Friday, August 29, 2008

Holy cats! It's a girl!

Well, dang! I don't do politics, but I have to say that John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his VP is the most brilliant strategic move I've seen in a very long time. I'll concede her lack of experience --not that that's a bad thing, given what "experienced" politicians tend to give us-- but I think it's pretty exciting that a woman who's not afraid to speak her mind, not afraid to stand up for her values, appears to have no hidden agendas, and is willing to go on record as saying polar bears aren't the cute, cuddly things Coca-Cola has led us to believe, may end up as our vice-president. And let's not overlook the fact that she gave all five of her children very cool names--a sure sign of great creativity!

Which brings us to the reason that Gov. Palin is such an intriguing choice: her primary accomplishment thus far is being the mother of five children--one of them with Down's syndrome. Parenting one child is a challenge; parenting five deserves a medal (or maybe a vice-presidency?) and requires a massive amount of brains, energy, discipline, compassion, diplomacy, patience, strategic planning, guts, and humor. How hard could it be to run a country after raising five children to be productive members of society?

Frankly, the American family may be the biggest beneficiary of this year's political pandering. Obama, McCain, and Biden are excellent role models for fatherhood (if not husbandhood); they're loving, devoted parents and their affection for their children is obvious, genuine, and brought some welcome moments of truth in the carefully scripted events of this year's conventions. Gov. Palin's commitment to motherhood is apparent in every interview she does. Now, none of us really believe our taxes or insurance premiums or cost of living are going down come January, do we? Surely, you jest. But if all this rhetoric and grandstanding results in a few more moms or dads deciding time with their children is time well spent, then all parties can claim a victory and the whole world will be a better place. Now that's something worth cheering for!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Isn't 50 the New 30?

Okay, I have really, really depressing news from my literary agent. According to her (and she is definitely a woman in the know), it is now virtually impossible to sell a novel with a protagonist over the age of 40 because all the publishing house editors are under 30 and cannot even begin to relate to--or care about--characters of such an advanced age. Hello? We've been hearing "Fifty is the new Thirty" for quite a while now; did Publishers Weekly not get the memo?

Alarmed--and outraged!--I fired up my trusty search engine, determined to prove my agent wrong. To my utter astonishment and consternation, all the mentions of "hen lit" and "matron lit" (gee, why not "fiction about intelligent, interesting women of a certain age"?) that were there just a few months ago, are indeed now missing. And imprints created expressly for the purpose of publishing novels with more mature heroines have closed up shop. It's like someone flipped a switch and said, "Old girls ba-a-a-a-a-d; young girls goo-oo-oo-d!" (If you've read Animal Farm, that comment will be a lot funnier. And if you haven't, you must. Find it/order it/buy it today!)

Not that it'll do any good, but I must protest! Since when did Youth corner the market on compelling fiction? Who decided tramp stamps and college loans trump carpools and midlife crises? We should have seen this coming when Disney announced their plans to publish Miley Cyrus' memoir. Am I the only one who thinks a 15-year-old writing about her life experience is high comedy? The child's barely been on the planet long enough to make a carbon footprint, much less acquire sufficient material for a memoir! Why don't we just go ahead and lower the age requirement for president while we're at it? Maybe young Chelsea could do what old Hillary couldn't!

We've come to expect short-sightedness from television (witness the current glut of reality shows--a phenomenon that started long before the writers' strike), but to think the literary world would succumb to a lack of vision--not to mention abject discrimination--is truly disturbing. I liked Bridget Jones Diary as much as the next person, but please don't make that the watermark for all my reading yet to come! What loss to have never known Clyde Edgerton's Mattie Rigsbee, Louisa May Alcott's Marmee, Virginia Woolf's Clarissa Dalloway, Muriel Sparks' Jean Brodie, or Janet Evanovich's Grandma Mazur! What deprivation to think that, from this point forward, our fictional viewpoints might be restricted to that of people whose formative years never knew Herman's Hermits, Chatty Kathy, Whip 'n' Chill, cheap gas, or life without cell phones!

Hopefully, my agent is wrong. Hopefully, this post will pull comments from editors claiming "Au contraire! We'd love to see novels featuring 'seasoned' women!" Hopefully, I'll hear from book-buying readers clamoring, "Give us your tried, your true! Your middle-aged mamas living life to the fullest!" Because, frankly, the fifty-year-olds I know are a lot more interesting than the thirty-year-olds I know, the eighty-year-olds are downright darling, and how many times do you really want to read another account of Gen X angst?

Please, somebody send me proof that the stars of my novel-in-progress don't have to give up their senior discount to stay in the literary game!

P.S. Diane Lawrence has a funny blog here that explores this same subject from a slightly different perspective, and Mary Hirsch's assertion that Size 18 is the new Size 6 deserves a whole blog entry to itself!