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From the April 17, 2020 issue of the Times Literary Supplement comes a review of a book, Why Women Read Fiction, The Stories of Our Lives, by Helen Taylor (Oxford University Press). The review itself is entitled “The female-only Book Club,” by Lucy Scholes.
From the review by Scholes, and I quote:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that women read more fiction than men. In the UK, US, Canada…..women account for 80 percent of the fiction sales. More women than men are members of libraries and book clubs. Women make up the majority of the audiences at literary festivals and bookshop events.”
I’m quoting and I didn’t fact-check those statements. So I don’t know if they’re true.
Taylor, the author of the book under review, interviewed numerous women authors and women readers to discover their opinions about why they read fiction and how they “connect” with fiction.
Scholes says, “If I think….why I read fiction, my first thought is it’s something I’ve always done. Reading novels has been a huge part of my life, long before I became a professional critic. Some of the strongest memories I have of my childhood are of the books I read.”
So far, so good. Then the book veers into more questionable territory.
One of Taylor’s respondents, the feminist writer, journalist, and filmmaker, Bidisha, says “I think women read a lot more fiction because life is so crappy. Men don’t read that much fiction as they are fully invested in the world and are worshipped. Women read books about heroines because they’re not heroines and when we go out for adventures in the real world we’re subject to harassment and male violence.”
The review—and the book—go on at length. I recommend you go to the TLS to see the full text.
As for me, I ventured into male-dominated territory at the start of my career—I became a lawyer at age 24 working at 100 male, 10 female attorney law firms—the first in Washington D.C., the second in San Francisco. Yes, the young men in those firms had a sense of entitlement to be there. I, and my fellow female attorneys, most definitely did not.
I moved into legal publishing, which was a much friendlier environment, and then I moved into another male-dominated territory—science fiction.
I have been subjected to two rape attempts and, in 2018, I was violently attacked by a man who fractured my hip in three places and broke my thigh.
But, ahem.
All of the above has nothing to do why I read fiction. I don’t feel my life has been “crappy.” In fact, I’ve been very lucky, supported in my efforts by many men, including my late father, had many male readers and fans of my science fiction, and had a generally happy, successful life.
I read fiction, like Scholes says, because I’ve always read fiction. My mother bought a lot of books for me when I was a child. I don’t feel lacking in my life, but I enjoy reading about other people’s lives and especially about the wonderful ideas and worlds science fiction and fantasy writers dream up.
What do you think about what Bidisha said above? Do you read fiction because your life is lacking?
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