Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ostriching and Generalizing Great Literature

First off, I missed a huge opportunity by living with my head in the sand.

Last weekend there was a rather important writing conference like ten steps from my front door. There were a couple of agents attending that I would have liked to meet and I even have two novels essentially ready to pitch. I put one up for sale on the Kindle store already, but my intent is to still try to get representation with it.

Is that kosher? I have no idea. I guess I haven't really looked into it. But it doesn't matter because I keep writing anyway and will never stop. So I'll always have something to sell. I like to keep forty irons in the fire at once. That way I'll never die. Unfinished business, right?

My goal is to live forever. I'm sure I can. I'm sure they'll have the secrets of immortality unlocked by the time I'm sixty-five. If not, I'll just keep living as a Methusaleh sort of character.

Ok, and another thing I'm thinking about is how derogatory and limiting the term "chick-lit" is. I mean, what gives? I swear I've mentioned this before, but we don't call books that are merely written for a general audience "dick-lit," but I'm thinking we should. Forgive the crassness, please, I'm simply trying to illustrate a point.

So I'm reading a Sophie Kinsella book right now and it's genius. PURE genius. I appreciate it on many levels, one of them being that I'm a writer myself and know how difficult it can be create humor in writing. Perhaps it's easy for Sophie, she seems like the type for whom it might come easy. I haven't read a "chick-lit" novel in some time, so I'm really enjoying it.

Normally I guess I read "dick-lit" because I read things that are not written for women. See? I mean, if you're going to call something that's just about people having hilarious conversations and experiences "chick-lit," then isn't everything else by default meant for men and therefore "dick-lit"?

Ok, so I'm being a bit obtuse, yes. I'll give you that. But it really irks me that Sophie Kinsella's books are being categorized in such a way that if a man wants to read it, he's by default totally emasculating himself, YET if a woman picks up a Hemingway novel, she's being smart.

Totally blows.

And I love Hemingway.

This all relates to feminist theory, and the whole male-gaze bull-crap which also really irks me. The nature of genres and categorizing is to make things easier and I appreciate it all in many ways, but I also think it's highly unfair and a rip-off to target-market in this way. I'd like to be able to say to my husband:

"Hey dude, you really really need to read this Sophie Kinsella book. It's freaking hilarious." And be able to have him say:

"Sure," without being under the impression—given to him by genius marketers and advertisers—that he's about to embark on something that will just bore the hell out of him because it's like, you know, shopping or something (given, some of her books are about shopping, yes, but not the one I'm reading).

Sorry, I must be feeling a bit sweary tonight. I just said hell and it felt right. Yes, I've had one of those long days where you just want to draw a bath, sip some champagne (I don't drink, but it might be relaxing), read, and say, "Calgon, take me away!" But instead I'm writing this blog post and getting more riled up the more I think about the marketing injustices created by absolute genius marketers.

"Hey," I'm sure they say, "better to have an audience than to be lost in the mess of books and bookshelves."

"See," they say, "her books would have ended up falling into those categories without our help. We just did what would come naturally anyway. And we marketed to a built-in audience."

Yeah? Well, they also intentionally give her books pink, flirtatious covers that supposedly attract women also. Right? Pink is well-known to be a woman-magnet, and it's not even that we've been socialized that way! It just happens!

Right. I know. I've watched my son pick between dolls and cars, and without any sort of prompting he picks cars. I'm not joking. I understand these things.

I just find it wrong. Look at an equivalent author to Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding, Nick Hornby. Does he get categorized into being meant just for male readers? No. I've read all his books. He IS the male Sophelen (combo of Sophie and Helen). Nick's books are considered to be just literature. And women can pick them up, read them, and be considered up-to-date.

Anyway. Meh. Bleh. I know I'm swimming upstream here, griping about things that are just, well, the nature of our civilization. It's like trying to stop female singers from singing in loud, screechy, high-pitched voices because it grates on your nerves, you know. They ought to sing in more mellow tones. After all, they have a freaking mike in front of their mouth, don't they? Just sing normal.

But no. They can't. They think loud is better.

Sorry. I'm sitting in a coffee shop, the speaker's right above me, and it's a girl singing to high heaven at eleven the entire time. My ear-drums are shot. I need some ear-muffs.

Well, there you have it. Irritated about everything. But really not. I'm pretty excited that Sophie Kinsella is so good, and all the men out there who don't read her books because she's called chick-lit are idiots. Their loss. A woman wouldn't hesitate to pick up, say a Tom Clancy or Nick Hornby and let them be judged for their writing and not their genres/category.

I guess that's why the world is OUR oyster. Us. Women, I mean. Because we're less limited by societal perception.

Somehow. I know that makes sense. I'll figure it out later. I need to figure out this music situation or else I'm going to die of irritation.

Sing normal!

Oh, thank heaven. Ear-pluggy type ear-buds, life-savers that you are. 


Carrie said...

How do you come up with this stuff? Dick-lit? Hilarious.
Will now be looking into both Sophie Kinsella and Nick Hornby.

N. Grotepas said...

Ah Carrie, you're too kind. :) I think I came up with it, actually back when I read "Bridget Jones' Diary" in college (early 2000) and loved it. Just the other day I was looking at a blog that does reviews and they said they won't do reviews for dick-lit. So I think it's pretty common apparently. Great minds think alike!

That blog WILL do reviews of chick-lit, however. :)

Let me recommend "Can You Keep a Secret" to read first of Sophie Kinsella. That's the one I read just barely (now reading "I've Got Your Number"). She wrote Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I believe they made into a movie. I haven't read it yet. Anyway, she's brilliant.

And "About a Boy" is good to start with for Nick Hornby.