Friday, May 18, 2007

The Failure of Modern Women Writers

I do not consider myself an expert of literature, modern or classic, but I do consider myself a reader who knows good writing. I enjoy reading both classic books such as Hemingway, Wharton and Steinbeck. I also enjoy reading new literary fiction, which is often penned by women writers who have received some success. I have become more and more disappointed in these modern authors recently because they all seem to follow the same story patterns and have similiar details in their plots. For example, modern women authors usually include these elements in their stories:

1) Their main character is a middle-aged woman who is having a midlife crisis.

2) She has an affair (or yearns to have one) with a handsome man with a certain ruggedness about him and who is intelligent and well spoken. He also is seen as exciting.

3) The main character has a daughter.

4) The main character is a writer, an artist or a photographer.

5) She lives in a drafty Victorian house that needs work but is seen as having a lot of character.

I am currently reading The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd who wrote the very successful The Secret Life of Bees. I really enjoyed that book because it had more unusual elements to its plot: a young Southern girl trying to rescue a black woman who has been taking care of her afterthe girl's mother died. On the other hand, The Mermaid Chair is very disappointing because here is yet another book whose main female character is having a mid-life crisis, is cheating on her husband, is an artist, who has a daughter and who left a draft Victorian house to return to her childhood mom. Nothing unpredictable here.

The current fiction marketed towards women often has the above-mentioned elements. The reason that this upsets me so much is that I constantly see women being left behind in the world. I feel that women often don't live up to their potential because like the characters in these books they settle down and raise a family only to lose "their self." They lose contact with their inner soul and go through life without exploring and seeking adventures. Although the authors are just writing what women today may be feeling, and probably what the author and her friend are feeling, I believe that the authors are also becoming stagnant and are no longer exploring new possibilities. I know that it is incredibly hard to write a great piece of fiction, but I wish that modern female writers would explore some different topics and characters. Push the envelope. Have a character who lives in a modern ranch and who works as a social worker or as a chief operating officer.

I think to be at the forefront of any field, you have to be innovative and to challenge preconceived notions. I want to see more women in the writing business who get attention for being original and for confronting difficult topics. I know that women can do it!