In a bid to correct the gender bias in his reading habits, Pasha Malla made sure half of the books he read in 2013 were by women. While he discovered novels he might otherwise have overlooked, the experiment left him with mixed feelings:
I don’t feel particularly better about myself having read 51 books by women. If the point of this project was to transcend numbers—to glean some understanding of a gender other than my own – I’m not sure how George Eliot’s Silas Marner, about a man, was a better selection than, say, Daisy Miller. (A master of human psychology like Henry James surely offers equally perceptive insights into any character, male or female.) In fact, my most revelatory experience of gender came reading Saul Bellow’s Herzog. The book’s particular flavour (“a revenge novel,” a friend of mine calls it) can be summed up here: “Women,” claims the titular character, “eat green salad and drink human blood.” All ironies aside, Herzog’s simplistic and hostile relationships with women felt cautionary: how blithely male resentment can extend beyond an ex-wife to half the people on earth! And isn’t reading most stimulating when we find ourselves not mollified by but in opposition to a writer and his ideas?