Do you have a square to spare...of writing paper?

A snarkling is taking notes at work and transcribing them in the powder room during lunch. She wonders:

Dear Miss Snark,

I've noticed there seems to be a lot of hoo-ha about novels that are Roman A Clef. How do you define what Roman A Clef is and what makes it so special that people knock down doors and throw horrendous amounts of money at (sometimes) virtually unknown authors who have this Roman A Clef slant on a novel? Is this something that is growing, stagnant or on the decline?

Keep up the good work Miss Snark!

Forever your snarkling......

Roman a clef (say: ro-man' ah clay) is French for "we say we're making this all up but it's really true now guess who they are".

Examples abound: Valley of the Dolls, Primary Colors, the Nanny Diaries and most recently The Devil Wears Prada. Thinly disguised fiction. Or fiction with a GREAT marketing hook that it’s really not, but the lawyers made it say it was.

Why are they popular? They've ALWAYS been popular. Same reason the National Enquirer is the biggest selling magazine behind TV guide (or used to be, I think TV Guide is gasping its last).

Same reason Vogue put Mr Clooney on the cover and People magazine invented The Sexiest Man Alive contest....we're gluttons for stud muffins of celebrity.

I know why I read The Devil Wears Prada. I'm fascinated by Anna Wintour and this was a book “about” her. I read The Nanny Diaries only at gunpoint cause I had to see what all the fuss was about. The authors of TND are author scum so I refused to buy the book. I stole it. (ok that's NOT true, put down the mouse, step away from the keyboard, do not send Miss Snark evil hate mail.)

I read Primary Colors cause I thought it would be fun to see the "inside story" of the Clinton campaign.

I read Valley of the Dolls cause it gave Maman Snark a fainting spell. That one I did steal...from Grandmother Snark's boudoir.

Roman a clef , indeed all cloaked things even unto this blog, can tell the truth in a way that can't be done otherwise. The trick to roman a clef is that the people you're writing about have to be sexy, they have to have a bit of bad bad bad to them, and you have to be in a position to know. Devil Wears Prada was written by a fashion assistant. TND by nannies, Primary Colors by a guy who covered the campaign. They were all "in the know".

I'm sure Miss Snark's assistants will be reading this with glee and taking notes. Movie rights and t-shirts to follow.


antfarm said...

I love that you love Seinfeld.

kitty said...

Well, in case you didn't know, there is a reason why she loves Seinfeld ;)

Christa M. Miller said...

Does it matter if only the characters are based on real people, not the plot?

Miss Snark said...

excellent question Christa!
I think roman a clef only means people are disguised, but I'm not totally snarkpositive on that.

Desperate Writer said...

You know, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who didn't like The Nanny Diaries. Seemed so...blah and whiney.

Christa M. Miller said...

Hmm, looks like characters *and* plot/events: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_à_clef