Writer Susan Coll penned an interesting piece for the Washington Post a month or two ago that I revisited when I was going through some things I set aside to read a while back, and it's still fabulous:

Do the mating habits of cows have anything remotely to do with Marxism? This was the literary brain teaser I was given when I set out to publish my first novel, a hybrid of historical and contemporary fiction based on the life of Eleanor Marx, Karl's youngest daughter.

One editor suggested I slash more than half of the historical portions of the narrative, and expand what was then a thin comic strand about a young graduate student working on her dissertation. She sent me a book to read for inspiration. It was Laura Zigman's comic novel Animal Husbandry (1998), which is premised on the amusing if specious observation that men are like bulls -- given the opportunity, they will always choose a new cow instead of sticking with the old cow they already know.

Initially I thought there had been a mix-up in the mailroom, but the confusion was all mine. I was being asked to take a crash course in a field I had not yet heard of: Chick Lit.

Perhaps this is just speculation, but it's hard to imagine Jonathan (Franzen or Safran Foer - whatever) getting back a manuscript for a serious work of fiction with "TART IT UP!" scrawled atop the top margin, proverbially speaking...



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