Wednesday, August 25, 2010 posted by Jen at 8/25/2010 02:02:00 PM
I survived my book tour. I met a lot of wonderful readers, ate a lot of delicious cupcakes, have been thrilled with the way FLY AWAY HOME’s been received in the world (and BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, too, which has been having a wonderful run in paperback this summer). Thanks so much to everyone who bought a book, came to a reading, sent me a funny tweet or Facebook message and has made me feel like It’s All Worth Something.
Meanwhile! Maybe you’ve heard that Jonathan Franzen has a new book out?
Franzen, you’ll recall, is the author of the 2001 critically beloved blockbuster THE CORRECTIONS. Around my house, he’s perhaps even better known for being the Man Who Turned Down Oprah, and pissed off a great many other writers with his public hand-wringing over what her imprimatur and down-market, daytime-TV watching (largely female) audience would mean for his reputation.
Well, he’s back! On the cover of Time! In the pages of Vogue! Reviewed, glowingly, not once but twice in the New York Times! Which has also devoted a news story and an inside-the-list column to FREEDOM, even though it won’t come out ‘til next week!
Jodi Picoult, number-one bestseller of quote-unquote commercial fiction (full disclosure: she and I attended the same college and are published by the same house), has a problem with that. Last week, she tweeted about all of the attention the Times gives to its white male literary darlings, at the expense of the hundreds of thousands of other writers – some of them literary, some of them quote-unquote genre writers – who get no love at all.
If you know me, you know that I’ve long taken issue with who the Times chooses to endorse and how its coverage unfolds and why, for example, formerly hot women who write memoirs get consigned to the Style section where totally un-hot men who write about their addictions get respectful full-length reviews.
I’ve been tweeting up a storm under the hashtag #franzenfreude, and have, it seems, stirred up a bit of a tempest. What can I say? “Bachelor Pad” is boring, my other programs don’t start for another few weeks, and I can’t talk about my work-in-progress or any of the other exciting developments going on. So I’ve turned a bemused (but not too bitter) eye toward the Franzen frenzy, which has quickly become the hash-tag heard ‘round the reading world.
Of course, not everyone was pleased at a potential disruption of the status quo, or uppity bestselling lady writers even noticing that the status quo could maybe use some disrupting.
Lorin Stein, of Sidwell Friends, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Farrar Straus Giroux and The Paris Review, took to The Atlantic's blog to accuse Jodi Picoult and I of "false populism." (Want to buy a made-to-measure shirt to wear the next time YOU accuse someone of false populism? Mr. Stein told New York Magazine that he gets his here).
The New York Times crib sheet made note of the "Franzenfreude movement" (sic) and suggested that interested parties could meet "in front of Jennifer's TV during Oprah." Because, you know, silly ladies, with their Oprah. Except the New York Times does not know where I live! So suck it, New York Times!
It’s all very exciting…and a little frustrating. Ten years into my publishing career, ten years of pointing out the same problems, and very little has changed. Boy books -- spy novels, thrillers, satire, sci-fi -- write one of those, and maybe you'll at least get mentioned in a Sunday round-up in the Times. Write chick-lit/beach-books/insert-your-own-perjorative, and it's off to the back of the bus, with nothing. Except, of course, your big, giant check (one of Mr. Mabe's readers suggested that Jodi and I should go off and cry into our mink hankies, and I know I should have been offended, but instead I thought, 'Does someone really make those?')
Anyhow. FREEDOM drops next Tuesday. Jason Pinter interviewed me for a piece on Franzen, gender and genre, and I’ll post our entire Q and A tomorrow, including some Super Sad Bookscan statistics about what the Times' love and affection will actually do for the sales of a much-hyped literary novel, and why it actually could help literary writers if critics would actually take quote-unquote beach books a little more seriously.
Stay tuned. And do come join the fun on Twitter, where I am, as ever, right here.
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.