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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 02:08 PM

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"Confessions of an Unwitting Literary Sexist"


  

          

This is not meant as a boast, but I have close to 2,000 books in my personal collection. They range from novels to collections of poetry and essays to plays to biographies to volumes on history, art, culture, politics, sports, reference and everything in between.

So last night while bored I decided to get a handle on all of my books and better organize them, as there are random stacks of books spread out all over my apartment causing what can best be described as utterly unmanageable clutter.

While I was organizing the books by subject category, a startling truth revealed itself to me. It turns out that of the nearly 2,000 books in my collection, only a handful (literally 5 books) were authored by women.

Until that epiphany, I had never been consciously aware that I’ve been reading male authors more or less exclusively. And right now, thinking about it, I’m still not sure what it means. I don’t consider myself a sexist and I’m sure my sister, mother, and fiancee would agree. So WTF?

Perhaps this means that I am a “literary” sexist, if such a thing exists. Perhaps not. Perhaps it just means that I am subconsciously drawn more to the male voice, as its more familiar to me and I can relate to it more. Perhaps it means that the types of books I like to read are, more often than not, penned by male writers. I really don’t know. All I know is that with the exception of 5 books, I’ve spent the last 15 years or so reading male authors exclusively.

The ones I recall seeing last night are:

The Collected Poems of Marianne Moore
Jane Leavy’s biography of Sandy Koufax
Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness”
Mary McKay Maynard’s “My Faraway Home” (A book I edited)
Tracey McFarlane-Mirande’s “Championship Swimming” (Also edited by yours truly)

To take this a step further, a cursory look through my record collection reveals a similar bias. With the exception of a few Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin records, my collection is 100% male.

So, fellas. Am I alone in this? And ladies, do you find the opposite bias in your own collections?

Please share your experiences and opinions below.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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Topic Outline
Subject Author Message Date ID
I have a good deal more lit by women than you
Mar 14th 2006
1
Do you think I'm a sexist?
Mar 14th 2006
2
      Well, frankly, if you are, I am too.
Mar 14th 2006
3
           RE: Well, frankly, if you are, I am too.
Mar 14th 2006
6
                this might be getting into a chicken vs. egg debate :
Mar 14th 2006
8
                     beat me to it.
Mar 14th 2006
18
                          Is it really that simple, though?
Mar 14th 2006
21
                               well when you put it that way
Mar 14th 2006
28
                               Ok, then:
Mar 22nd 2006
37
                                    he can't write characters that aren't white men
Mar 22nd 2006
40
                               this is what kills me about feminists attacking Hemingway, Fitzgerald
Mar 22nd 2006
35
Beverly Cleary don't count, son
Mar 14th 2006
4
Believe it or not, you've raised a valid point
Mar 14th 2006
7
      I'm sayin, Superfudge was about a boy, tho
Mar 14th 2006
30
yeah, me too
Mar 14th 2006
5
The Last Samurai, dude!
Mar 14th 2006
16
      yeah, I STILL need to get it
Mar 14th 2006
20
RE: Confessions of an Unwitting Literary Sexist
Mar 14th 2006
9
Sure, why not?
Mar 14th 2006
10
      RE: Sure, why not?
Mar 14th 2006
13
      I like the Joan Didion and Iris Murdoch that I've read too
Mar 14th 2006
14
      There's also
Mar 14th 2006
19
           Read "Beloved" back in college
Mar 14th 2006
24
                Song of Solomon is the best
Mar 14th 2006
26
      I can't cosign on roy's fiction or rand at ALL
Mar 14th 2006
17
           yeah, not sure if I've read Roy or not
Mar 14th 2006
27
           You know who blew my little mind with her short stories?
Mar 14th 2006
29
                interesting
Mar 14th 2006
32
           ha, i meant to sign non-fiction
Mar 22nd 2006
38
           ha, i meant to sign non-fiction
Mar 22nd 2006
39
      get some Flannery
Mar 14th 2006
22
           she can do the genderless voice too
Mar 14th 2006
33
And that Koufax bio stunk, too.
Mar 14th 2006
11
It wasn't very good
Mar 14th 2006
12
      she's a pretty strong writer...
Mar 14th 2006
23
I'm in about the same boat
Mar 14th 2006
15
No Margaret Atwood. You disgust me.
Mar 14th 2006
25
Atwood is great
Mar 14th 2006
31
5 is a BIT extreme
Mar 22nd 2006
34
most of my books are by women
Mar 22nd 2006
36
My girlfriend accuses me of this, because with films, music, and books
Mar 22nd 2006
41
it is a very interesting topic
Mar 22nd 2006
42
      I think part of the deal for Mr. TL Jenkins is
Mar 22nd 2006
43
I don't have much either
Mar 23rd 2006
44
i tend to agree-- check elaine brown's a taste of power
Mar 25th 2006
45
No Harry Potter?
Mar 25th 2006
46

janey
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Tue Mar-14-06 02:40 PM

