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Friday, July 5, 2013

Messud's Powers, The National Book Award, and Other Ramblings

Well, you may as well know that I write fiction (AS A HOBBY!) and that I read fiction partly from a HOBBY NOVELIST'S point of view, but, and this is a BIG BUT, Claire Messud's A Woman Upstairs should--yes, should--unequivocally be considered for the National Book Award this year.

BUT because too many male judges will read it and dismiss this brilliant tour de force as a "Women's Novel," it will most likely not be named a finalist, and, if by some bizarre chance it should be declared a finalist, it will never win the award. (I am a feminist cynic, aren't I? You bet!) And that will be because the most significant characters are women portrayed living their lives in women's traditional roles. Yes, I can go out on my tree limb overhanging a cold, dark lake and say with a certitude, which comes from reading contemporary American literature for many decades, and also because I have been steeped like a moist teabag in the thick of American intellectual culture, that this will be the end result. American culture is still so male-dominated.

Oh, well, I say to myself, I and the rest of the 51 percent can collectively shrug our shoulders and say, "Messud is too brilliant a writer for men to figure out anyway."

It's not a totally comfortable read, but if you have had dreams and an intellectual life, and you are a woman (or a man), read it!

5 comments:

  1. Well, you've convinced me to read A Woman Upstairs anyway, I'll have to reserve it at my library.
    It HAS to be Andy's year. I probably won't be able to watch much of the final though - too stressful!

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  2. Sounds good. If I ever crawl out from under my TBR mystery pile and venture out into non-crime fiction against this year, I'll try to read this and Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys as well as Ruth Ozeki's newest book.

    I did venture out once this year to read the excellent Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

    I will pass the word along though.

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    1. Kathy,
      I'm looking forward to reading Flight Behavior. I know what you mean about the TBR pile. Mine is giving me nervous tremors (or earthquake tremors as some could fall over any minute) because I'll never read them all this summer even though I want to read every single book I haven't read very soon.

      Judith

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  3. I just checked the list of past National Book Award winners, and you may be right. I don't read enough contemporary fiction to say whether or not The Woman Upstairs is among the best of all the books published this year, but it is certainly very, very good.

    I think you liked it a bit more than I did, but it will probably be on my top ten reads list for 2013.

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    1. Hi, James,
      Thanks for posting your thoughts about The Woman Upstairs. I'm so glad that you found it to be a great read too, but even if you didn't and even if you disagree with my ideas, I hope you will feel free to say so.

      Judith

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