Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lauren Weisburger you are on notice

I love reading but sometimes it's hard to find time. So I try to take my books with me on the zillions of planes I'm on in any given month (I got through The Count of Monte Cristo in about two weeks once just on airplanes if that tells you anything about my life). This weekend I left mine at home so I decided to pick one up at the airport. There wasn't much selection at the gift shop in my terminal and so I ended up with the second novel by the woman who wrote The Devil Wears Prada. Although that was one of the few instances where I think the movie actually corrected the problems I had with the book, I figured it would be a quick and relatively entertaining read.

About ten pages in I was seriously regretting my decision. One hundred pages in I was actually kind of upset. By the time I got to my layover in Houston I was so mad I almost threw the stupid thing in the trash. What made me so angry? Well let's just start with the fact that it's practically the same plot of The Devil Wears Prada just set in PR instead of fashion. The heroine is the same super clueless dork who finds herself dropped into a soul sucking profession, pursued by some sexy but shallow guy in the industry and proceeds to ditch her closest friends and almost lose sight of who she is before some melodramatic situation plunges her back to reality.

I could spend an hour on how the writing is only marginal, that it depends on a lot of lazy celebrity name-dropping to make it seem "in the know", how the characters are mind-numbingly one dimensional, or how I could go the rest of my life without reading or watching one more thing about shallow, spoiled, self-centered Manhattan glitterati.

But I won't. What I will say instead is that I'm officially off "Chick Lit". Ok so yes, I did enjoy Bridget Jones' Diary. But even then I remember reading it and thinking, "how hard is it really to get to work on time?" People kept saying how they really related to her and it bothered me. Bridget was funny but she was such a disaster. It seemed like life just batted her around like a rag doll until she fell into a great job and a fabulous boyfriend. I'm all for a nice realistic profile of single women in their 30's but I couldn't help thinking that she'd be the friend whose exhausing drama would make me avoid her phone calls. Chick Lit seems to rely on messy heroines. And not messy in any kind of interesting ways-messy in annoying, self absorbed ways like they can't figure out how to catch a guy, lose 10 pounds or control their spending. They invariably end up being swept up by some incredibly romantic man who bears no resemblance to an actual male. It's a women's fantasy version of a man. The kind who likes to shop and notices your haircut and says sweet things without prompting. In many chick lit books, this guy is also super rich and successful but the heroine doesn't usually know that until the end.

I guess for a lot of women, that's what they want in a book. A heroine who makes your own messy life look like neat as a pin, and a man who if you knew him in real life would actually be your gay friend. But I'm done with this drivel. Done with whiny, superficial women with silly problems, done with male characters that are either complete steroetypes or create unrealistic expectations.

Maybe that means I have to write one myself.

24 comments:

Chloe Elizabeth said...

I think I will...that is write one myself, eventually. I finished with the chick lit a while ago (although I have not let go of the adolescent stuff yet). We were just discussing the female heroine in my lit class and how there is still a long, long way to go in writing.

Real life chick lit plot...girl meets boy online, thinks he's amazing, super intelligent, very intellectual, tall, dark and handsome. They fall "in love". They get engaged. She moves across the country, realizes things are not as they seem. And while she has ostracized her family, left her job, rented out her house and he is the only person in the world who appears to "be there for her", she calls it off and heads home to her parents, where she gets over him, starts to repair the relationships she has damaged and realizes that life is good, great in fact. And even better because she walked away before it would have meant a divorce and custody battles. And now, she has her whole life in front of her with a thousand possibilities.

Good plot, n'est-ce pas? Perhaps a little too much "realism" and not enough "happy ending" for the average American reader...but I don't think so.

I think we need more realistic (both meanings intended) female heroes. Real women, living real lives...lives that illustrate the heroism involved in our everyday lives.

Rant over...some things get me more excited than others.

Zachariah said...

Nice post, Kate, but go ahead and tell us how you really feel. :)

Just kidding. And my wife says thanks for the shoes. She needed motion control/stability shoes, and that's exactly what you sent, os double kudos for that!!

lilcis said...

