Friday, May 24, 2013

One-sided Catfight

I have agreed with Jennifer Weiner in the past. When she draws attention to the focus on male writers in literary criticism and the dismissal of women writers of commercial fiction, she's right. But I part ways with her when she goes after women writers who have achieved literary success.

She attacks Claire Massud for defending unlikeable characters, imagining that she has made a personal attack against Weiner and writers of likeable characters. Similarly, she imagines a personal attack in Lena Dunham's comments about her own reading preferences. Dunham said she didn’t care for “airport chick-lit” featuring “a cartoon woman’s torso on the front or a stroller with a diamond on it.” Wiener's response was to assume Dunham was referring to books like hers and to argue that she couldn't find any books with the exact cover Dunham had described. Um, right, because she was not specifically targeting one author, unlike Weiner who very specifically targets authors all the time, like Jennifer Eagan who won a Pulitzer for writing what I thought was the best book I've read in years.

I understand Weiner's frustration with the predominantly male staff of literary critics who overlook commercial fiction, especially when it's written by a woman. But she's out of line when she attacks women writers who have gained critical success. And it's really hypocritical when she frames these attacks around the need for women writers to support each other.

It goes both ways. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's so Great about Gatsby?

After a really slow start, a story did emerge. Unfortunately, there is not one likeable character in the entire thing. I did not root for Gatsby to get the vapid girl. I did not care when the other vapid girl died. I didn't ever figure out what the narrator wanted.

Why is this a classic? Were there so few stories available in the twenties that this one seemed original? Did they have editors back then? I am aware that it's very arrogant of me to think my edits could improve a classic, but really - they don't have to be my edits. There are whole scenes that have nothing to do with the plot.  The dialogue is awful. Anyone's edits would do.

The plan was to see the new movie on Friday. I read a review that said the adaptation was not done well and the movie makes the characters seem superficial and that many scenes come across as tangents. That sounds like a spot-on adaptation to me.

Are you someone who loved this book? Come on, what am I missing?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Reading Gatsby

I'm currently rereading The Great Gatsby. I read it in high school, but I don't remember anything much beyond the fact that I liked it. I was one of those rare students that actually read all of the assigned books, and I liked most of them. (Just not Moby Dick.)

So far, I'm about three chapters into Gatsby, and, frankly, I'm bored. Snooty people putting on airs, having affairs, getting drunk and throwing parties. Ho-hum. Most of what I choose to read these days is set in the present, so I wonder if part of my inability to relate is that this is set in the 20s.

But, I liked this when I read it in high school, when I had even less in common with these people. Is it possible that I was actually more open minded back then? Am I getting stuck in my ways?

I have a ways to go before I finish the book. It could get interesting any page now. Fingers crossed.