Sometime last year, I pinned a sheet of paper above my desk with the title “Women Writers” and began forming a list of names of female writers that I had read whose novels I enjoyed, admired or found important. I did this because I had too often found myself reading literary criticism or having conversations about books in which every author mentioned was male. A communal, easy forgetfulness seemed to spread over the article’s writer and his reader, or over those taking part in the conversation, a coercive amnesia where we forgot that women had ever written books, that they might even be good, and that they could be discussed alongside books by men —and would hold their own— rather than in separate fenced-off conversations.
Last year was a bad year for women in literature. As we covered on MobyLives, figures were revealed that showed how male reviewers and authors vastly outnumbered their female counterparts across UK publications; only 8.7% of books reviewed in the LRB were by women. In the US, the New York Review of Books flaunted a boy’s-only bumper summer issue when, out of twenty seven contributors, only one was a woman (April Bernard reviewed Frank Bernard, and we mustn’t forget an archive piece from Joan Didion).
2014, the Guardian reports, is being declared the “Year of Reading Women”, owing to a few small but important examples of how readers and critics are considering their next read.