I was overjoyed to see Harper Lee in the top-3 and John Green in the top-10…Twice! ^KE
RIP David Rakoff (1964-2012)
Humor writer/essayist David Rakoff has died from cancer, confirmed by his brother, comedian Simon Rakoff, via Facebook. He was 47.
In addition to his three books – Fraud, Don’t Get Too Comfortable, and Half Empty – Rakoff was a regular contributor to This American Life, and in May appeared in the This American Life Live stage show where he spoke about life after being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and losing his left arm to the disease.
His moving performance can be heard in the episode “Invisible Made Visible”, via the This American Life website.
Very sad. Fraud is one of my favorite collection of essays of the last decade. ^KE
NPR was recently burned by Mike Daisy’s largely fabricated piece on working conditions at Chinese Apple factories, and they are now as twice-shy as it seems possible to be. NPR is investigating all of David Sedaris’ stories to see whether they’re entirely factually correct- and shock of shocks, many of them have been exaggerated.
Does this mean his work should be labeled as fiction? Should NPR label each story they broadcast as “not quite true”? What is the difference between a falsified hard-hitting journalistic exposé and humor? ^LB
Is there Gender Bias in Book-Reviews?
Gender bias in the book-review world has been the hot topic in the past few months. It all started when Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult called out the New York Times for reviewing more male writers than female. They’re correct: in the past two years, 60% of NYT reviews have been of books written by men. The situation is even worse in many other newspapers. NPR talks to male writers 70% of the time. A media firestorm inevitably followed, with many writers taking the opposing viewpoints that women writers receive more space in magazines (this is not technically true), and that writers like Weiner and Picoult sell enough books already and don’t need the New York Time’s endorsement (though in that case, why does the paper bother reviewing bestsellers like- in the most oft used example- Jonathan Franzen? And what about unknown female writers?)
To me, the issue boils down to the fact that male writers are often perceived as more legitimate and literary. Certainly, I have never seen a bookstore that has a “Guy Lit” section, but “Chick Lit” sections abound everywhere. In fact, Open Books shelves both Weiner and Picoult in our Chick Lit section. Why? Because the section sells well, and customers have been trained to look there for Weiner and Picoult by reviews, bookstores, and even the books’ own publishers. In fact, Chick Lit isn’t a reviewer or bookstore term- it’s a publishing term. Still, are we part of the problem?
Then again- is Chick Lit such a bad thing? There’s certainly nothing wrong with books that deal with women finding a career and love. However, Chick Lit books have a reputation for “fluff and frippery”, and like it or not, shelving a female author there can serve to de-legitimize her even as it makes her books easier to find. One thing I know for sure is that dismissing many women as less legitimate is a dangerous precedent, and could lead to extremely good books having a harder time getting published. There are likely as many women writers as there are male, and their books should be reviewed in equal proportion and in equal seriousness.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
NPR highlights three new “Recession Lit” titles, including one of my favorite authors, Stewart O’Nan.
I would argue for the inclusion of Ed Park’s Personal Days to be included in this canon. ^KE