7.28.2004

So last Friday I went to the big kick-off party for the new literary magazine n+1--it was a blast. About an hour into the party, I actually got a chance to look at the magazine, and found that there was only one woman contributor.

I started asking around.

The editors were a bunch of sweeties who got kind of shaky and nervous when I very politely pointed out that there are 19 articles, one of which is by a woman.

One guy's girlfriend stared at him in horror and kind of yelled at him.

"Oh," I said,"You guys are just starting out--Cupcake doesn't want to go after the little guys."

(The big guys are the real culprits: from their example the gender discrepancy stays transparent so it somehow seems okay for startups to do it too.)

"Oh, go after them!" girlfriend said, and swatted her editor bf with a copy of his zine. "One woman!"

My friend Tania who is friends with these guys knows them because her brother went to Deep Springs and then Yale with them. Deep Springs is a 2 year college, all male, that is sort of like Skull and Bones but out in the California desert with farm chores. The editors explained the lack of women as a result of only really knowing guy writers, and I believe them.

Anyway, they asked me to contribute something, since they don't know enough women writers. I told them my time is really tight right now, but then I agreed--I'm going to send them some excerpts of my first novel. I don't think it will fit their aesthetic, which is interesting and cool but still pretty male pale and Yale (not stale, though!!) We'll see. Their designer told me there was another woman contributor but she didn't run her piece because she had editorial differences with the guys. Hmmmm.

I believe these fine editors--really wonderful guys--when they tell me they just don't know enough women writers. But I also think that there is a larger and trickier issue of what passes as good writing--women's voices, even if they are authoritative, are still often outside the zone that editors (yes, even women editors in male-dominated magazines, thank you Paris Review and the New Yorker) deem authoritative.

The question of merit: a bigger issue, a longer essay, for another day.

xo
--Elizabeth



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