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1. "I have a good deal more lit by women than you"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

And I can't actually count the number of books that I have, although I have about 1000 - 1200 shelved in an organized way. None of my paperbacks are shelved.

But yeah, my books are predominantly by men. Not as skewed as you, but I'll guess 80 - 85% at least are by men.

  

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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 02:52 PM

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2. "Do you think I'm a sexist?"
In response to Reply # 1


  

          


_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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janey
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Tue Mar-14-06 03:26 PM

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3. "Well, frankly, if you are, I am too."
In response to Reply # 2


  

          

As far as I can tell, there are fewer great female writers than there are great male writers.

That said, of course, two of the books that I love beyond all reason are first novels by women.

I think it's worth being aware of and consciously seeking out writing by women in order to expand your own world view. It's like, I also seek out books by gay writers and writers who are bringing their race and/or culture to the writing table with them, because it's really in literature that we have the ability to take a look deep inside the mind of someone very different from ourselves.

  

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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 04:38 PM

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6. "RE: Well, frankly, if you are, I am too."
In response to Reply # 3


  

          

>As far as I can tell, there are fewer great female writers
>than there are great male writers.

Why do you think this is? Is this about the way we are all socialized and asked to fit within specific gender roles? Or is there something else to this entirely.

My experience is that male writers are better able to appeal to a universal sensibility while female writers find it difficult to step outside of their gender. This is especially true when it comes to female poets.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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buckshot defunct
Member since May 02nd 2003
26345 posts
Tue Mar-14-06 04:43 PM

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8. "this might be getting into a chicken vs. egg debate :"
In response to Reply # 6


  

          

>My experience is that male writers are better able to appeal
>to a universal sensibility while female writers find it
>difficult to step outside of their gender.

Is that because the things we generally think of as "universal sensibilities" are in fact defined by males?

-----------------------------
http://talestosuffice.com/
@kennykeil

  

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Quixotic
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:42 PM

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18. "beat me to it."
In response to Reply # 8


  

          

~G.D.

--------
http://www.postbourgie.com
--------

  

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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:49 PM

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21. "Is it really that simple, though?"
In response to Reply # 18
Tue Mar-14-06 07:03 PM by TurkeylegJenkins

  

          


My opinion is that male writers are more easily able to adopt a genderless voice than female writers are. For me, it's a rare occurrence that I read something by a female writer and am not made overtly aware of the writer's gender. It just seems that gender is the central element of the identity of most female writers.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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janey
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Tue Mar-14-06 07:59 PM

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28. "well when you put it that way"
In response to Reply # 21


  

          

I TOTALLY disagree with you. The "genderless" voice is a male voice.

When you look at whether male writers can credibly write from a femle POV, and whether female writers can credibly write from a male POV, women win hands down. Hands fuckin DOWN, man.

I was all set to say something namby pamby about where we are in the world of social formation and cultural constructs, but when you raise the "genderless voice" issue, you get my hackles up, lol.

  

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Bridgetown
Member since Dec 04th 2004
27561 posts
Wed Mar-22-06 11:17 AM

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37. "Ok, then:"
In response to Reply # 28


  

          

>The "genderless" voice is a
>male voice.

OOOOOHHHH this shit is so true. Preach, sister.

>When you look at whether male writers can credibly write from
>a femle POV, and whether female writers can credibly write
>from a male POV, women win hands down. Hands fuckin DOWN,
>man.

Again, Janey spits hot fiyah (tee hee). Men often cannot write women characters for shit, and certainly can't do a "female POV".

Somebody needs to have a good little sit down with Tom Wolfe on the subject.

--Maurice

_____

Bonding over sutures is what's hot in Oh-Nine.
--JS

  

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johnny_domino
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Wed Mar-22-06 04:33 PM

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40. "he can't write characters that aren't white men"
In response to Reply # 37


  

          


>Again, Janey spits hot fiyah (tee hee). Men often cannot
>write women characters for shit, and certainly can't do a
>"female POV".
>
>Somebody needs to have a good little sit down with Tom Wolfe
>on the subject.

