Quick -- think of your ten favorite writers! Write down their names -- and do it quickly... no stopping to hem and haw and weigh their relative merits. Just write down ten names of writers you truly enjoy reading: classic, contemporary, fiction, nonfiction, poetry... just get those names down.
(Musical interlude while I wait -- I am currently listening to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition...)
Alright, now look at that list of names. How many are men? How many are women?
Here's mine (in the order they came to mind):
Now, on any given Sunday (or any other day of the week, for that matter), this list would, in all probability, be different. I read eclectically: fiction, nonfiction, children's literature. I am always discovering a new favorite author. But these were the ones that came to mind today.
So, my list consists of six men and four women. But I am curious as to what the gender proportions would be on the lists of other readers, both female and male. My guess is that the lists of men would contain far more male writers, while the lists of women would, in general, more balanced, like mine, primarily because females, young, old and "of a certain age," are far more likely to read fiction in which the main character is male than boys and men are willing to read books in which the main character is female.
And just what is the point, you are probably asking?
Well, Grammarly, an automated proofreading platform that checks for grammar and spelling errors, as well as detecting plagiarism, recently released a survey it conducted to determine an answer to the age-old question: Who writes better, men or women?
The poll, which received over 3,000 responses, concluded that overall, based on a variety of factors, women are better writers than men.
For example, according to the poll, women are more likely to create well-developed characters, while men are more likely to get to and through the plot points.
Women are, according to the poll, far more likely to write long, descriptive sentences than men. (Although I am thinking this is a recent development... either that, or Charles Dickens, William Faulkner and Nathaniel Hawthorne were pseudonyms for Cecily Dunning, Wilma Flossbender and Nannette Hairston-Smith.
Now, depending on your mood and inclination, you might be looking for one type of writing or the other. So I am not sure we can ever really come to a definitive conclusion. And 3,000 responses is a minuscule sample of readers; however, it sure makes a fun debate.
I would be interested in seeing if a reader could tell --- just by reading a paragraph or two --- if the author was a man or a woman.
So here goes:
"The baron, followed by the count, traversed a long suite of apartments, in which the prevailing characteristics were heavy magnificence and the gaudiness of ostentatious wealth, until he reached the boudoir of Madame ________, a small octagonal-shaped room, hung with pink satin covered with white Indian muslin; the chairs were of ancient workmanship and materials; over the doors were painted sketches of shepherds and shepherdesses after the style and manner of Boucher; and at each side pretty medallions in crayons, harmonizing well with the fittings-up of this charming apartment, the only one though out the vast hotel in which any distinctive taste prevailed."
"Still she stared into his face with that slow, full gaze which was so curious and so exciting to him. He was acutely and delightfully conscious of himself, of his own attractiveness. He felt full of strength, able to give off a sort of electric power. And he was aware of her blue, exposed-looking eyes upon him. She had beautiful eyes, flower-like, fully opened, naked in their looking at him. And on them there seemed to float a curious iridescence, a sort of film of disintegration, and sullenness, like oil on water."
And one more:
"It was a citified, stylish man with his hat set at an angle that didn't belong in these parts. His coat was over his arm, but he didn't need it to represent his clothes. The shirt with the silk sleeve holders was dazzling enough for the world. He whistled, mopped his face and walked like he knew where he was going."
Care to hazard at a guess at the gender of each writer?
Just another important role that local public libraries play in their communities: serving as warming centers during the times that the Arctic deep freeze ventures south of the Canadian border. Like yesterday and today in the Chicago area.
This January I'll be warming up at libraries all over Northern Illinois:
Tuesday, January 13th - 7 pm @ the Robert Rowe Public Library in Sheridan:
Thursday, January 15th - 7 pm @ the Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove:
Saturday, January 17th - 10 - 2 pm @ the Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien for their first Local Authors' Fair:
Sunday, January 18th - 2 pm @ the Barrington Area Library in Barrington:
Those are all actual visits for presentations (if Nature cooperates!)
