Is Jane Austen a bad writer?

There has been a series of online discussions about the qualities or otherwise of female writers, centered around a totemic Jane Austen. More specifically, there have been a number of men who have complained about the literary ability of female writers and this has created a social media storm.

Now, I am male and I did not enjoy the Jane Austen novels I read when I was younger. I can imagine there is a genuine connection between those two facts. Chances are teenage boys do not respond positively to nineteenth century tales based on relationships and so on. I liked the Dickens I read so I was able to respond positively to some writing from that period.

But I do not believe that makes Jane Austen a bad writer. It makes me a bad reader for a Jane Austen novel – and that is very different.

I also accept that the portrayal of the lot of women and the social fabric of nineteenth century England contained in those novels is exemplary. When I read them, those issues were low on my priority list and so I  remain silent about them today. My ignorance laid bare for all to see.

Does this make all Chick-Lit essentially good because it reflects female experience in the world? No. It makes good Chick-Lit good and the rest remains the dreck that it is. Why? Because crap is crap whoever writes it.

If I am asked the question whether Chick-Lit is undervalued because it is generally written by women and often aimed at them as the primary readership then I will agree. But I am not best placed to judge it as it’s not my genre.

See? Sometimes instead of reading people flame each other across the Internet, you can listen into a civilised monologue and get matters resolved once and for all.


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