Awakening February in green.
The season is a rather neutral thing. Human can become emotionally ruffled (angry/depressed/sad /raged/elated/happy/joyous) at the somewhat unexpected/unprepared fluctuations of seasons/environments. But for plants, they are just faithful. No matter how the external environmental conditions may vary they draw from the inner perfectly programmed strength and orderliness imputed to them. Great role models for the human.
“…The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season*, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” (Note 1)
“He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season*,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.” (Note 2)
time (of an event)
Notes: 1. Quoted from Book of Deuteronomy 28:12
2. Quoted from Book of Psalms 1:3
My heart’s Variations on a Theme, my ocean. Given an option I would choose the ocean if I were a gull with wings. There are two views of the same section of the Pacific ocean being superimposed in this picture. I took them at the end of 2015 on a clear sunny day in California. I have inverted the bottom half of the second picture. The inverted waves are symbols of what are moving inside a heart that cannot be stilled. The top half of the original first picture has the bird facing the opposite direction, flying away from the shore. But during my editing she has somehow turned around towards the shore and nearer to the audience. I have seen many gulls onshore in the city. I am told that they come in to scavange for food often near the dump-site or where passers-by have left unwanted stuff behind. Has the ocean become less habitable for gulls? Or perhaps the shore is a more convenient however brief respite? Sometimes I wonder whether we have unwittingly domesticated gulls because I just read a poem about tame gull.
What a sad thought it is. Given an option I would choose the ocean if I were a gull with wings.
A conversation (excerpted*) between the fishermen:
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”
They answered Him, “No.”
And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish…Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.
An Ascending to the throne. Sometimes we read or watch official news of a deeply venerated longstanding monarch depart from this world at old age, having reigned over his faithful subjects for many decades. The news is often of a standard pattern: solemn, reverent, tastefully laced with a tinge of sadness which comes with saying goodbye and yet realistically portraying the inevitable passing of a perhaps antiquated and soon to be forgotten historical era. The male commentator has a well-trained, constrained and unhurried voice with medium pitch, and tends to present the appearance of a stiff-upper-lip somewhat dispassionate English gentleman.
The narration, the tone and texture, the colors, the costumes, the deliberate movements, the choice of musical backing, the props, the participants: their ranks and titles, clothing and decoration, brand names of what they wear, spouses and children, vehicles, entourage, facial expressions, mannerisms and many more minute but supposedly pertinent significant and interesting details on such historical occasions.
More importantly is the brief but positive biographical narration about the monarch’s life and his achievements, which should include all the good he had done to others. Humans in general like to read good positive factual reports of what a person, monarch or beggar has done for others, which is the gist of a purposeful life; an ascending to another throne.
Verses for thoughts:Psalms Chapter 24:1-4
(A Psalm of David) The earth [is] the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Windows of hope yet.
This was taken awhile ago. My young wards like visiting artificial abodes for wild creatures. I go along. But I can feel a sense of sadness for no particular reason. On the other hand, I find solace in the following verses (promises) for living creatures. The windows into another world out there beyond the horizon promise a safe place and an assured full life for even the little birds.
The desert creatures will meet hyenas,
and one wild goat will call to another.
Indeed, the night birds will stay there
and will find a resting place.
Sand partridges will make their nests there;
they will lay and hatch their eggs
and will gather their broods under their shadows.
Indeed, the birds of prey will gather there,
each with its mate.
Search and read the scroll of the Lord:
Not one of them will be missing,
none will be lacking its mate,
because he has ordered it by my mouth,
and he will gather them by his Spirit.
He has cast the lot for them;
his hand allotted their portion with a measuring line.
They will possess it forever;
they will dwell in it from generation to generation.
(Verses taken from prophet Isaiah’s book 34:14-17)
When Kate/Blue Flower goes back to her birth place she does not realize it is to be an Evanescent encounter with her past. It is just a normal assignment she decides to undertake last minute out of love when her sister Liz calls. It is not difficult to buy the air ticket and fly to this town. But Kate has not anticipated the sequence of events that follows. Yes, fifty years of staying away is a long time. Why did she stay away for so long?
