Troy Posted January 6, 2016 Report Share Posted January 6, 2016 Award winning author, Marlon James says, as reported in The Guardian's article: 'Writers of colour pander to the white woman' The 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James has slammed the publishing world, saying authors of colour too often “pander to white women” to sell books, and that he could have been published more often if he had written “middle-style prose and private ennui”. At a sold-out Guardian event on Friday night, James said publishers too often sought fiction that “panders to that archetype of the white woman, that long-suffering, astringent prose set in suburbia. You know, ‘older mother or wife sits down and thinks about her horrible life’.” Women, particularly white women, make up the vast majority of regular fiction readers, purchasing two thirds of all books sold in the UK. Almost 50% of women classify themselves as avid readers, compared to 26% of men. (read the rest of the article) ----------- From facebook Marlon James November 25, 2015 · So I'm still unpacking Claire Vaye Watkins' potentially game changing essay, "On Pandering," going almost a section per day. What I'm thinking so far: that while she recognizes how much she was pandering to the white man, we writers of colour spend way too much of our lives pandering to the white woman. I've mentioned this before, how there is such a thing as "the critically acclaimed story." You see it occasionally in certain highbrow magazines and journals. Astringent, observed, clipped, wallowing in its own middle-style prose and private ennui, porn for certain publications. And I knew from early on how to write the kind of story that would get published. Honestly, had I followed that formula (or style?) if I pandered to a cultural tone set by white women, particular older white female critics, I would have had 10 stories published by now. There's an award that I have been a finalist for, more than once, and in both situations I was the only person who knew that I wouldn't win. I looked at the winner and I look at the judges and both followed exactly the same aesthetic. And looked the same as well. I knew right there, what they were looking for in a book and I knew the winner fulfilled it with flying colours, even if it wasn't that great a book. The last contest I judged, the initial favourite was yet again, "bored suburban white woman in the middle of ennui, experiences keenly observed epiphany." And though we'll never admit it, every writer of colour knows that they stand a higher chance of getting published if they write this kind of story. We just do. Anyway, still reading. Like Share Maaza Mengiste, Lara Stapleton, Jeffery Renard Allen and 462 others like this. 43 comments 69 shares Comments Robert Garland Wow. It is pretty much the same creating work and working in my field, ballet. White woman basically run things, although top leadership is predominantly male. In spite of this most casting and artistic discussion happens underneath the top layer, which is predominantly white and female. That, by far, is the real accomplishment of Misty Copeland in that environment. Like · 16 · November 25, 2015 at 6:18am Marie Mockett Loathed this essay on my first three passes and was mystified by why it's affecting so many. Still digesting. I mean sure....no to pandering. But so much of this,.. The whining over being pregnant and having nothing...so in relatable. Like · 6 · November 25, 2015 at 7:19am Joanna Rakoff replied · 3 Replies Marguerite Orane I meet them in the dozens in my writing classes Like · 1 · November 25, 2015 at 7:31am Raj A Iype An astringent commentary on the state of affairs Sir. Like · 2 · November 25, 2015 at 7:54am Mark Wisniewski Wow. & as I read this I kept thinking: If he'd posted this before having won the Man Booker, he'd have been committing literary suicide. Like · 13 · November 25, 2015 at 7:55am Court Merrigan Nah. That book stands on its own merits. Like · 1 · November 25, 2015 at 10:28am Swati Khurana The invisible cloak of whiteness allows the writer to not wince while smoking a joint at a hotel pool (acknowledged), and to write things like "Burn the motherfucker down." (unacknowledged) I wouldn't, couldn't, write that because I don't want to get deported and my brother to get on a no-fly list. Thank you, Marlon James for saying things that so many of us can't. Like · 37 · November 25, 2015 at 8:20am · Edited Annie Paul saved that essay to read...this discussion makes me want to dive into it immediately smile emoticon Like · 1 · November 25, 2015 at 8:26am Christine Amor replied · 3 Replies Marlon James And as someone occasionally monitored by Dept. Of Homeland Security, I know exactly what you're talking about, Swati Khurana. Like · 20 · November 25, 2015 at 8:29am John Domini Dibs on: "Astringent, observed, clipped, wallowing in its own middle-style prose and private ennui, porn for certain publications."As for Watkins' essay, certainly Stephen Elliott proved himself nothing less than abhorrent. Like · 6 · November 25, 2015 at 8:44am Annie Paul hmmm can't access it...link doesn't work, tried several times, wonder if the essay was taken down? Like · November 