Friday, April 29, 2005

Sic him, girls!

Got an e-mail late yesterday afternoon from J. Mark Bertrand, who wrote, "If you're wondering what that beeping sound is, it's probably the auto-targeting system on your blog alerting you to something that just passed through the crosshairs...."

Actually, Mark, my ATS has been acting up lately, so I appreciate the tip.

It appears that a clueless male author has mouthed off about women being genetically incapable of producing "serious" fiction. Here from yesterday's The Book Standard is another depressing article about sexism in literary circles:
Genteel? Or bloody? That distinction between two sub-genres of mystery books—“cozies” and “hard-boiled”—may determine who wins the Edgar Award for Best Novel tonight. And the outcome could go to the heart of a debate within the industry: Are female mystery-writers—most often the authors of the more non-threatening, proper cozies—even worthy of the award? Otto Penzler, dean of mystery-writing in America, says no.

Hmm. Is anybody else out there thinking it's time to elect a new dean of mystery writing?
“The women who write [cozies] stop the action to go shopping, create a recipe, or take care of cats,” he says. “Cozies are not serious literature. They don’t deserve to win. Men take [writing] more seriously as art. Men labor over a book to make it literature...."

And there you have it, folks. Cozy mysteries are not serious literature. We know that because they aren't bathed in blood and peppered with profanities. And women don't take writing seriously, the dean says. Although he really should cut us some slack. He has no idea how difficult it is to squeeze an hour of dabbling at the writing desk in between a hair appointment and lunch with the girls.

It's almost as funny as it is annoying that Mr. Penzler appears to believe that what my husband lovingly refers to as "slash and dash" books are by their very nature more "literary" than cozy mysteries. That's as stupid as insisting chocolate-almond ice cream is better than rum-raisin. It isn't better, it's just different. True, some brands are better than others. But it's the brand that's better, not the type of ice cream.

I'd like to point out that Mr. Penzler is a member of the sex that thinks flatulence jokes and burping the alphabet are clever. So I can only roll my eyes when he and his belly-scratching friends write gore heavily laced with profanity and then crow about being literary giants. Maybe some of them are. But if they are, it's not because their work fits neatly into a certain subgenre; it's the writing. Mr. Penzler has made himself look foolish by suggesting otherwise. And he is foolish if he honestly believes men are by nature more talented or more "serious" writers than women.

I've said before that I don't consider myself a feminist, and I don't twist myself in knots trying to be politically correct. But when someone displays prejudice of this magnitude in a public forum, even a non-militant type like me tends to take offense on behalf of her gender.

You know, I think I'm really going to enjoy sitting back and watching the feminists go after this guy. Sic him, girls!


Anonymous said...

Brenda, That's one way to get a person blood boiling this early in the morning. The way I see it this man doesn't know his head from a hole in the ground, I for one know of a woman suspense writer
who can make your hair stand up on you neck it is that good. I would go a great distance to read books like her's. if the only kind of book's that this man's writes was the only thing out there to read , I would stop reading, and you know how I love to read.

J. Mark Bertrand said...

Yesterday, my story "The Inside Job" (serious literature, by the way, since I am blessed to be a Man) was reviewed by Bob Tinsley at The Short of It. He mentioned that it would have fit well in Penzler's recent Dangerous Women anthology. I wonder if, based on the backlash against this remark, Dangerous Women II, the nonfiction edition, will be coming out this year?

Brenda Coulter said...

I imagine so, Mark. But my guess is that it will be published posthumously. ;-)

By the way, everyone, I sent a nose-thumbing e-mail to Mark this morning inviting him to sue me for quoting him without permission. Here's his response (which I am again publishing without permission--might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb):

My attorneys are drafting the papers now, but as a Serious Artist (i.e., male), I shouldn't really stoop to that level. :)

Hmm. If he wasn't considering taking legal action against me, I might congratulate him on that very nice review. But he blew his chance.

J. Mark Bertrand said...

The smiley face! Note the smiley face. It implies that my true feelings are just the opposite of the views I've expressed, and that I should in no way be disqualified from praise on the basis of my statement. (Now that phrase sounds like it was crafted by my legal team, doesn't it?)

lindaruth said...

