Sarahbeth Purcell on MoDo’s Time Warp

Maureen Dowd wrote a particularly silly column about chick lit for the New York Times over the weekend, and though Sarahbeth Purcell doesn’t consider herself a chick lit writer, she knows there are plenty of people in the publishing and bookselling worlds who think of her novels, Love Is the Drug and This Is Not a Love Song, that way, so she’s not going to let Dowd’s attack pass unremarked. “The reason I felt compelled to comment on her most recent attempt at staying current,” Purcell commented, “is, honestly, its lack of being ‘current,’ its complete lack of modern observation. She might as well have written a few thousand words about how she’s just noticed that young people seem to be wearing strange padded beans in their ears everywhere they go, touching tiny, space age-looking pods that light up and seem to respond to their touch, oblivious to the daily noises of life around them; that she’s heard these devices contain digital music, and how shocked, appalled and saddened she is that these young fools are not at home cranking the Victrola, doing the jitterbug and listening to real music.”

sarahbeth-purcell.jpgWelcome to 1997, Maureen Dowd! It’s good to have you! For the next ten years, I’m going to lead you through what struggling young authors (who happen to be female), have endured, regardless of their merit, their talent, their stories, their publishing house or the books they’ve written.

You see, Maureen, chick-lit is not a niche, and hasn’t been a “niche” market, as you call it since… Well, since its inception. Long before you noticed a bevy of pink books in your local Borders. Is the new generation of books geared toward women of a particular lifestyle, with an empathic slant, a marketing ploy developed by the major publishing houses based on the success of fantastic books about strong female protagonists such as The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, which was written far ahead of its time? Well, sort of. That was the idea, I gather.

Real chick-lit, as you are describing it, the less than ingenious, more soap-opera quality, non-challenging material I’ve always referred to as “beach books,” started long before I was a writer, and long before 1997. And it found massive success far before the bookshelves oozed martini from their pages.

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11 February 2007 | guest authors |

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