Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If not for Janet Malcolm...

When Janet Malcolm praised Gossip Girl in the "Critics at Large" column in The New Yorker (“Advanced Placement: The Wicked Joys of Gossip Girl,”3-10-2008), I made a mental note. I recently found a couple of Gossip Girl books and read like a zombie (at least I read one and a half before throwing them into the “give to charity” box). Although I admire Malcolm’s exuberance, her brisk, mordant style, and her penetrating journalism--The Freud Archives and The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughe are certainly American classics--why is she writing about Gossip Girl? A shock thing? This trashy series is about materialistic, shallow teenagers who casually drop brand names into every conversation, wear new designer clothes on each page (though I haven't heard of half the brands), drive Jaguars, fly private planes, check into posh hotels to meet boys, and attend exclusive private schools. In fact they have no real friends. These hollow girls and boys steal each other's lovers and spread rumors about each other on their phones when they're not in the dressing room at Barney's. The "Gossip Girl" column is a computer blog, on which the most scandalous gossip is spread. No one knows who Gossip Girl is (at least not in the first book).

Malcolm writes: "Von Ziegesar pulls off the tour de force of wickedly satirizing the young while amusing them. Her designated reader is an adolescent girl, but the reader she seems to have firmly in mind as she writes is a literate, even literary, adult."

Oh dear. What literate adult might that be? Malcolm actually refers to these books as "classics."

Some of the Gossip Girl columns are humorous, but the narrative is appalling. We need that loyal coterie of friends at the center, like the Sex and the City gals.

The Gossip Girl computer board could say: Rumor has it that Janet Malcolm is ghosting the series. That is totally so Gossip Girl! But of course, I made it up, so don't believe it for a minute. Janet Malcolm has nothing to do with these books ! Some of the books are "created by Cecily von Ziegesar," not written, so we can conclude she has some ghosts. (Not Janet Malcolm, though. I SO made that up!)


Ellen said...

Janet Malcolm. She's an ill-natured woman with a great deal of spite in her. If you allow her to interview you, remember she's likely to skewer you. I wouldn't trust her not to write in bad faith.

On the other hand, is this "in your face" to intelligent women readers who are feminists?

Maybe she's the kind of biographer who gives biographers trouble since
the urge to sue her is understandable.


Kat said...

It certainly seems "in your face" to me.