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Chicklets, Alight

Filed under: Looked Into

My friend Ron Hogan has some wise words at Galleycat about the foolish, ill-informed debate about what is and isn't "chick lit." A sample:

"The women whose stories are collected here are not the party-girl likes of Plum Sykes and Candace Bushnell, who got their starts writing fashion copy and sex columns," sneers [the St. Petersburg Times' Collette] Bancroft. Funny—you know who else got her start writing fashion copy? Dorothy Parker. Oh, and I guess Bancroft would like to ask Dawn Raffel to hand in her literary credibility card, since working as an editor for Oprah magazine probably means she can't be a real writer. But wait, Bancroft's not done yet: "Instead, these women have studied at the Iowa Writers Workshop, taught at Princeton and Sarah Lawrence, published in Granta and McSweeney's." Well, if you've been through a creative writing program, I suppose you must be a real writer...like Princeton graduate Jennifer Weiner, perhaps?

One of the things you learn pretty quickly in publishing is that writers make their living however they can, and there's no shame in or necessary identification with even the fluffiest-seeming jobs, because work is work. An Iowa MFA graduate may earn some of her income writing peppy copy for the Martha Stewart TV-show website (the least fluffy workplace I've ever seen, by the way; these people are like air traffic controllers and day traders in one, and they almost never take breaks) and some of it teaching literature as an adjunct at City College, while reading manuscripts for free for The Paris Review. There are temps at Life & Style who edit literary magazines and submit near-perfect Talks of the Town; a Condé Nast drone may have just had a play produced and runs a reading series after work. Perhaps the smartest person I know just finished a stint at O magazine. It should go without saying that there are hordes of non-Ivy Leaguers publishing good contemporary literature (and enrolled in top-quality MFA programs, or else going it alone). And people who write book reviews for the St. Petersburg Times as often as not have a novel or nonfiction book or screenplay of their own in the works and will someday be on the other side of the critical table. Haven't we learned by now that it's foolish to judge a book by the profession or education of its writer?


Hear hear!

Darn tootin’!

And to be fair, many men we now admire have also done some very very fluffy stuff before we began taking them seriously, and I personally find that stuff fascinating to read (or watch, as in films, as the case may be). These people are making sure our fluffy nonsense is actually of pretty good quality.

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