Venus & Mars—do we write differently, too? (Part 1)

venus-marsA book review this summer got me to thinking about the differences between male and female authors—whether men and women write differently...and whether book clubs prefer one gender over another.

Here’s Liesl Schillinger on Atmospheric Disturbances, a new work by Rivka Galchen:

It’s unusual—in fact, (why be coy?), it’s extremely rare—to come across a first novel by a woman writer . . . in which the heart and the brain vie for the role of protagonist, and the brain wins. While the voice and mood of the novel are masculine, clinical and objective . . . the book’s descriptions of colors, smells, clothing and bodies show feminine perception.

New York Times Book Review, 7/13/08

My favorite part of that quote is “why be coy?”—an implicit acknowledgement that what follows is going to shake up some shibboleths. But do men and women write differently?

This is hard for me to acknowledge, but I think Schillinger is right. Works like Absurdistan, The Brief Wondrous LIfe of Oscar Wao, The Road, even The Corrections seem to display a distinct masculine sensibility. Reading them, I’m decidedly aware they were penned by a male. And there are books written by women that I feel are distinctly feminine: authors like Jody Picoult, Sue Miller, Sarah Gruen, Sarah Addison Allen. But that, I think, is a subject for another blog entirely.

Questions for Book Clubs

  1. Do women clubs read “masculine” works like Absurdistan, Oscar Wao, or The Road? And do men read books that have Schillinger’s feminine perception—say Interpreter of Maladies or The Memory Keeper’s Daughter or The Secret Life of Bees?
  2. Overall, do masculine works like The Road or The Corrections get taken more seriously than feminine works? Or does NONE of it matter.

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