Tania's Words

here is an empty shell- a resonant shadow- waiting

Archive for Hemingway

In which she’s embarassed that she writes Chick Lit.

The other day, I read an interesting article outlining the debate over the Chick Lit Label. While the article itself was interesting, the best part, in my humble opinion, were the comments by readers. After browsing through them all, I found that I agreed with some things, and that a whole lot of it made me feel defensive and insulted.

But maybe that is because I am writing a Chick Lit novel. At least I think it is. And I’m embarrassed to admit it.

And herein lies my problem with this label. Aside from the insulting name (I don’t call other women Chicks, and don’t want to be called one),  defining just what is or isn’t Chick Lit is rather murky. Some of the readers seemed to think bodice rippers fit the bill. Others commented that Chick Lit follows a fromula- 20 something woman living in New York who’s shopping/Diet Coke/ manwhore addiction leads her astray. But she’s really funny,  and has great shoes. Even more readers felt that Chick Lit consists of bad writing, written by women, for women (ouch). Light, fluffy, nonsense- all words I’ve seen ascribed to Chick Lit.

Well, the truth is that none of these describe my book. No bodices get ripped. My heroine lives in Michigan, doesn’t particularly care for shoes or shopping.  She’s not funny, at least not intentionally.  Is this book light, fluffy, mind numbing drivel? God, I really hope not.

This is the a struggle I’ve had since I began this book. I didn’t write the story with the intention of writing Chick Lit. I honestly just wanted to write a fiction book; and this happened to be the story that came out of me. I don’t mind that is is written by a woman (wouldn’t that be hilarious), for women.  And I can’t help if the closest genre I can find to fit it into is Chick Lit. I do, however, resent the idea because it is Chick Lit  it must be crap.

I’ll admit, I will read anything. I’ve been known to read the labels on bath products when bored enough. And I’ve read my share of terrible books, badly written or with just terrible plots, unlikeable characters. Books that make you cringe with embarrassment, or, very rarely (for me that is), put them down, unable to finish.

But in that little hodgepodge of reading licentiousness, there are some true gems. I might read a lot of Nora Roberts, and as yet, this hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for Steinbeck (let me just say that I’m not lumping her into the above mentioned group. I named her only because she was one of the names thrown out by a commenter in response to the article).  Am I aspiring to high fiction? No. Not because I wouldn’t love that- but it’s just not what came out. Do I think there are probably hundreds, thousands of better written, more beautifully executed books than mine? Of course.

Ok, lets take a little break so I can stop feeling defensive

The truth is, that I read  a lot of the authors named by the readers of this article. Weiner, Giffin, Weisberger– I’ve read and loved their books.  Even amongst those three, there are huge differences. Weiner’s books may be funny, but when I read  Certain Girls , I cried so hard, my  husband actually took it away from me. I would never call that book “light” or “fluffy”.

I resent the idea that just because something isn’t Hemingway, or Woolf, it must be rubbish; that it must contain juvenile or lazy writing, crappy story telling. I like to think of them as different. And maybe one is better than another, but at the end of the day, I bet you that Nora Roberts is laughing her way to the bank. Nora Roberts is hugely successful for a reason.  Easily accessible stories people can relate to, or want to relate too, that help us escape our own lives for just a bit aren’t a crime. I might have a personal book spectrum, a way that I internally evaluate the books that I read. While I might put Nora on one end, and Hemingway at the other, with some Weiner thrown in the middle, you won’t find me calling any of it crap. They all are serving a purpose and a function in a reading world.

Yeah, my book isn’t even in the same solar system as The God of Small Things.  Sometimes, you want to read something that beautifully written, that moving. But that book is also dark, at times painful, and in my case, life changing. But I can’t always take that. Sometimes, I just want a happy ending. I don’t mind putting a little more love and positivity into the world.

Maybe I just have a low tolerance for snobbery. Do I need to know that you are so much smarter than us peons who think that romance novels are enjoyable?  Than the thousands of women who laughed out loud when reading the Devil Wears Prada? I’ve never understood people who need to build themselves up by proving how much smarter they are, how much better or just more deserving.  I know I’m smart, I don’t need to prove it to anyone else to know it. It has never bothered me that there are plenty of people in the world, in my life, who are smarter.  Hence, I’ve never felt the need to join the elitist ranks of readers who will look at you with a knowing, mocking grin as you thumb your way through the newest Julie Garwood.

I don’t know if my book is funny, or fluffy, badly written, or just crap. It just is. It came out of me this way, and I would never, ever wish that it hadn’t.  It would have been nice to write the next great American novel. But writing something that may potentially bring a smile to another persons face, help them get through a rough time, or just give them a little vacation from the real world? Pretty awesome. And if it never does any of that for anyone else, at least it did for me.

