“Literature’s Glass Ceiling,” the story of Jennifer Weiner ’91’s campaign to have novels written by women taken seriously as literature (cover story, Sept. 17), contains a rather startling assertion that is not supported by a single shred of meaningful evidence. Weiner states that “women authors, much more than men, are put in the explicit position of having to decide, ‘Do I want respect and reviews, or do I want readers?’” She goes on to state: “There are novels, and then there are ‘women’s novels.’ There is no male equivalent for chick lit.”
It is true that, with few exceptions, male authors generally do not set out to appeal to a single gender of readers, whereas many women authors, including quite explicitly Weiner herself, do precisely that. As your article states, “Weiner’s novels feature modern women coping with the struggles of contemporary family life ... who overcome these hurdles to find their happy ending.” Mirroring her own life experiences, many of her featured characters are “plus-size women.” Let’s be honest; do you know any men who would find this formula appealing? And is it fair to suggest that because we do not, we are part of a vast, male-led conspiracy to deprive women authors of the respect they so richly deserve?
If you’ll excuse me now, I must complete preparation of a review for my men’s book club, where we will discuss Bel Canto, a marvelous novel by one of Ms. Weiner’s contemporaries, Ann Patchett, and a winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Excellence in Fiction. By the way, three of the four most recent winners of this award were novels written by women, suggesting that there are women authors who have earned respect, reviews, and readers.