I have some virtual visits as well. I'll be Skyping with book clubs at the Orland Park Public Library and the Plainfield Public Library on January 20 and 21st.
A very busy month -- but's that's good. I won't have time to think about how cold it is!
Looking forward to a busy month of library appearances, including:
Sunday, November 2nd at the Forest Park Public Library
Saturday, November 8th at the ISLMA Conference Author Showcase and at the Green Hills Public Library in Palos Hills
Saturday, November 15th at the Eisenhower Public Library in Harwood Heights
Tuesday, November 18th at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs
It's certainly a reminder of one of the things for which I am very thankful: a library in which to wander.
I had an absolutely lovely time visiting the Berwyn Public Library this past Saturday. Thank you so very much to Becky Spratford, librarian extraordinaire, for facilitating my presentation, and to all the Friends of the Library members who showed up to hear me ramble on about the importance of libraries in our lives. I know I was preaching to the choir... but I hope everyone enjoyed my Snooki snark!
Thank you so very much to the Gail Borden Library in Elgin for hosting me last Thursday night and hugs and kisses to the incredible trio of librarians who facilitated my visit: Denise, Liz and Tish. You made me feel so welcome and comfortable enough to endure The Big Questions from my charming interviewer, Robert K. Elder, writer and editor-in-chief and vice president of Digital Content for the Sun-Times Media Local. Being interviewed in front of an audience must be a bit like having sex in public (not that I've ever done that!): 1) it helps if you're a bit of an exhibitionist and 2) you really feel under pressure to do it right.
And an especially BIG thank you to Rob for asking the questions that made me sound reasonably intelligent!
Thanks so very much to the Niles Public Library and the BIrdies Book Club (aka the Red, White and Read Book Club) of Wheaton for inviting me to attend two lively and absolutely fabulous book discussions for The Things We Save last week.
Attending these discussions has been a mind-expanding experience on how people make meaning through their reading. For example, at a book club, an attendee may make a comment on a situation or character in my novel, and then look at me as if to confirm that his or her answer was “correct.” When that happens, I just shrug and laugh and say something along the lines of “your guess is as good as mine.” Writing a book is like starting a conversation blindfolded and hoping someone will respond, but my intent and the reader’s interpretation don’t necessarily have to match perfectly, because the reader brings his or her own life experience and opinions to the pages. It’s like trying to state that there is a definitive meaning to a piece of poetry; you can’t, no matter what the most learned English professor may say. The writer may “mean” one thing; the reader may “get” something along the writer’s lines or something entirely different.
And either way, it’s okay.
Again, many thanks to Greta Ulrich of the Niles Library and Barb and Bonnie of the Birdies for inviting me to these events. I had a blast!
BTW: Red, White and Read is a reference to the liquid refreshments served that drive the lively conversation!
If happiness is wandering in a library... then this week promises double the joy!
I'll be visiting the gorgeous Niles Public Library on Monday, September 22 to join in on a discussion of The Things We Save and on Thursday I'll be appearing at the beautiful Gail Borden Library in Elgin. There I will be engaging in a conversation with Robert K. Elder, writer, editor-in-chief and vice-president of digital content for Sun-Times Media Local and the host of "The Big Questions" podcast. He's got quite the eclectic list of interviewees, so I am honored and thrilled to be among them. We'll be doing a live recording, so I will definitely have to practice speaking in full sentences before then!
Looks like it's going to be a very curvy week as well!
Thanks so very much to the Dundee Library of the Fox River Valley Library System for hosting me last Wednesday... I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and hope all who attended did so as well!
Looking forward to my appearance at the Dundee Public Library, part of the Fox River Valley Public Library District, on Wednesday, September 17th at 7 pm.
At least, I think this is what it looks like. For an experienced Google searcher, it was definitely tough to find an image of this library.
