In a nutshell: last week Meg Wolitzer, who is decidedly a Literary Author, wrote an essay in praise of chick-lit writers, calling them “Pink Ladies,” and while she has good intentions, you got the sense she was just a tad too amused with the idea of slumming with these fluffy girly novel confections to notice what their authors are trying to say about women’s lives and class issues and all kinds of sticky difficult cultural stuff. So Weiner decided to call her on it: first, briefly in her blog, and then in a guest essay on Beatrice.com. Go read it!
Sometimes I feel fortunate that my book cover doesn’t have a spot of pink, a shoe, or a martini glass on it, but I’m preparing myself for the fact that at the first whiff of “fat girl” some folks will likely jump to conclusions about my book (like my Kirkus reviewer, who kind of skimmed the end*). And others might dismiss it if there’s any kind of comparison to Bridget Jones.** And then sometimes I have to shake the feeling that writing this book means I’ll never get to Iowa Workshop Grad Heaven, where everyone has a nice fellowship, guy poets don’t use metaphors like “the chiaroscuro of her breasts” quite so damn much and without any discernible purpose, and everyone has died knowing that their literary legacy is secure and, um, literary. But I like to think what I’m trying to do here on this side of things–whether it’s the dark side, or the pink side, or whatever–is worth something, which is why Weiner’s essay hit home.
And for the sake of comparison, here’s a little story: in the fall of my freshman year at Iowa I saw Meg Wolitzer read. It was the first reading I’d ever attended–a fiction and poetry reading: Meg Wolitzer read the fiction; James Tate was the featured poet. She was reading from her novel This Is Your Life, which was just about to be made into the movie This Is My Life. I remember it not just because it was my first reading, but because it was the reading Jorie Graham*** was referring to in the very first paragraph of her introduction to that year’s Best American Poetry anthology. No really, go read that first paragraph–I know Graham is making a point about the difference between prose and poetry, and of course she doesn’t give names so she never says it was Wolitzer’s reading, but still: for all of Meg Wolitzer’s Literary Gray Lady stature now, in that essay from fifteen years ago she was the one on the flashy “fast track,” with the movie deals, reading the perky funny stories that made people feel all comfy and “at home.” Plus apparently she “sprayed forward over the unsaid,” with like, her big aerosol can of mid-list prose or something. So evidently you can be Gray and still, you know, spray. Or the grass is always grayer on the other side. Or maybe we shouldn’t be concerned with how Pink any of us are or aren’t.
*Yeah, so the stuff in the last three lines of that review, the stuff the reviewer says happens in my book… doesn’t actually happen in my book. Oh well–guess you can’t get them all right, Kirkus Reviews. (Or can I call you “Kirk,” since for most of the review you’re on a first-name basis with me?)
**A comparision I’ll gladly take when it’s meant well, and I know in that review it is, lest I appear to be complaining too much.
***Graham taught at Iowa at the time, and I completely worshipped her, and at that time in my life I wanted to be the poetriest poet ever and so I clearly remember sitting through the Meg Wolitzer part of the reading thinking “whatever, I’m a poet,” and thinking it slightly vulgar that the story I was listening to was going to be made into a movie, and I wouldn’t have even admitted to really enjoying Wolitzer’s reading, but you know, I think I did. And now I’m not ashamed to say so, dammit.