Jennifer Egan Wins Pulitzer Prize, Commits Girl-on-Girl Crime

6 years ago


And so was Julie, the author of the The Signature Thing:

But calling the books of these very, very successful women “derivative and banal” is some majorly ugly girl-on-girl crime. If her point is that female writers shouldn’t feel like they’re only qualified to write about shopping and husband-hunting, and that they should, if they want to, tackle bigger, grander subjects—yes, absolutely, I support that. But I think her subtext is that there’s something wrong with women who choose to write about female friendships or motherhood or the search for love; that they’re backing away from a challenge, going the easy route, resigning themselves to a lesser literary genre.

Jamie, from The Frisky is a fan of Egan's books but was disappointed with her statement and wrote a defense of chick-lit.

Is there derivative, poorly written chick lit? Sure. But there’s also derivative, poorly written literary fiction. Slamming an entire genre of novels written by women is unsavory, inaccurate, and akin to the kind of girl-on-girl crime that women should be trying to stop, not perpetuate.

Jennifer Egan was a contributor to the 2006 anthology, This Is Not Chick Lit, so I'm not exactly surprised that she's not fond of the genre. I am disappointed that she used the Pulitzer Prize platform to stomp on and dismiss an entire genre of women's writing. The list of things I don't understand in this world is long but this here's one that's near the top of the list -- why must people put down another's preferences in order to elevate themselves?

I read across a lot of genres. I've been called out on all my reading choices at some point. When I read literary fiction, I'm elitist. When I read chick-lit or romance, I'm just a silly woman with fluff for brains. When I read young adult fiction, I am immature. When I read non-fiction books about women's or social history, I'm not reading "real" history. It says much more about the person making the statement than it does about my choices.

Like any reader, there are genres I don't read heavily but it doesn't mean I think that they are any less worthy than the ones I do read. I don't read a lot of mysteries, for example. When I read mysteries, I'm an impatient reader who just wants to get to the end to find out who did it. As as result I rush through the book and miss out on all the lovely bits of writing. The problem isn't the mysteries themselves -- it's my impatience. Mystery novels aren't bad; I am a bad reader of mysteries.

We don't all have to read and like the same books and the world would be a boring place if we did. One's reading, or writing, choices don't make them any better or worse than the next person. Jamie ends her post with a statement from one of her friends: "A rising tide should lift all boats." I wish that Egan hadn't felt the need to try to sink a few.

Contributing Editor Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

Photo Credit: David Shankbone.

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