedicated one of her books to him. I had to know who made Ellis swoon. I read Play It As It Lays and was smitten. I plan on slowly making my way through all her works.
Patricia Highsmith I read years ago when The Talented Mr. Ripley was made into a movie. I don’t think I quite understood how dark the novel was and I plan on rereading it this year. I read The Price of Salt because it was on the staff recommendation list at Booksmith on Haight Street. From the first chapter I realized that I would be rereading it again. The characters, plot, language, everything was as fluid as the car drive the characters embark on. I picked it up because the quote read, “said to have inspired Lolita” and after reading it, I see why.
There are some amazing young adult writers with strong female characters. J. K. Rowling has created a series of books about friendship, loyalty, education, and magic. My cat is named after Hermione Granger, one of my favorite female characters. Suzanne Collins has written a great trilogy with a strong female narrator who has to support her family.
Some great horror writers are Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, Poppy Z. Brite, and Mira Grant. I have read almost every book by Anne Rice, and many of them I have read multiple times. I reread The Witching Hour last year and I am pleased to say it held up. Anne Rice takes you into another world with a rich history and creative plots. Reading her books inspired me to travel abroad. Poor Charlaine Harris. Who designed her book covers? Flying coffins with vampires on them? Is that supposed to be funny? I’m not sure because that never happens in the books. So why would something so absurd be on the covers? I avoided her based on the covers and also because I am such a huge Anne Rice fan. This recent pop culture obsession with vampires is tiring. I refuse to read the Twilight series because I was reading Anne Rice when I was thirteen, so why would I read a book for a teen when I’m in my thirties? That being said, Charlaine Harris has created a fun world with vampires, werewolves, and pixies. They are a bit more on the romantic side than I’d like, but they are definitely a fun read. And the concept of vampires “coming out of the coffin” is quite witty. Poppy Z. Brite also wrote horror novels and set her novels about a club and music scene that I could relate to. I haven’t read her for years but I’m sure I will pick up one of her books again. I’ve only read one book by Mira Grant, Feed, but I have the sequel, Deadline, and look forward to reading it. She created a zombie-filled world that made my heart race. At times I wanted put down the book because reading it made me so anxious, and yet I couldn’t because I wanted to know what would happen next. Coincidentally, the female narrator was strong, smart, and admirable.
Last year a friend took me to a see Norwegian authors be interviewed in conjunction with Lit Quake. Tom Egeland, Jørn Lier Horst, and Liza Marklund discussed why Nordic Noir is so popular right now. We met Marklund after the interview; she was so kind and patient with the two nervous fans with a malfunctioning camera. She insisted we retake the photo until the flash worked. Her stage presence and brilliance were illuminating and she won me over for life. I’ve read two of her books, one my friend gave me, called Studio 69 and Red Wolf, the book she was promoting. Both of the books have the same female journalist; each is a page turner.
Here are some other fun writers:
Historical fiction – Tracy Chevalier, Margaret George, Philippa Gregory.
Memoir – Azar Nafisi; Jan Kerouac, daughter of Jack Kerouac (they each deserve their own blog entry as their memoirs have stuck with me more strongly than most other books).
Fiction – Barbara Kingsolver, Joanne Harris, Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones’ Diary is funny—and Salman Rushdie has a cameo in the movie.)
Why don’t I connect with female writers? Why do I lean so heavily towards male writers? I like reading about strong female characters and yet they are developed by men. I won’t stop reading the male authors I love, but seriously, where are all the great women writers for me to swoon over?
Perhaps it does not help that one of my best friends doesn’t like female writers. We get into arguments about it when I try to convince her to read a female writer. “You know I don’t read them, Mel.” I tried to convince her to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book that moved me to tears, and I still don’t think she’s read it. When I was visiting her in Venice Beach I tried to convince her to buy Joan Didion in the bookstore. I know she’d love Didion. Who wouldn’t? And she refused. And to make matters worse, she said I couldn’t bring my bag of female authors into her apartment…Granted we’d been drinking, and I snuck them in, but the sentiment was there.
I have made a concerned effort to read more women. It’s a shame that I need to make the endeavour. Are they all over and I just don’t notice them? Do they also have bad covers that deter me from looking at them? I’m really not sure but I do hope to get some good suggestions.