4 out of 4 stars
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If you have ever wondered if, “Authorial gender plays an important role in the sales success of a novel, as well as the novel’s critical reception,” (11), then you will enjoy Gender Bias in Mystery and Romance Novel Publishing: Mimicking Masculinity and Femininity by Anna Faktorovitch. This books attempts to describe how certain genres have a particular ‘gender’, particularly the mystery and romance novel genres – which both, she claims, have a gender bias: mystery is stereotypically male, while romance novels are stereotypically female.
Faktorovitch first begins with an introduction to gender stylistics, describing the two genders and the two genres she would discuss further on. Faktorovitch describes our patriarchal society with some statistics that are not too surprising for the average feminist – women are paid less (by a whopping 21%), and do not complete as high levels of education. She gives an introduction to both feminist theory, building her own theories and hypotheses after feminists before her: namely Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which describes something called the ‘feminine sentence’ – a sentence that is different from the ‘mainstream / malestream’ and is written of a female’s volition.
The author also tries her best to not be biased and review masculist theory, which (not surprisingly) turns out to be either a defense of the patriarchy or a defense of masculinity, both very sexist and egocentric topics, according to the author. The heart of the novel starts after this review – she begins by giving assumptions from previous writers and linguistics studiers about how both men and women write. For example, previous authorities on gender stylistics claim that men tend to use more phallic imagery in their writing, or that women tend to use more parentheses as a result of our society’s oppression of women, its implications that what women have to say does not matter, and that because of this, women use parentheses to include writing that is non-essential. She then includes survey results from a survey she conducted to validate whether or not the average American can distinguish the gender of a particular author by just reading one of their passages. The most interesting part of this book comes when the author takes both classic and modern romances (written by men and women), as well as both classic and modern mysteries (written by men and women) and compares multiple factors of each of them.
She gives the biographies of the authors to provide conclusions as to why a particular author with one particular gender chooses a specific genre to write in – for example, writing that although most women of her time only wrote romances, Agatha Christie wrote mysteries because she had 1) a lack of a father figure and 2) a very bad romantic life. Faktorovitch compares, in each genre, the length of words, paragraphs, and the novel itself, as well as particular literary elements of the novel, such as the frequency of vulgar words vs. the frequency of euphemisms. The detailed conclusions, as well as the intense amount of number crunching, lead to the author’s conclusion – there is no true way to determine whether a book was written by a male or a female based on their specific writing techniques. Although she does concede that some things, like that men commonly write longer sentences, can be on the whole true, both genders both defy and accept their stereotypes, making it, at this point, impossible to tell.
What makes this book unique from other authorities on the gender stylistics is that it includes an incredible amount of science – and not just theories that are convincing. With her great amount of expertise and work on the experiments she completes, we can truly believe that what she says is true, and not take what she says at face value. The unbiased and very professional writing of the book and intriguing conclusions and statements found within the book make this a worthwhile and spellbinding read for feminists, people interested in gender, readers and writers alike and those who have ever questioned the phrase, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.”
4 out of 4 stars
Gender Bias in Mystery and Romance Novel Publishing
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