No, she did not suffer from any sad memory of that place. She just left for higher education and youthful pursuit for a better future in terms of career and dreams. Yet, her sudden returning to the town sets off a chain of events which she has never thought would happen.
One morning she receives a phone call from Beautiful Flower, “Blue Flower, guess what, I have a pleasant surprise for you!” Beautiful Flower has told other classmates who still remain and they want to meet Kate too. So they have agreed to have an alumni gathering with Kate as their honorary homecoming guest. Kate is not prepared but she has to agree. How can she say no to these folks who have never left their past? Beautiful Flower continues to say, “‘You-know-who’ will be there. He is longing to see you again!”
She means a boy named Joe who used to fancy Blue Flower. Kate does not really look forward to see any one of them. She was never close to them and stayed at a distance not because she disliked them. Rather it was disinterest. Perhaps it was because she was always a dreamer, or a writer-to-be of another story, another world. While looking through old photos Liz finds a family photo. Their eldest brother Bill was 15, Liz 11, Kate 5, a younger sister Pam 3 with their mother carrying their year old baby brother Ron. Their parents were young and good looking. It was a happy family picture. Liz wants to get it printed and let each remaining sibling have a copy. But Kate does not want hers.
“Why?” Liz looks flabbergasted. “But we all look so nice in this photo!”
“I was not happy. Don’t you notice?”
“But why? Was it after mom started caning you to make you study?” Liz asks. (She always lives in forgetful oblivion and has no idea of how others live.)
“No, I was never caned. I was always the best student in class. I was just living in my own world and longing to become someone I wasn’t.” Kate tries to explain in vain because deep down she knows Liz would not understand her.
The vision first came when she was around four. She either dreamed or saw in her vision she was a prince from Manchuria. She was too young to have heard or understood anyone mention that country or dynasty. They had no television or movie then in their little town. They could not afford books. She bought her first story book at 13 when she won monetary rewards for winning top prizes in academic performance. But in her detailed vivid vision she was dressed with Manchurian royal garment as a prince and wore a sword. She led her army to fight many battles and set free those held captive by the enemies. One day she saved a princess. If it was mere story and imagination who put them in her mind and heart? She wonders now. There were many such dreams and/or visions through out the first two decades of her young life. If she was a prince she would marry a princess and not another prince. She made up her mind since then and lived that dream for six decades.
“O, please come to the alumni gathering,” Beautiful Flower continues to urge her. “They all miss you and want to see you! You know how popular you were in school! Everyone loved to read the stories you wrote! You know, they just asked me whether you have come to write a book about this town!”
What can Kate do? She is not going to disguise herself to resemble the teen they remember or expect to see. Even Beautiful Flower had a shock when Kate turned up suddenly and declared her former name (Blue Flower). She has changed into someone else. She has reached a point in her life that she no longer cares how she looks to others. At 69 it is too late to try a second makeover. She does not expect any old crushes (one-sided on their part) to fall head over heels for her again. “How to relearn a lifestyle you have never really learned, or lived, or believed? You will only end up a hypocrite.” Her conscience reminds her.
So on this evanescent evening Kate turns up at the alumni gathering as she thinks she really is now.
As she drives across that same old river she pauses on the bridge. It used to be a narrow wooden one. The government has rebuilt a new concrete bridge alongside the old one which they have kept for unknown reason. Why do people keep old things like this rickety old bridge? She wonders. The river is calm and quiet. She can see water creatures moving down there. Her sister’s Japanese car is perhaps seventeen year old, the same age of her house. It still runs strong and well. Kate finds the small car amazingly powerful. It is a rare old thing that still works so faithfully. Helping her sister means clearing off unwanted old stuff. Kate finds it easy to throw them away. But Liz hoards them. For hours she would hold a piece of old paper or a faded photo and tries to decide to keep or not to keep. She lives in terms of memories. She surrounds herself with them.
