I’ll Have Some Quiche With My Novel

by | Sep 14, 2006

“To trace the trajectory of the novel is to follow the struggle of the novelist–even, perhaps especially, the male novelist–to be taken seriously–that is, to raise the perception of his chosen form from that of a piece of silly frou-frou to the higher, more male realm of capital-A Art.” -Margaret Atwood

According to In These Times senior editor, Lakshmi Chaudhry, the novel was once considered “a low-status, frivolous, pastime of ladies of leisure, unfit for real men.”

It may be so considered once more. Britsh novelist Ian McEwan last year tried to give his novels away for free in a London park.

Only one “sensitive male soul” took up his offer, while every woman he approached was “eager and grateful” to do the same.

Unscientific as McEwan’s experiment may be, its thesis is borne out by a number of surveys conducted in Britain, the United States and Canada, where men account for a paltry 20 percent of the market for fiction. Unlike the gods of the literary establishment who remain predominantly male–both as writers and critics–their humble readers are overwhelmingly female.