Aug 23 2006
Dear Ms. Merrick,
My newsletter from PaperbackDigital.com came and one of the featured books is your anthology titled “It’s Not Chick Lit.” I know that this topic has been debated to death. I am simply late to the party. My excuse is that I am running this blogging experiment about a book that *gasp* ends happily ever after and that I was spending time doing some virtual shopping with my BFF at Anthropologies’ website. We can’t decide which sweater coat we like the best.
I just had to write you this letter, in between debating over whether the high heeled boots or the flats are more trendy, because I think you are really struggling to articulate what you really mean. Let me see if I can help you speak to the illiterate masses that read the vile pink covered objects. In an interview you gave, you said:
The publishing industry is an industry that people are involved with because they’re passionate about literature, and they’re generally pretty overworked and working with very tight budgets and a diminishing audience so I think it just will take a little more time to figure out how to find a good way to bring books to their audience.
I know that you really didn’t mean to write that because we both know that authors and readers are people passionate about literature. Publishers are not. Otherwise, publishers wouldn’t give up on authors like Marsha Canham and Nicole Camden. Publishers would buy books like Lynne Connolly’s Rose and Richard series (which featured an alpha gay male long before the gay sidekick was archetype) and publish the Dark Ages series by Joan Wolf. Carla Kelly would get a greater push in the market. Publishers who cared about the state of the publishing industry wouldn’t drive markets into the dirt like the Regency romance or Chick lit or try to foist another secret baby Navy Seal story featuring a heroine who like Prada boots (I personally don’t like Prada boots, more of a Gucci girl myself) with her gay best friend. If publishers really cared about the industry it would a) price books lower so that we could buy more and b) it would listen to voracious readers who are demanding variety and less of the same old, same old.
What I really think you meant to say is that you wish publishers would stop jumping on the bandwagon of one book’s success, stop buying books just because they fit the formula, and look at each individual author’s writings to see if it would resonate with readers.
But your words seem to be an attack, not only on the genre, but on the reader. After all, we readers are the ones buying Meg Cabot’s books and not yours. The blurb for “This Is Not Chick Lit” isn’t even a blurb, it’s more of an anti-blurb. It says what chick lit is and then says that this book is, of course, not chick lit. I feel bad for you that this is the best title you could give your anthology. I mean, with all imagination, depth and writing ability that the contributors bring to the table and this title is the best they’ve got? The only thing that you all can do is ride of the coattails of the success of the very genre that you despise? Passive aggressive much? I’ve got some other suggestions for titles below.
This Is Not Chick Lit is a celebration of America’s most dynamic literary voices, as well as a much needed reminder that, for every stock protagonist with a designer handbag and three boyfriends, there is a woman writer pushing the envelope of literary fiction with imagination, humor, and depth.
It goes on to say that the collection touches on the same themes as chick lit, to wit: the search for love and identity, but the non chick lit babes do it better with “extraordinary power, creativity, and range; they are also political, provocative, and, at turns, utterly surprising.” Why aren’t they all surprising? Or are some utterly surprising and some are just surprising? I tend to think “utterly surprising” is a bit redundant (the curse of the chick lit genre is even pervading your vocabulary. Scary how powerful it is!). I would think with your absolute mastery over the English language that you would be able to provide a better blurb. Adverbs are so chick lit yesterday.
You acknowledge that chick lit themes are okay but the manner in which the themes are delivered is redundant. The problem isn’t the genre, Ms. Merrick, it’s the writers that the publishers are publishing. Even lovers of the genre don’t want the same recycled mess over and over. What are you trying to say but not doing a very good job of it despite your literary prowess is bandwaggoning is not good for the industry. See infra. (that means see previous or above but I suspect you knew that, you smarty, you).
The definition of chick lit isn’t poorly written books. I thought that chick lit books were books about women in their 30s looking for love and identity. Frankly, your book is chick lit. Here’s some better titles for your next anthology “This Is Not What the Publisher Wanted”
or “This Is Not What the Bookstore Put On the Front Table” or “This Is Not What Readers Are Buying” or even better, “This Is What Smart Women Read. The Stupid Women Read the Books With the Pink Covers.”
Now, of course, I am singing to the choir as those who participate in the anthology would never stoop to read the musings of reader with such lowbrow tastes as I have, but I am guessing that I am solidly in the demographic that they would like to capture. I am 30 something with advanced degrees and a decent income whose girlfriends are all within that same category. We own our businesses, cars, and houses. We have the requisite number of brain cells required to read. We are savvy enough to understand that we don’t like certain pink covered literature because it is bad writing. But we are also smart enough to discern that just because a book is labeled “serious” fiction doesn’t mean it’s worth the paper its printed on. No matter how stuff is packaged: Shit is shit and gold is gold and there are any number of people who will place their subjective opinions as to the value of what is behind each cover, no matter if it is pink, black, purple or blue.