Thursday, February 15, 2007

Reality Check

I may be a bit late coming to this party, but as a writer and a reader I take umbrage at The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s interpretation of Chick Lit. She and her friend, The New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, seem to feel that today’s female readers aren’t getting enough of the classics due to the abundance of women’s fiction on the shelves. That the presence of “Cinderella bodice rippers…girls stumbling through life…drinking cocktails…looking for the right man” might mean we’re not completely in touch with the world. To quote Mr. Wieseltier from Ms. Dowd’s column: “These books do not seem particularly demanding in the manner of real novels. And when we’re at war and the country is under threat, they seem a little insular.”

Don’t even get me started on the first sentence of that quote. There are plenty of female-oriented and authored novels out there that address serious issues, issues that are sensitive and difficult to write about but perhaps offer a reader some solace, or inform her of her options.

Let me jump to the part about these novels being “a little insular.”

I start my day off with my clock radio waking me up to NPR. I listen to the news for a good 20-30 minutes, learning about the latest bombing in Iraq, the economic condition, and other such light-hearted information. Then I get my children up and ready for school, reading the daily paper as I make sure they are fed a decent meal, dressed appropriately for the current weather conditions, provided with a hearty lunch, and out the door in a timely manner.

During the day, I take care of my home, run errands, work on my pre-fledgling of a career, wonder what my husband and children are doing, hope my aging parents and aging in-laws are well today, drop an email or two to see how they’re doing, throw a load or two of laundry into the wash, volunteer at one or another of my kids’ schools, read or re-read articles in the paper or news magazines we receive that I only got a chance to glance at earlier, get dinner items together, catch some more news, chat with friends if they aren’t too busy with their families, and perhaps get an idea for a new story jotted down. And that’s not the whole list, I assure you.

When my kids come home, I ask how school went, ask if they have homework, check homework, have them do some reading and some kind of physical activity like playing outside or dancing. I start dinner, fielding questions from my kids, listening to the evening news. My husband comes home and we have dinner.

After dinner, it’s playtime with the kids, or finishing up homework then playtime, evening chores, getting kids ready for bed, reading stories and tucking them in. For the next couple of hours, my husband and I watch television (we particularly like “CSI” and “Heroes” and “Grey’s Anatomy”) or read, having our grown up time together by chatting about the day or saying nothing at all in completely comfortable silence.

And at night, after I kiss my sleeping girls again, straighten their covers, and thank God for their health and safety, I go into my room to read one of those “insular” novels. Something that never has the heroine lamenting how many people died that day from a suicide bomber, or how many children went to bed hungry this evening and will wake up the same way tomorrow, or how budget cuts will effect funding for her children’s schools, or if there’s enough bread in the pantry for lunches tomorrow. It’s fiction. Fantasy. Entertainment. Fun. When did “fun” become a four letter word?

I live with the everyday worries that abound, I don’t want to read about them all the time.

Ms. Dowd said, “The novel was once said to be a mirror of its times. In my local bookstore, it’s more like a makeup mirror.”

I say, maybe it isn’t always about a novel mirroring the times, but as a balm against its ills. I deserve the occasional break from reality, don’t I? Don’t we all?



At 7:15 AM, Blogger Sharron said...

"real novels'? Grrr….I wonder if she realizes that a number of the literature 'greats' were once considered anything but that. And 'amen' to escapism. I get plenty of reality every-single-day. I don't need to think about it when I'm trying to go to sleep or de-stress.

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Meankitty Says... said...

I vow to only read and write fake novels from now on so as to avoid the aforementioned "real" novels, which sound like a crushing bore.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

Are fake novels anything like fiction novels?
Just wondering.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Tracy Montoya said...

I hate people who have to have all literary fiction, all the time. Go start your own think tank and leave me and my fluffy library the crunk alone!


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