Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Bridget Jones Don't Get No Respect: A Literary Critique
I recently ran across this rant against chick lit, and though this sort of thing usually doesn't stir my blood enough to respond, I found myself roused to action for once. Let's begin with the money quote:
The doyen of chick lit, the Brit �migr� currently ensconced in LA enjoying all things razzle and dazzle, Helen Fielding herself, the Darth Vader of Chick Lit - she responsible for B****** J**** (I�m sorry, I can�t bring myself to say the words - it�s like actors and Macbeth - Fielding and her scatty heroine are the benchmark for all that is horrible in the world of books) - she has a new book coming out. [snip] Speculation is mounting as to whether she has written a �James Bond in tights . . .� I believe Charlie Brown put it best when he said �Good Grief . . .� Picador are paying Fielding seven figures for this stuff. What a world . . .
Now, apart from the fact that this guy is way too fond of ellipses, I have several objections to his comments.
1. Since when is it illegal for a Brit (or anybody else) to move to L.A. if they strike it rich? I live in L.A., thank you very much, and I sure as hell would rather live here than in England. Nothing against England, but it's incontestable that we have better weather, for one thing. If Ms. Fielding decides to pull up stakes for a bit, who are we to quibble? And what does this have to do with her writing ability?
2. "Fielding and her scatty heroine are the benchmark for all that is horrible in the world of books." Come again? Look, I'm the first to admit that Bridget Jones is not exactly Shakespeare, but I found it an enjoyable read. I would even argue that "chick lit" as a whole -- my, you can almost hear the sneer in this guy's voice, can't you? -- is a not unworthy genre. People like to read about themselves. Single women like to read about single women. If the writing is good enough, lots of other people will like to read about single women, too. I realize this will probably mark me as a intellectual lightweight, but I've tried your Serious Literature, and you can keep it.
3. The writer of the comments above is a guy. Big surprise.
4. I've been trying to track down the exact source of this quote, and I can't, but somewhere in Jane Austen's oeuvre is the following ladylike rant:
"'Oh, it is only a novel!' says the young lady, tossing it aside; 'It is only Camilla, or Pamela'" - and then comes something to the effect of how tired the narrator (Ms. Austen) is of hearing novels demeaned and "serious writing," such as essays or scientific writings, extolled. I think Jane knew quite well what it was like to be pigeonholed as a "chick lit" writer in her day. It's especially ironic when you remember that Bridget Jones's Diary was based on Pride and Prejudice.