Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Maureen Dowd is shocked,shocked!,to find chick lit in bookstores
I do read the NYT online but I don't have a subscription to the Times Select(pesky thing,budgets)but fortunately,the good folks at Galleycat found a blog which has kindly reprinted Maureen Dowd's Sunday piece about her latest trip to the bookstore.
Seems that it's been awhile since she did her own book buying:
" I was cruising through Borders, looking for a copy of “Nostromo.”
Suddenly I was swimming in pink. I turned frantically from display table to display table, but I couldn’t find a novel without a pink cover. I was accosted by a sisterhood of cartoon women, sexy string beans in minis and stilettos, fashionably dashing about book covers with the requisite urban props — lattes, books, purses, shopping bags, guns and, most critically, a diamond ring.
Was it a Valentine’s Day special?
No, I realized with growing alarm, chick lit was no longer a niche. It had staged a coup of the literature shelves. Hot babes had shimmied into the grizzled old boys’ club, the land of Conrad, Faulkner and Maugham. The store was possessed with the devil spawn of “The Devil Wears Prada.” The blood-red high heel ending in a devil’s pitchfork on the cover of the Lauren Weisberger best seller might as well be driving a stake through the heart of the classics.
I even found Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” with chick-lit pretty-in-pink lettering."
The horror,the horror! Maureen felt that she had discovered uncharted territory lurking on bookstore shelves. She brought"three dozen" of these strange new books(image the luxury of being able to buy that many books at one time...*sigh*..)and went home to explore this vast new region of women's literature:
"Giving the books an even more interchangeable feeling is the bachelorette party of log-rolling blurbs by chick-lit authors. Jennifer “Good in Bed” Weiner blurbs Sarah Mlynowski’s “Me vs. Me” and Karen McCullah Lutz’s “The Bachelorette Party.” Lauren Weisberger blurbs Emily “Something Borrowed” Giffin.
I took home three dozen of the working women romances. They can lull you into a hypnotic state with their simple life lessons — one heroine emulated Doris Day, another Audrey Hepburn, one was the spitting image of Carolyn Bessette, another Charlize Theron — but they’re a long way from Becky Sharp and Elizabeth Bennet. They’re all chick and no lit.
Please do not confuse these books with the love-and-marriage of Jane Austen. These are more like multicultural Harlequin romances. They’re Cinderella bodice rippers — Manolo trippers — girls with long legs, long shiny hair and sparkling eyes stumbling through life, eating potato skins loaded with bacon bits and melted swiss, drinking cocktails, looking for the right man and dispensing nuggets of hard-won wisdom, like, “Any guy who can watch you hurl Cheez Doodles is a keeper,” and, “You can’t puke in wicker. It leaks.”
You can read this entire little ditty by clicking the title link above,but I must throw in a qoute from Maureen's good buddy,Leon Wieseltier,an editor at The New Republic about this chick lit coup:
"In the 19th century in America, people often linked the reading of novels with women. Women were creatures of sensibility, and men were creatures of action. But now, Leon suggested, American fiction seems to be undergoing a certain re-feminization.
“These books do not seem particularly demanding in the manner of real novels,” Leon said. “And when we’re at war and the country is under threat, they seem a little insular. America’s reading women could do a lot worse than to put down ‘Will Francine Get Her Guy?’ and pick up ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ ”
Way to condescend,Leon! I,for one,read The Red Badge of Courage in high school and guess what? It was boring then and it's still boring now! That's just my opinion but hey,the funny thing about a democracy is that we get to have our own opinions about things and not let folks who think they're the sole arbiters of intellectual thought bully us into thinking and reading what they deem proper.
Also,Leon,you might want to do some pop culture history research there. See,it's usually in times of strife and social turmoil that escapist entertainment is most in demand;the musicials of the 1930s,screwball comedies that lingered on thru the early 1940s when the US was getting into WWII,the sci-fi horror films in the 1950s. Before you say"Yes,but those are films,not books!",check out some of the best selling titles during the 1960s-sure,folks were reading Howl and In Cold Blood but plenty of others were devouring Valley of the Dolls and James Bond adventures. Gee,wasn't there a war around that time period,too?
Maureen,you're rather late to the party,dear. Reading this piece is like turning on a music show on MTV and hearing the host declare"Hey, did you know there's this new sound called hip-hop?" Most of us in the know would respond"And where have you been for the past decade,dude?" I think Hall and Oates can put this in the proper context for you,Maureen:
Snobbery is a sad thing to see,really-it severely limits your mental horizons. Also,I wouldn't freak out about a Sylvia Path cover that has pink lettering. It's one of those visual gimmicks by the marketing people that are meant to catch your eye and by your reaction,it worked like a charm. You've had books published ,Maureen,with less than subtle artwork on the front cover,geez! They should put copies of The Bell Jar in Hot Topic,with a cover like that. Bet it would just fly off the shelves there,mark my words.
Shame that we still have to debate this subject yet again,but perhaps some of the authors mentioned in the Dowd article will get a boost in sales,thanks to this exposure. That would be a sweet slice of literary justice there.
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