Life’s Rich Pageant, Redux

August 15th, 2005 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

We were sitting with the sister, waiting for a haircut, when the conversation turned to the book we were reading. We described the plot and the underlying social issue — it was, ahem, an unabashed issue book all dressed up in literary credentials — and how the characters faced said issue. Granted, the sister is young, but her first and only thought was, “It sounds depressing.”

Yes, that was true. For all the lyrical writing, for all the insight into a mysterious (to us culture), for all the conflict, there was an overriding sense of depression from which none of the characters seemed to emerge. Nobody was happy — and nobody seemed inclined to do much about it. The change that came to the many characters was so subtle, it might not have happened at all (actually, we are convinced that in most cases, change didn’t happen). We wanted someone to stand up and take responsibility for his or her happiness. Death, by the way, is not taking responsibility.

This book dealt with serious issues facing women today. Though the husband noted it was fiction, we responded with the fact that even fiction has a basis in reality. This book told of the reality faced by a particular group of women. Other books do the same. Sometimes, however, they do it in a less depressing manner (our attempt to find one will be chronicled in another post in another location later this week). You need the whole sum of human existence to be captured by literature, not just the soul-sucking depressing stuff done in a way that makes one despair of ever finding peace in our time (though when done right, it’s pure Doestoevsky).

Where chick-lit is all Manolo Blahniks and vanilla martinis, hen-lit is comfy shoes and cuppas. The same ideal of the achievement of simple human happiness against the odds is evident; only now the hen is aware that her options are limited, time is running out.

It’s all normal, everyday stuff. But is it any the less for that? Serious types would contend that it’s a slippery slope to shopping catalogues and school newsletters. It can also be seen as the opposite. It’s actually more likely that readers will graduate from fashion mags, to chick-lit and then into serious literature.

But if, in the end, women never venture out of the shallow end, who cares? At least they are still swimming and, I might add, keeping many a modern publishing house afloat!

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

1 response so far ↓

  • genevieve // Aug 16, 2005 at 4:25 am

    Wendy’s article was good. She’s always had a wicked way with words since her stand-up comedy days – Australian comedy misses her.