At university, I had a tutor, who once admitted to a room of writing students, most of them women, that he had only included Virginia Woolf in the reading list because he had to. He confessed that there weren't any women writers that he rated. I can't remember if anyone responded to this; I think it's possible there was just disbelief and shock. The tutor wasn't some archaic, bearded professor, who should have retired long ago. He was youngish and one of those incredibly intelligent, fast-witted, super droll types; the sort who leave most of us struggling to keep up. Perhaps it was a joke, but I don't think so... A few months prior to this, a male friend of mine, who was studying for his masters in comparative literature, confided that he rarely read any novels by women. When I asked him why, he said that he wasn't sure and then add that they didn't interest him. I was shocked by his confession. In every other way, he was a progressive and open-minded individual.
So perhaps, it should come as no great shock that women authors are massively under represented in the literary pages of newspapers, magazines and journals. Perhaps the reviewers are men not dissimilar to the two I have encountered... Inspired by this article in Overland ("You don't read women authors, do you?") by Dougal McNeill, I've decided to take part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014. I will read six books by Australian women writers and review four of those on this blog. Last year, I made a little promise not to buy any new books for a while. The shelves are stacked three deep and possibly as many as half of these are unread. Anyway, I hunted through the shelves and found these six books:
Beneath the Bloodwood Tree by Julienne Van Loon
Stasiland by Anna Funder
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Vanishing Points by Thea Astley
Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones
Gilgamesh by Joan London
Anyone want to join me?