I love to read. In our apartment, books outnumber everything in it. I buy them and read them and save them to read again (and again and again). Even if I think it’s awful I will keep the book, just in case I decide to re-read it in the future and find that it’s amazing – as I did with some Ernest Hemingway.
The exception is Ayn Rand. I tossed Atlas Shrugged out with all of the murder mysteries that do not need to be re-read. I will never feel the need to read any of her novels again, no matter how awesome anyone says they may be. If you can skip fifty pages at a time (and not just once, but multiple times!) and still understand exactly what’s going on, the author has done something wrong.
Last year I got it in my mind to read 100 books. Seemed easy enough, with as much as I read. I completed it, but it was hard work. 2 books a week for an entire year. No time to enjoy anything or let it marinate in your mind before picking up another book on the list. This year so far I’ve read, maybe, 3 books.
Right now I’m re-reading Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (awesome and I wish I could write like her. It’s beautiful and poignant and just all around amazing). Is it just me, or is it rare that a woman author writes something that isn’t considered “chick lit”?
I read a couple of these books last year and; they were quick reads that helped speed my towards my goal. At the end of them I would feel one of two things: 1) a fleeting feeling of being let down by the reality of my life; and 2) how is this character likeable?
Like all fairy tales, chick lit ends with Happily Ever After. Everything fits perfectly. All the time. The guy you’re seeing wants to commit immediately; the boyfriend proposes on a whim because he just knows the heroine is The One; the husband helps change the baby and makes dinner and clean the house and the fights they have only make their love stronger. No, I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen in real life. But it doesn’t happen to everybody. At least not on that time line.
It took my boyfriend over a year to tell me he loved me. Same thing with a friend of mine who is now married to that man. It took conversations and fights to make it work – to keep it working. Things aren’t always perfect. But they are good and when I finish these books I look at my life and think Why can’t it be like that? Why doesn’t the dream job that pays awesome just fall into my lap? I critique my life and hold it against a fictional character. A fucking made up person.
And then I finish the book and put it down and realize that this is someone else’s imagination. Of course that’s the reason that everything ends perfectly. I take a step back and remember that my life is pretty fucking awesome, no matter who it’s measured against. And I swear I’ll never read another chick lit book again.
Until I hit the library and find something else that catches my attention. Because, truth be told, I like the fairy tale too. I like the idea that some things just drop out of the ether to make your life complete. Perfect. Even if I know real life is a bit messier.
Which brings me to the second thing I hate about this genre: the unlikeable heroines. They’re whiny and bitchy and they don’t think about what they’re doing. The worst of them is from Confessions of a Shopaholic. Are you kidding me with this Becky character? Her job is giving financial advice and she doesn’t even know how credit cards work (telling her roommate that she did pay them all off. Months ago. And hasn’t made a payment since).
Of course she never hits rock bottom. There’s always some saving grace – credit extension from the bank, rich boyfriend, a job just when she needs it – that keeps her afloat. But never once does she stand up for herself and do something about her situation. She wants something to happen but she doesn’t want to work for it.
At the risk of sounding old: This is what the girls are reading these days? These are the women that young girls grow up idolizing? Everything works itself out, girls. Just as long as you’re pretty and keep a great attitude.
So reading Zadie Smith is a relief. A relief to read a woman author write something that can be considered literature rather than chick lit. I’m on a hunt now to find women author’s that write something a little more realistic. Something that makes me think and laugh and cry. Something that doesn’t make me feel badly about the life I lead, which is pretty damn good.