Talking about Chick Lit (Again)

May 15th, 2009 • Kate

sm_pinkshoes-2The shoes to the left are pink, aren’t they? Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink. There are some (men) who believe that that’s all women care to read about — shoes (preferably pink), and shopping and sex and romance and cocktails, etc. Phooey to them, I say! What’s the cause of today’s diatribe? Something Maureen Johnson brought to my attention this morning on Twitter: this article from NPR of one man’s 100 best books of the past 100 years. I quote Maureen:

Once again, men write “important books,” and women write . . . books for LADIES, perhaps? Or, no. Now I remember. Chick lit and fluff. Go on! Look on your shelf right now! Who wrote the “important books”? And which books are presented as “commercial”?

As a rebuff of this mixed-up kind of thinking, Maureen reposted an excellent blog, and I urge you all to read it. One part I particularly like:

You know, there was a very good reason that Dorothy Parker wrote (or at least was rumored to have written) “Please God, let me write like a man.” She was a great writer, but as long as she wrote about women as a woman, as long as she cracked her jokes, as long as she made her sly observations about female society . . . she wasn’t creating literature. Or so it was often perceived. Many of her male friends thought she was and promoted her relentlessly. Dorothy Parker was one of her own harshest critics.

And so it seems to be with Chick Lit. The harshest words about this term seem to be coming from other women, often under the guise of promoting the work of women.

Jennifer Weiner, chick lit author extraordinaire, frequently writes on the subject of women writers who — even when they write on the same subjects as their male counterparts — are denigrated for it.

I can’t help but also think about something another kt literary client, Amy Spalding, wrote the other day, also on Twitter:

So sick of people recommending YA books with the disclaimer “even though it is YA it is good.” SIGH.

Hey, people! Why must you disparage any genre? Sure, something may not be to your taste, whether it’s chick lit, or YA, or science fiction, or male ennui novels, or even literary fiction (and here I recognize that I have been at fault in the past), but let’s talk specifics, shall we, rather than lumping everything in together. Say, “I didn’t like THIS YA novel, or THAT family drama.” Be precise, not general.

With a clearer head, I can look back at that NPR article and recognize that the author is saying these are the books that mean something special to HIM, and that I can get on board with. I’ve got a list like that as well. (*goes digging around in various archives*) See?

What about you? What are the top books on YOUR list?

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5 Responses to “Talking about Chick Lit (Again)”

  1. Kristy Colley Says:

    Large round of applause. I loved Maureen's blog; I think it has more grounding, even sans research.

    What's with the stigmas? What's with the slams? Literature would be better without it.

  2. Jordyn Says:

    Ah, love this! One of my pet peeves is when I see a review (on Amazon or wherever) about a YA or children's book that says "this would probably be a good book for teenagers/children" but then goes on to say that it really wasn't written very well and isn't a good book. But, you know, it's fine for kids/teens.

  3. AudryT Says:

    Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Tolstoy, George Elliot, Twain, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Poe, Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Frost, Moorcock, etc. The list could go on for miles.

  4. bookwormchris Says:

    I'm terrible at lists of books I like. Well, there are some up there in my top whatever. I have a terrible time choosing favorites though. I like my lists of the books I read in a given year (since I started it last year, there are only two.)

    Last year it was very skewed towards male authors, although there is some ambiguity as to how you categorize a few of the books (anthologies, multiple authors, etc.)

    This year it is approximately equal between the sexes. (14ish of 28, and there are three books which I read excerpts from but did not read completely, which are not included. Yes, they were written by women. One of my classes would likely be categorized as "Chick Lit" also know as Austen, Then and Now.) Of the many books I have lying around to be read, I would guess most were written by men. I started reading the YA books (fluid genre itself) first, which means I only have about half of Maureen Johnson's books left, most of John Scalzi's books and a smattering of other books to read.

    Who writes my books is less important than whether I like them or not. (Just now wondering what the breakdown is for books on my lists which I read for the first time.)

    And I need to go write something because my comments are coming out quite long.

  5. Karen Says:

    This battle of the sexes thing really makes me scratch my head. I've been told that boys/men probably wouldn't pick up my book if they knew it was a woman writing it, even though there are lots of likeable manly guys in the story. I often wonder why it's perfectly acceptable for women to walk around with books by men and men seem to shy away from books written by women. I'm not talking about just chick-lit(I'm not really into chick-lit but then again, I'm not into chick-flix either. Give me X-Men and Terminator any day over 28 Dresses and Wedding Wars) still, I understand the attraction and recognize that there are some outstanding writers in those genres.

    To compare two series that I very much love: The In Death series by J. D. Robb and the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coban. They both feature loveable characters that pull at your heart strings, they both have a supporting cast who are real and enhance the story and both have story lines that pull you in and make you stay. But if I have say who I'm more emotionally attached to…it's J. D. Robb. Maybe it's because her characters go the full spectrum of emotion and that's what I relate to or maybe it's because she has more books to offer in her series, but I never thought it was because she's a woman.