On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women – NYTimes.com

Here’s a link to the NYT Book Review essay mentioned on Monday:


On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women – NYTimes.com.


If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated? Certainly “The Marriage Plot,” Eugenides’s first novel since his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” was poised to receive tremendous literary interest regardless of subject matter, but the presence of a female protagonist, the gracefulness, the sometimes nostalgic tone and the relationship-heavy nature of the book only highlight the fact that many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape “Women’s Fiction” and make the leap onto the upper shelf where certain books, most of them written by men (and, yes, some women — more about them later), are prominently displayed and admired.


One thought on “On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women – NYTimes.com

  1. Thank you for posting this link! I found myself frustrated in Monday’s class (the reaction I think you were looking for, in a way) when you asked how we as consumers would receive a novel titled “The Marriage Plot,” with two rings on the cover, and about a young girl in the typical love triangle. “But this book is so much more than that,” I thought. I cannot stop questioning our assumptions about novels, female authorship, and female readership.
    The article highlights female readers as the largest novel consumer market. Why, then, are “their” novels deemed lower quality and shoved to the bottom shelf or the back of the store? Why do we all assume that women are only reading “trashy” novels? Moreover, what does it say about the women in our society that they desire romanticized stories as a form of escape?

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