More on women and magazines…

At Bookslut, which is often a delightful read. Alizah Salario issues 23 thoughts about women and criticism and each one is awesome.

15. I contacted Susan Orlean, who became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1987. When I read her book The Orchid Thief some years ago, I remember thinking it was the type of writing I wanted to do: explorations of something seemingly random and obscure that blossomed into larger truths when you’d least expect it. Since starting at the magazine, Orlean has worked with about seven editors, five of whom are women. Orlean is not a critic and cannot speak for all women at the magazine, but she experiences The New Yorker as a meritocracy and hasn’t encountered discrimination in her tenure there. The reasons why fewer women get published than men — at least in the realm of long-form journalism at the New Yorker — has more to do with harsh social realities than outright sexism, she suggested. “I happen to think writing long-form nonfiction is a tough undertaking, ideally suited to a single person with a good set of suitcases and few domestic demands,” she said in an e-mail. “That fact often starts to screen out people — usually women — who have obligations to home and hearth, especially children. That’s where I see the disparity arising; not from the magazine or any institutional attitude at all, but from an uncomfortable fact about life in general, and how much responsibility falls on women.”

16. So am I returning my New Yorkers? I’m still not sure. I like being at ground zero of culture and then reading commentary that trickles down from there. I like challenging my dwindling attention span to handle dense reading marathons when I’ve grown so accustomed to online click-happy sprints. Also, in my attempt to achieve something of literary merit, I often feel like one of those Arkansan blackbirds that supposedly died from blunt force trauma. Reading magazines like The New Yorker somehow makes me believe I’m barreling toward something other than cold cement.


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