Back in Somerset now for the weekend, Our Vicar and Our Vicar’s Wife and all. Long train journey, on which I finished one book and made good headway through another, and I look forward to seeing the countryside again in the light.
Just a brief ponder today, brought on by talk of L.P. Hartley yesterday – has an author’s name, or appellation thereof, ever caused you confusion? I know it probably shouldn’t make a difference, but when I discover that an author is male when I thought they were female, or vice versa, it alters the way I read or think retrospectively of their work. I didn’t realise, you see, that LPH was a man until a few months ago – in fact, I was sure he was a she… and, do you know, I became more reluctant to read The Go-Between when I discovered this. Perhaps it’s based on the knowledge that I usually prefer books by women, but either way it’s a form of bigotry, I suppose, and thus ought to be stamped out… Is bigotry too strong a word? Well, probably. But it definitely makes a difference. Or is this distinction rational? Do you do the same?
Some other authors where confusion has arisen…
– Who didn’t think Richmal Crompton was a man when they first read the William books? Many of my friends still don’t realise.
– Harper Lee – thought she was a man for years…
– J.K. Rowling – while I always knew Jo was a woman, this is an example of initials being used for deliberate ambiguity, so that boys would be happy to read Harry Potter.
– D.H. Lawrence – another one I got wrong for a few years… but having read a couple of his books, it could never have been a woman could it, really?
– P.L. Travers – another poor woman whose gender was assumed otherwise by my younger self
Then there are those with whom I never had trouble – or perhaps just guessed correctly. P.G. Wodehouse, L.M. Montgomery, L.M. Alcott, C.S. Lewis, A.A. Milne, E.M. Delafield, J.R.R. Tolkein… is there something about these that ties them to their gender, or did I just guess luckily? And which authors do you accidentally gender-realign?!