It's here... First Sunday... in football terms. Okay, so the Seahawks already slaughtered the Packers last Thursday... which brought much pleasure to those of us in Chicago... but today is the real beginning of the season of scientifically planned mayhem and strategically plotted violence. So, of course, we must celebrate that with a list of books that celebrate its charms and expose its rancid underbelly.
A highly subjective top 5 list of pigskin prose
#5. The Opening Kick-off: the Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation by Dave Revsine
How else to open a sports season but by looking at its history? Revsine focuses primarily on college football, providing a thorough and exhaustively researched look at the origins of the sport and its development, particularly the years from 1890 to 1915. Not surprisingly, the issues over which people are wringing their hands today -- the "professionalizing" and "merchandizing" of student athletes -- were the subject of serious discussion and histrionics back in the day as well. Football has always been seen as public relations tool and a moneymaker for colleges. This book lays bare the birth pains of a monolith. Fun fact: Before the rise of college football, strenuous physical activity was regarded as boorish, but football quickly became popular on campuses in the mid-19th century, especially among Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale. Go, eggheads! Reminds me of the cheer we had at the University of Chicago:
Themistocles, Thucydides, the Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Maroons! Maroons! Maroons! (or Morons, Morons, Morons, if the team was having a losing season, which was often the case...)
#4. Paper Lion by George Plimpton
Totally old-school memoir of how a famous journalist, editor of the Paris Review, legendary interviewer of Hemingway, talked the Detroit Lions into letting him join the team as a back-up quarterback... and the hilarious consequences that result for both Plimpton and his teammates. In 1963, Plimpton joins the team for training. The rest of the players think it's kind of strange that this tall and skinny dude is always jotting down things in a notebook between plays and while walking the sidelines. When his secret literary identity becomes known, he's teased mercilessly, but he stays with the team and plays on, failing miserably on the field, but writing excellent prose about the foibles, faults and ferocity of this American football life.
#3. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
Homeless kid in Memphis, one of 13 children of a crack-addicted mother, gets placed in a Christian high school and then adopted by a wealthy white family. Stuff of fiction? Stuff of popular movies for which actresses win Oscars? Well, no and yes. It's a true story and yes, Sandra Bullock did win the Academy Award for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, the matriarch of the family. However, the book goes beyond the sad, compelling story of Michael Oher to plumb the depths of structure of football and shows how the rise of the modern passing offense led, in turn, to the increasing emphasis on the defensive pass rusher and the quarterback sack, which, in turn again, led to the rise of the left tackle, the offensive lineman whose it is to protect the quarterback on the so-called "blind side."
#2. Friday Night Lights by H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger
If you live in Texas, where football is nothing less than a religion, Friday night is as sacred as Sunday morning. Or maybe the whole weekend is sacred: Friday night for high school football, Saturday afternoon for college football, and Sunday for the NFL. Bissinger puts high school football under the microscope and reveals the appalling mania that seizes students, teachers, parents, town officials and the general population of one specific Texas town: Odessa. Odessa's fortunes rise and fall with the energy industry, but the Permian Panthers are its pride and joy.
#1. Scoreboard, Baby: a story of college football, crime and complicity by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry
Rape, armed robbery, attempted murder, drug deals... with all their off-the-field activities, one wonders how the players on the University of Washington's 2000 Rose Bowl-winning team found time to practice. They were a Cinderella team with a golden-boy coach who had been lured by trunkfuls of money to jump-start a once-storied program that had fallen into mediocrity. An excellent expose of a sordid story that, only 14 years later, seems commonplace at many educational institutions across the United States, which might be more truthfully called large football stadiums with colleges attached, to paraphrase a line from the 1925 film, "The Freshman." If this is what it takes to win, give us honest and lovable losers.
For fictional look at the brutality and camaraderie of the football field, you can alsoqwq1 read Chapter 2 of my novel, The Things We Save, in which Claire and her beloved brother Joey suffer the consequences of engaging in a forbidden game of football in the family living room...
To find out more about me, click on the Not Your Average Jo tab.