On the matter of gender bias in reviews I was interested to note that, beginning his Observer review of Monica Ali's The Untold Story (her novel that imagines the fate of Princess Diana had she not died), Tibor Fischer says: 'I'm not sure I'm really qualified to review Monica Ali's new novel because I don't know what a French tip manicure is and I'm rather hazy on taffeta.'
I'm kind of charmed by this: Tibor Fischer is a refreshing reviewer whose reviews always shine with this kind of honesty, although since he concludes by pronouncing the book 'classy commercial fiction', I wonder if by saying this he's doing more than simply being honest, but also distancing himself from it.
At any rate, it set me thinking. Would a female reviewer be likely to state so readily that she doesn't feel qualified to review a book due to a haziness about football or motorbike engines? Would she be too afraid of endorsing a general perception that already makes her less likely to be asked to review books by men?
I have to say that I don't know what a French tip manicure is, either, but I must confess that having been brought up by a needleworking mother, and having actually studied textiles at one point, I'm not at all hazy about taffeta, and I say this publicly not without a certain qualm...