And don't anyone get cute and claim Roger Too White from A Man In Full, because Wolfe just needed to recycle his white male dialogue for him, it's not the same.

  

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The Damaja
Member since Aug 02nd 2003
18637 posts
Wed Mar-22-06 09:40 AM

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35. "this is what kills me about feminists attacking Hemingway, Fitzgerald"
In response to Reply # 21


  

          

they wrote from a male POV and usually portrayed a damaged masculinity
rather than pretending that masculinity was the 'neutral voice'

which is more sexist?

--------------------
Why do you choose to mimic these wack MCs?
Why do you choose to listen to R&B?

"There are obviously many things which we do not understand, and may never be able to." Leela

*puts emceeing in a box*

  

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MANHOODLUM
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Tue Mar-14-06 03:28 PM

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4. "Beverly Cleary don't count, son"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

:)

Avatar?
E-Boogs and Nayi

MANHOODLUM
Most sig'd okp.
No Aliases.

MANHOODLUM via Twitter
MANHOODLUM@live.com
MANHOODLUM@yahoo.com
Tommy Moran @ Facebook
MANHOODLUM@tmo.blackberry.net

  

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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 04:40 PM

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7. "Believe it or not, you've raised a valid point"
In response to Reply # 4


  

          

As a child I read all that Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume shit. But for whatever reason as an adult I'm not checking for the feminine voice.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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MANHOODLUM
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Tue Mar-14-06 08:36 PM

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30. "I'm sayin, Superfudge was about a boy, tho"
In response to Reply # 7


  

          

right?

Avatar?
E-Boogs and Nayi

MANHOODLUM
Most sig'd okp.
No Aliases.

MANHOODLUM via Twitter
MANHOODLUM@live.com
MANHOODLUM@yahoo.com
Tommy Moran @ Facebook
MANHOODLUM@tmo.blackberry.net

  

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DrNO
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Tue Mar-14-06 04:28 PM

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5. "yeah, me too"
In response to Reply # 0
Tue Mar-14-06 04:30 PM by DrNO

  

          

I'm sure I've read more than five books by women, but not much more than that. Most of the female penned literature I've read has been poetry, plays and short stories that were assigned for classes though.
I made a conscious effort to listen to female music a couple years back. Despite liking most of it I've fallen back to mostly male stuff.

_
http://youtube.com/watch?v=4TztqYaemt0
http://preptimeposse.blogspot.com/

  

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janey
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16. "The Last Samurai, dude!"
In response to Reply # 5


  

          

Helen de FUCKIN Witt!

  

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DrNO
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20. "yeah, I STILL need to get it"
In response to Reply # 16


  

          

I just made a big book order too. The only non-comic or photography book was Bignick's.
Next month.

_
http://youtube.com/watch?v=4TztqYaemt0
http://preptimeposse.blogspot.com/

  

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rick
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Tue Mar-14-06 05:43 PM

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9. "RE: Confessions of an Unwitting Literary Sexist"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

I think Janey made some valid points about there being more great books by men than women, and that will be reflected in your book list. 5 of 2000 books is fucking ridiculous, though. that's 99.75% male.

Do you want any recommendations?

Rick

  

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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 05:53 PM

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10. "Sure, why not?"
In response to Reply # 9


  

          

I read all that Austen shit in college, though.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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rick
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:18 PM

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13. "RE: Sure, why not?"
In response to Reply # 10


  

          

i guess this is kind of silly, because you are obviously way better read than me.

anyway, here goes:

jhumpa lahiri, interpreter of maladies, the namesake
arundhati roy, and non-fiction work
ayn rand, atlas shrugged

wow, these seem painfully obvious as i type them, but they're the best i can do off the dome.

rick

  

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johnny_domino
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:30 PM

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14. "I like the Joan Didion and Iris Murdoch that I've read too"
In response to Reply # 13


  

          

n/m

  

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janey
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19. "There's also"
In response to Reply # 14


  

          

Jane Smiley, esp. her books that relate to horses -- A Thousand Acres and what the hell is the other one.

But um TONI MORRISON? Mr. Jenkins needs to read The Bluest Eye at LEAST, lol.