“Do I really need memories?” Kate wonders. She has discarded many long ago and told herself she did not care. Her younger sister, Pam, another fonder of old memories, last year sent her an alumni photo in which Pam was surrounded by old men who used to be boys, and Joe was in that photo. He still looks good. She was told he has always been a good man. Pam used to consider him a likely perfect potential brother-in-law. But it did not materialize. It never could have been. Pam once asked her hopefully, “What if…?” But Kate smothered that wishful thinking, “There is no ‘what if’ in my life dictionary.”
Kate looks now at the same shadowy watery path beneath the bridge. Has the water changed? Do natural elements change? She recalls reading somewhere that no water is ever the same at the same spot of a river. Why? Because water moves. So does her evanescent life. She was once so sure that her life would not change. But it has changed. She had happiness so firmly grasped in her hands but how soon it had proven her wrong. (To be continued)
For everything there is a season — a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
It is hard to put into words a person’s life. But I try to do so. I perceive myself as a fluid, unhurried, unclassified blogger. Why blog? I like to test the water of the thinking river. Thoughts. Words. Pictures. Just as they appear. Like this brightly painted building next to the Amtrak rail on one fine mountain climbing day. I just happened to look out of the window of the train and saw it. Yellow is not my usual color. But it was a striking moment that appealed to me at an appointed time in space. I captured it. When I look through my pictures at random to find something for this blog, it comes out and so I use it to represent a view.
I would describe myself as a mere keeper of some words which do matter to me a lot. I do not want to forget. I preserve good words. Preserving words is like preserving life. (I wrote this introduction two years ago)
Added on December 17, 2016.
In some ways, I am waiting with Anticipation.
Yes, an anticipation for a future. Come to think of it, our future can be a past soon, just as many futures of yesteryear. Here is an updated photo for this week’s challenge. May my readers find hope and strength in the small things in lives, just as these little endangered birds do.
a New Horizon is a triple vision this year. I parked my car outside the gate one day to get down to lock the dog before I drove into my garage. Then I saw this plant across with new bloom of purple flowers. After the previous night rain the leaves looked clean and lush. I took three pictures and could not decide which to discard. So I decided to put all three in one here.
The earliest purple dyes date back to about 1900 B.C. It took some 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye – barely enough for dying a single garment the size of the Roman toga. It was associated with royalty for a long time. The color purple is a rare occurring color in nature and as a result is often seen as having sacred meaning. Lavender, orchid, lilac, and violet flowers are considered delicate and precious. Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color purple: violet, plum, lavender, lilac, puce, thistle, orchid, mauve, magenta, royal, amethyst, wine, pomegranate, eggplant, mulberry, plum, lilac, thistle, orchid, mauve, purple.
My late mother loved purple. She dressed elegantly and held herself well. None of us inherited her grace. Looking to a new horizon, I suddenly feel nostalgic instead. O how we miss our mom.
Bible verses from Proverbs 31 about a virtuous woman:
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.
28 Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
31 Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Tiny flowers in yonder garden
beauty veiled at distance but not nigh
lo, transcendental strength to halt the turning time of tide
strive you would to thrive like your ancestors from eden
Notes: When I took these photos I did not really look much at the flowers. I just wanted to click away at whatever that broke the monotony of the impending bareness of the new season. The leaves were turning yellow and unsightly. The flowers tried to do a good job by blooming and cheering up those who walked pass and happened to pause and cast a casual look. When I look at them now I realize how wonderful they actually look in their whiteness even though they were really tiny and could easily be unnoticed by a traveler like me. I now wonder the number of lost opportunities I encountered with beauty and missed seeing them because they seemed too small and unimportant then.
White, an inherently positive color, is associated with purity, virginity, innocence, light, goodness, heaven, safety, brilliance, illumination, understanding, cleanliness, faith, beginnings, sterility, spirituality, possibility, humility, sincerity, protection, softness, and perfection.
Tiny flowers by the wayside. We often walk pass them. Sometimes we step on them. Not because we are callous and uncaring. We are conditioned to see big things. Big and loud colorful stuff. In my recent travel I visited two entirely different countries and in both places I found some tiny flowers which looked so insignificant that they could have been easily excluded from my camera. When I returned and looked at the photos I found the exceptionalism in me stopping and looking at something small and quiet.
