Also interesting was the blatant self-congratulation on saving the voice of the other. Some quotes from Colum McCann, the Irish writer who won the Fiction prize:
"As fiction writers and people who believe in the word, we have to enter the anonymous corners of human experience to make that little corner right."
"As someone who's come from Ireland, I am extraordinarily honored. It seems to me that American literature is able to embrace the other."
Okay, so if McCann actually believes that American literature is completely fair, equal, and unbiased, maybe these comments are not so bad. But put into the context of a sexist and racist society, where white men are the privileged class, which sadly continues to be the case in literature as well... um, yeah, they seem pretty bad. It's almost like he's saying, as long as us menfolk are here to interpret the world and tell the untold stories, the rest of you needn't worry about it!
Then there was this from Dave Eggers, who won the Literarian Award:
"I think this is the most exciting and democratic time," he said. "There is a pluralism in publishing that is unprecedented."
Okay, guys, really? These statements are quite the head-scratchers. Could you just look around maybe, be a little self-aware, and notice who happens to NOT be standing on the platform next to you? If you're such geniuses at pluralism and noticing who's anonymous and embracing the other, then why the fuck aren't you noticing those who are invisible at your own awards ceremony?
You'd think this would have been especially apparent when Claudette Colvin, an African American woman who as a teenager in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus (which sounds like a pretty kick-ass story and preceded the better-known Rosa Parks incident), accompanied writer Phillip Hoose on stage. However, the main focus here was on Hoose, who was accepting the award for Young People's Literature... which he won telling her story.
"The Complete Stories" by Flannery O'Connor wins Best of the National Book Awards award, nominated by 10,000 votes from the public. No one can come up to collect the award for the late, great author. Borowitz: "I have nothing to add."
Great. Thanks a million, National Book Awards!
This comes only a few weeks after Publisher Weekly's Best Books list completely SHUT OUT women writers from its top ten. Here's their confidence-building statement on that list, from PW director Louisa Ermelino:
"We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the 'big' books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet. It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male."
Uh, yeah. You think? Could it be that your sexism and racism was subconscious? Because that's maybe a little bit how things like sexism and racism work?
Finally, in the name of righteous indignation, commiseration, and learning more about awesome women writers, I would highly recommend checking out the online community She Writes, as well as the recently formed WILA (Women In Literary Arts).
Crossposted at Library Cat.