Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chick Lit

You don't hear much about Melissa Bank these days. And that's a shame because as far as young women who write about young women, she is far more honest and literary--sorry Ellis--than today's chick lit heroine, Sloane Crosley. She wrote The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Remember that book? I still consider it the definitive novel of this particular genre: girls who work in publishing, date, and try to seem more grown up than they feel.

I could be quoting from the book jacket, but it ends up being much more than it tries to be. I think it made me cry. Here is an excerpt from a Guardian interview with Melissa Bank in which she addresses two topical topics: women and humor and women in the workplace.

Q: There does seem to be a low threshold for humor from straight women.
A: You know, for some reason the book was published in France first, and an interviewer faxed me some questions, and one of the questions was: "Of course people always say that a woman who is funny cannot be erotic or seductive. But that's not true in your book. Why isn't it?" Or something like that. And I thought, "Of course people always say this?" I had a boyfriend at the time, and I turned to him and read the question, and he said, "But you're not funny." And I actually wasn't funny with him. The mark of my being in the wrong relationship is that I stop being funny. But I would argue that nobody can actually be funny and erotic at the same time. They don't really go together. I mean, I hope that I'm erotic. But when you're being erotic, you're creating a spell; when you're making a joke, you're breaking it.
Q: It occurred to me when reading the story "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine" that I don't often read stories that deal specifically with women in the workplace.
A: The women of my generation were brought up to think of themselves in terms of what they did rather than of being married or unmarried, and it took on this huge weight. Work was suddenly supposed to be a much bigger thing than work can ever be. You're supposed to give your soul to it -- and you're never supposed to not want to work at something. You're supposed to be as dedicated to your work as you would be to another person.
In that story, Jane's boss says, "It would be great if you could help out," and Jane says, "It was hard to turn down a chance to be great." You're defined [in your job] by your willingness to do anything, which is something that [can also happen] in a relationship. And, well, that's not so healthy."

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