If you follow authors on Twitter, chances are you know all about the Jennifer Weiner-Jodi Picoult-Jonathan Franzen literary vs. commercial fiction showdown taking place online.
Well, I suppose “literary vs. commercial fiction showdown” isn’t entirely appropriate. Weiner explains the issue on her blog:
[Franzen's] back! On the cover of Time! In the pages of Vogue! Reviewed, glowingly, not once but twice in the New York Times! Which has also devoted a news story and an inside-the-list column to FREEDOM, even though it won’t come out ‘til next week!
Jodi Picoult, number-one bestseller of quote-unquote commercial fiction (full disclosure: she and I attended the same college and are published by the same house), has a problem with that. Last week, she tweeted about all of the attention the Times gives to its white male literary darlings, at the expense of the hundreds of thousands of other writers – some of them literary, some of them quote-unquote genre writers – who get no love at all.
Not surprisingly (I’m biased!), my first response is that you should all just forget the New York Times and read BookPage, which has interviewed Weiner, Picoult and Franzen (twice each) in the past 10 years.
But if you do want to get up-to-speed on the drama, here are few notable links:
- Thriller writer Jason Pinter interviews Weiner and Picoult together on why women’s popular fiction is often overlooked by critics.
- NPR pop culture blogger Linda Holmes joins the debate—and explains why the term “chick lit” makes her feel like a marshmallow peep.
- Laura Lippman (whose thriller I’d Know You Anywhere came out last week) weighs in on why “women’s fiction” is treated differently from (nonexistent category) “men’s fiction.”
- Book critic Chauncey Mabe suggests in the Sun-Sentinel that Picoult and Weiner made a choice to write commercial books, and their “punishment is to be rich, famous, and disregarded by The New York Times.”
- Chris Jackson blogs on The Atlantic‘s site about choosing to read more books written by women.
Do you think there’s a critical bias against women’s fiction? Do you take issue with that label? (Or the controversial “check lit” distinction?) Do you think this whole dust-up is silly?
As someone who reads both literary and commercial fiction (as do most readers of this blog, I’d imagine), I haven’t gotten too bent out of shape over this dispute. I’m just happy it inspired the hilarious @EmperorFranzen twitter page!
Also in BookPage:
Interviews with Weiner about Goodnight Nobody and Best Friends Forever.
Interviews with Picoult about Change of Heart and The Tenth Circle.
Interview with Franzen about The Corrections. (I’ll post our interview about Freedom on August 31, the novel’s publication date.)