Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chick What?

I’d love to hear Maureen Dowd respond to the widespread wit her NYT column on Chick Lit, “Heels Over Hemingway,” has fostered all over the blogosphere.

So many people have read the column -- or read about the column -- that I’m not going to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that Dowd says she walked into a bookstore and was blown away by the fact that she “couldn’t find a novel without a pink cover.”
No, I realized with growing alarm, chick lit was no longer a niche. It had staged a coup of the literature shelves. Hot babes had shimmied into the grizzled old boys’ club, the land of Conrad, Faulkner and Maugham. The store was possessed with the devil spawn of “The Devil Wears Prada.” The blood-red high heel ending in a devil’s pitchfork on the cover of the Lauren Weisberger best seller might as well be driving a stake through the heart of the classics.
Some of the responses have been hilarious (“Maureen Dowd Discovers Chick Lit: Welcome to the 21st Century,” trumpeted Galleycat) and none of them have been kind. (And on her Buzz, Balls & Hype blog, author M.J. Rose (The Venus Fix), never one to miss a marketing trick, points out that the books Dowd mentioned have all enjoyed a sales spike since the column ran.)

Here’s the thing, though: Dowd is no slouch. Maybe we missed the point? Maybe... I don’t know... maybe her tongue was in her cheek? This is, after all, the writer who was Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1996 (there’s irony there somewhere) and who, in 1999 won a Pulitzer Prize for her (wait for it) coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And the woman who is (here’s the topper) the author of the 2005 non-fiction work Are Men Necessary? (Penguin), a book with a lurid quasi-detective novel cover aimed obviously and squarely at the same people who buy the books she appears to denigrate in her NYT column. (From the publicity material: “Women's liberation has been less a steady trajectory than a confusing zigzag. Feminism lasted for a nanosecond and generated a gender tangle that has bewitched, bothered, and bewildered men and women for forty years. Now comes a woman to cut through the tangle and tickle Adam's rib. The battle of the sexes will never be the same.”)

Dowd’s NYT column is here. GalleyCat pipes up here and then here.


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