2014 is read women year! this is fine for me as I mainly read women anyway because boy authors are stinky*.
so in honour of this wonderful year, here are some of my favourite lady writers...
(Looking at my list I realise that they are mainly American writers...do I need to be concerned about this?)
I first discovered Michelle Tea when I was in San Francisco. I'd go to the bookstores there and look in the gay section and her books just kept catching my eye. In the end I just had to buy one and went home with 'The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America' and I just loved it. Like REALLY LOVED it! I just felt totally connected to it in a kind of finally-someone-understands-me-way... which is a bit teenage, but that's what it was like.
My favourite Tea's are still Passionate Mistakes, but also 'Valencia' is wonderful too.
Joyce Carol Oates
Oh Joyce! what a lady. Joyce is 75 and writes at least two books a year, and many of those books are huge. I am reading one right now ('The Accursed') which is a crazy 669 pages. It's always a nice thought that I still have about a million Joyce books to read.
The first Oates book I read was 'Broke Heart Blues' when I was working in a bookstore in Aberystwyth. The manager there had read it and didn't know what to make of it and passed it on to me and I was really captivated by it. Thing is, I also understand the managers feelings, as there is something strange and unsettling about Oates' books... and I kind of understand when people don't like them too, as the language is often quite flowery and over the top, there are always lots of italics and words in inverted commas and there's a kind of underlying darkness to them. But if you like big juicy books with edge then Joyce is your writer ... my favourites are 'The Falls' and 'My Sister, My Love' but I have read about twelve of them and loved them all.
I'd avoided Hoffman for the longest time (even though Practical Magic is one of my favourite films) as I thought she might be a bit trashy (because her books are sometimes sold in supermarkets and I am a snob), but Bert kept saying I should try them, and then one day in a supermarket in Kent I relented and bought 'The Story Sisters' and was absolutely hooked by it - oh gosh! it was a bit dark, a bit magical, a bit fairy tale like and all kinds of wonderful! after reading that one I read about ten of her books in two months. I couldn't get enough of them. My favourite is the 'The Ice Queen' , but they are all great. Am excited about her new book too - 'The Museum of Extraordinary Things' which is a novel about a Coney Island boardwalk freak show.
So far I have only read 'The Haunting of Hill House' and 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' and a few short stories. I have another of her books on my bedside table ready to go... and some of her other novels have recently been reissued or are going to be reissued this year. Jackson is famous for her short story 'The Lottery' which inspired 'The Hunger Games' and 'The Haunting of Hill House' inspired Sarah Waters to write her own version with 'The Little Stranger'. I really liked her short story 'The Tooth', which is an odd little tale about a married woman getting on a bus to go to the dentist....
Jackson's books are really well written, eerie and a bit creepy.
You know how amazon recommends books to you, and sometimes they recommend a book so often that you just think, 'fine, I'll just buy it amazon to shut you up' ? well that's what happened here. They kept suggesting 'Veronica' and then I relented... and am not sure if it was before or after I bought it that I was watching the 'L Word' and Jenny says that Gaitskill is one of her favourite writers which definitely helped matters.
Veronica is great - it's an eighties new york novel, it's raw and wonderful. Gaitskill writes lots of short stories, one of which became the movie 'Secretary' tho, of course, the story is better than the film... (love the film too especially as James Spader is in it).
I got to Eileen Myles through Michelle Tea as Tea often cites Myles as an inspiration. Eileen is a poet, but also writes novels (hello 'Cool for you') and really interesting non-fiction too... loved 'The Importance of being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art' which is fascinating and gorgeously written.
+ Mapplethorpe took her portrait, she loves dogs and she's on the extras on one of my 'L word' dvds.
I get excited when there's a new Solnit out, the woman is a genius. She writes non-fiction and manages to make everything interesting by finding the little quirks in everyday life. She writes about her beloved San Francsico, walking, art, getting lost and so much more. I loved 'A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster' that looked at how people pull together during disasters, focusing on events such as the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Her most recent book 'The Faraway Nearby' is a little more personal than the others, and she writes about her mothers illness, storytelling, art and some great bits about Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein.
Francesca Lia Block
Maybe you read the Weetzie Bat books when you were a teenager? no? that's ok, you can binge read them all now. You have to know about Weetzie Bat, My Secret-Agent Lover Man, Duck and Slinkster Dog before you can continue in life. The books are kinda crazy, set in LA with a slightly magical fairy tale feel to them. I really like some of Block's later books such as 'Necklace of Kisses' and 'Ruby'...
I wish Janet Fitch would write more books, but she's probably busy being awesome. She is most well known for her novel 'White Oleander' which was one of Oprah's reading group choices and was also turned into a film. It's a good book, but my favourite is definitely 'Paint it Black' which I like to read over and over again. It's set in 80s LA and is all about the aftermath of a suicide, mainly what sticks in my mind about this book is the feel of it as well as all the mint tea and vodka.
and a few other writers and books I love....
Just Kids by Patti Smith
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
Who are your favourite women writers? I'd love some recommendations!
*just joshing - I love Paul Auster, Dave Eggers, Willy Vlautin, John Green and lots more