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Novelist stops reviewing because of rampant misogyny in crime fiction: UPDATED

Novelist Clive Barker once called horror fiction the last refuge of the chauvinist. Jessica Mann might beg to differ. The British novelist, who also reviews crime fiction for the Literary Review, says that she has become so sickened by the “sadistic misogyny” in many crime novels that she’s giving up reviewing any more fiction.

Quoted in the Guardian, Mann insists that she doesn’t advocate censorship, but says she can no longer abide repeated descriptions of sadistic psychopaths doing increasingly horrific things to their female victims:

“Authors must be free to write and publishers to publish. But critics must be free to say they have had enough. So however many more outpourings of sadistic misogyny are crammed on to the bandwagon, no more of them will be reviewed by me,” said Mann, who has written her own bestselling series of crime novels and a non-fiction book about female crime writers.

She said that when a female corpse recently appeared on the jacket of a crime-writing colleague’s new book, the author pointed out to her publisher that the victim in the story was actually a man. Mann said the publisher replied: “Never mind that. Dead, brutalised women sell books, dead men don’t. Nor do dead children or geriatrics.”

Mann goes on to point out that many of the most “inventive” misogynistic crime novels are actually written by women (the Guardian article mentions Val McDermid, Tess Gerritsen, and Canada’s own Kathy Reichs, among others). McDermid claims that the genre has become so sensational because the market demands it:

“There has been a general desensitisation among readers, who are upping the ante by demanding ever more sensationalist and gratuitous plotlines,” she said. “But when women write about violence against women, it will almost inevitably be more terrifying because women grow up knowing that to be female is to be at risk of attack. We write about violence from the inside. Men, on the other hand, write about it from the outside.”

UPDATE (OCT. 27): The original article from the Guardian‘s website, upon which this post was based, has been updated with the following notice:

This article was amended on Tuesday 27 October 2009. We previously said that one of the country’s leading crime writers and critics “is refusing to review new books” but that should have been “is refusing to review some violent new books.” This has been corrected.


October 26th, 2009

12:17 pm

Category: Book news

Tagged with: the Guardian