Just like every other field of arts/science/everything, men still seem to dominate the literary world. A 2011 article by The Guardian revealed that 3/4 of books reviewed by the London Review of Books were written by men in 2011. So I find it quite interesting that about 3/4 of the books shortlisted for the Costa book awards this year are written by women.
Personally, I don’t look to book awards for what I should read next, nor do I particularly like the way book awards place objectivity on a subjective art form. However, they do get less enthusiastic readers in to literature and help some people find a “good” book.
So why are there so many women shortlisted for this year’s awards? A popular theory is social media and the ability for one to self-promote has allowed lots of female writers publicise themselves in the way that bigger companies won’t. Take Kate Tempest’s poem “Europe Is Lost” on YouTube has amazed over 300.000 views (if you haven’t seen it give it a watch, it’ll make you feel suitably bitter about 2016 politics).
However there’s something bitter sweet about the awards. Albeit brilliant that so many women are being recognised for their work despite the odds being against them, I don’t feel grateful to Costa for it. What I feel is more like an about-fucking-time kind of righteousness. At Newcastle University, 71% of creative writing students are women. The difference in the number of women seemingly interested in this field of work, compared to the number who actually get their work out their is absurd. It’s good to see women writers finally being put in the spotlight for a change.
I hope what we are seeing in the Costa Book Awards this year is the beginnings of women’s work being valued more highly in the literary world. I hope that this year isn’t some random fluke and I hope that next year we won’t return back to disregarding ample good quality literature, simply because of gender.