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good in theory

You know when you discover a website and realise that the intentions behind it are good, but the result sort of.....sucks? This is one of those sites.

It's a good idea for a site (although it's been done with much more wit and style somewhere else *cough*chicklit.com*cough*), and I think the Bibliofemmes' taste in literature is pretty good - I like a lot of their bookmarked books. So why doesn't it work? Well, maybe it's the writing, which is flat and dull and humourless and simply not very good. Or maybe it's the fact that the forums are full of idiots. Like one poster, Darcy, who posted the following insightful observation:
I often wonder too why there aren't more pre-twentieth century female authors. I know getting published as a woman was difficult, but Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Elliot managed it (even if some had to disguise themselves as men). In the upper classes they had the training and the time, but they are few and far between. It would be great if there were more to be found; although I'm sure feminist literary historians would have rooted them out by now.

Oh, God, where do I begin with such moronitude? Darcy, meet Virago and Persephone. Oh, and the Women's Press. And the Attic Press. And Aphra Benn, Maria Edgeworth, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Fanny Burney, Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Frances Hodgson Burnett, George Sand, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mrs Henry Wood, Frances Sheridan, Edith Wharton and many, many, many more pre-20th century female scribes. And the news that actually the "upper classes" weren't very keen on educating their daughters.

I think - no, I know - that I've been spoiled by Chicklit. Anything less than the level of wit, erudition and humour on that site is just unacceptable to me now. So maybe I'm being unfair on the site (and I know I'm being unfair on their posters, who certainly aren't all like the poor deluded fool quoted above). But I fear that, like many things (Point Pleasant, Glory on Buffy, anything Jasper Fforde has ever written) it's just another product that should be good, and sadly isn't.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 29th, 2005 12:50 pm (UTC)
Not to mention the fact that in the 19th century, the women are up there with the men in the blockbuster stakes - not just Austen and the Brontes and Eliot, but also the fantastic Mary Elizabeth Braddon who made an absolute bomb out of Lady Audley's Secret (and the 90-odd other books she also wrote).
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:27 pm (UTC)
I love Mary Braddon (whom of course I listed above) - Sarah Waters recommended her to me when I interviewed her a few years ago, and I actually chose Lady Audley's Secret as one of the Chicklit Classics Book Club books last year. I've read all her books that are still in print, but would love more.
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:43 pm (UTC)
I accidentally stole a copy of Braddon's Aurora Floyd from the house where I lodged when I first lived in Wolverhampton. I somehow packed it when I moved out. I feel a bit guilty about it.
Mar. 29th, 2005 02:40 pm (UTC)
And if she'd actually read even Austen, she'd be reading fictionalised references to female authors all over the place - that's practically all Northanger Abbey is about!
Mar. 29th, 2005 12:52 pm (UTC)
And I don't know why she thinks they had the time either - they may have had fewer chores than working class women, but their time was hardly their own. Jane Austen described as pushing her writing to one side whenever company came, Elizabeth Barrett Browning shoving hers under a cushion whenever her children's needs usurped her writing time. And what education they did get was hardly a "training" for writing, unless a dainty pianoforte technique is more useful than a grounding in classics.

Lovely chicklit. Must go click things.
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:04 pm (UTC)
Oh god, THANK YOU for saying that about Jasper Fforde. I thought I was the only one.
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
No, you're not! I think he's appalling. Great ideas, but the writing is just dead.
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
Yes! Great ideas, but I couldn't care less about any of his characters, and he can't write women for shit.
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:36 pm (UTC)
I never got as far as seeing whether he could do characters much because the writing just... annoyed me. I read about 20 pages of the first one. But I really like the concept!
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC)
I very nearly gave up at that point, but ploughed on because so many people had raved about it. Glad I finished it, but certainly won't be attempting another one.

To be honest, though, that particular Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett-esque sub-genre of humorous fantasy/sci-fi tends to annoy me, so I probably wasn't predisposed to like Mr Fforde's work.
Mar. 29th, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC)
But I love Douglas Adams and like Terry Pratchett a lot, so it should have worked for me! I think it was the self-conscious cleverness of it - if I'm going to read that sort of thing, I'd rather it wasn't so self-congratulatory. Escapist romps, please!
Mar. 29th, 2005 02:02 pm (UTC)
I think I could have just about managed to enjoy it had Thursday Next been remotely convincing or likeable. But she wasn't; she just seemed like a caricature of a woman drawn by a man who doesn't know or like many women.
Mar. 29th, 2005 02:42 pm (UTC)
But I really like the concept!

Me too, and there were a lot of rather amusing little jokes for the well-read. But yes, his writing style is awful and put me off too.
Mar. 29th, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC)
God, has the poster you cited never read anything pre-19th century? What about all the great women letter writers in the 18th C., like Mary Wortley Montagu and Madame de Sevigne? And Mme de Lafayette, who wrote The Princess of Cleves, which only happens to be an absolute classic of French literature. And if we're going way back, the first novel ever written (well, at least extant) was created by a woman: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. In fact, that's one of my personal pet peeves, that lots of perfectly well read people go around calling Don Quixote the first novel ever written, when in fact Murasaki Shikibu predated Cervantes by half a millennium.
Mar. 29th, 2005 02:31 pm (UTC)
I know! But from that post, she doesn't seem to have read much pre-20th century women's writing, so I think expecting knowledge of Murasaki Shikibu would be too much.
Mar. 29th, 2005 02:51 pm (UTC)
It also sounds like she's never read anything non-English.
Mar. 29th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC)
just so I can take my pedantry to new levels, I realized after posting my rant that Mmes de Sevigne and de Lafayette were writing in the 17th C. and not in the 18th. Which just goes to prove our collective point that great women writers aren't confined to a particular point in time.
Mar. 29th, 2005 03:14 pm (UTC)
Well, I think it serves a purpose--it keeps posters like that away from Chicklit.

Though, honestly? I've never heard of a good chunk of the women you mentioned, and would never have heard of Virago or Persephone were it not for Chicklit.

Is the problem more that she's asserting that there aren't many female authors, instead of asking if she's overlooking writers by assuming there were not any?

*is a snob, and protective of Chicklit*
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


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