A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Chick-lit is a Literary Gum that Should Be Chewed by God, by God!

Normally when a sexy broad with big ta-tas asks me to dinner, as just happened recently, I am flattered and usually fighting an erection. Hell, even if she didn’t have big ta-tas, I would be erect at the thought of a free meal. But no, this one had to spoil it by telling me not only that she is a writer, but a chick-lit writer. Flacid cannot describe my shriveled, er, ego. Let’s just say if the rest of me went that flat, they could have slid me easily under a door.

The first time someone asked me if I wanted a “chick-lit”, I thought they meant the gum and said, “Why the fuck would I want that? Does my breath smell or something?” As it turned out, even though I was way off on the topic, it was a good call. I have never jumped on that sucky trend, and don’t intend to either. No matter how tight you babes tie me up with your Gucci silk scarves, bought for you, no doubt, by the love of your life who jilted you and crushed your soul so that you could never love anyone else ever again. In that case, Sammy is just the ticket for you…but definitely not the agent for your shitty “sophisticated romance” wannabe books.

Chick-lit is meaningless drivel—mainstream by so-so authors who can’t master romance or the art of mainstream—disguised by a marketing term designed to make readers feel included in a hip, sexy club filled with empowered sisters. What is so sexy about a woman who can’t find her ass, even though it is supposedly huge in her eyes, with both hands? To me, that qualifies her as a dipshit. Who wants to read about a dipshit? Looks like other dipshits do. What is so intriguing about reading about people who have so many opportunities they can’t imagine how they will choose a life for themselves? I bet you this crapalua (that’s “crap a looa”, dipshit) doesn’t sell too goddamn well in 3rd world countries. What do you think?

Is this what makes you ladies feel beautiful and talented? Do you not know that all women are beautiful? I know I have my proclivities, but I do love women, and as a connoisseur of the fairer gender I have to say that those who long to be like the dimbulbs in chick-lit novels can take my name out of their little black books. If you can’t hold a conversation with me after I bang your freckles off, I don’t really need you around.


  • At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think your comments are very sexist. ("Fairer gender?" Please.) But I agree with you: I think "chick lit" is ridiculous and offensive overall, and so is "dick lit." I don't like literature that's divided by imaginary sex, race, whatever, lines.

    But, if I'm not mistaken and I may be, isn't this what many publishers supposedly want--"categories"? Why not address your complaint to them? If they didn't push the same-old same-old, maybe less writers would be writing the same-old same-old, and less readers would be reading the same-old same-old.

    IMO, you tend to beat up on writers more than anyone else. What gives? Do you spend most of your time around writers? If you've made many legitimate sales, shouldn't you have more (or at least as many) gripes about dealing with editors and publishers?

  • At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Franny, Franny, Franny!
    How can someone who loves women as much as I do be a sexist?

    FYI: I am a writer's advocate, but I don't like wannabes. I despise those who pretend to be something they are not. There seems to be this idea that if you sit down and write something good and/or enjoy writing, that you should be a novelist. But that is complete bullshit, Franny. Lots of people love to ride horses. They have farms with horses and even board other people's horses and teach people how to ride. However, few of them will become true equestrians and go to the Olympics. It is the same with getting published. For every 10,000 wannabes out there who bitch about not getting published, there is 1 who has the combination of gifts and potential to actually make it in this biz. Of those, few will actually plow through the bullshit long enough to make the big time.

  • At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "There seems to be this idea that if you sit down and write something good and/or enjoy writing, that you should be a novelist."

    --Then maybe we have a little something in common because I complain about this very same thing all the time. I recently emailed someone a long diatribe about exactly that and have been feeling like I should post more at my blog (I've already posted some stuff on this there). But then I probably won't: I alienate enough people as it is. ...But then maybe I will post more about it--right here.

    IMO, many want the status of being called a "novelist," but few want to do the actual work of a novelist. Many writers want to pass off long babbling works with little to no overall narratives, or with just plots and no consistent characters, or no consistent characters and just plots, or just ideas and no narratives, etc., or they more obviously cheat and try to call pastiches of short stories "novels." To me, a novel (at least a good one) should possess all of it: a strong overall narrative, interesting ideas, believable characters, and the transitions between the various "parts" are often more important than the parts themselves, though, really, everything's probably important; I think the best novels are usually hard to pull apart into parts because the parts fit together so well.

    I often argue that many books being called novels today are not actually novels; writers should come up with different descriptive names for long written works that don't have narratives especially. Why can't they? Why don't they often do so--at least IMO they don't often do so. And I think it's because they want that novelist-status thingie at all costs, even at the cost of their poser-novels being called bad novels when they often ain't even bad ones because they ain't actually novels for chrissake! They'd do better to call those works something else, claim they're works "of their own kind." But trying to pass off nonnovels as novels just seems ridiculous. But then maybe some writers really intend to pen novels and just ultimately can't; they just don't have novelwriting in them.

