The article lays it out:
The piece goes on to say that while the male research subjects didn't regard novels as a constant companion to their "life's journey," the women did, and that the gender clichés the (admittedly limited) research established shocked Jardine and Watkins, though in historicizing the findings, it led them (and certainly anyone familiar with the English novel's 18th century beginnings) back to the period when the genre was considered primarily to have appeal to women (Tristram Shandy and Tom Jones were novels of that era that brought men into the fold).
Professor Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins of Queen Mary College interviewed 500 men, many of whom had some professional connection with literature, about the novels that had changed their lives. The most frequently named book was Albert Camus's (at left, Today in Literature) The Outsider, followed by JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. The project, called Men's Milestone Fiction, commissioned by the Orange prize for fiction and the Guardian, followed on from similar research into women's favourite novels undertaken by the same team last year.The results are strikingly different, with almost no overlap between men's and women's taste. On the whole, men preferred books by dead white men: only one book by a woman, Harper Lee, appears in the list of the top 20 novels with which men most identify.
Women, by contrast, most frequently cited works by Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Margaret Atwood, George Eliot and Jane Austen. They also named a "much richer and more diverse" set of novels than men, according to Prof Jardine. There was a much broader mix between contemporary and classic works and between male and female authors.
Jardine's and Watkins's chief suggestion is that the book publishing industry take the findings into account, as men between the ages of "20 and 50" don't read novels, and the industry is still male-dominated in some key ways and doesn't always take female readers' interests and affinities in aggregate seriously. (In the US publishing industry, from an economic perspective, one would be quite wrong in asserting this, though from in an intellectual perspective, I think it's worthy of discussion) Though the NEA's own 2004 study, "Reading at Risk," correlates somewhat this last point, in the United States at least, I wonder what a larger survey, or one taken in the US might show. It also makes me think about the importance of novels in my own life, but also how they function in relation to the dichotomies that this Queen Mary College study maps out.
Uptown is the place to be, as the "Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964–1980" show has just opened at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Curated by scholar Kellie Jones, it's one of the biggest shows focusing specifically on Black abstract artists in the last few years, and includes works by 15 of the major ones of the late 20th century, including Alma Thomas, Jack Whitten, William T. Williams (whose "Trane" is pictured at left, Studio Museum in Harlem), Sam Overstreet, Melvin Edwards, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Howardena Pindell, and Martin Puryear, among others.
The grand opening was last night, and I couldn't make it, but I definitely intend to make my way up there to catch it as soon as I can. The New York Times's Holland Cotter writes a thoughtful review that notes how this vital body of artwork has gotten lost in the larger narrative of (African-)American art, which makes this show an crucial historical and representational intervention, though he also points to these artists' influences on subsequent generations of Black and non-Black artists--and they are all over (and referenced at various moments in) Seismosis. There have been a few fairly recent, strong shows of Black abstract artists, including at Franklin & Marshall College just a few years ago, and most survey books on African-American art (if not American art) do devote critical space to this aesthetic movement and its offshoots, but this one is a an important one for the capital of American art, New York, where many of these artists have lived and worked. Don't miss if it if you can.
My poem for today is a transcription of one of Chase-Riboud's (1939-) "Cleopatra" poems, which composer Mark Vores set to music. Chase-Riboud is probably best known as a sculptor and novelist (Sally Hemings, 1979; Echo of Lions, 1980, on which the movie Amistad was [illegally?] based; Venus Hottentot, 2003), but she is also a published poet. Her first book, From Memphis to Peking, was edited by Toni Morrison and appeared in 1974, and Portrait of a Nude Woman as Cleopatra, which appeared in 1987, received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.
O, FRIENDLY ENEMY, WE HAVE LOVED
O friendly enemy, we have loved,
Loin and haunch, limb and flank, truth and lies,
Tressed like a pair of ancient Armenian vines
Grown together root and branch in stunted
Commingling without End or Beginning.
If we part, you will leave with half of me,
Or I with half of you, and nothing will kill
The pain of dismembering.
That ache like some rare jewel
Will hang round our necks to touch,
In tender tremulance, an old wound of amputation
That burns and groans in limbs no longer existent
But splintered and crushed
In some long-forgotten and useless War.
Copyright © Barbara Chase-Riboud, All rights reserved.