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Back To Literature, Past
A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Trust Time Magazine for Ruining my Day!

Women’s Collectible Books Selling for Pennies on the Dollar from Men’s

As crappy as Time magazine sometimes makes me feel, I admit I love them for it. I have been subscribing for probably more than fifty years without a single year missed and admit they may have brainwashed me.

The question is, could something published on April 1 be an April’s Fool joke? I am hoping so, but I’m gullible (read that trusting!) enough to believe an impossibly truth.

It seems “American Writer A. N. Devers was at a rare-book fair when she noticed an old Joan Didion title selling for $25.” She also “noticed a Cormac McCarthy novel was selling for $600.” Ahem. McCarthy is a contemporary writer just like Didion. Both are recognizable names by a large segment of the population. (Just in case you didn’t notice, McCarthy is a guy and, well, Didon is not!)

I am not pretending this is a scientific comparison, study, treatise, dissertation, or anything else that shouts “intelligent” or “trusted resource.” I don’t need to do that to let you know I was immediately disgusted. Honestly, I was ticked with Time, too. The headline read, “A bookstore that’s turning a page for women in literature.” Good news indeed, but it seemed a tad too mild under the circumstances.

Of course I was glad to hear that the experience inspired Devers to open her own bookstore. It’s called the Second Shelf and is “tucked away in a quiet courtyard off the busy streets of London’s Soho.” Another slight? It sounds tired. It sounds lonesome. It sounds anything but high-powered. And the supposition is, women (and the owners) should be satisfied with that. I mean, it isn’t as highly trafficked as any retailer or feminist might like, but it carries women’s work—almost exclusively. I’m trying not to be “histerical” here. Devers is “trying to correct a historical imbalance that has allowed women’s literary achievements to be eclipsed.” Devers says that, like other artistic and news media, this history of literature is similar—that the men who lead most any industry “focus on themselves.”

What Deers says is true. But it doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t rant a bit—or a lot! Am I the only one? Time reports that titles by women published in 2018 are priced 45% lower than books by men.

To take this one step further, I am a constant consumer of a certain kind of media that should be the most likely to do more on this topic, but I haven’t heard a peep from NBC, National Geographic, Smithsonian…sigh!

That is in spite of the fact the Women’s History Month made March a time to project the idea that greater attention should be paid to women in literature (and other arenas) with the reading lists, etc.

Well, yeah!

PS: It is amazing that Time published obituaries on the opposite page from this article on a women’s bookstore. W.S. Merwine, a renowned poet, was featured, and Birch Bayh, a politician I remember from long ago were eulogized on that page (no women!). Time did mention that Bayh called for gender equality even back then. See, that’s one of the reasons that I keep forgiving Time. It’s not much, but it’s a gesture. And…like everyone else, I have been trained to be grateful for even the gentlest nod . . .

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Gift for Writers:

To learn more about how authors can battle the fear of writing, the fear of speaking, and even the fear of success, read the first few chapters of my The Frugal Book Promoter and then keep reading to help take the stress out of book marketing (and nurture an affinity for it!)

For Everyone:

You may not read newspapers like you once did. You may never have acquired the habit or—if you did—you found the news on web in places like Politico easier and maybe less expensive. If you are one of those, I hope you will pick up a paper soon. There you will find real depth that few news programs or web stories do. You will also be supporting investigative reporters like the ones at the Washington Post who reminded us of their role assigned them by our Constitution. Media—ethical media--helps maintain our freedoms. Free press for all its flaws is important to the preservation of democracies. It needs our understanding, our insistence on ethics, and our support if we and other free nations are to continue to prosper. We can all be a part of that.

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