Oh, wow am I pissed. I’m so pissed off I don’t even want to use cutesy exclamation marks to illustrate how pissed off I am. Why am I pissed off? Have you read the article that the Wall Street Journal did about Jennifer Egan? No? Here you go. Don’t want to click on the link? Here’s the part that pissed me off. The bold is the WSJ’s question, and the part in italics is Egan’s response.
- Over the past year, there’s been a debate about female and male writers and how they come off in the press. Franzen made clear that “Freedom” was going to be important, while others say that Allegra Goodman was too quiet about “The Cookbook Collector.” Do you think female writers have to start proclaiming, “OK, my book is going to be the book of the century”?
- Anyone can say anything, that’s easy. My focus is less on the need for women to trumpet their own achievements than to shoot high and achieve a lot. What I want to see is young, ambitious writers. And there are tons of them. Look at “The Tiger’s Wife.” There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models? I’m not saying you should say you’ve never done anything good, but I don’t go around saying I’ve written the book of the century. My advice for young female writers would be to shoot high and not cower.
Did you not see what part I am pissed about? Here it is again: There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models?
Jennifer Egan is not upset that Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarized. She’s upset that Viswanathan chose to plagiarize authors who wrote “chick lit” and YA. Apologies to Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, Megan McCafferty and Salman Rushdie (ugh, Rushdie, he’s the worst of the bunch, am I right?) – you guys just don’t write the kind of literature worth reading, I guess. I hope you just read that last sentence and heard my voice dripping with sarcasm. Because that’s how I typed it.
I am actually double pissed off because I wanted to read “A Visit from the Goon Squad”. I heard it was a bit science fictiony which is right up my alley. But now I won’t be reading that book. Or any other book by Egan. You could say that I’m being petty and close minded, and you could wonder why this even really matters to me. The biggest reason that this really pisses me off is that she insinuates that someone like Meg Cabot (and the others) should not be looked to as a role model. Really? Jennifer Egan, have you even MET Meg? Have you ever read one of her books? I’m willing to bet that she has done neither. Because how could you meet Meg and then call her work banal or derivative? I don’t care if you think those things, Meg is so nice that saying those things are almost like kicking a puppy. Congrats, Jennifer Egan, you just kicked a puppy. Now I’m not saying that Meg Cabot is a defenseless little puppy. She knows how to defend herself. Just check out her blog entry, The Princess Thing. Meg defends her belief that princesses are awesome (true) while not slamming anybody who believes differently. That’s class. Meg should do a workshop where she teaches girls and women how to embrace their inner princess and Jennifer Egan should attend. Actually, Meg, can you do this for real? I will totally come even though I’ve already embraced my inner princess.
But seriously, the thing is, I can’t help but feel personally insulted by Jennifer Egan because Meg is one of my literary role models. You can say what you want about her books but the truth is is that a reader only gets what he or she puts in to their reading. Are there terrible authors? Probably. Can I think of any right now? No. Some people would probably say that Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown were terrible writers, but the reality is that these authors are incredibly popular and they definitely have their market nailed down. And so does Meg. Actually, Meg writes across the board too! She has books for adults, teens, AND children. Plus there’s some science fiction and paranormal thrown in too. She writes EVERYTHING (that I can think of at the moment…Meg probably hasn’t covered EVERYTHING there is to write about..yet).
I think Jennifer Egan assumed (or probably didn’t even think about at all) that everyone who would enjoy her book would only enjoy that type of fiction. But I think that a lot of people, myself included, read all different types of books. And when an author slams another genre it says nothing good about them. And when you slam a group of authors who are incredibly popular with the YA crowd, such as Cabot and McCafferty, you are going to suffer a lot of backlash. Because if there’s anything we know it’s that the younger crowd rules the internet, and therefore the world.
So Jennifer? Next time you give an interview, try not to stick your foot in your mouth. You’re better than that, I hope.
Oh, and also?