25, 2015 at 8:47am Annie Paul replied · 2 Replies Porochista Khakpour I tried to address these issues and more in sort of sidebar Twitter essay. It was upsetting for me to read this essay on several levels. All very personal. Like · 6 · November 25, 2015 at 8:54am Porochista Khakpour (^ all personal, and don't know if that's a disclaimer or something I wish I could be proud of. My opinions, my work should matter, I would hope you right? But hard to even digest that. Esp as it got some support but comes in between seemingly endless hate mail about being a brown woman from a Muslim culture who should go back where I came from.) Like · 7 · November 25, 2015 at 8:57am Porochista Khakpour replied · 5 Replies Jana Bent OK so what about finding the backers & launching literary awards that celebrate the content that we want? Uniting and seeking the organizations that have the power to back and promote a literary award that celebrates and reflects our experiences? What's the first step in pulling that together? Like · 3 · November 25, 2015 at 9:06am Marie Mockett replied · 3 Replies Kathleen Warnock I know what you mean. In theater, the preponderance of work seen in mainstream houses is by white men; the 27% that's not (there was just an entire issue of The Dramatist that was devoted to a study called the Count that qualified these figures) is by ...See More Like · 1 · November 25, 2015 at 9:42am Annie Paul yup its down. see tweet: Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye.@Tin_House site back soon, I'm sure. Meanwhile, consider subscribing to TH. "On Pandering" is in the current issue + print never crashes. Like · November 25, 2015 at 9:51am Annie Paul replied · 2 Replies Sabrina McLaughlin "bored suburban white woman in the middle of ennui, experiences keenly observed epiphany." sounds very boring to me. Also happy belated birthday! Like · 4 · November 25, 2015 at 9:51am Sabrina McLaughlin replied · 2 Replies Robb Forman Dew Your comment is sufficiently insulting and offensive to all women writers--who have a hard enough time as it is--that you need to name the writer or writers, those bored white elderly women, whose writing you think of as "porn for certain magazines." Otherwise you're simply sounding grandiose, whiny, petulant and like you're about fifteen years old. Like · 8 · November 25, 2015 at 9:58am Lara Stapleton replied · 16 Replies Jon Anderson I am in the process of renewing my acquaintance with American lit, and I have noticed a preponderance of stories that fit this bill: "Astringent, observed, clipped, wallowing in its own middle-style prose and private ennui" -- and, at least when it co...See More Like · 7 · November 25, 2015 at 10:13am Terese Svoboda there aren't a lot of people with courage Like · 5 · November 25, 2015 at 10:14am Julia Brown So grateful for this thread. Like · 4 · November 25, 2015 at 10:20am Ifeona Fulani None of the critique in Watkins' essay is new - it's 80s literary feminist criticism reproduced for a younger generation. But the fact that it's such a revelation to many indicates how little has changed; women are still being trained to read and writ...See More Like · 38 · November 25, 2015 at 10:29am · Edited Sabra Wineteer replied · 3 Replies Kaitlyn Greenidge I think the root of it is fear--fear that if you start recognizing stories that don't fit this mold, then how can you tell when anything is actually *good*? It was a shock when I started thinking about publishing what I wrote and realized that there ar...See More Like · 16 · November 25, 2015 at 10:33am Court Merrigan I think the endless and dull stories of the "bored suburban white woman in the middle of ennui, experiences keenly observed epiphany" are the end product of a certain privileged, consumerist culture that has consumed itself into nothing, and now strive...See More Like · 10 · November 25, 2015 at 10:38am Court Merrigan replied · 2 Replies Carolyn Kellogg Not all white female critics want to read Marilynne Robinson, Alice Munro et al. Some of us much prefer the work of Marlon James. Like · 9 · November 25, 2015 at 10:57am Rose Bunch It is why you can can read two years worth of the New Yorker and only remember maybe one of the stories a week later. Like · 9 · November 25, 2015 at 3:28pm · Edited Court Merrigan replied · 1 Reply Emma Emma Emma Torzs White women are the next white men frown emoticon Like · 4 · November 25, 2015 at 11:33am Fragano Ledgister replied · 1 Reply Christian Campbell Listening. Like · 2 · November 25, 2015 at 12:22pm Lorraine Adams I don't write like those women. I will never write like those women. And I have never been published in the New Yorker, which champions that vaguely dissatisfied in Connecticut short story. And I don't give a rat's ass. Like · 4 · November 25, 2015 at 12:30pm Christine Amor replied · 3 Replies Marie Mockett It is a truth universally acknowledged that an essay like this must use the battle rousing word "fuck" somewhere, preferably toward the end, which this does. What mystifies me is that it does not suggest that people "on the periphery" become powerful t...See More Like · 4 · November 25, 2015 at 1:10pm Zoe FitzGerald Carter Not to sound like a bitter white