I ask myself why I have taken photos of some tiny flowers by the wayside. When I walk in the park across my patio why I do bother to look at the grass and the tiny leaves that are sprouting out from the crevices between the rocks and record their existence for a moment?
I did not come with perfect eyesight since young. The class teacher discovered this when I went to school. Artificial lenses helped me to function to some extent but it finally reached a point when I had to do a RLE (Refractive Lens Exchange). Taking photos of tiny things was not an easy task previously. After the RLE the tiny world becomes bright and clear and attractive. I see butterflies and bees and other tinier creatures too. Such a tiny world may be considered by others as tiny and ordinary and part of mundane living, they are fascinating to me. I can spend a whole morning walking and watching little things and feel my spirit rejoicing inside. A happy song will birth and lift me to another level into another realm of reality.
Bible verses from Psalm 104 (excerpts from NKJV):
He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
The edge that demarcates light from darkness fascinates me. The contrast is so clear in this picture taken in last September. The dark side is a wall of hedges. I was new to this place and was walking along the side of the road. The trees on the other side were turning into autumn’s yellow but the willow tree was quite adamant to stand out in its lush greenery. I cannot figure out now what the white spots on the ground are. But they too contribute to the contrast in colors between the black and the white. The path too, clearly marked by a white side and a dark part shadowed by the tree. There seems a marking of a boundary between two sets of realms, one in the bright sunshine and the other one in the dark. Again it makes me think of our lives. Some are in the bright sunny realm where the light is and some in the dark and shady realm. One thing is certain, all living things need sunshine to grow and thrive, even the trees and the grass. With the seasonal changes one may enter a bleak and bare grey and colorless period. But the good news is the sun and the light with all the glorious and rich colors always come back with another season. Being an optimist I believe that this too applies to life.
Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;
Someone sent this photo to me. It is interesting as it is like someone performing a balancing act with one limb standing. It reminds me of life. Often we have not much choice in our circumstances. We can opt to stand (even if handicapped) or fall. In this case this rock opts to stand precariously along the edge of a hill/mountain slope. Amazing how nature portrays our daily lives. How long has it been standing? Pretty long, I am told. It is in a national park, a regular tourist visit place. What keeps it from tumbling over and roll down the slope or worse crashing down the chasm and crumbling to pieces? Does this rock fear of its plausible fate? There seems a hidden gigantic hand that holds it there, in place, over the ages, along an edge and always on edge. Again, I can’t help but marvel at the many things we are yet to find out about a realm which we cannot see with our physical eyes.
Bible verses that come to my mind:
Isaiah 44:8 Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’”
Isaiah 48:21 And they did not thirst When He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.
Sometimes it is hard to decide what to share in terms of photos. I tend to take too many at one go and then have a hard time deciding which to keep and which to discard. Part of the problem with a mobile smart phone. It is very convenient to use and easy to carry around. Like this photo which was taken in a place some of us ventured inside just to use its rest room. But I couldn’t resist the ceiling and the lightings. Here it is, a place of many lights. (Reduced from the original size.)
Somehow today I read this,
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lamp stands,’ (Revelation 1:12)
This picture was taken in a tropical garden where there is ample sunshine and rainfall. It is a private park open to the public in a residential estate. The developers have maintained the park well and given the residents and nearby visitors a place where they daily recreate, exercise, and meet for community and social connection. It is quite a refreshing change from the Western scenario. The people are less mobile-phone-bound. A morning means bright sunshine and green trees. There are joggers and even families with small pre-school children. The seniors practice their daily folk dances or other forms of cultural exercises. There are cafes all around the park. There are private schools nearby too. The park is right in the centre of activities and living. I was told by someone that this little park has won an official landscaping prize and the property value rises consistently. The efforts of consistent up-keeping maintenance by the developers are being recognized and rewarded. A large park nearby has gone to ruins and become a den of thieves and drug addicts because of the negligence of maintenance by the developers after some years. The value of their properties drop drastically. The contrast between the two parks is so obvious. So are the fortunes of the two developers.
