Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Judith Krantz remembered

I'm researching a piece on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Judith Krantz's first novel, Scruples. Do any of you have any opinions about her, as a very early chick-lit writer?


Belle de Ville said...

Wasn't Judith Krantz the first author to incorporate product placement in novels with her constant descriptions of boutiques and luxe goods, spawning a genre of genre of books with fetish like fascination for of designer clothes and accessories.

mq, cb said...

That's probably true in the chick lit category, but unlike say that eminently unforgettable load of tripe that Julie Burchill wrote in the late 80's, wasn't it a plot point? How do you write about the world's best boutique if you don't mention what it sells and how the boutique is positioned to be so desireable?

Anyway, is it product placement if the author is not paid for it (although I don't know whether Ms Krantz was but if this was her first novel, presumably not)? And even if you did, would it matter if the work was good? Did anyone ever read that book that Fay Weldon wrote for which she accepted Bulgari's sponsorship? I didn't but I seem to recall that although there was a huge stink about the fact that she had been sponsored by Bulgari, the novel got decent reviews.

Maybe people did it before but we don't recognise it as placement because we no longer recognise what the reference means. It's a bit like reading an old novel that uses shorthand for something that a contemporary reader would have immediately recognised as meaning "x" but when you read it now you think, "why mention that at all?"

I think that the depiction of this luxe lifestyle was only one reason why her books did well. Sex was another, and she told a frank and unashamed story, where you rooted for the protagonist and her friends. I imagine people empathised with a Krantz heroine and got a nice dose of wish fulfilment at the same time.

I mostly remember Scruples though because my best friend told me that she read the cottaging scene to her father, who was mortified. He is the most proper person imaginable, and it makes me grin just thinking about how much he must have squirmed when the daughter he regarded as perfect daughter read out what was for the time a graphic (if rather odd - all those holes at different levels?) depiction of homosexual sex.

knitwit said...

I know I read it as a teenager but don't really remember it. However, you might want to ask over at

for readers' memories!

As to product placement, even Jane Austen specifies which jewelers her characters frequent, and Edith Wharton names the best hotels and restaurants of the day in her novels. I've always enjoyed these details.

woodscolt said...

Judith Krantz has a real love of fashion and clothing, I think - her heroines all dress superbly and she knows a lot about historical clothes too. I remember a vintage Madame Gres draped silk dress in Dazzle - the love interest spills chilli all over it - and Gigi wears some terrific outfits in Scruples 2. She also collects vintage underwear.

Apart from that the sex is just unbelievable. I remember the glory hole scene that mq, cb mentions above - I think that introduced me to the concept of a glory hole when I was about 12. But she always seemd very open-minded and non-judgemental about sex, and in some ways very feminist. None of her women need a man; they all tend to achieve some pretty spectacular things on their own, and the love interest is just the icing on the cake. Of course the things they achieve are super-glamorous - running a magazine, a luxe store, becoming a movie star, a WW2 flying ace, a glamorous portrait photographer - and they're often born into money, but they're often very admirable strong women. Quite often Mr Wrong is marked out as such because he is insanely controlling & wants to limit the heroine's agency, and Mr Right turns up and shows he loves her for who she is including all her amazing achievements.