Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Vengeful Tigress or Screeching Harpie?

You decide. But I like "Anonymous"s take-no-prisoners style in this attack on chicklit. The argument, though, is familiar to anyone who's been through the Nancy Drew/Wildfire Romance/Goosebumps wars: bad writing (and reading of said) drives out good. But junk has always been with us, and the audience for literary fiction has always been small. And Anonymous has a tendency to bolster questionable premises ("Chick lit claims . . .) with a muddle of not necessarily codeterminant facts (" . . . to be representative of women's lives, their hopes, fears, dreams and values"). She does this again later, with "as America increasingly devalues intellectual rigor, education and compassion, it becomes harder and harder to find a good book." What does compassion have to do with any of this?

For a more
laissez-les-bon-temps-roulez attitude toward this argument, try Nick Hornby's essay on "How to Read."


Kelly Fineman said...

I hated that movie. All the wirework made everything so unbelievable. Rather like Ms Anonymous Former Editor's comment that "Chick lit hurts America." Seriously? Idiotic anonymous articles do just as much damage.

Love the blog, by the way, even if I usually just lurk about reading without comment.

Kelly Fineman

Lynn said...

"I know not to buy a book with a longhaired, bare-chested hunk monkey on the cover if I don’t want to read one."

If she was an editor, why did it take until now for her to know what to buy and what not to buy? Like everything else there is good chick lit and bad chick lit (and personally I find that particular genre designation demeaning), just like there are good children's books and bad children's books; it's up to a discerning reader to make the determination of what to buy.

If you don't like it, don't buy it, but do not presume to know what I want to read or tell me what I shouldn't read. To say chick lit is responsible for the erosion of literate American values and education stretches the analogy a bit too far. If the literary offerings were of better quality, maybe they would be read more often.

Thanks for the link, it was an interesting read.

Rosemary Graham said...

Anonymous seems to fancy herself the next Nathaniel Hawthorne, who famously complained:

"America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash -- and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed."

I was expecting something of a mea culpa at the end, since she's been, apparently part of the problem as an editor. But noooo. It's the damned writers who are responsible for "making sure their one marginal, vapid story is produced ten million times over, like some pretty pink version of hell." Not the editors, marketing and publicity departments, the Barnes & Noble buyers.

Funny that Hornby says he's stopped reading "literary fiction," which Anon holds up as the hallowed alternative. (His essay is wonderful, thanks for the link.) I'm always amazed when I hear people describe their own work as "literary fiction," as if calling it that makes it so. Self-consciously "literary" fiction can be just as crappy as chick lit.

Anna Watkins said...

Whinge-ful tigress, perhaps. I bet Anon doesn't spend much time in her local library either.

Ditto thanks for the Hornby article. I often tell our library 'customers' that, while I CAN read Nathaniel Hawthorne (and Ian McEwan), I usually choose not to. I will never finish Confederacy of the Dunces, and that's OK. And I still have a darn good vocabulary.

Roger Sutton said...

Anna, your comment about Confederacy of Dunces reminds me of an unfortunate tendency I have to recommend books I haven't finished. Like Pamuk's Snow. I was crazy about it, told all of my friends, and then . . . just never got around to the last 75 pages or so. I feel very guilty when I do that: absolve me, please!

Jane said...

Well, as much as I love a good screed, a barbaric yawp that rails against That Which Devalues Literature, I have to (quietly) admit that in many ways I am a very middlebrow writer and reader. You will as often find me reading mysteries as Jane Austen. And I am an absolute Lt. Sharpe fanatic.

So sue me.


Melinda said...

I did think that Anon Editor's point about chick lit being mostly about high-income chicks was a valid one. Does anybody write chick lit about rural chicks who don't have a lot of cash and drives the tractor to school? But I think that rural life beats out that high-income lifestyle any day. But which gets all the press?

I do like that Nick Hornsby, too.

rindambyers said...

I'm with Nick...I get tetchy when I get bored...and since confessing is going on, I'll confess that I sometimes go out screaming and yelling at whoever's in my way how much I love, LOVE, love this book I haven't finished reading yet but you have GOT to start reading it now RIGHT NOW, this minute, this instant....