Well, over there [Eugenides points to his publisher's book shelf] I see “NW” by Zadie Smith, and I think that Zadie Smith is treated exactly like one of the literary male authors that had been brought into this category. It seems to me that there’s a difference between the kinds of books that Jonathan Franzen writes and Jodi Picoult writes — so it’s not surprising to me that they’re treated differently in terms of review coverage or literary coverage. I don’t think that’s based on gender.
I think right now probably the writer that every writer loves the most is Alice Munro. I teach with Joyce Carol Oates; I don’t think she suffers from this. To me, it’s a question of actual category writing. It was kind of a genre novel bumping up against a literary novel. I think those are actually different things. I don’t think it had to do with male or female.
Would “The Marriage Plot” have had a different cover if it was written by a woman? Something pink or frilly or less serious?
As a male you can never know and you’re not supposed to talk about it. But I have lots of female literary novelists who I don’t think would agree. I’m friendly with Meg Wolitzer and she was a big fan of “The Marriage Plot,” and she wrote something about this, and especially about the treatments of the covers. I wondered about that, if that might be true, if women get treated differently in the way that their covers are marketed. You know, it’s possible.
To me, it was a little bit … I didn’t really know why Jodi Picoult is complaining. She’s a huge best-seller and everyone reads her books, and she doesn’t seem starved for attention, in my mind — so I was surprised that she would be the one belly-aching. There’s plenty of extremely worthy novelists who are getting very little attention. I think they have more right to complain. And it usually has nothing to do with their gender, but just the marketplace.
Source: Jeffrey Eugenides: I don't know why Jodi Picoult is belly-aching [Salon]