From today’s book deals on Publisher’s Lunch:
THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT: A Collection of Original Stories by America’s Best Women Writers, selected and introduced by Elizabeth Merrick, founder of the Cupcake Reading Series and blog, created to support women writers of literary fiction, including stories by Francine Prose, Myla Goldberg, Vendela Vida, Aimee Bender, Curtis Sittenfeld, Jennifer Eagan, and Samantha Hunt, to Julia Cheiffetz at the Random House publishing group (NA).
The Cupcake Reading Series is a great idea, something I wish were in Boston too.
Q: Who was the first ostensibly literary female novelist to bitch-slap an ostensibly commercial one?
A: Charlotte Bronte. Her victim? Jane Austen.
Bronte complained to a friend, “The Passions are perfectly unknown to her,” while to G.H. Lewes, she wrote in 1848, “Why do you like Jane Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point…”
One can almost hear Bronte gnashing her teeth at Haworth, all the while thinking, “Lightweight! What do people see in her? There aren’t even any bloody moors in her books!”
And now comes this latest salvo from the ostensibly literary, “This Is Not Chick Lit,” taking a cheap shot at the ostensibly commercial writers they obviously feel are stealing their potential readers.
Now, here is the thing: 157 years after Bronte made her snark-remarks to Lewes about Austen, readers are still reading both writers’ books, the former for their dramatic power, the latter for their crystal perfect rendering of a certain class of people at a certain place in time, albeit with a deceptively pleasing tone. How many of our writers, either literary or commercial, will still be read 157 years hence? Only time will tell. But to self-annoint oneself as being An Important Writer seems, well, a bit much to me.
That’s a good point Lauren. I was more excited about the fact that the Cupcake series editor had scored a book deal, less about the title. I go back and forth daily about the issue of ‘serious’ and ‘not serious’ literature, particularly with Chick Lit. I worry that the genre mistakenly stereotypes women and does nothing to urge women to make their voices heard beyond ‘Get me a husband/boyfriend quick’. But maybe I am tarnishing the whole group with the same brush. I know there are probably great books in the Chick Lit vein, I just don’t know what they are.
(Btw, being 4’11, I love your name!)
I know a lot of litbloggers who are fond of January Magazine. When JM reviewed my first novel, The Thin Pink Line, they favorably compared it to Jane Austen. On the surface, it’s a dark comedy about a woman who fakes an entire pregnancy. Scratch the surface, and you’ll see that it’s a scathing indictment of how, all too often, people pursue things in life more because “everyone else is doing it” than because they have ever really given any deep thought to the thing at all. Naturally, because the book is published by RDI, it’s automatically labeled chick-lit. If you’d like, and you send me your address, I’ll send you a complementary copy. If you like the first few pages, you can keep reading me; if not, you’ve got a free book to give to a less-intelligent friend for a birthday or holiday.
Finally, I think it’s that those who don’t actually read chick-lit mistakenly stereotype the books, rather than the books mistakenly stereotyping woman. As for my heroines, both real and anti, I always say that the only time any of them goes shopping is if they need a disguise.
Last finally, if you like Cupcake, that’s good enough for me. The series looks great, and the lineup for this prospective book – for the most part – looks fine. It’s just the title that stings.