A Moment of Jen
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Friday, February 13, 2009
posted by Jen at 2/13/2009 07:35:00 PM

A reader (and Facebook friend!) writes: what’d you think of Janet Maslin's review of "Death by Leisure," which includes the line "[f]ast and funny, “Death by Leisure” has the high spirits of a chick book, because its author is interested in chick-lit things: dates, celebrities, vanity and shopping. But it is also a tale of real woe."

What is THAT???? my reader wonders. The "but" says it all. What jerks.

I thought, why yes, that is odd!

You know what else it is? Familiar.

Come with me, won’t you, on a trip back in time. The year was 2008. The critic: Janet Maslin. The piece: a generally dismissive round-up of popular chick-lit titles.

The only book to escape being damned with faint praise (or just plain damned?)

Michael Tonello’s BRINGING HOME THE BIRKIN, which Maslin calls “the most adorable chick-lit book,” even though it’s “a work of nonfiction, and it’s written by a guy.”

The book “may break the mold a bit, but it does a fine job of fulfilling this genre’s basic requirements. It’s smart. It’s fizzy. It’s amusingly snarky, with attitude to burn.”


Full disclosure: I adored Tonello’s book, which was a hoot, even for someone who can’t tell a Birkin from a merkin (I know – I’m a traitor to both my genre and my gender!) Also, Janet Maslin has said a few not-entirely-dismissive things about a couple of my books.

But it’s interesting: the other titles in the round-up – books by Jane Green and Emily Giffin, Elizabeth Berg, Janelle Brown and Lauren Weisberger, among others – barely merit a sentence or two apiece. Often, that sentence isn’t very nice (Giffin is praised – sort of – for being “a dependably down-to-earth, girlfriendly storyteller,” while Green is petted for producing a “pleasant new book.”)

Also interesting: not one of the lady books got a full treatment in the Sunday section, the way Tonello’s did.

Which makes me wonder: is the only way to escape the girlie taint of writing fizzy, funny books that may or may not include dating, shopping and happy endings to write them as non-fiction, oh, and also, be a dude?

Also: girlie taint. I think I’m going to be getting a lot of accidental visitors this weekend. Thanks, Google!

In other news, you know how last week I was talking about all of those sad-sack Debbie Downer ladies writing tragic stories about dead kids? Can I point you toward Ann Hood’s excellent and heartbreaking "10,000 Steps," and take it all back?
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