Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I guess I'm sexist

I hate ... hate, hate, hate ... books by women authors.

No, not all books by women authors.  Many of my sisters are fully capable of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and creating something well worth reading. 

The ones I'm complaining about are the books by women for women -- the ones that play into some messed up sort of image of what women want to read -- which is itself based on some messed up sort of image of the lifestyles women must fantasize about.

They usually involve women who come into contact with remarkable men.  The sort of man who can figure out how to reprogram the computer which operates our nuclear missiles while he's waterskiing across the Atlantic.  On his way to teach a cooking class in Paris.  Oh, and he's madly in love with the heroine -- well, not overtly in love with her -- he's more the sort who would pine over her, fly her to Japan in his private jet for supper, show her a wonderful first-class life she didn't even know existed, and then let her fall asleep in his arms as he delicately carries her back to her room, tucks her in, and leaves her in bed with a single red rose and a thank you note.

I'm currently reading a book that is such a horrible offender, I can't help but think it's farce.  (Katherine Neville -- A Calculated Risk.)  It's making fun of this genre, right?  The author can't seriously believe I'm buying this, right?

I swear, I should have put it down the moment I read the flashback scene where our heroine met the man in question:

     'May I help you, little girl?' The soft voice was just behind me.
     I nearly jumped out of my skin;  I felt my lip trembling from the sudden fright as I swallowed and turned.
     There stood the most amazing-looking man I'd ever seen.

Little girl?  I'm sorry.  This is the basis for a relationship that, dollars to donuts, is going to end up in a bedroom.  The annoying paternalism continues.  After this stud-muffin takes our narrator for a mystery drive, she tells us:

    I awakened, what seemed like hours later, with my head in [his] lap.  His coat had been removed and tucked in around me, and he was absentmindedly stroking my hair.

Aw.  Just warms your heart, doesn't it?  Like she's a little puppy or something.

Well, not a total puppy.  Their relationship also dances around the other side of the Offense-ometer, when he later responds to her with this gem...

     "I have an emotion myself, that's about to be used," he told me, shoving me into the car.  "It's the emotion of anger--and you evoke this emotion in me so frequently, I wonder that I haven't taken a bullwhip to you yet!"  He slammed the door.

Oh, take me, baby.  I'm yours.

To be fair, this is not the only messed up image of women this author is using.  She also gives us the African-American best friend who calls our heroine "Sugar," cusses like a sailor and tells the protagonist that when she goes to New York she should,

     "Hit the theatres, buy some exotic rags, meet new faces, eat designer food--get laid--you know what I mean?"

(Of course she knows what you mean.  Who doesn't?  The stereotype is bad enough, but would anyone talk like that and think it was subtle?)  Oh, and this is the same person who, when she gets stopped by police for speeding, she, well, ... take a look...

     "My ... what an attractive uniform, officer!" [she said], rubbing the fabric of his jacket between her fingers.  "Are these a new design?"
      The officer dropped his book, and she picked it up quickly and handed it to him with a smile.  I thought he blushed, but I couldn't be sure.  I'd never seen a cop who was a match for [her].

Seriously.  Did we not get past the whole flirting-your-way-out-of-a-traffic-ticket somewhere around Cannonball Run?

It isn't just that I find the book utterly implausible; it has worked its way right up to genuinely offensive.  The idea that there's anyone out there who thinks this is the sort of story I'd view as good escapist fiction is nuts.  That a woman thinks this is how women want to imagine themselves is deplorable.


tammyg22 said...

And you're still reading it why?

This sounds like a book that, if I picked it up at all, would be tossed on the pile for the used bookstore by the end of chapter one.

pegluh said...

This is why I stick to non-fiction.  Sugar.

mavarin said...

What genre is this supposed to be, if any? Chick lit? Romance?  Is it one of the many paperbacks with cartoony pink or lavender covers that seem to be taking over the new release and jobber racks?

And did you actually *buy* this thing?  Why?

I've looked over a number of these color-coded offerings, and have yet to be seriously tempted to buy one. Well, except for a book for adults (read young women) by Meg Cabot of The Princess Diaries fame. That one was a hoot, told mostly in IM and emails and notes written on the backs of take-out menus.


andreakingme said...

I laughed so hard while reading this that I choked on my own spit.

You're right -- this writer is giving the rest who choose to write (for women) a bad name. Really makes me mad, too, because each time someone like this is published, it takes away from someone else who might have written (and published) something better.

My latest discovery? Lolly Winston's GOOD GRIEF, a bittersweet and sometimes hilarious story about how a woman our age copes with her husand's death. Like the story you talked about here, GOOD GRIEF is also told in a first person POV, but I thought it was wonderfully written. Very powerful. It made me SOB. And genuinely laugh.

I keep meaning to write up a book review, but haven't yet had the time to devote to it.

olddog299 said...

I so rarely read this genre - the breast beater, I call them.  SWMBO enjoys them as a guilty pleasure but I find she tosses 2 out of 3 within the first third of the book.  My time for reading is limited, so I want something that I will at least enjoy reading.  There's a wicked load of schlock out there...