Friday, January 16, 2004 posted by Jen at 1/16/2004 10:15:00 PM
Olivia Goldsmith passed away last night, after suffering a heart attack while undergoing plastic surgery. According to the Times, her new novel, DUMPING BILLY, will be published posthumously this spring.
"I wrote 'First Wives Club' in true indignation,'' Goldsmith told The Associated Press in a 1996 interview. "It's not right. You choose a woman who bears your young and then you discard her for a younger, taller, thinner, blonder model. We are expected to have jobs now,'' she said. "We are expected to raise the family. We're responsible for the home, and we have to have thin thighs. Nobody can do it.''
It's strange that a woman who could speak this way -- and who could satirize the thinner-blonder-younger mania that possesses certain men of a certain age -- felt the need for plastic surgery in the first place. And I don't want to pin her death on publishers' hunger for the next hot young thing (which, in an odd way, parallels the middle-age-crisis-ridden husbands' search for the next hot young thing in Goldsmith's fiction).
Could have been a peer thing. A New York City thing. A the-whole-country's-obsessed-with-youth-and-beauty-so-why-not-me-too thing? But I just worry that, in the era of Jhumpa Lahiri, and innumerable profiles of Jhumpa Lahiri that never fail to mention her winsome/lissome/exotic/your-adjective-here good looks, and of Nick McDonnell (book deal at eighteen) and Christopher Paolini (book deal at seventeen), there's a rising notion in the world of publishing that you don't necessarily have to be young, or a babe, but jeez, it would sure help you get noticed if you could maybe manage to be one or the other. Which seems like a lot to ask. In my opinion, all writers should ever have to be is talented. Leave the doe eyes and high cheekbones for America's Next Next Top Model.
In happier news, the chick-lit forum last night was fun, and interesting, and I learned a lot -- mostly about the importance of a good, eye-catching cover, and how the genre will be evolving and changing to entertain its readers. You can read recaps here and here. (Hi, Caren!)
Last night also marked my second night away from Lucy -- and the first night I basically snuck out of the house after she'd fallen asleep and managed to be home by the next afternoon. This was a solid twenty-four hours away. I missed her terribly. Except when I fell asleep during my massage. But I felt good about giving the girl some solid daddy-daughter bonding time. When I came home, she was all decked out in her Eagles finery.
Monday, January 12, 2004 posted by Jen at 1/12/2004 10:06:00 AM
Sad news about author Olivia Goldsmith, in critical condition after reacting badly to the anesthesia she was given during plastic surgery.
Goldsmith is the author of the delicious THE FIRST WIVES CLUB and half a dozen other lighthearted novels of women who survive bad treatment and achieve over-the-top revenge, including YOUNG WIVES and THE BESTSELLER. According to the Times, she went under the knife to have loose skin under her chin tightened.
I'm sorry that this has happened to her. And I'm sorry she felt the need for the operation in the first place.
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Sebastian Junger and Candace Bushnell notwithstanding, writers are not meant to be the world's beautiful people. There are plenty of models and actresses whose fortunes depend on their forms and faces. Let them subsist on celery sticks and breath mints, and get their parts plumped up or pared down or lifted. Writers, who work in solitude, and who only have to confront an actual audience for maybe a week or two each year -- and that's if they're especially prolific, and their publisher is unusually generous in terms of a tour, and the media's even interested -- shouldn't have to conform to the same standards. We should be permitted -- nay, encouraged -- to go gracefully into that good night, with all of the wrinkles, stretch marks, love handles and chin flab that God gave us.
I worry that by succumbing to the lure of the nip and tuck -- which was, of course, her choice to make -- Goldsmith has inadvertantly wound up reinforcing the rising and pernicious notion that a writer's looks ought to matter, and that if you're not thin, young and beautiful -- or at least two out of three -- your book will languish on the shelves, unpromoted -- if it even gets published in the first place.
That idea's bad for the business of publishing. And it's a bad notion to put out into a world where the bar for everyone keeps being set higher and higher, thinner and thinner, prettier and prettier, where talent alone isn't enough -- you have to be talented, young, and beautiful, too.
Welcome to A Moment of Jen, author Jennifer Weiner's constantly-updated take on books, baby, and news of the world. Email me at jen (a) jenniferweiner.com.