Brand-Obsessed Chick Lit Makes Us Lose Our Breakfast (At Tiffany's)

Remember when we counted the number of luxury brand name mentions per page in the hateful YA series The Clique (1.8 brand mentions per page, for those of you keeping score)? Well in today's New York Times style section, Cathy Horyn takes a page out of our playbook and notes the number of products placed in the brand-loving grown person novels hitting shelves this summer. Horyn examined the Choo-addled pages of James Patterson's Sunday at Tiffany's, and found "When I got done turning down the corners of the pages of Mr. Patterson's novel that mentioned a brand name or a stylish place (he, too, transports his characters to Nantucket), my copy looked severely riddled."

Imagine that! She compares Truman Capote's classic Breakfast at Tiffany's to Sunday and the other Capote also-rans and discovers to no one's surprise that these new books are entirely (tacky) style and zero substance.

"This summer's brand-flogging novels also reveal a kind of empty clink at the bottom of fashion's well," Horyn noted. "Is that all there is? Has the fashion plot thinned to such a degree that it's just about presenting life as a blue velvet ring box or a giant Birkin bag?"

Horyn tries to figure out why women continue to buy these books. Is all this name dropping aspirational? Harper Collins editor Jonathan Burnham says, "The audience [for these brand-heavy books] is Middle American women looking to buy a taste of the glittering East Coast experience, with all the silliness," while another editor says that like glamorous movies during the Depression, these books provide a glittery salve for those struggling with pedestrian struggles like mortgages.

Really? If my house were being foreclosed on and I started reading a book about basically empty women who are blowing thousands of dollars on gaudy couture, it would not distract me from my plight. It would make me want to punch these fictional harridans directly in the cooch. Which is sort of how I felt when I read this quote from Vogue's Plum Sykes, whose Bergdorf Blondes was a bestseller when it came out in 2004. "Using all those brand names is sort of bizarre," said Ms. Sykes. "At the time that ‘Bergdorf Blondes' and ‘The Devil Wears Prada' came out, it seemed so modern. Now it seems old-fashioned." Oh yes Plum, you invented brand name dropping eons ago, and now that all the plebes have caught on, it's so desperately out of touch!

Anyway, although the venerable Ms. Sykes hath declared brand-name dropping "old-fashioned," Lauren Weisberger's Chasing Harry Winston, which is chock-full of expensive accessories, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 13 weeks so far. Clearly we can't beat 'em, so we might as well join 'em: mark your calendar for my forthcoming novel, Humping Hermès Scarves to hit book stores in the summer of 2010!

And the Plot Thinned ... [New York Times]

Earlier: Young Adult Novels Plumb New Depths Of Product Placement
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