THE DELHI launch of Granta’s feminism issue — The F Word — took an unprecedented, iconoclastic course. All four panelists including sole contributor from India, Urvashi Butalia, what is the right word now… dissed the book for leaning heavily towards the experiences of the straight, white female. After reading the book, one is inclined to think that the panelists were being polite.

Granta has suffered from a faint greenness around the gills for a while but this issue is positively comatose. It must take a special skill to put together 21 pieces of feminist writing (fiction, poetry and essay) from around the world without a single one that is polemical, destabilising or maddening in its impossible moth-to-flame-like desire for justice. Compare this to Greer’s collected works The Madwoman’s Underclothes that runs the gamut from sappy through fabulous to enraging, the gut-wrenching heartbreak of Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, the fuzzy, prickly poetry of any Jeanette Winterson novel or the straight lines of Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth. Or the anachronistic shock of any piece from Women Writing in India. (hello, Volume 1.) Or the sharp-elbowed, online pointiness of the ladies of

Let us sample some of the wares in The F Word. AS Byatt and Franscine Prose retrace their awakening to gender and political consciousness. Being Byatt and Prose, these pieces make tolerable reading even though they are template. The usually funny Helen Simpson has an outrageously tacky piece of role-reversal fantasy in which men lie awake in claustrophobic marriages to violent, farting, belching women. Julie Otsuka and Urvashi Butalia both have gentle, contemplative pieces animated largely by the unfamiliarity of the worlds they describe. Butalia writes about the legendary hijra Mona Ahmed and her ability to be man/woman/mother/father all at once. Otsuka (writing in the rarely deployed first person plural) tells the story of Japanese women and children labouring in the farms and small towns of early 1900s America — an excerpt from her forthcoming novel The Buddha in the Attic.

Perhaps this book feels like a letdown because we always need the shock of defamiliarisation for epiphany — religious or political. Take the unexceptionable excerpt from new Ghanaian author Taiye Selasi’s coming-of-age novel Ghana Must Go. After reading the excerpt you may look forward to her novel but you are bound to feel sympathy for critic Stephen Marche who once wrote, “Every time I receive a copy of a new novel about growing up Russian or growing up Portuguese or growing up whatever, I have the same desperate thought: Can’t we all agree we’ve written this book before and that we don’t have to write it again?”

Caroline Moorehead’s compelling piece describing the gallant sisterhood in the concentration camps will not make Simon Schama cry again for a moratorium against Holocaust novels (as he has this week) because this is a true-life story by an able historian. Instead one might want to add a coda to the moratorium suggesting that editors with vast resources look further afield for examples of female solidarity. It isn’t as if civilisation has run dry of courageous women or murderous intent towards courageous women.

Denise Riley once wrote: It is not possible to live 24 hours a day soaked in the immediate awareness of one’s sex. Gendered self-consciousness has, mercifully, a flickering nature. This last adjective for an on-again, off-again illumination is the kindest thing you can say about this book.