Okay, I know most chicklit is drivel, but have you ever read Marian Keyes? Her books are smart, funny, romantic, and insightful. They have real great heroines, whose problems are slightly more dramatic than most of us would encounter. But they don't end with their 'knight in shining armor' racing in to solve all their problems and sweep them off their feet. They are really, really good. I recommend starting with the books about the Walsh sisters, and reading them in the following order:

1. Watermelon
2. Rachel’s Holiday
3. Angels
4. Anybody Out There?

Mary said...

Katie, I am officially your #1 Blog Stalking fan. This post is like a cathartic exhale for me. Thank you. And yes, please write one yourself.

Katie said...

Amen. These books suck. Sometimes I pick one up hoping it will at least make me laugh, but it never does. They are lame, formulatic and not even interesting.

Miss Hass said...

Amen. And I would read it, enjoy it, and think you were even more brilliant.

CoCo said...

hmmm ... so I actually liked Everyone Worth Knowing better than DWP? I guarantee that I would hands down enjoy what you have to write/say more than Lauren W., but for those of us in our life that need a mindless escape and are looking for the book version of a Greys Anatomy type, I admit, I indulge.

pinetreesummer said...

Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books make me laugh out loud

Jayne said...

Boy do I agree about her - although I didn't like Marian Keyes much better, that might be a generational thing. I just keep looking for some lighter reading which is also well constructed and not so self indulgent. Or maybe I'll keep rereading Wallace Stegner. I have a very literature snobby friend who is a fan of the well written romance novel, but that might be too much sex for someone's little girl. Makes a plane ride pass quickly though...

k8 said...

i like escapist entertainment as much as the next guy. But it's sort of like how if 30 Rock can be both approachably funny and well written, why would i ever waste my time on something like Two and a Half Men? I picked up The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency on my mother's recommendation once upon a time and found fresh characters, satisfying plot lines and good writing. It was light and fun but I didn't feel like I needed an IQ transfusion after I was done. I'm not expecting, nor do I necessarily want, Wallace Stegner when I get on a plane (although I could read Crossing Safety exlusively for the rest of my life). But I guess I just think that a New York Times Bestselling author ought to be bringing more than a retread of her first novel and characters I would have fantasized about in junior high. I can name four or five people in my own life whose writing is far more interesting and original and so it irks me more than it really should to see such mediocrity rewarded.

And my last huge gripe is that I really do like men the way they are. Maybe it's just getting older but I don't daydream about Prince Charming anymore. I daydream about the authentic romantic moments that never sound as good when you retell them later. I'm really on one because I just finished the season finale of Friday Night Lights and there was a scene between the Taylors that had actual tears streaming down my face. And it was not some grand gesture, and it was not some huge speech. It was a short conversation and a look. But it felt ten times more real and ten times more desirable than ten dozen roses and white horses. Would we be so crazy about "man lit" with female character who just ran around in short skirts getting plastic surgery and asking to have sex while watching Sports Center and then cooking steaks for him and all his friends? I submit that we would not.

I swear I am getting off my soap box but I feel like when even escape art can be done well, then I'm not wasting any more of my life on the crap.

I am flying six hours tomorrow so perhaps I will take one of you up on your suggestions. Or I'll finish the copy of Persuasion I bought on the way home from Texas as a protest.

cropstar5 said...

Katie I would LOVE to read a book written by you. So.. get on that, will ya? ;)
And as much as I can enjoy a mindless chick-lit read I think that some authors should just be "one hit wonders" so to speak.
Also... I TOTALLY CRIED during FNL last night! Esp when they won the championship, and then when the Taylors were talking about the pregnancy. Ah! Anyone with a soul would have cried!
Have a great flight!

Miss Hass said...

I cried too. And I liked it. Thanks for introducing me.

Tom said...

After Sahara came out, I read the book to see how the movie compared. Then I read another of Clive Cussler's "Dirk Pitt" novels and pretty much feel the way you do about Ms. Wiesenheimer.