  

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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:55 PM

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24. "Read "Beloved" back in college"
In response to Reply # 19


  

          

It didn't do much for me. Neither did Joy Kogawa's "Obasan" or Jamaica Kincaid's "Annie John", which I also had to read in college.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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johnny_domino
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26. "Song of Solomon is the best"
In response to Reply # 24
Tue Mar-14-06 07:20 PM by johnny_domino

  

          

The Bluest Eye is good too, if you're pressed for time. I wasn't that impressed by Beloved.

Have you read Zadie Smith yet? The Autograph Man is sub-par, but White Teeth and On Beauty are both great, imo.

  

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janey
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17. "I can't cosign on roy's fiction or rand at ALL"
In response to Reply # 13


  

          

but lahiri is cool.

  

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johnny_domino
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Tue Mar-14-06 07:19 PM

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27. "yeah, not sure if I've read Roy or not"
In response to Reply # 17


  

          

and I haven't inflicted Rand on myself yet, pretty sure I'll really dislike it, though I should still do it at some point. Haven't read Lahiri's novel either, but her short story collection was quite good.

  

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janey
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Tue Mar-14-06 08:00 PM

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29. "You know who blew my little mind with her short stories?"
In response to Reply # 27


  

          

Julie Orringer
How to Breathe Underwater.

Like a punch in the stomach. whew!

  

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johnny_domino
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Tue Mar-14-06 08:48 PM

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32. "interesting"
In response to Reply # 29


  

          

that reminds me, the best female short story/novella writer I've read so far is Katharine Anne Porter, "Noon Wine" is the shit.

  

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rick
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Wed Mar-22-06 04:31 PM

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38. "ha, i meant to sign non-fiction"
In response to Reply # 17


  

          

i don't like roy's fiction either. it's funny, i meant to type any, not and, but it changes the whole meaning of my statement.

  

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rick
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Wed Mar-22-06 04:31 PM

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39. "ha, i meant to sign non-fiction"
In response to Reply # 17


  

          

i don't like roy's fiction either. it's funny, i meant to type any, not and, but it changes the whole meaning of my statement.

why dont you like ayn rand? atlas shrugged blew me away. i dont agree with her that much, but i loved reading her make her point.

rick

  

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DrNO
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:50 PM

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22. "get some Flannery"
In response to Reply # 10


  

          

far from girly.

_
http://youtube.com/watch?v=4TztqYaemt0
http://preptimeposse.blogspot.com/

  

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DrNO
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Tue Mar-14-06 08:57 PM

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33. "she can do the genderless voice too"
In response to Reply # 22


  

          

and she can really write male characters. Just read parker's back.
Her complete short stories are really cheap too.

_
http://youtube.com/watch?v=4TztqYaemt0
http://preptimeposse.blogspot.com/

  

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PolarbearToenails
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Tue Mar-14-06 05:58 PM

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11. "And that Koufax bio stunk, too."
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

-
Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
A public radio show about things that are awesome.
http://www.maximumfun.org
"This is the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world." - McSweeney's

  

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TurkeylegJenkins
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Tue Mar-14-06 05:59 PM

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12. "It wasn't very good"
In response to Reply # 11


  

          

I think the only reason it hit the Bestseller list is because Leavy hinted at Koufax being gay.

Oh, how controversy sells books!

_______________________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that I met Kareem?: http://tinylink.com/?UCNMKdNWLA

Hot to Trotsky: http://www.regeneratedheadpiece.com

  

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PolarbearToenails
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:53 PM

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23. "she's a pretty strong writer..."
In response to Reply # 12


  

          

which isn't always the case when you're talking about sports books, but I thought it was so insubstantial, I almost couldn't believe it was an actual book.

-
Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
A public radio show about things that are awesome.
http://www.maximumfun.org
"This is the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world." - McSweeney's

  

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johnny_domino
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Tue Mar-14-06 06:32 PM

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15. "I'm in about the same boat"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

luckily for me I don't collect books like I do CDs, so the difference isn't quite as stark. And I have made good strides in at least reading (and enjoying) female authors, female musicians are a lot more difficult for me to appreciate, I find.

