Marian Keyes is right: books by male authors are overrated | Suzanne Moore

What would happen if more of us copied the Irish novelist and stopped reading men? Perhaps women would start to be recognised as intellectuals

There may be a good few conniptions in Ireland at the moment, so can Marian Keyes be put in charge, please? It is rare to hear a woman talk so much sense in a way that doesn’t seem to put men’s backs up. It is not a knack I have ever mastered (or tried to master, to be fair). But then Keyes, a “lady writer”, is able to tell searing truths in a way that make them seem, well, just … obvious.

While talking recently about her latest novel, Grown Ups, she said: “I only read women. I know that men write books. But their lives are so limited. It’s such a small and narrow experience.” Please don’t reel off a list of great male writers to me. I have read them. That was called education.

The older I get, the less fiction I read, which makes my taste pretty mannish. I know, from sitting by a pool or on the tube, that it is women who read novels. But a glance at my Kindle shows the past few novels I have read. Ottessa Moshfegh, Han Kang, Eimear McBride, Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Rachel Cusk came up. So did Michel Houellebecq: good for a laugh, but predictable.

Keyes, who has talked of her addiction and depression, is able to touch deep subjects with lightness and that quality dreaded by the literary world, readability. She is phenomenal. All that learning so lightly worn means many of us adore her.

But what would happen if we really listened to her and stopped reading men? Literary pages are dominated by male writers and male reviewers. What if the state-of-the-nation essays were not written by novelists who peaked 20 years ago, but by Anna Burns, Deborah Levy, Bernadine Evaristo, Kerry Hudson and Keyes? What would happen if women were taken seriously? If we took ourselves seriously? That is fiction, right?

•Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist


Suzanne Moore

The GuardianTramp

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