Anna David: Chick Lit Is Never a Compliment

By Neal Comment

anna-david.jpg“I didn’t see what the big deal was about chick lit,” Anna David told me yesterday afternoon as we waited for our salads to arrive, recalling observations of the literary tussles other writers have had over that label before the publication of her own debut novel, Party Girl. “You have books out! What do you care what they’re labeled as? But now I’m noticing that my book is only described as chick lit by people who are deriding it…and I feel like I’ll end up offending somebody no matter what I say about chick lit.” (In fact, GalleyCat readers were already anonymously nudging us about David’s thoughts on the subject in the Huffington Post.) “I wrote a book about the most important and profound experience I’d ever had—getting and staying sober—and it’s being categorized among books about wearing Manolo Blahniks while trying to land a guy?” she asks rhetorically. “But there’s just no term for women’s fiction that doesn’t sound derogatory.”

Her own genre interests became clear early in the conversation. “If a book mentioned drugs or addiction,” she enthused, “I was on board. It didn’t matter what the writing was like, fiction or nonfiction.” She said she “bought every word of A Million Little Pieces,” but had an epiphany listening to the opening chapters of My Friend Leonard and realizing that his story was just too dramatically contrived. And then the division of HarperCollins formerly known as ReganBooks bought Party Girl the week that Oprah shamed James Frey on national television. “I don’t know if that helped or hurt my book,” David admitted, but she was glad things went the way they did. “It was always my first choice. I didn’t know much about publishing, but I knew Judith Regan‘s name, and I knew she was successful.” And though David didn’t actually meet Regan herself until several months after the manuscript was bought, reading the novel, you can practically see the rationale behind the acquisition; David’s story (which nobody pretends isn’t autobiographical) is classic ReganBooks, sensational yet not transgressive and aimed squarely at big emotional truths in the vein of, say, Toni Bentley‘s The Surrender.

David will be rejoining her HuffPo interlocutor, Rachel Kramer Bussel, at the Columbus Circle Borders tonight for another conversation. “If you come,” she promises, “I’ll tell you Ann Coulter stories.”