Squawk Radio

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Connie Saves the Second Day-- and offers herself up as canon fodder

In order to suss out what is being offered to the world under the heading “Women’s Fiction”, I dropped beaucoup bucks at the bookstore a few months ago and came home with an armload of titles. Since then I’ve been reading them and I have discovered a few, hm, should we call them predilections? that I’d like to talk about. Today is Chick-Lit day...

I came to the sub-genre unjaded, having never read any before (I think that before this year, I was the only person in the world not to have read Bridget Jones’ Diary.) I stayed unjaded for about three books, during which I laughed and smiled through the escapades of a fresh- mouthed heroine who is unapologetically cruising for love and a nice lifestyle in all the wrong places. Then, around book four, the jade set in, solidified over the course of another five or six books and has now petrified into cynicism.

Here is what I think constitutes a Chick-Lit book.

A spunky if harassed urbanite (preferably a New York urbanite) of twenty five years or so who has just started her first “real career type job” juggles the demands of employer, dissolving family, and bad financial decisions while trying to find Mr. Right amongst a backwash of bars, corporate picnics, and the hallways leading to her apartment, an apparently universal situation since she ends up at some point in a high-end restaurant comparing cliff notes with her friends while naming martinis and discussing the best place to buy Dolce and Gabbana at discount. After several slapstick and/or embarrassing encounters with “Just a Guy” she meets through work, she finally agrees to a date and voila! thereafter eschews the egocentric and clueless hunk whom she has been lusting after. She then gets a new job or at least a new job title. The End.

Now, as templates go, this isn’t a bad one and, as a genre writer, I have no problem with templates. I embrace them. What I do have a problem with is the voice in these stories. The first person voice often used is unremittingly focused on acquisition: acquiring a boyfriend, a step up the corporate ladder, a new purse, a new experience, all of which are given about the same emotional weight. I *think* this rapaciousness is supposed to convince us of the heroine’s brutal self-honesty. It only convinces me that she is shallow, vacuous, and a little pathetic. And all those pithy, edged little throw away lines that are, I assume, supposed to illustrate her wit? They just illustrate an attention span deficit. The problem with relentless one-liners is that the good ones, and there are some real gems, are too often hidden in an avalanche of the character’s observations. In too many of these books the narrative has become carnival patter.

Okay, I’m donning my Kevlar. Have at it (or me)!
Connie Brockway, 10:55 AM