Saturday, September 11, 2010

It Takes a Man to Say These Things

When Jodi Picoult and Lionel Shriver (or any other women writers) say it, it's too likely to look like sour grapes, but today in the Guardian Pankaj Mishra argues thoughtfully that for the establishment 'great' only ever signifies 'the passionate ambition of white men, never women.'

Mishra is also concerned with other prejudices beside gender: for arbiters like Time magazine, he says, 'literature is summed up by the big, panoptic novel about the American, usually suburban condition, not the formally resourceful poem and short story or intellectually rigorous essay.'

It's interesting, too, that he points out the often suburban concerns of the 'great' male American novel, since the general perception is that 'suburban' is one of the sub-characteristics for which women's literature is deemed generally lesser.

Also in the Guardian today, in the same edition in which Andrew Motion, chair of this year's Booker panel, complains about the poor editing the judges encountered (as did Claire Armitstead recently regarding the Guardian First Book Award), there's a very interesting letter from Chris Parker which I think is worth quoting:
...falling editorial standards is shared by editors themselves. As well as having to correct the most basic spelling and punctuation mistakes made by authors "educated" since the mid-70s, editors are frequently asked by publishers to copyedit and proofread (two distinct processes) at the same time. Before the 1990s, a typescript would be subjected, before typesetting, to a rigorous copyediting process, then proofread (often by two people) to ensure that all the copyeditor's changes had been implemented. We are now asked by most publishers to "cast a quick eye" over proofs which have been set straight from authors' disks, bypassing the editorial process altogether.

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