Slate’s “Double X” decided to address the question recently raised by female authors of commercial fiction: does the New York Times Book Review give an excess of coverage to white, male writers? According to Slate’s calculations, the answer to that question in recent years is clearly “yes”:
We compared men to women and then highlighted the authors whose books had been singled out for the one-two punch of a weekday review and a review in the Sunday Times Book Review.
Here’s what we found.
Of the 545 books reviewed between June 29, 2008 and Aug. 27, 2010:
-338 were written by men (62 percent of the total)
-207 were written by women (38 percent of the total)
Of the 101 books that received two reviews in that period:
-72 were written by men (71 percent)
-29 were written by women (29 percent)
So the answer is yes, the Times definitely gives more attention to the work of male authors. But Slate states that the stats don’t exactly answer questions raised by authors like Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner–questions about whether or not men who tread the same popular fiction waters as Wiener and Picoult (Hornby, Hiaasen, etc.) are just as likely as an author like Jonathan Franzen to get real notice from the NYTBR. Is the Times‘ alleged bias a matter of gender trumping genre?
Past the raw data, it’s hard to tell. The answer may continue to depend on the sex and station of the person who asks the question.