A Moment of Jen
THE NEXT BEST THING — In Stores July 3rd!

Monday, February 12, 2007
posted by Jen at 2/12/2007 09:33:00 AM

Hey, I’m on Martha Stewart’s website, in advance of my appearance on Wednesday!

“First, get in the mood for romance with chick lit authors Jennifer Weiner and Jane Green. Then, what would today be without chocolate? Martha shares a sweet, chocolate Good Thing. And, New York chef Michael Schulson makes a special dish…and Martha welcomes Westminster Kennel Club’s best in show and best in breed for Frenchies and chows.”

So that would be, me, Jane Green, chocolate, chef, dogs (but, in Jane’s and my defense, award-winning dogs). Isn’t there some famous show-biz rule about not appearing onstage with dogs and children? Hmm.

In other news, major snowfall forecast for Tuesday, when I’m supposed to travel to NYC. That is not a Good Thing.

I was in Seattle for the weekend to speak at a Jewish Federation event and spend a lot of down-time in one of my favorite hotels, revising the new book. I was taking a break (okay, I was getting my nails done), when my Blackberry started to buzz. It appears that Maureen Dowd has belatedly discovered that there are lots of books with pink covers in her bookstore, and She Is Not Amused.

I read the column incredulously (it’s not online, but you can find it here by clicking and scrolling), certain that I was having some kind of acetone-fume-induced hallucination. The corpse of Anna Nicole Smith lies there for her delectation, a big, gorgeous, bleached-blond buffet of every metaphor about celebrity, the media’s toxic glare, the nature of fame and money and the female condition in America you’d care to sample – and the Times’ pop-culture columnist sinks her claws into chick lit?

I think I should have put my stock responses on a save/get key years ago to save myself the trouble of writing them out each time: yes, chick lit’s more than sex ‘n shopping soap bubbles; no, books written by women about relationships aren’t inherently less valuable than those written by men about wars (and really, what’s the world come to where someone like me has to point that out to someone like her?)

As Ron Hogan at Galleycat trenchantly observed, most of the world’s columnists, anonymous bloggers and Serious Women Authors took their shots at my poor maligned genre years ago, and most of them, I’m sorry to say, did it better than Dowd. (“In the 19th century in America, people often linked the reading of novels with women,” Dowd lectures. And in the 21st century in America, people often groaned out loud after encountering sentences this ridiculously stilted.)

Her column breaks no new ground, offers no new evidence, and it’s marred by some impressively lazy arguments.

Chick lit’s dumb and frivolous, Dowd says – and to prove it, she quotes from a British young adult title, published in the US by Harper Teen, stating clearly on its cover that it’s intended for an audience 12 and up, which hardly seems sporting.

Chick lit writers all blurb each other, she complains – and, hooray, I get name-checked as Jennifer “Good in Bed” Weiner! (I know she didn’t mean it as a compliment, but, seriously, how fabulous is that going to look on a tee shirt?)

I don’t know how much time Ms. Dowd spends in her local Borders (if she’s just noticing the proliferation of pink covers, my guess is, not much), but the phenomenon she observes is hardly exclusive to the girlie ghetto. How many young male writers get Dave Eggers’ approval? How many horror novels and thrillers come with praise from Stephen King and Clive Barker garlanding their jackets?

Beneath Dowd’s D-list name-dropping and arch, above-it-all tone is a faint but persistent whiff of desperation, the unmistakable cat-pee scent of the Times’ resident glamour-puss turning into a sourpuss, a crabby old lady in curlers and a housecoat, waving her cane and yelling at the kids to get off of her lawn. Those young girls with their silly books! Why won’t they read what I tell them to?

In spite of her imprecations, I seriously doubt that the readers who enjoy their Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin et al will be throwing down their pink books and making a mad dash for “The Red Badge of Courage” on Leon Wieseltier’s say-so. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as for me? I read it in high school.
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