Lest anyone think I was picking on girls with my article on the books I rejected by female authors, rest assured that men are being kicked off the list in quantities five times that of women. The candidate list includes 1,443 works by male authors, and I must dump 1,399 of those to prepare for the reading project.
Many of the possibilities fell off the list as things I’d read before, or as an author’s secondary works, or for other basic reasons. But I still needed to compare over 400 selections to each other. What surprised me is the number of books that, based on their descriptions, I might have attributed to female authors. No offence!
One such book is Justine, by Laurence Durrell, described as a “tragic Egyptian love triangle in four parts.” Then there’s Paul Gallico’s Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, a humorous tale of a cleaning lady and a dress. Isn’t that the plot for the Jennifer Lopez chick flick Maid in Manhattan? Not to be outdone by any of these others is Bram Stoker, whose Dracula tome is a certain rip-off of the teen romantic classic Twilight.
Fortunately, there were enough war, thriller, and dystopian works to balance out the romance. One work that sounded interesting from hundreds of different angles was Cryptonomicon, a cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson that combines a dismal future world with code-breaking antics from World War II. Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being tells the dreary realities of life in Cold War-era Communist Czechoslovakia. Add to that Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. War, war war.
In the end, it’s not the gender of the author that drives the lightness or darkness of the content. There were several books by women that conveyed dark and depressing ideas. It seems that lists of great books are dominated by concepts that, for most people, are downers. The theme of overcoming life’s difficulties and stresses runs deep in the candidate list. While the final list will likely include a few comedies, the bulk of the reading will be heavy. I just hope the zombie apocalypse comes while I’m reading a happy book.
[Image Credits: The Death of Socrates” (1787) by Jacques-Louis David]