Time For A Book-Burnin’: Shit Lit for the Modern Female Reader
Growing up, I was always a voracious reader. My ideal Saturday afternoon was spent wandering around the stacks of the public library, checking out piles of Judy Blume or V.C. Andrews books while my mother remained blissfully clueless about the content of my reading material.
The sole source for 95% of my sexual education.
I was a pretty huge bookworm up until I went away to college, when I replaced books with bottles of white zinfandel, and Saturdays at the library with Saturdays spent in bed nursing a monster hangover. Plus, I had plenty of required reading to do/hurriedly skim through 45 minutes before class, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to read for pleasure. While we were living in New York, I got back into reading again as a way to pass time on the train. It was a nice distraction from the man next to me pleasuring himself underneath his messenger bag, and it seemed to be quite effective in distracting me from the sound of my soul being crushed.
I feel dead inside! Wheeeeeeeee!
Once we moved to Pittsburgh and got back into driving, my daily public-transportation-sponsored reading hour disappeared. Every now and then I’d find myself in a bookstore, suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to become well-read (similar to the I-want-to-be-health-conscious urge I experience at places like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, which result in me carting home a 2lb. bag of bulgur wheat and a tub of stevia), and I’d pick up a book or two that sadly seemed destined to sit on our coffee table for the better part of a year, collecting dust. Sometimes I’d manage to make it through a few chapters, only to let months pass before I picked it up again, which meant I had to start over from the beginning because I hadn’t retained a damn thing.
Turns out he had Alzheimer’s, kids. Not so funny now, is it?
Luckily for me and the rapid atrophy of my brain, I started a job located within a few blocks of the city’s largest public library (or “li-berry,” as I prefer to call it). This means I’m back on the reading train, although I don’t understand why those fuckers over at Book It are being such dicks about letting me enroll.
Even 31-year-olds like their Personal Pan Pizzas, assholes!
As for my preferences in reading material, I can be pretty picky. I like coming of age stories, anything set in the American south, and I’m a sucker for a pretty cover with a clean font, but I steer clear of mysteries, crime dramas, anything with a heavy-handed religious overtone, and stories set any earlier than 1900. But the group that’s quickly advancing to number one on my literary shit list are what I can only describe as estrogen-driven fiction — pieces of fluff about menopause/shoes/tired ideas of “Girl Power!” tossed off in about 3 months by marginally talented writers. Call it Chick Lit, call it Mom Lit, call it whatever you want. I can’t stand it.
[OK, before we go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that I HATE the term “Chick Lit.” It’s precious and condescending, and although I hate most of the books that fall into this category with a burning passion, I hate the insinuation that they’re marketed towards “chicks.” I mean, who even calls women “chicks” anymore? (Besides David Wooderson?) Also, I’ve seen plenty of well-written, really worthwhile books that happen to be authored by women and happen to contain material that might be considered more interesting to a female readership called fucking CHICK LIT. And this infuriates me. The end.]
When I go to the library these days, it’s usually on my lunch hour, which means I have a limited time in which to browse around looking for my next read. So I usually read straight for the “New Fiction” shelves, because I feel it gives me a pretty decent cross-section of styles. But, much to my dismay, it seems like lately the “New Fiction” shelves are completely fucking overrun by the stupidest shit to hit the printer since Millie’s Book.
Unless there’s a whole chapter devoted to the experience of eating your own shit, I’m not interested.
To give you a better idea of the kinds of books I’m talking about, allow me to give you a sampling of the REAL, VERY REAL AND NOT MADE UP AT ALL titles I’ve come across in recent weeks:
Once Upon Stilettos
The Manolo Matrix
Confessions of a Shopaholic/Shopaholic Takes Manhattan/Shopaholic and Baby
Wolves in Chic Clothing
The Botox Diaries
Gucci Gucci Coo
So 5 Minutes Ago
She Who Shops
Some Like it Haute (Bonus points for ripping off a title THAT ALREADY EXISTS)
Goodbye, Jimmy Choo
A Total Waste of Makeup
Target Underwear and a Vera Wang Gown: Notes from a Single Girl’s Closet
A Dangerous Dress
Did You Get the Vibe? (No, it’s not about vibrators, which it should have been, because then it might have actually been worth reading.)