And I came across a list of the Edgar winners at For whatever its worth, guys won. (I always like closure in a discussion :)


Brenda Coulter said...

Professor Bertrand, I am surprised at you. It is not the prerogative of Serious Writers to go after the Cheap Laugh. Leave that stuff to us hacks, if you please. ;-)

Linda, thanks for looking that up. I had checked Technorati this morning, but nothing had been posted yet. I don't read a lot of mysteries--of any kind--so I don't really have an opinion on the winners.

booksquare said...

I, for one, am relieved to learn that I'm incapable of producing literature. It's like a massive burden was lifted. Now I can concentrate of matters more suited to my puny little mind. Like shopping. Perhaps I'll contemplate a purse for 1,000 words or so.

Yeah, I posted a response. Someone had to represent for the feminists (g).

Brenda Coulter said...

Yeah, I figured you'd step up to the plate and take a nice, hard swing at this one, Booksquare. Your post cracked me up.

Anonymous said...

Here via booksquare:

I write gore heavily laced with profanities. I hope that doesn't mean I need to start burping the alphabet.

Seriously, I'm not sure that there's much I can add to your lambasting, except to crow "Attagirl!"

J. Mark Bertrand said...

I can post for cheap laughs as long as I "reinvent the genre" of humor in a witty, ironic way so as to keep my Ivory Tower cred.

Anonymous said...

A man myself, I've just realized with horror that the two mystery writers I read the most are female: Ellis Peters and Lindsey Davis. I'm kind of new at this whole sexist thing, so is there somewhere official I should take these books to be pulped, since they're not serious literature and stuff?


Oh, and who is Otto Penzler? This is the first time I've heard his name. Guess that's what happens when I'm not reading enough Art.

(Picks teeth and sticks hand under belt.)

Danny Adams (dda at wwco dot com)

Angie Poole said...

"...go shopping, create a recipe, or take care of cats,”

He forgot manicures. I need one--I just got so mad, I broke a nail!

Perhaps he should explore my genre:


J. Mark Bertrand said...

Since you asked, Danny: About Otto Penzler.

Brenda Coulter said...

Elizabeth, I'm glad you understand that I meant no offense to people who write gore heavily laced with profanities, but only to a certain bigoted man who maintains that literary fiction is an unreachable goal for all but a handful of women writers. Thanks for stopping by. I hope there's an Edgar in your future.

Mark, I stand corrected. And thanks for the link.

Danny, it takes a Real Man to stand up and admit he's been reading fluff books. I hope your buds down at the sports bar don't give you too much grief over this.

Angie--right there with you, babe.

Kate said...

Ah, a Victorian idjit after my own heart. He'd love Herbert Spencer, who tended to drone on about men and women.

Spencer's big theory: Since men only concerned themselves with fertilization, they could also spend energies in other arenas, "the male capacity for abstract reason... along with an attachment to the idea of abstract justice...[which] was a sign of highly-evolved life." On the other hand, woman's heavy role in pregnancy, menstruation (considered a time of illness, debilitation, and temporary insanity), and child-rearing left very little energy left for other pursuits . . . such as thinking.

much of that was lifted from

These are the same astute people who brought you phrenology (reading personality and psychological problems through head bumps), radium as a cure-all for all sorts of ailments, electrical shocks to cure anything from cancer to sexual urges** and many other fine scientific theories.

Yep, poor Mr. P was born 150 years too late.
**give them some credit for some successful electric treatments -- those middle-class women would go to the doctor for a weekly refreshing, stress-reducing electrical cure. OOoo honey!

Kate said...

whoops. that's a bit long, innit. sorry.

Heather Diane Tipton said...

LOL Go get 'em Brenda!

Bronwyn Parry said...

Penzler's quote and another reference to women's fiction not being literary in the Guardian both got my blood pressure up today. So I had a bit of a rant in my blog, too ;-)

Brenda Coulter said...

I read it, Bron. Nice job.

thewriterslife said...

Brenda, this got my blood boiling, too. I write hen lit and if anyone dares comes to me and tells me that what I'm writing isn't worth the paper it's printed on, I'll show them a recipe for scrapple in which you take the pig's head and ...oh god, stop me. Anyway, I posted on my hen lit blog about this, too. Just frosts my cookies.