steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

The Jeanettites

Listening to Radio 4's A Good Read, I found myself drifting from what the speakers had to say about the three books under review - Jeanette Winterson's memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, David Malouf's novel Remembering Babylon and Andre Agassi's autobiography, Open - and listening to how they were referring to the authors.

Jeanette Winterson was first up, and I couldn't help but notice that the reviewers, led by Val McDermid, consistently referred to her as "Jeanette". This is the kind of thing I have to cure my students of, so I suppose my hackles are in a state of constant readiness. Were they being sexist and patronising? Or was it simply a reflection of the personal nature of the genre?

David Malouf's novel was next, and I was listening out to hear if anyone would have the chutzpah to refer to him as "David". As far as I remember, however, no one referred to him at all. They stuck to the text.

Then came Agassi. This too was a memoir (albeit a ghost-written one), but unlike Jeanette Winterson, Agassi was generally referred to simply by his surname, or as "Andre Agassi". At one point McDermid imagined addressing him - "Oh come on, Andre!" Otherwise, familiar first-name-only reference was absent.

What do we make of this? What would Lord David Cecil do?
Tags: books, gender
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