I am reminded this morning of this little verse which describes a prosperous and successful king* in the ancient times:
“And every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.” 2 Chronicles 31:21
Have a good day!
*For those who are interested to know a bit about history, here are some notes from Wikipedia on King Hezekiah:
Hezekiah purified and repaired the Temple, purged its idols, and reformed the priesthood. In an effort to abolish what he considered idolatry from his kingdom, he destroyed the high places (or bamot) and “bronze serpent” (or “Nehushtan”), recorded as being made by Moses, which became objects of idolatrous worship. In place of this, he centralized the worship of God at the Jerusalem Temple. Hezekiah also resumed the Passover pilgrimage and the tradition of inviting the scattered tribes of Israel to take part in a Passover festival. He sent messengers to Ephraim and Manasseh inviting them to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. The messengers, however, were not only not listened to, but were even laughed at; only a few men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun came to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the Passover was celebrated with great solemnity and such rejoicing as had not been in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon. Hezekiah is portrayed by the Hebrew Bible as a great and good king. Knowing that Jerusalem would eventually be subject to siege, Hezekiah had been preparing for war for some time by fortifying the walls of Jerusalem, building towers, and constructing a tunnel to bring fresh water to the city from a spring outside its walls. He made at least two major preparations that would help Jerusalem to resist conquest: the construction of the Siloam Tunnel, and construction of the Broad Wall.
It is interesting that King Hezekiah built two great constructions: the famous Jerusalem underground water tunnel and the famous Jerusalem Broad Wall. Points for pondering today. Key words: Wall and Tunnel.
It is difficult to select what to post and what not to post in terms of links and introduction of other writers. We know that the fictions, poems or even essays may not represent the true lives of the one who pens/posts them. As many writers have uttered, their writings are mere imaginations and compilations of stuff they read and research of the works of many others. They do not necessarily live that way. But somehow I still know deep down a part of me comes out no matter how good and deliberate I have been hiding it from my writing or compilations. On this matter, I speak for myself and not others. There is no such thing as being completely neutral in writing/posting. For example, I do not agree with certain traditionally immoral and amoral values and I have thus avoided ‘publicizing’ them. I have also made my lifelong goal as: to protect my little ones from being exposed to them, so that perhaps I can save them from harm and hurt later in their adult lives.
Admittedly, I have read some good writings by some talented and creative writers. I find that the way they present their thoughts, hurts, struggles in their personal lives appeal to my compassion as human being. I can empathize with their struggles and the yearning for freedom to love and be loved, and freedom from hurt and pain. Yet I find that I cannot be honest to my heart and post their writings. Why? I am still a person with my own subjectivity based on my moral and religious belief and priorities. Someone may not understand this adamant adherence on my part to values which some may have discarded as being archaic and not conducive to developing a more creative and perhaps wider zone of liberal experimental and experiential learning through writing like in other forms of art expressions. I can see their points and their motivations and motives in their perspective of the writing paradigm. I do not dispute their perspective. On the other hand, I remain firmly established in my perspective of my world. I believe this peaceful co-existence between two patches of green turfs remains undisturbed as long as both of us are willing to give mutual respect to each other’s world view regardless of the vast and somewhat irreconcilable dichotomies in this world.
Personally as a traditional responsible elder, I shall continue to avoid exposing my own young ones from what I consider as contrary to the moral values I have adhered to with my extended family. Why? I still believe the moral values since creation have sustained our continuing survival as a human race on earth thus far. A further reason beyond physical survival is my belief in spiritual survival in eternity as well. My adherence is not to mere dead letters. My conviction is to a living reality in my spirit. But I am not going to have a long discourse in this blog on spiritual survival and the reality of another realm. So I would just say I cannot post or publish some thoughts, behavior and lifestyle even though they are good creative presentations and writings from really talented writers.
At times, I do sigh as I look at the rich fertile field for sowing of good seeds in spring time . The field is well cleared and plowed. Such a vast land. Such hope for a good harvest. All we need is the sower of good seeds. The same applies to the writing field in life.
