Girls on Couches Talking About Books and Snacks

I’m excited about introducing this new joint feature with my friend Lauren from Malcolm Avenue Review. We chat a lot about books and often text each other running commentary as we read. So we thought we’d have conversations about bookish topics on Google Chat and then publish the transcripts, alternating between here and her blog.

Readers in car: Lauren & me, with L’s superhero sidekick, Bird

As a nod to Jerry Seinfeld’s Web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, we decided to call this Readers on Couches Talking About Books and Snacks, which can be abbreviated as Readers Talking BS, which is appropriate.

We changed the first word of the name this time to spotlight our first topic: the proliferation of book titles with Girl in them, and of comparisons to those famous Girl books by Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins. We’re not the first people to have noticed this trend but we really thought it’d be over by now.

We don’t know how regular this feature will be since we’re both world champions in laziness, but why worry about the future?

The transcript was edited for length and filthiness, mostly on Lauren’s part.

PCN: Let’s get the important details out of the way first. Since part of this chat is about snacks, what do you have on hand right now?

L: I’ve failed out of the gate. No snack. Can I still hang out? Or do I have to go get something?

PCN: It doesn’t have to be right there with you, just somewhere in your house.

L: Oh wait! I have some Trader Joe’s honey wheat pretzel sticks that have been open for a month. I’ll get those.

PCN: OK. I’ll wait. [Ed. note: We’re not sure how you can handle all this intellectual talk.]

L: Phew. On to the less appetizing portion of the program. Hold on while I get the twist out of my shorts…

PCN: You have pretzel twists in your shorts?

GGL: That would be better than the one I have there now about the This is the next Gone Girl/Girl on the Train! phenomenon in book publicity.

PCN: Ohhhh, I get it. Clever transition.

L: What is it about it that I hate so passionately?

PCN: I’m too scared to crawl inside your head. Why don’t you go ahead and unload?

L: Where to start? So many things bother me about it. It doesn’t let an author have his/her own identity without being compared to someone else’s success. I say his/her but I’ve NEVER seen it done to a male author, and that bugs me. None of the books compared seem to have much in common with either GG or GOTT. And last but not least, I loved one of those books and hated the other. So what am I supposed to think when a book is “the next” of both? How’s that for a palette of pissed off?

PCN: Your pissed-off palette has many colors.

L: I am the Jackson Pollock of irksome book publicity.

PCN: I agree this trend is lazy. It slaps a label on new books that’s supposed to entice us to read them, but it has done the opposite for me—make me groan and want to avoid them. If a book has merits, let it stand on its own.

L: Ha! I love that you see the laziness in it. It is lazy. Let Author X be the first Author X, not the next other author.

PCN: Exactly! And as you said, I didn’t love Girl on the Train, so if a promo says, For lovers of GOTT, I’d probably skip it.

L: I know we both tend to avoid books that use the comparison, but what do you think when it uses both? Because you, like me, liked Gone Girl, right? GG and TGOTT were two entirely different books! With GOTT, the author had trouble writing unique characters of either sex. All the men and all the women had the same issues. GG, on the other hand, was about a whip-smart woman who was controlling her life and things in it and the characters were unique.

luckiest girl alive

PCN: For me, it’s more GG is a superb book and GOTT is subpar. Some of the recent blurbs I’ve seen say, For lovers of GOTT and Luckiest Girl Alive. Which is also confusing, because again, different books. And LGA itself was touted as the next GG.

L: I think LGA is closer to GG. Part of what bothers me about it is that publishers have to cram it down the public’s throat that women can write thrillers. Women have been writing thrillers, good ones, for a damn long time.

Interestingly, I just read a book I thought was similar to GG. It was written by a man, so did not suffer from the lazy publicity ploy, but one author did blurb it as being like GG. I’ve thought about why this book (Perfect Days, if you’re interested) did not get that label.

The real answer is I have no idea, but I’m guessing because (1) the author is a man and (2) it didn’t seem to get a ton of publicity. I’m not sure why this publicity trend doesn’t include male authors, too, because using Girl in the title has crossed over [to books by both genders]. But I suppose that’s another different issue that irks me? ☺

PCN: You’re right. Male authors’ books are less often compared to GG/GOTT, which is ironic, since a man started this recent Girl trend: Stieg Larsson.

L: Right? Did you ever see a book say The next Girl with a Dragon Tattoo? Why not?! Because people didn’t think those books were well written? Because Larsson was a man and we can’t compare women and men writers? It all feels very silly, but maybe there is genius behind it somewhere.

