This article in the Inquirer Magazine really riled me up today (and that was no easy task today, let me tell you). This mom is all upset because she bought the follow-up book to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and it's a little too spicy for her daughter, so she read it to her aloud and edited it along the way. Then she proceeds to eviscerate the whole "chick-lit" genre in general. Talk about easy targets. But I think she's entirely off-base. Observe:
Cecily von Ziegesar, the improbably named author of the Gossip Girl oeuvre, once told me, in all seriousness, "I think my books are very similar to Jane Austen." Then again, Plum Sykes said she wrote Bergdorf Blondes because she couldn't find a successor to Truman Capote and Edith Wharton.
In an ideal world, the words Manolo Blahnik would be forever banned from all novels. Comparisons to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton would also be prohibited for all novelists, especially authors prone to shopping references. What von Ziegesar has done is not ape Austen, whose work is terrific for teens (Wharton's is, too), but produce Judith Krantz for the Clearasil set.
Well unlike Little Ms. Goody Two Chiu's here, I absolutely agree with CvZ. The whole chick lit genre appeals to the same audience for the same reasons that Austen and Wharton appealed to in their times, the only difference is the time period. Their works were very popular and considered trashy and tawdry then, but over time their virtues have been cemented and they've become escapes into a bygone era. Who is she to say the same won't be said of these chick lit books 100 years from now?
I don't even remotely like chick lit. You'll never find me wondering what designer the Devil wears or the intimate details of the sex lives of impossibly thin, rich, and neurotic women. I have too many unread classics and non-fiction works on my shelf that command my attention, I don't need to supplement them with most of what's out there right now. But that's just a matter of taste, I don't think there's anything wrong with these books being published by and for adult women, especially if it gets people to read who might otherwise just not read at all. The fervor with which the women at my work pass these books around makes me smile, even though I don't have any interest in reading them myself. If this woman doesn't want her 10-year-old learning about the big O, maybe she should do a little more investigation before picking up these kind of books for her. Or maybe she should just let her daughter find books that interest her, maybe she'd rather be reading about dinosaurs or something. It'd be nice if sometimes parents talked to their children instead of talking to everyone else about their children, and by proxy, about what should be done for everyone else's children.
Also: what the hell kind of phrase is "salty argot"? Is that like escargot? ;)