One story about a cool, slightly-troubled-but-super-smart ex Navy Seal going to exotic places for dangerous but environmentally noble work cool. It also is cool that he manages to fit in some trasure finding in the process and extra cool that he end up with a mint-condition, super-rare antique luxury car for basically nothing. The fact that some smart, super-sexy, chick jumps his bones with basically no effort on his part is just icing on the cake, right? Right.

Then I read a second "Dirk Pitt" novel and all of the exact same things happened. Different chick, different car, different exotic locale. Same. Damn. Story.

It is also why I don't watch James Bond movies. I like action-adventure as much as the next guy. I like shows with hottie women (a little more than I probably should). I like explosions and car chases and spies and guns. But I need a little more than just those things to come back to a franchise for a second film.

Anyhow, you're totally right about fluff-lit (chic or guy), I can escape to just about anywhere one time, but the next one has got to be different or it isn't really an escape, it is just a cheaper version of the same kind of banal drudgery I'm trying to escape from in the first place.

cropstar5 said...

umm.. is anyone going to mention dan brown? do i dare? i mean, i liked divinci code as well as the next person but i didn't like it so much when i read it again but it was angels & demons. or when i read it again again (why do i do this to myself) but it was called deception point.

k8 said...

don't even get me started on Dan Brown...have you ever seen the pretentious photos of himself he has on his website? that guy is a tool.

and hey Tom-are you really only a high school senior? between you and my sister I feel like i'm reading full grown adults. that are smarter than me.

aporitic said...

Sorry, that "tom" is me.

Google pulled a big-brother today and decided that they know better than I do which account I should be using to log in when I post comments. The filthy hippies.

. . . . .

Anyhow, I also wanted to high-five Chloe-E on the adolescent lit. Ever since my girls have started to read things other than Boxcar Children, I've been periodically reading YA books. There is some great stuff out there.

k8 said...

well then i won't tell my mother that my sister's boyfriend likes shows with hottie women...

f*bomb. said...

Don't you ever talk about James Bond that way.

Formulas work. It's the same reason I find "Charlie's Angels" so delightfully entertaining. Every single show involves going undercover as a model/prositute, double-crossing the good guy as a bad guy, sexist remarks by ignorent men (later disproved by the Angel's amazing intuition), someone in mortal danger, Farrah charms a dirty old man for information, and a minimum of 57 amazing new outfits.

You can't go wrong with a formula like that. I have the entire Season 1 from 1976 on DVD if you ever want to borrow it. Because I know you want to now.

k8 said...

i think i'm more tolerant of TV formula than i am book formula.

although i used to read every single Mary Higgins Clark book I could get my hands on...

f*bomb. said...

I went through an Agatha Christy stage in the 7th grade, until my mom made me stop reading them because I started getting paranoid when I was alone at night. But that woman sure does know how to twist a plot.

Nancy Drew was awesome, too.

veeda said...

I feel the same way about Chick Lit. I never touch the stuff unless I'm in the airport when I am desperate for some fun reading. Afterwards I usually end up with a bad taste in my mouth and wonder why I just wasted $14 on a bad read. I could have watched two bad movies for that.

P.S. thanks for visiting my site.

Tai said...

"They invariably end up being swept up by some incredibly romantic man who bears no resemblance to an actual male. It's a women's fantasy version of a man. The kind who likes to shop and notices your haircut and says sweet things without prompting. In many chick lit books, this guy is also super rich and successful but the heroine doesn't usually know that until the end."

What the hell Katie. This kind of a man is not a fantasy. He's ME!! My wife will vouch.

k8 said...

oh my gosh! that is totally right-YOU are a chick lit Mr. Right.

so awesome.

hyb said...

I so agree.... I swore off chick lit about 2 years ago, and there is so much better stuff out there that is both entertaining and well-written. Let us know if you get around to writing yours!

P.S. Came over from Emilystyle, love your insights!