First of all, let's just give it up for Publishers' Weekly this year. They have announced their "Ten Best Books of 2010,"
and guess what? There are WOMEN on it! And one of them isn't white! Wow! (Is anyone else wondering, however, why these knuckleheads had Patti Smith, the rocker of all time, make a kind of Britney-fied "oops I did it again" expression, like a coquette who can't believe she's on the cover of Publishers' Weekly
?) I still think it would be awesome, and so telling, to see a list that was ALL FEMALE this year, and let the anointing body say, as they did last year
, "It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all (fe)male." ("And then we thought, screw it! We're gonna publish it anyway!")
This year, in fact, five of PW's top ten books were written by women. Half, in other words. Kind of like how half the population is female. But last year's list was 100% male, and 90% white
. So while I am grateful and happy and pleased as all hell to see this list...I just can't resist pointing out two little/big things.
ONE: Publishers' Weekly, you still so don't get it.
How do I know? Because in the intro to this year's list, you wrote: "This year we took our annual slugfest to the pub underneath our new office and came up with a list of the year's top 100 books that could be our best ever. It wasn't any easier with a drink in hand to pick, and agree upon, the best books of 2010, but we did it. And, as a magazine that's published continuously since 1872 and reviews over 7,000 books a year, we had a lot to consider. The women are back... strong... and we're all over the globe."
Ok forgetting about the macho, back-slapping "slugfest" in the pub for a minute -- "the women are back"? Back?
Did we leave? Where we not around last year? Did not Barbara Kingsolver and Mary Karr and Lorrie Moore and Margaret f-ing Atwood publish books last year? Oy. Seriously. Major oy. And still only two people of color, up from one last year. I guess not-white people are still "not showing up" for the PW party. Maybe they will decide to come back next year. PW will be so glad to have them, I know.
NOTE TO PW EDITORS: Stop acting like you are oracles, and fess up to the fact that you are HUMAN BEINGS with prejudices, proclivities and tastes just like everybody else. Women and not-white people didn't fail to show up last year: YOU F-ED UP LAST YEAR.
An apology -- or at least an acknowledgment -- would be so rad.
TWO: "Best" book lists are stupid. Stop making them. Please.
Couldn't somebody just say "favorite"? PW's "Favorite" books of 2010, and maybe even sign their names to the lists they make? Would that be so wrong? Would so many fewer people buy it? I can't believe that Patti Smith, of all people, is on the cover of a magazine that thinks it has the authority (since 1872!) to tell people what/who is "best." Last year they put the lone black guy on the cover, holding his book under his arm like it was a watermelon.
ADDITIONAL NOTE TO PW EDITORS: putting non-white guys on the cover of your magazine does not cover up the fact that you love them so much.
So no, I'm not grateful
to PW for including women on its list this year. It's only as it should be, and should have been last year too. This isn't the last you will hear from me on this subject, and I hope it's not the last I'll hear from you, either. One more time to Patti (who I kind of worship, if that isn't obvious by now) who once said
""When I perform, I can’t say I feel like a male or a female. What I feel is not in the human vocabulary." I want to feel like that too. But as long as my industry's major magazine keeps talking about "the women," I have to keep talking back.
She Writers: let's keep on our eye on all these lists as we make our way through awards season. And let's do it until -- and so -- we don't have to do it anymore.