09 July 2005


         As those of you that know me well might have predicted, I read this article with about the same lack of interest as Homer Simpson would the collected works of George Eliot, or any intelligent person would a Star Trek marathon.    (Do I digress?    Very well, then, I digress: I disdain multitudes.)    The silliness of this whole Chick-Lit genre-- the critical terminology as much as the source material-- is as risible as an Oompa Loompa genre.    This isn't sexist, believe it or not: great women writers-- like Woolf, Eliot, all three Brontes, Welty, Murdoch, Dickinson, Behn, Laurence, and so many others-- would never write such tripe and swaddle it in pretentious political robes to conceal that the fact.    There's a reason it's called "Chick"-Lit: it takes, generally, as its central premise rudimentary, and largely crude, assumptions about women (usually by women) and enlarges them against insipid templates of plot and characterization.    In short, it caricatures women, usually by rendering them as flighty but adorable stereotypes, ones as reductive and almost as offensive as anything in the poems of the John Wilmot or the more inflammatory novels of William Faulkner.    At least Wilmot and Faulkner were interesting, and knew well enough to be genuinely interested in women, however uneasily, to use that word mildly.

      My belief is this: that the more we stultify creativity by championing this sort of caricature-based pap, the more we succour reductionism and sexism that believes it is not.    Remember the turgid stereotype of super-male machoism, so popular throughout history but which reached its ludicrous apex in the 1980s films in which a single male could rip apart countries with an Uzi and His Very Will?    Admittedly, even that cliche hasn't receded entirely yet, but I don't think any but the most addled minds would give that cliche cultural credence.    The difference?    Right now, we're giving the Chick-Lit cliches cultural-- and regularly, academic-- credence.    Blech.    I try to imagine what Virginia Woolf would say about Sex and the City, or what Amy Lowell would say about Bridget Jones' Diary.    Somehow, I think they'd wipe their eyes in frustration, no doubt tinged with sadness, just as, say, John Milton might have if he had anticipated Zane Grey or, worse, Sylvester Stallone.    And writing this, now in the area of broad speculation, I am taunted by the thought of what Stevie Smith would say about our current state of affairs.    I can only imagine what she would have written in dripping response.    Suffice it to say, I think it would be slightly more sympathetic than anything Dorothy Parker would have had to say.

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