Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cat Fight

Wow. Jennifer Weiner, the author of those kinds of books that go down Smooth As A Milkshake, takes it out on her literary sisters, the kind that write books that are Good For You.

Weiner criticizes Meg Wolitzer (see review of The Position below) for dismissing chick lit as a “guilty pleasure,” apolitical and unnecessary.

Writing funny, fast-moving fiction about young women finding their place in the world means your invitation to join the Beautiful Sentence Society will be permanently lost in the mail. The New York Times won't review you; the newsweeklies won't write profiles, and don't even get me started on what will happen when you query the New Yorker. Your books will sell in Target and Costco, but independent bookstore employees with advanced degrees and bad attitudes will be snotty when you drop in to sign stock.

Finally, your elders and betters will dismiss your work completely--or damn you with condescension disguised as compliments and praise so faint it's almost invisible. Exhibit A: Meg Wolitzer's "In Praise of Pink Ladies."

Chick lit, she blushingly confesses, is her guilty pleasure. She began, of course, with Bridget Jones, then "branched out, reading the Irish writer Marian Keyes and then Sophie Kinsella (whose Shopaholic novels are surprisingly funny) and a couple of the others whose names, to tell the truth, I never quite remember." This kind of writing, she concludes, "is not groundbreaking or powerful, but it speaks to many women, even, weirdly, a woman like me, a long-married feminist and novelist."

Weiner calls Wolitzer’s kind of book Gray Lady Lit, where all men are cads and at least one character has a terminal illness. She disagrees with Wolitzer’s assertion that chick lit isn’t political – doesn’t the underdog heroine usually end up on top by the end of the book?

I love chick-lit. I’ve read both Bridget Jones books, at least one Jennifer Weiner, scads of Jane Green and … then I hit a wall. I loved those books for their easy narrative, their heroine-in-distress tone, their I’ll-get-revenge plots. They’re great – but in small doses.

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