Jodi Picoult Says Fuck You to Lit World Sexism (and Nicholas Sparks)
… despite this success – 23 novels in 22 years, eight of which have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list – she struggles to be taken seriously. “I write women’s fiction,” she says, an ‘apparently’ hanging in the air. “And women’s fiction doesn’t mean that’s your audience. Unfortunately, it means you have lady parts.”
Picoult has long been calling out the hypocrisy of literary critics who look down on authors like her (i.e. female authors) and then fall over themselves to praise male romance writers like Jonathan Franzen. She thankfully has continued bringing it up, now adding:
“If a woman had written One Day [by David Nicholls], it would have been airport fiction. Look at The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. If I had written that, it would have had a pink, fluffy cover on it. If Jenny Eugenides had written it, it would have had a pink fluffy cover on it. What is it about? It’s about a woman choosing between two men. What is The Corrections about, by Jonathan Franzen? It’s about a family, right? And I’m attacking gun control and teen suicide and end-of-life care and the Holocaust, and I’m writing women’s fiction? I mean, I can’t tell you. When people call The Storyteller chick-lit, I actually break up laughing. Because that is the worst, most depressing chick-lit ever.”
Has she ever thought of writing under a pen name?
“I did once,” she says. “So let me tell you what happened. I wrote a book under a man’s name. It was years ago, my kids were really tiny. It was when The Bridges of Madison County [by Robert James Waller] had been published. Nicholas Sparks was becoming big [as a romantic novelist]. Please don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I haven’t had enough caffeine yet.” But anyway.
“I was so angry about these men who had co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years. There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn’t even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, ‘Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.’ And that just made me crazy.” Her agent tried to sell her pseudonymous book, but was told it was too well written for the male romance genre. “So there you go,” she says, angry, and yet ever-so-slightly pleased.
I don’t know what’s more bothersome—the idea that anything written by women for women is immediately considered valueless or that stupid stories by men are automatically held up as examples of fine art.