Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spreading the Meta-Romance

One of my research interests involves chick lit. In the excellent Chick Lit: The New Woman's Fiction, Juliette Wells writes in her essay, "With one notable exception, which I will discuss shortly, chick-lit novels also imitate their predecessors in avoiding the subject of the development of women's literary talents, an evasion that is particularly remarkable in light of the overwhelming popularity in the genre of first-person narration and the prevalence of heroines' careers that involve some kind of writing" ('Mothers of Chick Lit?', p56). Wells makes the point that rarely do the heroines of chick lit themselves become successful novelists.

Meg Cabot to the rescue! I was thoroughly delighted by Princess and the (Green)Peace Press Release. Yes, Princess Mia is going to be a published author with her own historical romance, Ransom My Heart. For those who haven't ever read the Princess Diaries - and they are quite, quite different to the films - Mia's great ambition is to become a writer. And in a metafictional stroke, she will be! What I particularly enjoy is that she is writing historical romance. As much as I loved Anne of Greengables and Little Women growing up, I was always just a touch disappointed that the heroines were discouraged from writing what they really enjoyed and encouraged to write 'what they knew'. Louisa May Alcott didn't really pay much attention to this advice herself, as is evident from her more thrilling scribblings, but the fact it was there always seemed a slap on the wrist to girls who wanted to write outlandlish romances. And I wanted to write outlandish romances.

If you read on in the entry in Cabot's blog, you'll also note what I love about this author from a feminist perspective. Although chick lit and its junior division are often derided by feminists, there is a strong - indeed, overt - feminist slant. What is particularly distinctive about this slant - apart from the shoe fetishes and pink - is that it is aware of faults and flaws not only in patriarchal ideologies, but in feminist ones, too.

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