Random House of Canada’s Hazlitt magazine posted an interview today with author David Gilmour. The relevant quote you’ll be seeing all over Twitter and writing blogs is this one:
I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.
Gilmour then gave a vague apology in the National Post, saying that it wasn’t that he thought women writers were bad, just that he wasn’t enthusiastic about them and wouldn’t teach what he couldn’t teach well. He also wrote that normally he wouldn’t apologize for this, but since people seemed offended, he was afraid it might affect the sales of his most recent book.
Maureen Johnson responded (pre-apology) with her post “It is entirely possible to be a good writer and an asshole.”
I realize that I have simply equated someone who says they don’t teach books by women because they simply don’t like enough women writers with being an asshole. I could have said many other things. Like it was ignorant, or strange in its selectivity. I went with asshole, and I feel good about this choice.
I think ‘asshole’ was the correct word choice there, Maureen. This reminds me of Jezebel’s article from last December: Want to Be a Successful Writer? Be a Man. Hey, there’s a good reason why I’m writing this blog under the name Bennett North.
A couple book recs
A while back I was asking around for e-book recommendations, and Rob suggested Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (which is the pseudonym of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). It’s hard sf, about the politics of an interstellar war. I enjoy hard sf occasionally, although it runs the risk of being a little dry. As @kennethhite recently tweeted, “”Hilarious” is the failure mode for horror; “nonsense” is the failure mode for conspiracy; “stereo instructions” is the failure mode for SF.” However, Leviathan Wakes neatly sidestepped that pitfall with its excellent set of characters. The dialogue was so natural and effortless that the characters immediately became real. Dialogue is one of the most important parts of telling a good story. Your character might act like a total badass, but if he talks like he’s reading off a teleprompter, the story is going to fail.
When I finished Leviathan Wakes I discovered that the full text of The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham had been tacked on the end. Free book! It was an odd combination, to stick an epic fantasy novel onto the end of a hard sf one, but I enjoy both genres, so it was fine with me. If the failure mode of sf is “stereo instructions”, I’d say the failure mode of fantasy is “RPG campaign setting”, but The Dragon’s Path was far better than that, and again it came down to the characters. There was a certain honesty to these characters. They reacted like real people, and they acted their ages, and their character arcs were hard-earned.
I heartily recommend them both, both because they’re great books and because James S.A. Corey/Daniel Abraham definitely understands how to do characters right. As a bonus, The Dragon’s Path had a pretty equal gender balance, and the female characters were hanging around being real characters just like anyone else rather than being Shining Examples of the Gender, which was refreshing!
In other news, Nanowrimo is coming around again. This’ll be my 11th year. I haven’t lost yet. By this point, it would be such a break with tradition not to do it that I just can’t turn it down. Still, I’m not sure what I’m going to work on this year. I certainly don’t need to start another new project, so I’m toying with the idea of doing a massive revision of one of my current novels. As long as I write at least 50,000 words of new material, it’ll work out.