White Bikini Panties
Confessions of a Pregnant Princess
Do Me, Do My Roots
OK, I have to stop now. Before my head explodes.
I mean…really? Someone actually sat down and decided to write a book entitled DO ME, DO MY ROOTS?! And at some point in time, a publisher said to a colleague, “Yes, I want to publish Gucci Gucci Coo“?! Can you imagine going to an event celebrating the release of your first novel WHITE BIKINI PANTIES?!
Lesser offenders are the books that invent cutesy names for groups of women who meet to quilt/gossip/cry/go through menopause and commiserate over the joyous mysteries of the female condition (otherwise known as “cramps”). I think it started with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which I admit, I enjoyed reading (mostly because it involved the American South), but now it seems every last asshole is trying to get in on the trend. For example:
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Decked Out/Gets Rolling/Gets Real/Gets Down (There’s an entire series of these gems, and isn’t “Yada-Yada” perilously close to “Ya-Ya?”)
The Red Hat Society’s Acting Their Age/The Red Hat Club Rides Again (I’m sure there’s some copyright infringement here; I’m sure I don’t care)
The Hot Flash Club Chills Out
The Friday Night Knitting Club
The Sisterhood of the Queen Mamas
The Chocolate Lovers’ Club (Oh, I knew that was coming)
The Persian Pickle Club (Again, sounds dirty, isn’t, should have been)
The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner
The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches
And, the epitome of ripped-off titles:
The Divine Stories of the Yahweh Sisterhood
The kicker? It took TWO OF THEM to write this masterpiece.
Now, before I sound like too much of a pretentious jackass, let me say that I GET IT. I get that sometimes you just want to get lost in 200 pages about a girl getting laid, drinking cocktails, and wearing pretty dresses in the big city. Whatever. That doesn’t make you stupid, it doesn’t mean you can’t process anything more complicated than Highlights magazine, it’s just a personal preference. And as a person who subscribes to the whole “If you don’t like it, don’t read/watch it” theory, I realize that it’s pretty hypocritical of me to hate on these books so much. Also, I think it’s great when people read, no matter what they’re reading. But it’s just the fact that there are SO DAMN MANY of these types of books that I can’t help feeling insulted. If you take a look at that first list of titles above, you can easily glean what the literary community thinks I, as a woman, should be interested in: Botox, dresses, shopping, hair, makeup, lattes and shoes.
You know who I just described, right?
Not to mention the entire slew of titles I didn’t post here that are solely devoted to the pursuit of a man, because why else would you don white bikini panties, slather on makeup, receive Botox, and wear stilettos and Vera Wang gowns? Why, to snag a MAY-UN, of course!
Good Lord, who let Aunt Pittypat in here?
It’s not that I really believe these books are intrinsically evil and are written by people who have a hidden agenda to turn their readers into shallow shopaholics with Botoxed foreheads and credit card debt, but are these the only things modern women want to read about? For shit’s sake, it’s the year 2008 and women STILL make less money than their male counterparts – but is it any wonder they’re getting away with it when the selection at the library would have me believe I’m too busy buying clothes and swilling Cosmopolitans to notice? After all, what are the male-targeted equivalents to these books? Any copies of The Fabulous Brotherhood of the Pleated-Front Dockers flying off the shelves?
I guess I just feel that these kinds of books are the literary equivalent to Crocs: Yeah, they’re shoes, and they get the job done, but…wouldn’t you rather wear something that didn’t make you look so fucking stupid?
Crocs: Like a chastity belt on your feet.
Entry filed under: Taste my Backhand.