Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of chicks and literature

I missed the initial dust-up in which Jennifer Egan, fresh off her Pulitzer win, described certain works of "chick lit" as "very derivative, banal stuff," prompting Jennifer Weiner, a noted author in that genre, to tweet, "And there goes my chance to be happy that a lady won the big prize." Floodgates have opened; Egan has been widely accused of attacking fellow women authors and setting the cause back 50 years.


Anyway, it's all spelled out in this Millions article by Deena Drewis, who pretty much has the same take on the fracas as I do. I've talked about this issue--expectations for women writers--in a slightly different context before. Bottom line, I think it's great that Egan advised "young female writers" to "shoot high and not cower." Although she may have steered them toward a life of relative poverty. Not, again, that there is anything wrong with chick-lit or women's lit (which I understand are not quite the same thing, inasmuch as I understand what either of these things really is). What's wrong is being shocked when some women say they don't want to write or read it.

In a related development, last Sunday, the "Riff" piece in the New York Times Magazine by Carina Chocano compared two movies that came out 20 (!) years ago, Thelma and Louise and Pretty Woman. Chocano points out that while the former was truly groundbreaking, the latter now seems more prescient and contemporary. Unfortunately.

I will just conclude with an update on my plea for complex portrayals of intellectuals in American fiction. How about complex portrayals of women intellectuals specifically? Of women for whom philosophical, artistic, and/or scientific concerns are central to life, not a misguided distraction or displacement of maternal energies?

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