Arts | Books

Book News: Byline Tally Shows There's Still Gender Bias In Book Reviewing

NPR | Feb. 24, 2014 7:01 a.m.

Contributed By:

Annalisa Quinn

Mutlu Kurtbas, iStockphoto

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The annual VIDA count tracking gender inequality in book reviewing, comes out Monday, and the numbers don’t look good for female book reviewers. The New York Times, which got an advance look at the tally for 2013, reports that VIDA counted bylines in 39 publications — including The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker and Harper’s – and that some publications had better records than others. The New York Review of Books had 212 male book reviewers to a dismal 52 female book reviewers, according to the Times. By contrast, The Paris Review had 47 male and 48 female bylines. One of VIDA’s founders, poet Erin Belieu, told the Times, “Because the count frees our national literary community from the gut reactive, the anecdotal, we hope having the VIDA data will allow our community to find the will and means to change the gender bias you see at many of the top-tier publications.”
  • Andrew O’Hagan says he was hired to ghostwrite Julian Assange’s autobiography, but the project collapsed and the story was eventually published without Assange’s permission. O’Hagan wrote about his experience working with Assange in an essay for the London Review of Books. He writes, “The man who put himself in charge of disclosing the world’s secrets simply couldn’t bear his own. The story of his life mortified him and sent him scurrying for excuses. He didn’t want to do the book. He hadn’t from the beginning.” O’Hagan added that Assange “is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits.” Assange has not publically responded to O’Hagan’s article.
  • According to The Sunday Times, “J.K. Rowling has mapped out a series of up to seven crime novels featuring her private investigator Cormoran Strike — in a repeat of the approach she took with her Harry Potter books.”

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Bark, Lorrie Moore’s first collection of stories in 16 years, contains eight stories about failed relationships and resigned, joyless dating among the middle aged. They are sad stories. They leave you feeling — there’s no other way to put it — awful. Like life-is-a-nuclear-wasteland, what’s-the-point-of-it-all, we-all-die-alone awful. And yet, they also manage to be funny, punny and full of unexpected tricks.
  • MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction, edited by Chad Harbach, is a series of essays about what Harbach says are the two centers of American literary culture: MFA programs and the publishing world of New York City. “Each culture,” he writes, “has its own canonical works and heroic figures; each has its own logic of social and professional advancement. Each affords its members certain aesthetic and personal freedoms while restricting others; each exerts its own subtle but powerful pressures on the work being produced.” The book includes essays by George Saunders and Elif Batuman, as well as writers, professors and publicists from both worlds.
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