Civility, Blog Comments, & Books by Women

be-nice-or-go-away civilityWhatever happened to civility?  Hospitality offered to visitors (tea and Pepperidge Farm cookies), please and thank you, no personal remarks (okay, I break that rule), and beneficence, if not positive doting, on bookstore clerks?

And then there are the comments at blogs.

If you’re obsessed with South Sudan, the Ukraine, or the Holocaust, your comment may be inappropriate for a post on garden literature. If you want to trash an author, this is neither the time nor the place.  Only I get to trash my favorite authors.  (I’m kidding:  I would never trash them.)  If you disagree with me about Jane Austen, I don’t want to alienate you.  I’ll probably allow that comment.

But it’s up to my judgement.  I delete inappropriate comments.

My own comments have (very occasionally) been deleted elsewhere, and why should I care?  Often these things are impulsive.  The bottom line is that the blogger has the right to delete it.

And if you care that much about the subject, you should start your own blog.

Civility is an issue everywhere.  Mark Nelson, a contributor at the blog, Heroines of Fantasy, recently complained about the lack of civility in the science fiction and fantasy arena (specifically at the SFWA, an organization for writers of science fiction and fantasy).  He tires of gender and race complaints.

I’m not seeing enough civility, people, anywhere.  What happened to our ability to engage in intelligent discourse without stooping to character assassination? What happened to telling a story to tell a story? It seems we have fallen into a deconstructionist pattern where every tale, essay, novel, film, speech or blog post is immediately set upon and examined from multiple perspectives by folks with pre-set agendas. This writer is a misogynist. That writer is a racist. This series doesn’t have enough people of color. That trilogy doesn’t have enough strong female characters. Not enough gay, not enough straight, not enough love, not enough blood, not enough real, not enough myth.  And so on…

I do know what he means about the endless deconstruction.

Speaking of gender, let me congratulate the New York Times Book Review on what looks like a record number of reviews of women’s books by women reviewers this week.  (I didn’t count the reviews, though.)   Seeing all those women’s names makes me think about how often I don’t see women’s names.

And here is a list of women’s books posted at the Bailey’s Women’s Prize website (I read about it at Reading Copy).  These are the books that have most influenced several (British?) celebrity women readers.  I have read all of them except three.

Baroness Amos – Beloved by Toni Morrison
Zawe Ashton – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Mary Beard – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte
Edith Bowman – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Saffron Burrows – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Shami Chakrabarti – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Gwen Christie – I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
Grace Dent – The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
Katherine Grainger – Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Tanni Grey Thompson – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Martha Lane Fox – Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
Caitlin Moran – Twopence to Cross the Mersey by Helen Forrester
Kate Mosse – Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte
Dawn O’Porter – Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Susanna Reid – We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Jennifer Saunders – Dust by Patricia Cornwell
Sharleen Spiteri – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Sandi Toksvig – Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Joanna Trollope – The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

5 thoughts on “Civility, Blog Comments, & Books by Women

  1. Agree totally about the deconstruction – that kind of thing will stop you reading books. As for the Bailey list – hmmm. Not so many older authors – no Plath or Woolf? And if Helen Forrester is one of the books you haven’t read – don’t bother…..


  2. Agree and think that the incivility of the Net is also driven by a lack of accountability. People know who’s important on the Net as they do in the physical world, but among those not important (most of us) it’s easy to fake an identity or not reveal yours. So there’s no punishment.

    I’ve read 13 of the choices. I find them better than usual. There is however no Austen, no Eliot, no Virginia Woolf. At least Austen and Woolf have been influential. And where are the mystery writers who everyone reads, the fantasists and historical novelists? It is a list of mostly contemporary authors writing realistic fiction in contemporary settings.


  3. Karen, yes, less deconstruction, more reading!

    Karen and Ellen, these are supposed to be the novels that most influenced these women (says the Reading Copy blog). I’m not sure what book I’d choose, but, like you, I’d be thinking of classics.

    And, Ellen, you’re right, it is lack of accountability. As a friend says, “They do it just because they can.”


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