“Journalistas,” is an anthology that bills itself as the best writing by women journalists over the past 100 years. I first picked up the volume with annoyance – I hated the title and still do. It sounds silly and is redolent of all sorts of dopey words for female journalists, including one of my least favorites, editrix. And I’m not a fan of anthologies. Reading them is often like feasting on a meal of hors d’oeuvres. Such collections tend to dilute the narrative drive that makes much journalism compelling in the first place. And the idea of isolating “the best writing” from women journalists seemed dutiful, something aimed for Women’s History Month rather than a comfy couch on a cold day. Would this “greatest of” collection, limited to women, match up when read against the work of such lions as Joseph Mitchell or A. J. Liebling? And I have never been fully persuaded that women do really speak and write in an entirely different voice from men, so the idea of segregating them in a book did not thrill me.
But most of the pieces collected by Eleanor Mills (an editor at The Sunday Times of London) and Kira Cochrane (a novelist and former journalist) are so marvelous that I quickly cast aside my doubts. Their choice of writers, including Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West,Susan Sontag and Mary McCarthy, as well as a number of British writers who were less familiar to me, is superb.