Jennifer Weiner’s persecution complex or promotional stunts continue! A profile of Jennifer appears in this week’s New Yorker and it’s full of some doozies.
Image via the New Yorker
Once again, as a reader and a writer, I was out of step, out of fashion. – Jennifer
Following Clare Messud’s statement about how readers shouldn’t pick up a book to make friends, Jennifer “once again” felt left out. Yes, totally, probably the only author mentioned in this article who’s sold more than 4.5 million books should be worried about being “out of step.”
Through her blog and her Twitter account, Weiner has stoked a lively public discussion about the reception and consumption of fiction written by women.
What she’s done hasn’t so much created a lively public discussion about fiction written by women as it has created yet another discussion about “types” of women: what’s OK and what’s not OK. The result is just another infight between women that’s not addressing the real problem of taking women authors of all genres seriously.
Nevertheless, Weiner believes that these writers [Messud, Wolitzer] are guilty of a tactical betrayal: “Every time a woman finally ascends to that level of ‘I’m up here with the big boys,’ it feels like, too often, what she does is turn around and throw shade on commercial works of fiction.”
Without being in the “big boys’ lit club” (which I’d argue most women lit writers aren’t either), isn’t Weiner just throwing shade on other female authors? Also, Wolitzer’s statement regarding putting soft, feminine covers on all books written by women regardless of the book’s content wasn’t a jab at Weiner as she sees it. It was a statement of fact. It’s incredibly misleading for readers and paints all women with the same incorrect paint brush.
Weiner says that she would relinquish her role as an ombudsman of publishing-world sexism if a writer with a more literary reputation took on the job. “But I imagine they have more to lose than I do,” she says. “If some literary woman were to be known as a gadfly, or a crank, even—somebody who won’t shut up, somebody who is persistent and abrasive—that could hurt her, careerwise.”
The female literary author’s mentioned in this piece are actively doing this. That’s what the statements Weiner has taken offense to are about. Without the huge platform Weiner has, female literary writers aren’t able to speak as loudly, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t projecting their voices.
In a departure, Weiner provides no tidy ending: the book [Goodnight, Nobody] concludes with Kate traumatized, and torn between her husband and an ex-boyfriend. “I wanted to see what it was like to write literature,” Weiner says. “Not that anybody perceived it that way. But at this point in my career I could write the Odyssey and people would say, ‘Chick lit in Greece.’ ”
I read and enjoyed Goodnight, Nobody, but I would definitely not have classified it as literary fiction despite it’s ending. There’s more to literary books than just an untidy ending. There are intensely detailed characters, words that seem effortless but incredibly deep…the narrative is more driven by the characters than any events in the book…
Weiner describes her books as modern fairy tales that provide the satisfactions she sought as a teen-ager, when books such as “Shining Through” and “Almost Paradise,” by Susan Isaacs, helped her imagine a happier future. “There is so much antipathy today toward the idea of fiction existing for pleasure or escapism,” she says. “I just have a very hard time seeing entertainment as a bad thing. The things that come up again and again in my books, like a man who thinks that you are beautiful just as you are: is that sentimental, wish-fulfillment bullshit that isn’t ever going to happen in real life? I feel like it’s something that we want, and I believe in it, even if it is sentimental.”
This is her brand of entertainment, one enjoyed by many people. But it’s not everyone’s type of entertainment. I do enjoy it from time to time, but I also find the complex characters and scenarios and storylines that don’t work out ficture perfect in literary fiction to be incredibly entertaining.
All cultural/artistic expressions have their supporters and detractors – why should books be any different? Weiner and her devotees can choose to always read about heroines they’d be best friends with or those they identify with; other women won’t. That’s not an attack on chick lit. That’s modern life where, to a certain extent, women are actually able to choose what they like and dislike. Further, the idea that a female character must be likeable is more an attack on women who aren’t likeable—Weiner, probably Messud, Wolitzer, et al. who like to ruffle feathers. It perpetuates the idea that all women should be “likeable” rather than complex or that “likable” women are true women and complex women, well, aren’t. It’s all a load of bull wrapped up in antifeminism.
Did you read the piece? What are your thoughts?
Michelle Dean at Flavorwire wrote a great, well reasoned response to this article as well. Be sure to check it out! Also, on a side note, I did check out Weiner’s Twitter feed to see what she writes there. She is funny, entertaining and great at branding herself. I have to give her major props for that. It’s not easy. And despite Franzen’s hatred of Twitter, it’s been a great community for authors and book lovers alike.