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. 

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