January 7, 2014

"Just as I want plus-size women visible, and valued, and loved in my books, so do I want books like mine visible and valued..."

"... if not loved, by a critical establishment that’s still too rooted in sexist double standards, still too swift to dismiss women’s work as small, trivial, unimpressive, and unimportant."

Says "chick lit" author Jennifer Weiner, quoted in a New Yorker profile titled, "WRITTEN OFF/Jennifer Weiner’s quest for literary respect." The profiler, Rebecca Mead, observes:
In this analysis, Weiner’s failure to receive critical recognition is not an implicit judgment of, say, the perfunctory quality of some descriptive passages, or of the brittle mean-spiritedness that colors some character sketches... It is, instead, a product of the larger cultural forces that left Weiner feeling oppressed long before she became a writer. To battle those forces as visibly as Weiner does is not just to tell a fairy-tale story but also to try to live one: to insist on moving from the margin to the center, and to demand a happy ending of one’s own.
What I hear Mead implying is: Weiner has a psychological need for respect and demands it from the literary establishment, but she doesn't deserve literary respect. She's parlayed her emotional needs into commercial success because she meets what are the mundane emotional needs of female readers who want encouragement and support, and that's not the way to get elite folk to regard you as an artist.


Scott M said...

Sexist double standard? To what is she referring? Purely the critical acclaim?

Delving into the world of publishing as I've been doing, the thing that most surprised me about this world of angents/editors/publishers, is that an overwhelming majority of them are women.

YoungHegelian said...


That's filed right next to "Dog bites Man", isn't it?

tim in vermont said...

I thought the literary prestige allocators had been disintermediated by the internet.

Now to go get treatment for internet addiction. Must go outside and play in the snow. Must go outside and play in the snow...

madAsHell said...

So, pandering to fat chicks won't garner respect from the literary establishment.

First world problems.

n.n said...

Weiner hopes to earn respect from women by criticizing men. I wonder how women will respond to prejudiced pleas. I imagine that a woman has many men in her life, including a father, husband, sons, brothers, etc.

Or is it an effort to earn respect from men by criticizing men? That seems just a little counterproductive, unless she is capable of wielding additional leverage to force their compliance.

She does realize that her competition is people, who are not only men but other women, right?

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Boo fucking hoo.

When I still lived in the Philly market (and when I was still buying the Inquirer)-- which seems like about 15 years ago-- Inky readers were tortured by Weiner's mediocre writing on a weekly basis (if not more often).

Her success is amazing to anyone who choked down her swill over Sunday breakfast.

As for respect: No one "deserves" anything.

Freeman Hunt said...

I have never heard of this woman or any of her books.

Chick lit makes a lot of money for her. Why the demand that it also be considered important? I see no argument there as to what is important about it.

Also, I think the desire for importance part can be linked to the bad father part.

Michael K said...

Why is it, in a world where woman are approaching dominance in so many areas, all they seem to do is whine ?

Medical schools are 60% female now. I don't know about all fields but, except probably for engineering, women run things and bitch constantly. Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire and talks about racism !


Ann Althouse said...

The notion that there isn't literary respect for women's writing about women-oriented subjects is really quite absurd. You never hear the end of respect for Jane Austen, for example. It depends on the writing!

Henry said...

"Just as I want blood-spattered women visible, and valued, and loved in my books, so do I want books like mine visible and valued..."

Interesting to compare Weiner's campaign with the ongoing campaign to have genre fiction respected as literature.

Stephen King is mentioned in the New Yorker article, but only in terms of furniture placement.

Bob Boyd said...

For some reason the woman reminded me of this:


buwaya said...

Chick lit author that ended up getting respect from men -
Colleen McCullough.
"Thorn Birds" is pure chick lit, appeals only to chicks.
"Rome" series appeals to men, history nuts, and some substantial numbers of chicks too. The deep research earns respect from many scholars.
Its a matter of writing for the desired audience.
She should try writing some space opera possibly, with overweight women in it. That may get some attention in the guy market.

buwaya said...

Jane Austen ain't bad, but is way over-praised.

Dickens trumps Austen in every way, just to start. Thackeray also, at least on his better days. There are at least a dozen almost forgotten 19th century English writers that surpass Austen. Few people read George Meredith.

And Dickens wrote mainly for a female public. In the English speaking world the reading and book buying public has been majority female for 200 years.

dbp said...

"Just as I want plus-size women visible..."

From a geometry standpoint, plus-size women are more visible than non plus-size women.

Birches said...

Althouse is right. I've had a few book clubs devolve into chick lit clubs. The problem with chick lit (I've never read and of Weiner's stuff) and most popular fiction these days is that it reads like a screen play. There's no depth to the writing; its just trying to get you to "read" a movie. I thought even the last Harry Potter morphed into a movie before it became a movie.

There are some better books among the lot. The Night Circus was very good. But I'm not even sure that counts as chick lit.

jr565 said...

Van Gogh sold one painting his whole life. Was it because he was fat?

Birches said...

Jodi Picoult is "bellyaching" along with her about the lack of respect? That tells a lot about the quality of Weiner's writing.

rumtumtugger said...

She gets no respect from literary elites because her prose is banal and slipshod. Does she know that, for instance, four out of five of the NYT's novels of the year were written by women?

Bob Boyd said...

Until we, as a society, throw off the chains of the white capitalist heteronormative weightist patriarchy the weather will suck and life will be an exercise in frustration for the lipo-accumulative female.
Maybe she should try the Republican Party. I hear they're working on a big tent. I mean Christie's in there.

Birches said...

Ugh. Just managed to skim through the end of the article. What an awful, unhappy person.

buwaya said...

As for large women being marginalized, society has nothing to do with it.
Men are much more forgiving of womens non-idealities than many women imagine, but still, men tend to notice women that awaken their members, and thats a biological matter.
I don't think a project with the goal of making men think that ugly women are sexy will work.

mccullough said...

Just as literary writers think they should sell more books, fun fiction writers think they should be taken more seriously. That's not to say some writers aren't under-appreciated or over-appreciated. But there's no sense whining about it. And who cares what the literati think, anyway.

jr565 said...

"If you're wondering why
All the love that you long for eludes you
And people are rude and cruel to you
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why

You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You just haven't earned it, son
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You must suffer and cry for a longer time
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
And I'm telling you now ..."

John Lynch said...

She gets paid much more than the literary authors. She's read more. What's the problem?

You think Stephen King agonizes about respect?

MayBee said...

"In Her Shoes" was made into a cute, rentable movie.

I bought a book of Weiner's when on vacation somewhere. The problem with it was the only way you knew a trait of a character was via her description.
For example, one woman was described as funny, and she would say something and we would read that all of her friends laughed. But nothing the character said was actually funny.

I think she should be happy she's been published and made money.

Smilin' Jack said...

Just as I want plus-size women visible...

A visible plus-size woman could be blocking my view of two or three attractive women standing behind her. That seems totally unfair or socially unjust or something.

Strelnikov said...

Plus sized women, as mighty fine euphemism, are almost always visible. That's part of the problem.