  

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llioncourt3030
Member since Oct 23rd 2004
91 posts
Tue Mar-14-06 07:12 PM

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25. "No Margaret Atwood. You disgust me."
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

****

"If you see a stranger follow him!" - Ed from Cowboy Bebop

Do you know what white racists call black PhD’s? . . . ‘Nigger!’ — Malcolm X

"Life is the shit that happens while you wait for moments that never come." Detective Freamon from The Wire

  

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DoctorBombay
Member since Jan 02nd 2004
6445 posts
Tue Mar-14-06 08:38 PM

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31. "Atwood is great"
In response to Reply # 25


          

sadly she's the only female writer that I've read extensively

  

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The Damaja
Member since Aug 02nd 2003
18637 posts
Wed Mar-22-06 09:35 AM

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34. "5 is a BIT extreme"
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i read male authors mostly but then i also (almost) only read dead authors and as we know women were deprived of most of the conditions a writer finds necessary or the opportunities conducive to becoming an author... a room of one's own and so on

anyway i refuse to be held hostage for what i read, because it's all good.... i mean i could read exclusively male authors from the 1880s and count myself a king of infinite space

as for music - lol what can you do? even those females you did mention, men had a massive part in creating their music. the problem is beyond the scope of an individual consumer

--------------------
Why do you choose to mimic these wack MCs?
Why do you choose to listen to R&B?

"There are obviously many things which we do not understand, and may never be able to." Leela

*puts emceeing in a box*

  

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ScandalousWoman
Member since Nov 19th 2002
25416 posts
Wed Mar-22-06 11:04 AM

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36. "most of my books are by women"
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i realized that a long time ago when people would ask me to list my favorite authors.
the list would be all women, so someone would ask, "well, what about *insert black male author here*?" and i would scrunch up my nose and say, "i guess."

with the exception of walter mosley and white boy shuffle guy, most of the black male authors whose books i have were b/c i had to read them for school.

and the only books i have by whites are romance novels and vampire/science fiction stuff. the fluff.

so i'm a literary sexist-racist, i think.

***********************
"is indiana jones here?... i just heard a pussy whip." low2b

  

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Frank Longo
Member since Nov 18th 2003
82847 posts
Wed Mar-22-06 06:04 PM

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41. "My girlfriend accuses me of this, because with films, music, and books"
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I lean towards male writers, directors, and musicians. Most of my CDs are by guys. Pretty much all movies I own are about men. The books I own are about men.

This post definitely raises an interesting question about how gender plays into how we relate to different works of art.

*camps out*

For beer lovers: http://thebeertravelguide.com
For movie lovers: http://russellhainline.com

  

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johnny_domino
Charter member
17027 posts
Wed Mar-22-06 06:12 PM

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42. "it is a very interesting topic"
In response to Reply # 41


  

          

On the one hand, I like to broaden my horizons, and the fact that my tastes for all types of art skew so heavily male raises some unpleasant questions. On the other, I don't like to politicize how I spend my free time so heavily that I have difficulty enjoying the art that I really enjoy (or spend a lot of time with artistic works that I don't especially enjoy, just to feel better about my innate gender biases). And beyond just that, some of the art by women that I try just for the sake of being less biased towards men, I would probably enjoy more if I came upon it organically, instead of trying to make myself "eat my vegetables", so to speak. Luckily there are enough women writers at this point who I do enjoy that I feel okay about my taste in books, even if I do tend to go 80/20. Music and movies, I don't even think about much right now, it would be a truly mammoth undertaking (and how many female non-romantic comedy directors are there, anyway?)

  

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janey
Charter member
123101 posts
Wed Mar-22-06 08:27 PM

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43. "I think part of the deal for Mr. TL Jenkins is"
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when you look at what he reads, of COURSE he's going to lean very heavily toward male writers. The current stuff he reads is all non-fiction sports stuff, and what he reads for pleasure is from an era in which women had a bitch of a time getting published. For every woman who was published prior to oh, I don't know, say, 1970, there were about a hundred to a thousand men published.

  

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cereffusion
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29597 posts
Thu Mar-23-06 09:15 AM

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44. "I don't have much either"
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Most of my books by women are from college courses. Plath, Stevie Smith, Lorrie Moore, Ann Charters.




---
Refusing to Let Go:
OkayBlowhards Champ 2004

---
Real Man Talk:
http://www.imageyenation.com/main

  

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veritas
Member since Sep 16th 2002
37200 posts
Sat Mar-25-06 08:55 PM

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45. "i tend to agree-- check elaine brown's a taste of power"
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i think it's called.

that shit is good.

i still blame hip-hop.

  

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CliffDogg
Member since Dec 19th 2004
18074 posts
Sat Mar-25-06 11:29 PM

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46. "No Harry Potter?"
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----


<--- Me looking at your "agenda"

  

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