The Seattle Review of Books, founded by Martin McClellan and Paul Constant, launches today.
Seattle is the greatest book city in the United States
We have marvelous bookstores, excellent libraries, a vibrant community of writers, the most eager readers, world-famous institutions devoted to the art and craft of writing and reading, and a tremendous readings scene that hosts thousands of literary events a year. But for a multitude of reasons, Seattle’s media barely bothers to cover books at all.
We felt it was time for a publishing venture that intends to reflect, record, and celebrate our underserved literary community. From writers to readers, from booksellers to librarians, from new releases to antiquarian discoveries, we want to examine exactly what it means to love books and writing in Seattle in the 21st century. We believe the book review is an underrated art form, and we want to publish as much beautiful writing about books as humanly possible.
Paul interviewed me for the launch:
(Nicola Griffith, best-known as the local author of Hild, published an astonishing blog post in late May of this year. Titled “Books about women don’t win big awards: some data,” Griffith presented a number of striking charts demonstrating the gender split between winners of awards like the Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker, the National Book Award, and the Newbery Medal over the last 15 years. Unsurprisingly, more men than women have won almost all of those awards. But then Griffith noted an especially interesting statistic: the women who do win awards tend to win for books about male main characters. The post went viral. One week later, Griffith asked other people to take up her charge, to help count women’s voices in literature:
So, we need data. This is where you come in. We need many people counting many things. The more who count, the less each of us has to do.
Last week, Griffith spoke with the Seattle Review of Books about her findings, the status of the project, and what all this damning data means for the state of the publishing industry.)
Thanks so much for making the time for us. First, I wanted to talk about how you came to decide to quantify this gender divide in a way that, to my knowledge, had never been done before.
It’s a whole bunch of coming-together of circumstances. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years — I definitely was talking about it in the early 2000s. I remember doing a blog post called “Girl Cooties,”which was basically about this issue. I’d done a rough [gender] count, but I hadn’t done the graphs. People listened, but it didn’t really go anywhere; everybody kind of knows it’s true, but they don’t want to see it.
My book Hild was out here in paperback and it came out in the UK in hardcover, so I had to do publicity — write “five-best” lists and, you know, that kind of thing. So I was thinking about my five favorite historical novels and I wrote them down and I was pleased because at least three of them, or actually four of them, were by women. I thought, “yay women!” And then I realized that those books by women were all about men. And then I thought, “goddamn.” These were my influences.
And at that point, my wife was working — still is working — downtown at an SEO-based tech company. She was having to rejigger how she presented her material to them, and so she started doing a lot of charts. And so I looked at the charts one day, and I thought to myself, “you know what? I could do this in charts.”
If you read the rest (it’s a bit under 3000 words) you’ll see it’s conversational, and quite unlike my written style. This is because the interview is a verbatim transcript of a phone conversation (no editing, at least not by me). I’d love to know what you think.