What About The Blue-Haired Girls?

I have decided to write chick lit. This obviously a surprise to my regular readers, who have been subjected to my tirades on why chick lit is formulaic and ridiculous. Allow me to say only this: it is, but maybe it doesn't have to be. Besides, I need the money.

What changed my mind--more than my agent or my poverty--is the book I'm currently reading, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and its sequel But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (gee, golly, I hope so). These lovely little chick-lit predecessors were written by Anita Loos in 1925 and have more to say about the relationship between men and women than Candace Bushnell could dream. They're essentially about two daffy, gold-digging flappers who are out for a good time and rich men. I started reading this because I've just seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the movie, starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. And I saw that only because I was reading this really fabulous cultural study about the conflicting views of Marilyn Monroe. (The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Sarah Churchwell) So that's how I get hooked on things, and while it does mean I'm going to give my own version of chick lit the old college try, it also means that the other books I'm ostensibly reading (most notably Lucky Jim, which I love) get put aside until I forget the plot entirely and have to start all over.

The Marilyn Monroe thing is new though. I never realized how much I liked her until I really started reading this book. For the most part, I've been more aligned with fast-talking, gum-chewing, wisecracking dames like Rosalind Russell or Katherine Hepburn. This probably comes as no surprise to you if yot are my friend, or if you are an editor I've tried to pitch something to, or if you are a cabdriver who jets through the crosswalk even though I clearly have a walk sign. But what's surprising about Miss Monroe. is that far from being a victim of her own publicity, she was actually a smart-mouthed dame who spent her life trying to make up for a lack of education, and created and controlled her own persona. She did do too many drugs, and had lousy taste in men, but she also read Chekov and Freud and Thomas Paine, and was known to tell someone to go fuck himself if he got out of line. Like many Hollywood-ites without a formal education, she was touchy about it and spent much of her time trying to improve herself through classes and the "right" books. (Groucho Marx, another who never made it past high school, was widely regarded as one of the most well-read people of his time) It was funny to realize that as messy as her life may have been, she may not have been the "victim" of men and her public persona that everyone made her out to be. Even now, a certain skeptic responded to this by saying "Are you actually trying to tell me she was some kind of genius?" And my answer is unless you have a Colonel Parker or Karl Rove pulling the strings, most successful people are smart, or become smart, along the way.

If I sound like I'm trying to justify reading a book about Marilyn Monroe, well, I am. Up until recently I thought it was just one step away from reading about Elvis or UFO's or Elvis in UFO's.

Anyway, so I got inspired to watch the movie and then read the Anita Loos book, which is very funny and made me believe that chick lit is salvagable after all.