Tania's Words

here is an empty shell- a resonant shadow- waiting

Archive for Jennifer Weiner

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.

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