Sam Tanenhaus: Finding Chicks Who Write Nonfiction is Just SO GOSH DARN HARD!

Lee Kottner writes a letter to Tanenhaus about the NYTBR‘s well-documented lack of women nonfiction coverage and receives a response. Tanenhaus claims, “The truth, at least as far as we can tell, is that there remain areas in which women authors tend to be less well (that is, less numerously) represented than men: science, philosophy, economics, politics, public policy, foreign policy, to name some obvious ones.” But, as Kottner demonstrates with a list of books, this isn’t the case at all. As Kottner puts it, “hat it’s not that women are underrepresented anywhere in publishing (except perhaps in science, which I’ll get to later), it’s that the topics we write about are not ‘important,’ e.g., interesting to men.” (via The Other)

As to Tanenhaus’s recent claim that litbloggers are sloppy writers, I would suggest that Tanenhaus, with a team of roughly ten, is sloppier than ten litbloggers put together. This site, with its blog and podcast (which came well before the NYTBR‘s rigid weekly offering), is run by one person. That means one person moderating discussions, making calls, responding to emails, reading the books, setting up equipment, cleaning up the audio, and getting the word out. And all this with a full-time job, freelancing on top of that, and a social life. Give ten litbloggers full-time jobs and the resources to run a book review section and I suspect it would be filled with more passion, more enthusiasm, more controversy, more excitement and more grammatical precision than Tanenhaus has in his left pinkie.

I hereby withdraw Rachel the Hack. The point has been made. But if Tanenhaus is going to call litbloggers “sloppy” without evidence, then the time has come to reinstate the NYTBR‘s grand measure.



  1. Bizarre. In Australia, the women dominate, at least in literary journalism. There’s Susan Mitchell, Helen Garner, Antonella Gambotto, Chloe Hooper, Geraldine Brooks. And now Jane Crawford has just won a prize. And that’s just off the top of my head. I can’t believe there aren’t plenty of women writing this sort of stuff in the U.S. What about Jane Kramer and Susan Orlean?

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