Woman Writers I Have Loved

Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, one of the few flickers of light during the Dark Ages

Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, one of the few flickers of light during the Dark Ages

A number of months ago an Internet thing made the rounds asking participants to name ten writers whom you love or who influenced you. And virtual tongues wagged in the aftermath, as they always do, about how the men hadn’t listed any women, whereas the women had listed plenty of men. I got some credit for listing one woman — Camille Paglia (ha, whom I’m sure plenty of feminists will say doesn’t count.) Still, one in ten, beats zip you gotta admit. And ten is a pretty small sample.

Now I’ll never presume to speak for the Mad Marchioness (she does a pretty good job speaking for herself) and though I do admire her and am influenced by her every day, I’m going to circumvent her usual complaint about Woman’s History Month (she calls it “Special Olympics for Women”. Think about it: a month?! Thanks for nothing! How about 50% of everything every day?) .

But still and all, let’s pretend that I’m casting a net wider than ten writers; here is a list of some female writers whom I consider great, whom I read (or listen to or watch in some cases) for pleasure or edification, who have actually influenced or inspired me and actually matter to me, or sometimes just stimulate me.

In no particular order:

Zora Neal Hurston

Gertrude Stein

Edna Ferber

Camille Paglia

Sarah Vowell

Elaine Pagels

Lillian Hellman

Agatha Christie

Anita Loos

Dorothy Parker

Ayn Rand

Willa Cather

Emily Dickinson

Gertrude Berg

Katherine Dunn

Emma Goldman

Valerie Solanas

Flannery O’Connor


Hannah Arendt

Aphra Behn

Sarah Kane

Jennifer Egan

Young Jean Lee

Jhumpa Lahiri

Daphne Du Maurier

I like being influenced by strong-willed artists and thinkers, not insipid ones. You’ll find some on the extreme right and some on the extreme left (useless categories anyway), and plenty of names that will outrage everything you stand for. If you’re not outraging somebody, I strongly feel that you are wasting my time.

If I say the Bronte Sisters for some reason I feel like I’m being patronizing, even though both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are among the novels I know best (and by that I mean best in the world, by ANY author, male or female, having read them many times, and watched several movie versions to boot).  The same is true of Jane Austen, George Elliott and Louis May Alcott (the latter of whom I only read for the first time a couple of years ago). And I REALLY loved Sylvia Plath when I was about 20, although I feel that to say so sounds like the height of being patronizing (why, some of my best friends are women!) although it is true. (Who gives a crap about that bore she was married to?)

And just so that you know that I’m NOT being patronizing: there are plenty of female writers I don’t like, or can’t stand, or don’t impress me, or I like well enough but they haven’t influenced me. But what’s the point of listing him them here? It’ll be my pleasure to savage them later, on a one to one basis, same as I would to any man.

3 Responses to “Woman Writers I Have Loved”

  1. Terrific list! Have you ever tried Anne Bronte’s work? 🙂

    • Thanks! No I havent read the third Bronte sister but the Mad Marchioness recommends her so I imagine I shall at some point!

      • You really should — “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” is one of my favorites. She paints a beautifully complex picture of Branwell through her character Huntingdon.

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