How Old is Too Old for a Main Character? is a response to a Fay Weldon article in the NY Times Sunday Book Review A Writer of a Certain Age which is unfortunately blurbed on google the author remembers when looks started to matter in publishing.
Weldon claims–in writing right out in front of everybody–that women want to read books about their younger selves. Hogwash. I read books about women of all ages, men of all ages, horses of all ages, dogs, history in all ages, wars in all ages. Weldon cannot possibly know what women read. That's men that want to be their younger selves, Ms. Weldon. No woman I know would go back if given the opportunity, but every one of my brothers would. Robinson writes that yes, more women than men buy books, but more under 45s buy books overall. That does not mean that the women under 45 are all reading fiction featuring 20-something women. The Bowker link Robinson uses doesn't go to Bowker, so I'll look that up later. But this may be like the more cat food is bought than baby food trope. Yes, under 45s may buy more books. Parents buy children's books, buy gifts. Regardless of genre, Weldon is out of shape stating what age female character any woman wants to read.
And how infamously addicted we are to facing facts bravely about how unmarketable older women are. Both women indicate that they are okay with the status quo–because they have to be. Robinson takes a moment to talk about her older female in her book, and writes that she will continue to write women of all ages. But both women writers sigh when mentioning that agents will tell you not to write older women because publishers won't publish those books. What's a girl to do? is implied, but nowhere written. Robinson goes so far as to share with us what a nice guy her agent is. Weldon's unforgivable action is that she is a teacher and she warns her girl writing collegiates away from writing older women. With this she moves from facing facts bravely to being a spokesperson for the patriarchy. You can give a nod of complicity assent to the ongoing exclusion, suppression and outright prejudice against women creatives, but you damn well better not teach it to the young women launching their lives. That's how we got suppressed in the first go.