My Inner Literary Snob Is Having A Shit Fit
Disclaimer: I curse. A lot. Especially in my blog. So if that isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe this blog isn’t for you.
Last week in my senior seminar class, we each named one book in particular that changed us or melded us into who we are as readers (or something to that effect. look, i’ve slept since then so get off my case). Most everyone had uplifting titles. Mine? The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Yeah. I own one battered copy of TBJ and have since high school. It is dog eared and well-loved and has seen me through some pretty tough times. It’s an old friend that I take to coffee, that sits by my bedside and you may find it morbid since it’s a story about young writer dealing with depression and a failed suicide attempt. But it’s my story, too. And I love it to the ends of the earth.
I hang with the heavies. Plath. Atwood. Lorrie Moore. Sexton. They’re my crew. I run with them. But no one replaces Plath as my co-pilot.
This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Bell Jar (fact: she originally had it published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas because many of the events in the book were based on real life and real people). And the cover, like many books has gone through many different interpretations.
And in honor of the fiftieth anniversary, Faber and Faber unveiled this lovely little number….
What the fuck is this? This isn’t The Bell Jar. This is the cover for one of those flighty romance novels that get turned into Lifetime movies starring ex-teenage starlets who are trying to revive their careers with Botox and cheap dates. This isn’t the story of a young woman struggling with depression. The cover completely makes a mockery of the work. It’s saying, Oh, hey gals! Got guy troubles? Just, like, come over and read me while you sip on a Cosmo and talk to your sister friends about vibrators and first world problems, right?
My inner literary snob is shrieking in horror! And I am remembering so many significant plot points in the book! The near rape! Her date with the UN guy! Her failed shock treatments! Her suicide attempt! (GOD! THAT WAS SO HEARTBREAKING! I BAWL EVERY TIME. AND YOU’RE ALL ASSHOLES IF YOU’RE NOT AS MAD AS ME!)
It’s not a mad-cap romp around New York in the early sixties. IT’S NOT THAT AT ALL. The cover devalues the story. And the fact that it is being used to market the book as “chick lit” is pissing me the hell off.
First of all, do not ever refer to any sort of lit as “chick lit.” That’s sexist and demeaning. Where are all the “dude lit” or “bro lit” books? And don’t say comic books or graphic novels because I read the SHIT out of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin. Or books about war or shit. Because I read about WWII. Sure, there are books that women will enjoy more than men. But assigning a certain type of fiction to one gender is bullshit. CHECK YOUR BOOK PRIVILEGE.
It comes down to this: Faber and Faber – you’re a bunch of dickhead sell outs. To market a book, such as this, as “chick lit” is not giving artistic credit where it is due. This book is well-written and beautiful and heartbreaking and yes, depressing. But to market it as some sort of side-ponytailed teenager, sloppily chewing gum is just plain blasphemy.