The Lit Review |30| Literary Cooties

Literary Cooties

A recent analysis shows that in 15 years, six major literary awards have not favoured women as their winners, nor have they rewarded books when the protagonist is female.

Author Nicola Griffith has taken a look into the Pulitzer, Man Booker, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle award, and Hugo and Newbery medal winners over the last 15 years and compiled the gender of the winners, and the results are quite shocking. No Pulitzer Prize winner over that time, for instance, has featured a novel written by a woman, about a woman or a girl. Not one.

What is the reason for this? Well it seems that when it comes to prestigious awards winners are less likely to write about women, and this is either because women are censoring what they write or those who judge these contributions to literature find women uninteresting *cries with frustration*. It appears that women seem to have ‘literary cooties.’ This is also down to women still not being given the platform that they more than deserve, says Griffith. ‘Women’s voices are not being heard. Women are more than half our culture, if half the adults in our culture have no voice, half the world’s experience is not being attended to, learnt from, or built upon. Humanity is only half what we could be.’

Griffith, however, appears hopeful. She intends to continue to gather data, to discover the books that are submitted and those that are shortlisted. ‘Data is the key. We have the tools now to accumulate, analyse, display and share easily. Data will show us patterns. Patterns will lead to correlations. Correlations will lead to possible causes. Causes will help us find solutions.’ Aren’t women great.



Ali Smith wins Baileys Prize

Just as Nicola Griffith takes on the challenging gender imbalance still present in the world of literature, Ali Smith lends a hand to the movement by winning the Baileys Prize for her novel How to be Both. This award celebrates ‘excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.’ Chair of judges, Shami Chakrabarti, has described Smith as a ‘literary genius’ and describes the story as a ‘tender, brilliant and witty novel of grief, love, sexuality and shape-shifting identity.’ Smith has also won the Costa Novel Award and the Goldsmiths Prize for How to Be Both, and the novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.


Funding Sought for Dublin IMPAC Award

The internationally recognised Dublin IMPAC Award is currently facing criticism. For the first time in its twenty year history, this year’s winner will be paid directly from the public pocket. The Award’s trust, established by American company IMPAC, ran dry in 2013 after it ceased trading in Ireland in the mid-2000s.

Dublin City Council has admitted that it continues to seek an alternative funding body for the prize, which rewards an individual writer for excellence in English literature. As the global reach of the prize is of considerable value, the prospect of not awarding it does not appear to be an option. Changing the name of the prize, given it is no longer associated with IMPAC, is also up for debate but the Council have confirmed that this is not currently a priority.

With the winner due to be announced on 17th of June, the €100,000 prize money will be deducted from Dublin City Council’s accounts along with further administration costs of €80,250. Councillor Mannix Flynn has expressed some frustration with this news, saying: ‘It’s a grandiose gesture when you have a city that is suffering from great austerity and the vast majority of artists are living well below the poverty line.’


A Night with Cave Writings

Cave Writings, Dublin

Cave Writings have called on the folks of The Bohemyth and Belleville Park Pages to stage readings from twelve talented Irish writers, all of whom are currently gaining recognition on the Irish literary scene. It’s BYOB on a Tuesday, which I feel is always a good option. Full details can be found here.


Magic Books and Trees

I was pretty happy when I found out about the Norwegian ‘Future Library’ referred to in last week’s Lit Review. I was certain this was one of the most magical things I would hear for a long time – but that was until I heard about this. A new book, Mi Papa Estuvo en la Selva (My Dad was in the Jungle) genuinely makes me want to burst with joy. According to this article, publishers in Argentina have produced a book for children that is recyclable, but that doesn’t mean that children have to throw the book into the green bin once they finish reading it, The books, made with acid free paper and printed with acid free ink, have jacaranda seeds nestled within the paper. Once they have finished the book, children get to plant it in the soil and watch their story grow before their eyes. Now that is a truly beautiful idea.


 RTE Guide / Penguin Ireland Short Story competition 2015

Here is a lovely competition for short story writers. There is no fee for entering but only one entry is allowed per person, so make sure to send in your very best work. The closing date isn’t until June 19th, so there is still time to submit. Good luck to all who enter.


27th Lambda Literary Awards


The Lammys, the highlight of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature world, took place in New York City earlier this week. Presenter for the evening, Alan Cumming, described the ceremony as ‘a celebration of queer culture and queer literature.’ Writer and director John Waters was presented with the award for Excellence in Literature. Waters, who famously warned people that if they go home with someone and they don’t own books ‘don’t fuck them’, admitted after the ceremony that he had made some exceptions since then. ‘I said that years ago! And I’m a liar… If they’re cute enough, you make exceptions.


Best Literary Pals


The real ‘fellowship’, also known as The Inklings, came together in the 1920s during time spent as scholars in Oxford. This dynamic group met for decades, bound by their extraordinary literary talents and their shared interest in ‘myth, folklore, languages and Christianity.’  The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, written by Philip and Carol Zaleski, reveals the dynamics of the group, which was composed primarily of C.S Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, philosopher Owen Barfield, and poet Charles Williams. Despite Lewis’ sharing his reservations regarding a draft of a story by J.R.R Tolkien, saying ‘[w]hether it is really good (I think it is until the end) is of course another question: still more, whether it will succeed with modern children’, their shared interest soon evolved into great mutual admiration when the first draft of the story eventually became The Hobbit. Lewis wrote in The Times Literary Supplement how his good pal had discovered ‘a world that seems to have been going on before we stumbled into it but which, once found by the right reader, becomes indispensable to him.’


Oddly Provincial

Marina Warner, writer, mythologist and academic, has shared her view that literature published in the UK is too close to home. With just 3% of books published in the UK in translation, the judge of the recent Man International Booker Prize explained that ‘possessing a world language can make us oddly provincial in outlook.’ Warner, along with her fellow judges, selected Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai from their shortlist of ten writers from diverse backgrounds such as Libya, Mozambique and Lebanon.

This week, Warner gave a lecture at the University of London entitled Translumination or Travesty?: The Passage into English, where she discussed the character of global fiction, the difficulties of making decisions, and the issues around the domination of English as a world language. She explained how she and her fellow Man International judges ‘all wanted to move out across the map of the world and listen in to many voices on wavelengths our systems don’t pick up, in this country, very attentively.’