PCN: Or sexism?

L: It’s a can of worms, but I think you’re right.

PCN: I don’t think it’s intentional sexism, maybe subconscious.

I did see books touted as the next Dragon Tattoo but only for a little while. It didn’t become a thing that won’t go away. GG was released 4 years ago and new releases are still being compared to it.

This is a free stock photo from Pexels.com. I eat my waffle-cut chips, not take pictures of them.

(BTW, my Srichacha chips are so good. They are spicy and waffle cut.)

L: You and your hot things. I tried sriracha once. Once was enough.

PCN: We haven’t mentioned the fact that not only are too many books being touted as the next GG, they all have Girl in the title, too.

L: We kind of broached it above. I’m not sure if that’s the same issue or just another lazy issue. It’s interesting to me that that does happen with books written by men. So we can share title publicity stunts so long as the sexes are not compared to each other?

PCN: Something like that. Have you ever seen a book by a woman compared to Dragon Tattoo or book by a man compared to GG?

L: I don’t recall seeing a female author compared to either Dragon Tattoo or Larsson himself, but my memory isn’t the best. [Raphael Montes’s] Perfect Days is the only book I can recall by a male author compared to GG, but again, it was not the publisher but another author—a female one—in a cover blurb.

PCN: Sometime last year, I think it was around June, I started keeping a list of all the Girl books being pitched or sent to me. The list has more than 30 entries so far.

L: I have thought multiple times about keeping a list of books compared to GG/TGOTT, but then I pull a muscle when I sigh and can’t pick up a pen.

PCN: You don’t need a pen. It’s called a computer or your phone. How are your month-old pretzel sticks, by the way? Are they still good or do I need to send firemen to your house for chest compressions?

L: I was going to say they are fine until you got to firemen. FIREMEN, PLEASE!

PCN: OK, on their way. Hope you have pants on. Or not.

L: I won’t by then. Bazinga!

PCN: My eyes!

L: Send four firemen. It’ll take that many to untwist my shorts.

PCN: Damn, girl. (<<Not to be confused with GG or GOTT.)

L: Well played. Now that my firemen are gone, let’s get back to books. What are you reading that’s knocking your socks off (or not)?

PCN: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rawley. It’s really good so far and doesn’t remind me of any other book! [I’ve finished this. Will post review soon.] What are you reading?

L: I am in the midst of a trifecta of great reads, so I’m almost afraid to mention them. I’m listening to Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon. My ebook is Dodgers by Bill Beverly, and my tree book is Consequence by Eric Fair. I would have been really embarrassed if I was reading something with Girl in the title right now.

PCN: I’m looking at my huge TBR stack. No Girl titles at all.

L: My three-year-old boyfriend is here for our grass date. I will talk to you later?

PCN: Yup. Happy reading until next time!

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Lauren
    May 17, 2016 at 8:06 am

    This was fun and still makes me laugh. I hope we’re not too lazy to do it again.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 17, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Me, too. This was like a month’s worth of blogging right here.

      Let’s plan a tentative date for our next chat. After I wake from my nap.

      • Reply
        Lauren
        May 17, 2016 at 2:42 pm

        Yes! If this one took us 6-ish months to get done we should be able to carve at least four or five days off the next one. Didn’t we have a couple of ideas already?

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          May 17, 2016 at 5:34 pm

          We do. We have lots of ideas. It’s the execution that makes us whine.

          • Reply
            Lauren
            May 19, 2016 at 6:48 am

            Execution is such an active word. Just reading it makes me tired.

  • Reply
    Laura Benedict
    May 17, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Terrific conversation–and I love the way firemen got worked into it! L–I worry about your snack supply. Next time, maybe the three-year-old boyfriend can treat you to some fruit snacks?

    SO weary with the “girl” trend. Personally, I could not get through the Dragon Tattoo book bc I thought the writing was horrendous. As a writer, I would have been horrified to be the “next” in that comparison. (Well, unless it sold me a bajillion books, that is.) But I couldn’t think of many “next Dragon Tattoo” books, either.

    Y’all nailed it when you tagged the like GG marketing as lazy. Marketing departments don’t actually want new and different–and definitely nothing unique. They want reliable. They want sure sales. The same books, only a little different. They’re responsible for feeding the bottom line beast. Ironically, GG was actually different and sold a bajillion copies. Go figure. I think it struck a chord because readers are so sophisticated now that it’s hard to surprise them, and when it’s done it looks like genius.

    Can’t wait until the next Readers Talking BS!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 17, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      After this went live, I thought, “Why didn’t I title it ‘Firemen in Lauren’s Shorts’?” That would’ve been good click bait.