    I'm reminded of the modern abstract-style art often executed today: I think some is really good, some is just not good at all. In the past, even the most abstract painters often still had training in realism, in figure-drawing, portraiture and the like, which can be back-breaking work, but is also very important work, IMO. Those older great abstract artists had the talent to do realistic stuff too; they just CHOSE not to do realism anymore past the training stage. I can usually tell the difference between artists who've done significant time with drawing basics and ones who have not, ones who think they can just slap paint on a canvas and they're suddenly great abstract artists.

    The thing is, IMO: some artists today just aren't capable draftspeople, so they just don't bother doing any realistic work/training probably because they ain't up to doing realistic work, and this inability shows in their abstract work too. They're abstract painters not necessarily by choice but by INABILITY more. A similar thing with some writers today: they're abstract "experimental" writers not necessarily by choice but by inability more. Some writers want to call themselves novelists, but they aren't capable of executing novels, of executing all the typical novel "parts," so they leave some parts out, and they then self-servingly decry the general need for those parts-they-can't-personally-execute too--AND sometimes they even think they're great novelists. And and AND, others call them great novelists. WTF?!?

    You can probably tell that I'm very, very picky about novels. I think they're often considered a "prestigious" written work for a reason: they're fucking extremely hard to write well. Probably a significant number of people could list-like rattle off interesting ideas or interesting characters or interesting plot-points, etc., but putting all that stuff together within a narrative, smoothly fitting interesting ideas into an overall narrative--that's the toughest part, it's especially tough to do well. I've repeatedly tried to pen the "perfect novel," but I've failed. Obviously, I overreached. Penning simply a good or even a mediocre novel is hard enough.

    Now, lastly, if you're directing this wannabe stuff at me personally, that isn't fair because you probably don't know anything about my work ethic, Sammy-baby. And I don't want to make the "big time"; I'm lucky I can make it out of bed most mornings. I seem to remember saying some of this to you once before; maybe I should just go back to lurking....

  • At 7:05 AM, Blogger thewriterslife said…

    Okay. Where do I begin with this one. Why do you feel it right to condemn? Have you ever given a chick lit a try? Why do chick lit authors have to defend themselves from the likes of people like you? And I guess you go around telling new mamas that their newborn babies are ugly just because they're not all rosy and pink just like you think they should be. Okay, it's early morning and my blood pressure is setting new heights.

    As with all books, there are ones that don't appeal to everyone and that's okay. But, why dig them into the dirt? Hasn't your Mama ever taught you anything? What you are doing is condemning the whole chick lit genre and that isn't fair. I don't like horror, but do you see me saying that Dean Koontz stinks? Of course not. I have complete admiration for the man.

    I know this is your blog and you can say anything you want free of censorship, but I'd like you to do something for me. Keep my name in the back of your mind because I'm going to blow your theory that all chick lit is nothing but the drivel you think it to be clean out of the water. And there are others in the genre that will be doing the same thing. I think you're going to see a new generation of chick lit coming up, not that you'll even take the time to read any of them, but believe me, it's not all about shoes and whatever else you perceive to be. And frankly, if you were in my black book, I'd put you under a name I won't even put here. In my opinion, your statements are very sexist and if I were you, I'd rethink my stand if you ever want to attract a lady who wants more than having her freckles banged off. Frankly, those kind of guys aren't my thing.

  • At 8:42 AM, Blogger Shalanna Collins said…

    I don't read you as sexist. I "get" your ironic tone. You and I can apparently both write snark like Cynthia Heimel, and that means a lotta readers just don't get us when we do. I have no idea why women like to read about idiot females. Maybe it makes them feel smarter themselves to read about a ditz. The ditzes in screwball comedy appealed to me more--people like Gracie Allen and Carole Lombard were actually very insightful and smart, unlike the chick lit heroines you're talking about.

    I agree that most of the heroines in "chick lit" novels are too stupid to live. I even started a Yahoo! group purportedly about the "craft" of the genre, where we intended to do a bit of analysis of the books so I could see what their appeal might be. Unfortunately, nobody else seems to be able to discuss the books--they simply hop to the defense of the author whenever I point out a flaw that I believe writers should avoid. I said that perhaps we could learn by looking at the books and seeing where they could have been improved, and the answers I got summed up to, "In whose opinion? They're perfect now!" People are SO upset when I suggest there could be any flaw or any room for improvement in any published novel, even the non-novels of chick lit. Most of these "heroines" could be outplayed at checkers by your pet frog, because at least he knows how to jump. I can't relate to them. The plots don't exist or are contrivances worn out in 1950s B-movies.

    The genre is aimed, I am told, at "girls who think they don't like to read." Next up: music for people who hate melody. Oh, that's right--rap and hippityhoppity is already waaay pop-U-lar.

    However, if you want to sell, find out what people think they want to buy. Better yet, go out and create a demand through making a perceived need with advertising and hype. Then you'll have pictures of dead Presidents galore.

