A Moment of Jen
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005
posted by Jen at 3/01/2005 02:17:00 PM

But if the Times is going to keep writing about the same tiny handful of literary authors, I wish they'd write more about Judy Budnitz. I've loved her ever since FLYING LEAP, and NICE BIG AMERICAN BABY is brilliant and unsettling. She's kind of an acquired taste, and I can't say that if you like my books you'll like hers, too, but I think she's great.

Also: Meg Wolitzer, with a not entirely unsympathetic (if ever so slightly condescending) take on chick lit.

I agree that some of the books are more disposable than others, and that there's a certain comforting reptition in what you'll find between the hot-pink covers: a smart, wisecracking heroine, supportive friends, a dysfunctional family/workplace/relationship with Mr. Right waiting in the wings.

I also give her a lot of credit for noticing that while marriage is a goal of many of the books, it isn't a goal exclusive of autonomy, and for admitting that sometimes there's nothing wrong with craving sorbet instead of rib roast, or enjoying something "fluffier, sunnier, pinker" than Thomas Mann or Virginia Woolf.

But she says that chick lit is "entirely apolitical," and I disagree. I think that these novels all have politics as their underpinning: the politics of the boardroom, the politics of the bedroom, the dance that goes on in the workplace between women and men and or young women and older women; the conversation that goes on at home between husbands and wives about money and work when babies come along.

There's also a political subtext to the rise of chick lit: more and more women are getting published, getting film deals, and making money with their writing. Their books are selling overseas, being optioned for movies and TV shows. Young women writers (and their agents and their editors) are making money and gaining power.

I suspect that all of this has to be as unsettling as anything Judy Budnitz has ever written to a certain kind of critic, who looks out at the literary landscape and mourns for the good old days.
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