This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Q: How embarrassed am I? A: Not a whole lot.

So, I've been corrected. Sort of.

Remember my earlier post about the Gossip Girls books and others like them? Well, I was browsing some used magazines for sale recently, ran across a March 10, 2008 issue of The New Yorker and found an article that just oozes praise for these novels, describing the books with compliments like "wickedly satirizing the young," "gleeful political incorrectness," and "the reader she seems to have firmly in mind as she writes is a literate, even literary, adult."

And that's all in the first paragraph.

I appear to have completely misread the intentions of the author, Cecily von Ziegesar. These, apparently, are works of social criticism and intelligence, "full of literary allusions."

Let me reiterate I haven't read a single Gossip Girls book. Previously, I tried to be interested in them, but found articles on quantitative studies of the effect of muzak on shoppers more palatable. Perhaps I'll be able to stomach the novels now that I know they're fonts of eruditeness.

I wonder if the readers of these works are taking away the message that Janet Malcolm, writer of the article, "Advanced Placement, The wicked joy of the 'Gossip Girls' novels," seems to find in them. Are they developing a taste for "Goethe and Tolstoy," or do they just enjoy the fact that the main character plans an, ahem, (can we say romantic, I mean really?), rendezvous at a swanky hotel with her boyfriend? I would have blushed and had the urge to go to confession if I had been reading that as a young'un. Did I tell you Malcolm refers to these books as "children's literature?"

To be fair, Malcolm states that "[von Ziegesar] is writing a transgressive fairy tale, not a worthy book for a school list." You've got that right, Janet.

Referring to the novels as that beloved brand of sweets made for children, she also says, "There are no Brussel sprouts hidden in her Rice Krispie marshmallow treats." Yet she claims that "[t]he books are full of literary allusions," as though that were some kind of medicine going down with the spoon full of sugar. Am I mistaken that this is a bit oxymoronic?

I've got nothing against fairy tales for children or adults, for that matter. What else is most of what we read at the beach or watch on television, if not fairy tales minus the mythological element? But I balk at the way this particular brand of fairy tale is manufactured. Fine the girls have endless credit card limits. Fine they can take rooms at the Plaza hotel when they feel miffed. Fine they have unconventional families. Who wouldn't love that? It's all fun. But, somehow, I just find that the black silk underwear, the nauseating amount of references to upscale clothiers, the swearing, the crassness seem to spoil that feel-good frothiness that fairy tales are supposed to deliver.

But that's just me. After all, I have been corrected.

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