woman, but all the fans of yours I have met Marlon could, roughly speaking, be categorized as "bored, suburban white women." Just sayin. Like · 2 · November 25, 2015 at 2:03pm Melissa Chadburn Okay I just read it the whole way through and I will say this: You both have points. I mean I have forever said that Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower blows McCarthy's The Road completely out of the water. I will also say this narrative you speak of "bored suburban white woman in the middle of ennui, experiences keenly observed epiphany" still stints the relationship of women to power, still supports the patriarchy. I think the first gates are guarded by white men—editors, and it's they who choose to saturate the market with these quiet domestic stories. I'm thinking now also of Otessa Moshfegh's craft essay, How To Shit. Where she speaks of the fact that we can write the thing that sells but what about creating that hell raising shit that hammers at our insides. The art? It's a choice we make. Those of us who are bold enough to make it. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. Like · 13 · November 25, 2015 at 2:53pm · Edited Marlon James Just in case anybody missed my response to the four accusations levelled above, (insulting, offensive, sexist and racist) here is what I had to say: I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm being insulting or offensive or racist at all, and I'm mystified by the criticism. Maybe a quick survey of writers of colour would provide some of the revelations that we take for granted, but I'm just relaying conversations I've had countless times with writers of colour and everyone in tune with the narrow opportunities for us in this industry. That includes women, some of them white who know exactly what I'm talking about and fight against it— with even the works they publish from white women. But again I'm puzzled by the accusation of sexism and racism, because by that extension, you are also saying that the 153 women who liked this status and the over two dozen who shared it, also share sexist and racists views. Either that or we all have a warped delusion of the world of letters. You're going to have to tell all 251 of us in total (including quite a few white women) how is it that we are so offensively wrong, but you're right. I also question your use of the royal "all" in your reference to women, which seems like a generalization that other women have not allowed you to make. Like · 14 · November 25, 2015 at 5:27pm · Edited Marlon James Also just in case we have also missed this, white women have also had to pander to a narrow definition of the white female experience, and the expectation of the white female writer (experiential!!) and they are sick of this shit too. Like · 42 · November 25, 2015 at 4:56pm Marie Mockett replied · 11 Replies Christine Amor Like many (most?) stereotypes, this one comes to us from the world of marketing. squint emoticon Like · November 25, 2015 at 5:14pm Marlon James I can also guarantee you, Robb that none of the women I know in this thread are the "sycophants," you've called them on yours. Time to re-evaluate sexist. Like · 2 · November 25, 2015 at 5:56pm Morowa Yejide Stating the obvious... but thanks..... Like · 1 · November 25, 2015 at 6:26pm Morowa Yejide replied · 4 Replies Robb Forman Dew Who are the women writers you are talking about, Marlon? Like · 2 · November 25, 2015 at 7:07pm Jeneille Lewis I would never read those kind of stories...and I'm so thankful that you're not writing them. To this day Marlon...you're the only writer whose books I (1) Pre-order (2) Get in Multiple copies (because friends give friends books) and (3) purchase in hardcover, paperback AND e-book. Like · 1 · November 25, 2015 at 7:10pm Marlon James Robb, I honestly don't think you're getting the point, despite me and Anisse explaining it over and over. I'm not attacking any white woman, and certainly not older for that matter since Nadine Gordimer's writing for example, would never have fit that ...See More Like · 17 · November 26, 2015 at 2:54am · Edited Anisse Gross Is there an open bar on this thread anywhere? I need a drink. Like · 19 · November 25, 2015 at 10:05pm Robb Forman Dew replied · 1 Reply Robb Forman Dew Marlon, I do see that you've always been a champion of women writers, that's why I was so hurt to find myself apparently being attacked because I'm white and elderly. I have had to fight those battles since I was eighteen, simply to be heard at all, an...See More Like · 7 · November 26, 2015 at 8:37am Robb Forman Dew replied · 2 Replies Christine Amor Does anybody else realise that if vacuous drivel was all that got published, we wouldn't be having this conversation? If all publishers, at all times, stuck to the formula, who would have published Marlon's work? Like · 2 · November 26, 2015 at 9:40am Joseph Pravda epiphany101: great writing is unteachable, editors be damned Like · 3 · November 26, 2015 at 12:22pm ------------ The idea Marlon's remarks comes as a revelation to anyone, other than perhaps white women is astonishing. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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