The Most Depressing Reading Spree Yet.

Apparently this blog is going to be about books. A book blog. Because it seems that reading is all I ever do. Well not really. There is my obsession with Lost, taking care of Parker, and the house.  I’ll admit, though, that the house is the most sadly neglected aspect of my life. I am a terrible housewife. Really terrible.

Moving on to things that cheer me up, lets talk about what I’ve been up to lately. Let’s see. I have been under the thrall of a death cold which will not release me. Maybe it’s been two colds. Who knows by now? I’ve been sick for about four weeks, which is just a barrel of laughs.

Wait, this is supposed to be cheering me up. Ok, happy thoughts. Well, after I finished The Great Gatsby, I read A Farwell to Arms.  I had read pretty much the whole book a week ago, barring the last 30 pages. However, since I knew how it ended (yes, for those of you who don’t know, I read the end of most books first. I like knowing what is going to happen), I couldn’t bring myself to read the end. I already knew what happened right? But it was so much worse in context of the whole book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book. I really like Hemingway.  As someone who has been a history dork in a past life, I really appreciated his candid description of the war (WW1). There is something very simple and dry about his style of prose which belies what he is really saying. The whole book you have soldiers talking about how tired of the war they are, how they are done with it already, telling each other, “You think you know, but you don’t yet. You’ll know when you really know, ” The whole book is kind of like this- men saying something without saying it. There is a subtle subtext to all of the conversations, all of the interactions, that really make the reader think.

You realize by the end of the book, that it really adds up to nothing. Henry’s realization that he is really nothing important- in the end his relationship with Cat, his status as a lieutenant, all the men lost in the war, the war its self…it is as if it is nothing really. The meaninglessness of the situation, the war, his life. The scene in the end when he is remembering  the ants on the log- it is really moving in this way.  He is so detached from what he sees happening, as if he is a God like figure, but one who doesn’t really care or isn’t very invested. It doesn’t matter if the ants live or die in the end. He could take them out of the fire, but eventually, they will die anyway. It is almost as if their existence is meaningless. It doesn’t matter that he kills them, none of it really matters at all in the end. But as much as it doesn’t, and as detached as he is from it all, underneath the words on the page, you know that he finally gets it. What the soldiers were talking about- now he really knows.

Ok, so that was depressing. But it was a good book. I apologize if my sentiments are rather  muddled. I am not up for any real meaningful insights today, or any sort of real eloquence. Perhaps I should just leave it at that then.

Anyway, last night I read Of Mice and Men, which I have never read. Wasn’t crazy about it. Mostly though, that was because after the Hemingway, I wanted to read something uplifting. The only really uplifting stuff I have is Nora Roberts type stuff. Which is why I read these books.

Life is hard, and sometimes, it sucks a lot. I mean, it is awesome a lot too, but sometimes, you just need to escape a little. I love the predictability and dependability of a good romance novel. You know that in the end, love will conquer all. They will be happy and together, and everything will work out. Sometimes, I need a little of that to get through the day. And while I really needed a pick me up last night, I just wasn’t in the mood for Nora.I really should have known better.

This was like the time that Liz and I watched some ridiculously depressing movie (I can’t remember what it was though). We decided to watch something uplifting, and picked Legends of the Fall. Neither of us knew a thing about the movie, other than it starred some hot guy (maybe Brad Pitt?). Any of you who have seen this movie will know what a monumental mistake this was. This movie was like one seriously depressing moment after another.

And so went my reading of Mice and Men. In my defense, I had no idea what it was about. I loved The Grapes of Wrath, which was a depressing book in general, but overall had a beautiful and uplifting ending. How was I to know it would involved murdered puppies and mice and lonely people treating each other badly? Oh well.

I haven’t much hope for the next book I am reading, which is Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton. But it was there, I was there. I would have read Sons and Lovers, because as we all know, I love me some D.H. Lawrence. But I figured I should expand my horizons and read something by someone I haven’t read before.

Speaking of all these books, lets talk about how much I love my library. I got all of these books at my local library’s Friend to Friend sale for 1-2$. It is awesome.  Hence, I heart the library.

Well, I should be off. In non book related news, Relay for Life is kicking into high gear. I had no idea how involved I was going to get with the planning committees when I joined last September, but I am really loving it. I am getting to know some amazing people, and I am a part of something that is really important to me, an organization and a community that are near to my heart, that inspire me and give me hope. I don’t think I could ask for more!