An interesting post by Laura Miller at the National Books Critics Circle blog explaining why she chose not to participate in the recent NY Times survey on the best American novel of the last twenty-five years (and why she thinks a shortlist is generally preferable to naming a single “best” work). In the comments, people also discuss the gender imbalance of the Times list — twenty male authors, several with multiple books or multiple entries, and two female.
My school just gave out a really huge student literary prize, also aimed at fiction that somehow encapsulated the American experience. (I have such an urge to put every other word in that last clause in scare quotes.) It was judged, this time, by a panel of five men. There were five finalists; every one was male. Those I’ve read are talented writers, and I don’t mean to impugn their work at all, but there are also a hell of a lot of talented female writers in the two writing programs on campus, and it strikes me as strange that none of them were named as finalists. I think Miller is on to something when she connects the drive to identify a “best American work” with a nostalgia for the supposed (white male) American monoculture. And boy howdy, is it interesting to be reading Blood Meridian while thinking about these things.