Cynicism And The Cranky Old Man

August 10th, 2006 · 3 Comments
by Booksquare

Maybe it’s because the BS husband has been practicing to be old since he discovered that old people can say whatever they want and get away with it, but we find Otto Penzler’s brand of crotchety sort of cute, in a “huh?” sort of way. See, Penzler hates chicklit for its cynicism — but his argument is, hmm, peculiar at best.

He chides Jennifer Weiner for her realistic (realistic not necessarily being the the same thing as cynical) attitude toward the publishing industry; he lauds Mickey Spillane for writing blatantly commercial work and referring to his readers as “customers”. Penzler hates cute mystery in all its forms — that is, of course, his right as a human being. We hereby absolve Mr. Penzler of all obligation to read the stuff. We strongly suggest he withdraw from judging contests where he might be required to actually touch a book featuring a cat solving a mystery because he likely won’t be capable of putting aside his bias and offering a fair assessment. This is the plight of the contest judge, and we’re sure he understands.

(In his defense, cats do tend to be geared toward short-term mysteries rather than extended sleuthing. Naps, you know.)

At the end of the day, Penzler doesn’t seem to be repulsed by the content of chicklit books (one with a healthy dose of cynicism would venture to suggest he’s never read one); it appears that his focus is the cynicism about the publishing industry exhibited by one author and an editor. He chides Weiner for not discussing her characters and art. That’s what happens when you cherry pick quotes to make your point. We understand — it’s much easier to get the sound bite than to engage in lengthy analysis (See: this entire blog).

Otto Penzler is interested in what motivates writers to write what they write. Reasons are as varied as the writers themselves. With a few notable exceptions the common thread is that writers have no choice. Insane asylums are expensive. Otto Penzler’s taste doesn’t run toward the cozier mysteries or, apparently so-called chicklit mysteries. That’s fine; we do not gravitate toward John le Carré-type stories. Choice, you know, is what makes the world go round.

In today’s market, it is a rare writer who is not aware of the business concerns surrounding publisher business decisions. If you’re book has high-heeled shoes on the cover, you, the author, might scream in agony, but you don’t really control these things. And, yeah, it’s a clue to the readers. Readers like clues. Otto Penzler knows this — he does, after all, sell mysteries.

[tags]chicklit, otto penzler, cozy mystery, publishing[/tags]

File Under: Square Pegs

3 responses so far ↓

  • Brenda Coulter // Aug 10, 2006 at 11:33 am

    I don’t believe Mr. Penzler’s brand of “crochety” is remotely endearing. (I still haven’t gotten over his insistence that women write fluff and men write “serious” literature.) Maybe somebody should explain to the old coot that the term “chick lit” wasn’t coined and popularized by literati bent on ridiculing the genre, but by the publishers and authors and fans of the books. I don’t enjoy chick lit, but even I know the term is an affectionate one. Sheesh.

  • David Thayer // Aug 10, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    It’s August. The pennant races are heating up in a baseball sort of way, not really heated, not like tennis or anything, but heated. The swallows return to Capistrano and Otto emerges, says the same thing. That means we have six more weeks of summer.

  • Booksquare // Aug 10, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    Ah, Brenda, perhaps I should define “cute” — it means “someone I can make fun of without breaking a sweat”. You won’t find that specific definition in the dictionary. I’ve created my own.

    Damn — six more weeks of summer? I’m not sure I can take it. I’m verging very close to having a tan. I don’t tan.