      I couldn’t come up with titles compared to DRAGON TATTOO, either, though I know I saw at least a couple. I think I even read those books to see whether or not the comparison held up. One was a stinker and the other was even better than TATTOO. Oh, wait, I just remembered! Harry Bingham’s TALKING TO THE DEAD was touted as having a Lisbeth-like protagonist named Fiona Griffiths. I ended up liking Fi very much and the series is excellent.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Laura!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      May 17, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      In my defense, I had just polished off whatever I had and hadn’t restocked. It was dismal times.

      I liked the first Dragon book, but they got progressively more difficult to get through. But I think as a non-writer or editor, it’s perhaps easier for me to overlook things that it is for you guys.

  • Reply
    Paulette
    May 17, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I love this, L and PCN. I am eating hazelnut caremel ice cream (recovering from my riding lesson) and I am reading The Gaugin Connection. In my defense, I am reading free or dirt-cheap books as a budgetary necessity due to,the Hamilton ticket…

    • Reply
      Paulette
      May 17, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Caramel! I cannot type on my phone… Oh, I do love the firemen in Lauren’s pants idea. I am looking forward to more and some better snacks, please!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      May 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      You snack well, Paulette! Kudos. So happy you’re going to see Hamilton, can’t wait for the report!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 17, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      Now I’m curious as to how much you paid for HAMILTON. Do we need to send you crates of ramen, Paulette?

  • Reply
    Rory
    May 17, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I read and mostly liked The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Soderberg, which was called the next Dragon Tattoo. I did find the comparison a little lazy, because they weren’t that closely linked.

    I like this feature!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      May 17, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      That one has been on my list since it came out and I just haven’t gotten to it. A “mostly liked” from you might mean I’ll give it a teensy push. I’m guessing it got the Dragon Tattoo bizness because they are both Scandinavian. Another lazy play.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 17, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      I remember that one. It wasn’t clear to me from the synopsis why that comparison was being used.

  • Reply
    Eirego
    May 17, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    You two need a show. Or a podcast at least. No, I don’t know how to set that up. Perhaps this calls for a fireman? Or four?

    Cool conversation.

    I don’t read a book because it was written by a man vs written by a woman. I read, or keep reading, because it grabs and holds on til the last page.

    As for the Dragon books…. I read them all. I enjoyed them all, but Steig took so long setting up things, I almost gave up a few times. Glad I didn’t because the payoff was always worth it. Side note: the original film versions were best.

    • Reply
      Paulette
      May 17, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      Agree with you…cool conversation and they DO need their own show!

      • Reply
        Pop Culture Nerd
        May 17, 2016 at 5:43 pm

        Thanks for thinking we’re show worthy, but a podcast sounds like a lot of work and you know how we feel about that.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 17, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      You can send as many firemen as you’d like to PCN headquarters, Eirego. 🙂

      Larsson did have a problem with excessive exposition but dang, when the story finally kicks in and Lisbeth is literally kicking (ass), it was worth it, as you said.

      • Reply
        Lauren
        May 19, 2016 at 6:53 am

        Agree with both of you re the Larsson books. They got progressively more expositiony as they went on, as well. I think the final installment also suffered from his death and a real lack of editing. But I still enjoyed the heck out of them. The one written by the other gentleman was not my cup of tea at all. And YES to the original film versions!

        No show. Unless someone has a basement with couches to loan us. Because I’m not cleaning my house on top of getting dressed.

  • Reply
    Lynn @ Smoke & Mirrors
    May 18, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    You definitely made me laugh! Firemen. Twistin’ shorts. And Lauren, really?!? Month-old pretzels? Yikes! I loved the Larsson series and am just sad he didn’t live long enough to write more! GOTT was just okay for me. Creepy ending. Have yet to read GG and really have little motivation to do so. I despise the lazy PR by linking to either/both of these titles. An author once told me that his publisher purposefully changed the title of his book to ‘sound like’ a title of a previously published very popular book. L-A-Z-Y!! And, in my opinion, a bit unfair. Very interesting conversation. Should we all send you snacks, Lauren? I can’t abide thinking of month-old pretzels… 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren
      May 19, 2016 at 6:56 am

      Lynn, rest assured. The dearth of snacks was only because I had polished off whatever I’d had. I can’t be trusted with them, especially in stressful times. I am now flush with snacks. Although I almost polished off the big container of Trader Joe’s animal crackers last night, so I’d best replenish. Thanks for stopping in!

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