Bible verses:2 Corinthians 9:9-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 As it is written:
“He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.”[a]
10 Now may[b] He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
2 Corinthians 9:9 Psalm 112:9
2 Corinthians 9:10 NU-Text reads Now He who supplies . . . will supply . . . .
I have my suspicion confirmed when I read this following information about who the avid readers are and how female writers fare compared to male counterparts in terms of reviews and publicity. The statistics tells a story of the tough reality some or most women, in this case, writers, face in our society. You may wish to do some research on your own over the internet. It is interesting to note that there are more women readers than men in Britain. What makes the British women read more? This is a worthy topic to research into. Do women read reviews and buy books accordingly? Or do they have their own mind and ignore the critics? Interesting. This reminds me of the famous Bible character Mary who ignored the male critics and insisted on pouring her priceless perfume over her Lord as her highest form of appreciation and honor. The rest is history.
The following are quotes/excerpts: Quotes from: Research shows male writers still dominate books world : Statistics from US campaigners Vida confirm dramatic gender imbalance in literary critics and the authors reviewed (The Guardian, February 4, 2011)
“The gender imbalance at the heart of the British and American literary establishment has been laid bare by a new study confirming that leading literary magazines focus their review coverage on books written by men, and commission more men than women to write about them. Statistics compiled by Vida, an American organisation for women in the literary arts, found gender imbalances in every one of the publications cited, ”
Quotes from: Male writers continue to dominate literary criticism, Vida study finds (The Guardian, April 7, 2015)
“The continuing bias towards men in the British and American literary establishment has been confirmed by a study released on Tuesday. Vida, a US organisation championing women in literature, examined a wide range of publications from both sides of the Atlantic, including.., and found that in 2014 the majority still had heavily male-centred literary coverage, both in their use of reviewers and the books that were reviewed. The figures are at odds with the publishing industry in the UK, where some of the biggest-selling authors of 2014 were Hilary Mantel, Donna Tartt and Kate Mosse. Women are also responsible for buying two-thirds of the books sold in Britain and figures compiled in 2009 found almost 50% of women were avid readers, compared with 26% of men.
The figures did show a gradual but still notable shift. Of the 15 major magazines surveyed, 14 had seen an increase in content by women over the past year, and for the first time in at least five years the New York Times Book Review had more female reviewers than male ones – an increase of 41 from the year before. Similarly the New Yorker had 17 more female contributors than in 2013, continuing a five-year trend, while in Granta original submissions were split almost equally between female and male writers.”
Erin Belieu, the co-founder of Vida, said: “We want editors, readers and writers to be aware of their habits and open their mind to other voices,and we at Vida do really think that is genuinely happening. And I would say overall we have seen a lot of positive trends over the duration of the five years we’ve compiled these these figures. Absolutely there is still this gender bias inherent in literary magazines. We are talking about people who have done things a certain way for many yearsand literary magazines tend to be places where one vision gets put forward and even commissioning editors can get trapped in this culture.But generationally I think it is a problem that is going to be taking care of itself more and more. People under the age of 40 have been raised in an entirely different environment.” She added: “Is it true that women are raised to feel culturally very uncomfortable putting themselves forward? Maybe not as true as it used to be – but of course it still has an impact.But we see Vida as a form of erosion, making gradual but permanent change.”
The Latest: a better picture:
Female authors make inroads at major publications – survey Bylines by women at the New York Times Book Review and the New Republic are among the ‘dramatic increases’ over the last year, according to Vida’s annual survey of the publishing gender split (The Guardian, March 31, 2016)
For the first time, this year’s Vida count also looked at female reviewers and authors’ race and ethnicity, sexual identity and ability after surveying almost 700 female writers, finding that straight, white, able-bodied women were best represented. In these respects, some female writers better represented in print, Vida said in its report, asking: “To what extent is the status quo rendered bankrupt by such glaring absences? If the literary landscape is dominated by specific groups, how can we be healthy as a society and benefit from both our differences and commonalities? Isn’t one of literature’s effects to humanise populations beyond our own?”