Thursday, November 15, 2007

Women's fiction?

Not chick lit, exactly, but you know those books I'm talking about: books about famous historical or mythological women, or often the overlooked daughter, sister, or wife of a historical, mythological, or fictional hero. Sometimes borderline bodice rippers, sometimes more philosophical, these books have pretensions to being serious literature that a half a moment of examination will deconstruct. Ahab’s Wife springs to mind, as does The Red Tent (I'll get in trouble for that one, as I know many people liked it), a wanna-be Red Tent about David’s first wife, which I can’t remember the title of at the moment, Leonardo's Swans, Lizst's Kiss... The Other Boleyn Girl, which I mentioned the other day, is a prime example, as is almost everything that Philippa Gregory writes.

These books are all rescue fiction, telling us the stories of these strong, fierce, overlooked women, whose stories are amazingly similar across time periods and countries. Almost leads you to believe that they’re a reflection of the society they’re being written in, doesn’t it? I notice an almost pathological focus on the love/hate relationships among women, particularly sisters—The Other Boleyn Girl sledgehammers this theme, as does the book I just finished on the elliptical today, Nefertiti, which is really about Nefertiti’s younger half-sister. Anyone who was once a tweenage girl being stabbed in the back by other tweenage girls trying to be cool probably has to admit the partial truth of this, regardless of any wave of feminism. Add in the detailed description of clothing, jewelry, face paint, etc., and really, all you have is chick lit dressed up in historical sheep’s clothing.

Now, by that, do I mean the clothing of a sheep that existed in history, or sheep-shaped clothing that existed in history?

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