January 27, 2012
By, Alison Flood
Male and female authors in America are competing over who has it harder, with bestselling chick lit author Jennifer Weiner arguing the New York Times still pays more attention to male writers, and first-time novelist Teddy Wayne countering that most male authors are at a “financial disadvantage”.
Weiner, whose bestselling novels include In Her Shoes, was at the heart of a storm which blew up in 2010 over the New York Times’s focus on what the novelist Jodi Picoult described as books by “white male literary darlings”. “NYT loves its literary darlings, who tend to be dudes w/MFAs,” said Weiner at the time. “In summation: NYT sexist, unfair, loves Gary Shteyngart, hates chick lit, ignores romance.” Slate.com crunched the numbers, finding that of the 545 books reviewed by the New York Times between June 2008 and August 2010, 62% were by men, and of the 101 books that received two reviews in that period 71% were by men. Research last February, meanwhile, showed the gender imbalance to be true across newspapers and literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic.
Weiner decided to take a look at the split a year later, finding last week that while things had improved – in 2011, the Times reviewed 254 works of fiction, split roughly 60/40 in favour of male writers – “if you’re hoping for equality, the paper’s got a long way to go”.
“Of the works of fiction whose authors were reviewed twice (either with two full reviews, or review plus roundup) and profiled, one was a woman [Téa Obrecht] and 10 were men,” she said. “So if you believe that PEN-prize winning Jennifer Haigh’s new book Faith deserved better than a throwaway mention under the heading ‘For the Ladies’ in a Janet Maslin summer beach-book round-up … or if you notice that Tom Perrotta got two reviews and a profile within three days of publication, while Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus received a single review, three weeks after its pub date … or if you wonder why memoirist Meghan O’Rourke is posing in a Missoni sweater in T Style Magazine, while novelist Gary Shteyngart talks technology … Speak up.”