    I think Fran is right--it IS tough to write a real novel that's going to stand the test of time. Agents and editors say that voice is the most important aspect now, but I can't believe they really want the whiny, clueless voice that's in most pink-cover stuff. They think the readers with money to buy books do, and that's why those books are on the shelves.

    By the way, Dean Koontz does stink. Okay, maybe he just smells a little rank. Not that I've sniffed him LATELY. *grin* (That was a play on the last post, for the Koontz Fan Club out there.) Some of his work, on the other hand, isn't too bad. Although the best book he ever wrote is out of print; it's a Writer's Digest tome titled _Writing Popular Fiction_, and in it he speaks of the craft of writing in various genres. I don't, however, think that I could tell the difference between any two of his horror novels, because he got into a rut there and had so many of them that were very alike. (I liked the one with the lab-created talking dog.) To me, an author who just writes the same book over and over again isn't growing, and is doing herself/himself a disservice so far as artistic progress. Thus I can't admire him the way I do (say) Kurt Vonnegut, but I can commend him for knowing how to work the system.

    That's what the chick lit purveyors are doing--working the system. I'm watching to see whether "paranormal chick lit" is really the next big trend, as I have a couple of paranormal novels that deserve to see the light of day, even if it's between bubblegum-tinted covers. "Smart chick lit" is also supposed to be on its way. Well, bring it on . . . let's see if we can get 'em to buy it!

    Gizwal! (The word I had to prove I could type to show I'm a Real Entity, not a software 'bot--it means, apparently, "Salut")

  • At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sammy! Finally a man has the balls to say what we all know to be true. As women, we so appreciate you telling us what we should be reading (almost as much as we appreciate you banging our freckles off, after all, you save us a trip to the dermatologist).

    We are indebted to you, and all the other literary folk who know better than we do. After all, if it wasn't for all you smart, literate people out there who’ve anointed themselves the savoir of dipshit women everywhere, how would the fairer gender know what they should be reading? We need your guidance, much like man-kind needs religious zealots to knock on our doors while we're eating dinner and remind us we're going to hell. You've saved our reading souls.

    I can't imagine what would happen if we were left to our own devices to buy and read what we choose... there's be anarchy, chaos, perhaps even bra burning (although that might be nice, as it would give women lovers like you greater access to our big ta-tas).

    In any case, we’re lucky you’re all out there. My friends and I are way too busy trying cases, closing deals and performing surgery to devote our time to degrading the efforts of other women. We’re too busy hiding our glee that there are women out there making boatloads of money off their books, and secretly taking pride in the fact that they’re sticking it to the man.

    I’d like to close by bowing to your superior intellect and ability to discern what’s appropriate reading material for modern women. And as I’m bowing, don’t be surprised if I sneak a peek at the flaccid penis of yours. I’m just looking for evidence that you’re not, in fact, the biggest pussy out there.

  • At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You chick-lit bashers are those nerdy high school kids that were never invited to parties and as adults, still aren't. I'm laughing all the way to the bank at your rediculous post. The fact that you people put so much energy into bashing these novels is hilarious. Sounds like you may be a little (a lot) jealous. You talk about all the women you get, calling 900 #s in the middle of the night doesn't count. Such a sad life you lead bashing others.

  • At 10:39 PM, Blogger Sable Grey said…

    Okay, a fellow author who writes chick lit directed me to this site. I made the mistake of reading the comments made and was ready to face the firing squad on behalf of my friend and other chick lit writers...then I read the first paragraph of the original post. I didn't read any further...because any man who refers to womens' breasts as "ta-tas" is not worth getting upset over. Ladies, write what you want to write and don't worry about what other people think. As long as you are happy with yourself and what you do, other people's opinions don't really matter. :)

  • At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dammit, Sammmy....

    You say you don't like 'wanna bes'. Fine. But out of the hundreds of chick lit authors out there, how do you know that they're all wanna bes? Some might be great writers who are starting out, having their books stereotyped in such a genre, but intending to go on and do other things.

    Besides, a woman might write a novel as good as Fight Club and have it marketed as 'chick lit' if she's a woman. Why should you judge? It's the publishers' fault.

    Judging from your comments on ta-tas, however, sounds like it wasn't her loss!

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger Remodeling Repartee said…

    Little do you know that erstwhile chick-lit writer is busy blogging away about how juicy she was when she met you; until she found out you were a "literary agent" and then the rose done dried up. Careful with stereotypes, pal. Ironically, isn't that what you're urging chick-lit to avoid?

  • At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My God, you really don't have a girlfriend do you? Sheesh, go stand next to some blokes in a pub and talk about, um, er, sport. Yeah.

  • At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, Sammy... started so fresh and spicy, ended with a banal dessert of PC flattery.
    And as for 3rd world countries, mystery/thriller is number one genre. At least in Eastern Europe.

  • At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anonymous says, "Dammit Sammy..."

    Weren't all great writers just starting out wannabees? Don't they wanna be great writers but at present aren't? That makes them just plain ol' vanilla wannabees.

  • At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're an asshole


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