Caitlin Kelly, I have a bone to pick with you

I have a bone to pick with writer Caitlin Kelly, author of the atrocious Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail. What is billed as a “writer forced to work retail after being let go from her writer job”, is really more “writer decides she needs some extra income to play around with and decides to work ONE DAY A WEEK at an upscale North Face store.”

Clearly this book was not marketed properly. When I purchased the book, I thought I’d be getting a funny, snappy look at what retail life is like, especially for someone that had another career & was forced back into retail.

I was WRONG. This was essentially someone taking a job in retail with the idea of “writing about it.” She didn’t have to live off of a retail salary. She makes it abundantly clear that she’s different (read: better) than the rest of the staff and most of her complaints are of the silly variety: “I hate being on my feet,” “They expect me to tell them when I use the bathroom,” etc. Because she only worked one (!) day a week, I don’t think she really “got” what being a retail worker was. She got the “light version.” She spent more time talking about how educated she is, how many languages she speaks, how many amazing people she knows, and generally how awesome she is.

She worked five hours a week for a year. That definitely does not count as a “career”…it barely qualifies as a JOB. And “unintentional”? To me it seems that she took the job as something to write about. That’s it. Five hours a week averages to about fifty-ish(maybe forty) dollars a week. That’s it. Clearly she didn’t need a retail job to survive (especially in New York City). I found her to be whiny, annoying and completely unlikeable. When I read a memoir, I HAVE to like the writer (unless that person is in their own right famous, then all bets are off). There was no spark to her writing and instead of trying to get the reader to understand her/sympathize with her, she comes off as holier than thou and obnoxious.

Skip it if you’re looking to be entertained. Read it if you want to roll your eyes a lot.

This brings me to book #2, Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store & Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate by Freeman Hall.

THIS is the book Caitlin Kelly wishes she wrote. Funny, snappy and hilarious observations from someone who actually WORKED (& not a measly five hours a week) for fifteen years at the Nordstrom handbag department. Freeman has been there and recounts it all: bosses, customers from hell, morning ‘pep rally’ meetings (if you’ve worked in retail, you know how awful these can truly be) and, of course, the dreaded holiday shopping season.

I came out of the book wanting Freeman Hall to be my best friend. That, to me, is a sign of a clever and well-written memoir.

I wanted to punch Caitlin Kelly in the face.

Draw your own conclusions. (but seriously, buy Freeman’s book. Just do it)

Which brings me to my BIG announcement (or little announcement, depending how you look at it). November is not only National Blog month, but is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And I’ve decided to do it.

That’s right, folks. I’m writing a novel.

To be fair, I’ve written pieces of two novels already. But I’ve never finished one. So this NaNoWriMo is giving me the kick in the pants that I need to actually WRITE.

And it feels good.

Because I myself am a HUGE fan of chick lit (and have read more than my fair share of book), I know that this is the genre I’m not just the most comfortable with, but the genre that I myself read. It grinds my gears when I hear people complain that chick lit isn’t “real” fiction. That its glorified Harlequin romance-territory. Sure, some of it is. But some “high brow” fiction is formulaic crap that people spout out that doesn’t make sense & is essentially regurgitated Kerouac or McCarthy.

Good writing is good writing. It doesn’t matter if you write chick lit, sci fi, fantasy, non-fiction, etc. There are plenty of terrific writers that tackle all those genres. Jennifer Weiner (who is probably one of the best writers living and I’m not being facetious) writes chick lit. She’s a much better writer than plenty of people that tackle the harder-nosed stuff.

And, yes, chick lit is filled with Stephanie Meyer-type crap. But there are also Jennifer Weiners, Emily Giffins and Allison Winn Scotches. Don’t discount an entire genre because you think it’s silly & frivolous.

I’ll talk more about the premise of the book later, but it’s essentially a young woman who realizes that her 10 year high school reunion is in two months and takes it upon herself to “become interesting.” We’ll see how it goes.


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