Thanks to Mr. Champion for pointing out this little scrap of brilliance by Tao Lin in Seattle's The Stranger. He describes the levels of American literary greatness, from the bottom -- self-published blogger -- through the midlist and bestselling ladies, the cool guys, the near-geniuses, and all the way to Philip Roth. Haha! It's very funny and scarily accurate.
And it's nice to see someone come out and say, of the near-genius level, Women rarely attain this level of greatness. Yeah, it's my hobbyhorse. What's that all about, really? Is it something about American women as writers and readers, or about the critical establishment, or about marketing? Francine Prose published a great article about this, "Scent of a Woman's Ink: Are Women Writers Really Inferior?" in Harper's ten years ago, (which I OUGHT to be able to access online since I've been a subscriber since forever, but NO) which, if I recall, pissed a lot of people off just by pointing out that about 80% of all the big awards go to men, and 80% of the names of yearly lists are men's. I was miffed to see that each of the five NYTimes Year's Best Fiction titles were by men -- though I confess I don't know who I'm miffed at, exactly. I wouldn't want them to do a quota thing.
Is it that worthy literary achievements by women aren't being recognized? Definitely: Lydia Davis should have been on that list instead of, well, someone else. But it is also that worthy literary achievements by women aren't happening, too. I've been in writing classes -- taking them and teaching them -- from first grade on up through graduate school, and you can watch it happen: little girls write cirles around the boys, they love writing more than boys and care more about doing it well and produce reams of it. This is true right through college, when boys begin to catch up. And then, by the end of college and into graduate school, something happens: boy writers begin to become more experimental, daring, and confident, and the girl writers begin to self-destruct.
I wish we could figure out why.
(Oh, I have do have a quibble or two with Tao Lin's piece. He says that Don DeLillo and Pynchon will never reach the level of Roth because "they were born in America and their parents aren't Jewish." Hm, I don't think so. Actually, though I prefer the writing of Roth, I think all three are at the same level of "establishment greatness.")