Jodi Picoult Says Fuck You to Lit World Sexism (and Nicholas Sparks)

Illustration for article titled Jodi Picoult Says Fuck You to Lit World Sexism (and Nicholas Sparks)

After nearly two decades as a highly successful published author, Jodi Picoult is out on yet another book tour (this time for her novel Leaving Time) and not holding back on kickass soundbites about how shitty the lit world tends to be for women writers. And she even has a special "go fuck yourself" saved for King Cornball, Nicholas Sparks.


Picoult has written almost two dozen books in her career and yet critics and publishers still dismiss her as an author of airport fiction or—EVEN WORSE—"chick lit."

From her excellent interview with The Telegraph:

...Despite this success – 23 novels in 22 years, eight of which have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list – she struggles to be taken seriously. "I write women's fiction," she says, an 'apparently' hanging in the air. "And women's fiction doesn't mean that's your audience. Unfortunately, it means you have lady parts."

Picoult has long been calling out the hypocrisy of literary critics who look down on authors like her (i.e. female authors) and then fall over themselves to praise male romance writers like Jonathan Franzen. She thankfully has continued bringing it up, now adding:

"If a woman had written One Day [by David Nicholls], it would have been airport fiction. Look at The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. If I had written that, it would have had a pink, fluffy cover on it. If Jenny Eugenides had written it, it would have had a pink fluffy cover on it. What is it about? It's about a woman choosing between two men. What is The Corrections about, by Jonathan Franzen? It's about a family, right? And I'm attacking gun control and teen suicide and end-of-life care and the Holocaust, and I'm writing women's fiction? I mean, I can't tell you. When people call The Storyteller chick-lit, I actually break up laughing. Because that is the worst, most depressing chick-lit ever."

And then there's this:

Has she ever thought of writing under a pen name?

"I did once," she says. "So let me tell you what happened. I wrote a book under a man's name. It was years ago, my kids were really tiny. It was when The Bridges of Madison County [by Robert James Waller] had been published. Nicholas Sparks was becoming big [as a romantic novelist]. Please don't get me started on Nicholas Sparks," she says, rolling her eyes. "I haven't had enough caffeine yet." But anyway.

"I was so angry about these men who had co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years. There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn't even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, 'Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.' And that just made me crazy." Her agent tried to sell her pseudonymous book, but was told it was too well written for the male romance genre. "So there you go," she says, angry, and yet ever-so-slightly pleased.


I don't know what's more bothersome—the idea that anything written by women for women is immediately considered valueless or that stupid stories by men are automatically held up as examples of fine art.

Image via Getty.


I'm a novelist of the lady-parts-having variety and it astounds me how many guys who I consider friends and who are well-read and have university degrees will not read my novels because they don't read books written by female authors. It's astonishing to me how many will flat-out ask me justify why they should read my books. "Is this one about feelings?" they ask. "Is it any good?" "Is it about love or something?"

I have not met a single male novelist whose friends have asked if their book's any good. I have not met a single male novelist whose work has been criticized for involving "feelings" or dealing with love. I have never met anyone who only reads books by men. It is one of those things that I have filed under "shit I cannot believe I still have to deal with in 2014."