WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

I will not use the easy pun when writing about Jennifer Weiner

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So I managed to make my way through the recent New Yorker profile on Jennifer Weiner. Oh boy.

I tried to read a Jennifer Weiner book once. I gave it a fair shake. Can’t remember which one it was (with eleven books in thirteen years, or thirteen books in eleven years — I’ve forgotten how many — it’s hard to keep them straight), but I probably got fifty pages or so in when my survival instinct piped up and said, “Life’s too short, dude.”

But let’s face it. I’m not Jennifer’s target audience.

And she does have a target audience, which is quite possibly the reason for her angst. You see, her angst seems to revolve around how female novelists aren’t taken seriously by the mavens of serious literatoor, and so she’s shut out from any consideration as our era’s Dickens. To Jennifer, only male authors are paid the necessary tributes for that, receiving the big prizes and getting all the ink in the Times Book Review.

Allow me to be blunt. When you write for a specific audience, such as (let’s get away from the gender issue) teen science nerds, you’re not going to be pressing the right buttons to nail down a Pulitzer. And I get it, I do. You’re successful. You make a lot of money. Your name is always being mentioned in magazines (Us, People, and The New Yorker!), and you’re asked to speak at major publishing conferences. You’re a huge figure in the business. Yet, it’s not enough.

I recall similar noise coming from Stephen King a few years back. It happened to John Grisham too. And Scott Turow. See, it’s not just women getting dissed by the Kool Kids.

But Weiner’s complaints are mostly gender-based, and I agree with most of them. The major awards have mainly gone to men. The book review business does ignore a lot of books aimed at women. But, I’m sorry, when I think of serious female novelists, I don’t think of Jennifer Weiner; I think of Jennifer Egan. I think of Rachel Kushner. I think of Heidi Julavits and Vendela Vida. A. M. Homes. Alice Walker. Marilynne Robinson. Ann Patchett. Zadie Smith. Arundhati Roy. Susan Sontag.

Jennifer Weiner doesn’t write that kind of stuff. (Does she?)

I don’t know if any of those authors write in front of a mirror like Weiner does (actual fact), but I do know that they practice the mainly profitless art of creating literature. It’s not aimed at 18-to 34-year-old women. It’s not aimed at an income or demographic sweet spot. What they do is universal, which is exactly the thing that distinguishes literature from whatever it is that Jennifer Weiner thinks she writes (not that there’s anything wrong with it).

So I can applaud Weiner for championing female writers who ought to be getting more attention from the arbiters of culture up there in New York City. It’s true. They should. And I can get behind the idea, as she puts it, that “sometimes we do read to make friends. Sometimes we do read to escape, or find comfort, or to spend time in a world that is a little more fair and a little more kind than the world that we inhabit.” And it’s worthy of a writer to appeal to that desire. But it irks me just a little when someone who has succeeded — she even has a woman who lays out her clothes for her, each suit bag tagged with the name of the event where Jen will wear the designer outfit — has a king-sized chip on her shoulder over what she’s being deprived of. At least that’s what I read between the lines.

But who knows? She might write something one day that compares with the stuff this woman writes. Then she’ll get everything she deserves.

(Photo via Jennifer Weiner’s Amazon author page.)

10 comments on “I will not use the easy pun when writing about Jennifer Weiner

  1. Gretchen Getsinger
    January 29, 2014

    I couldn’t finish reading the article because I thought I was hearing whining.

  2. Gretchen Getsinger
    January 29, 2014

    I meant the New Yorker article….

  3. denizb33
    January 29, 2014

    Yup, I agree with this. Especially this “What they do is universal, which is exactly the thing that distinguishes literature from whatever it is that Jennifer Weiner thinks she writes (not that there’s anything wrong with it).” When she starts writing like Marilynne Robinson, then maybe comparisons might be made.
    She has someone lay out her outfits for her? Seriously? Interesting choice of how to not let daily life tasks encroach on writing time…

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 29, 2014

      According to the article, yes, a consultant pre-selects her clothes. She’s definitely leading a different kind of life than most writers I know!

  4. J. S. Collyer
    January 29, 2014

    Awesome post, Kevin. And a little spooky since I’ve drafted a post skirting around a similar subject to post tomorrow. WE ARE BRIAN LINKED.

    But either way, yes, I agree with you on every point.

    I’m a bit scared posting my little effort, it’s a dicey subject, or can be. You’ve discussed it well here. I just hope I’ve hedged enough XD

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 29, 2014

      Thank you, Jex! I can’t wait to read yours. I’m sure you’ve found the right tone…

  5. 1WriteWay
    January 30, 2014

    If I were in Jennifer’s shoes, I’d hire someone to clean my kitty litter boxes and then shut the f$$k up 😉

  6. Pingback: My Inner B*tch: For Some Writers, Success Is Not Enough | 1WriteWay

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This entry was posted on January 29, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , , , , , , , .
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