Books Are Pretty

Sunday, October 08, 2006

This Is Chick Lit.

Gee, I guess there's a big literary catfight going on between the pretty, popular, boy-crazy girls who have a passion for fashion and the serious, bespeckled, hairy-legged angry girls who are just jealous.

See, the angry, hairy-legged girls wrote a book called This is Not Chick Lit where they think they're so great cause they write serious stuff that NOBODY reads, and this book that I got, This Is Chick Lit, is a reaction to that book, because those angry hairy-legged girls, who act just like FEMINISTS, look down on the pretty girls for just writing books "by women, for women," but really, it's the Chick Lit girls who are the real feminists, because feminism is about choices, and supporting each other, and all books are equal, and who is to say chick lit books are literary lightweights, and even if they are, so what? There's nothing wrong with that! And ha-ha on the hairy-legged - Chick Lit books make MONEY, and that proves the popular girls are right! So ha-ha on you, angry hairy-leggers!

About eighteen of the popular girls got together, and they each had something to say in a little italicized prologue about how important and worthwhile chick lit is, and even the very first story is about the Chick Lit/Not Chick Lit war! And they both learned a Valuable Lesson about each other and themselves (except the Chick Lit girl was successful and had just tons of Juicy Couture clothes! And a big apartment! And high heeled shoes and stuff! And the Not Chick Lit girl got splashed with water by a city bus, ha ha! And nobody would publish her manuscript!)

And I guess those girls will go on and on fighting each other, and guess who's left out of the equation entirely?

Men. Men, whose contribution to literature is never questioned. Men, who can cover the gamut from writing about serial killing to cross dressing and nobody ever comments that's all their gender is capable of writing about. Nobody ever says, because one popular book got published by a man about codes in Catholicism that men are all religious conspiracy nuts. But that's the exact label all women got slapped with as soon as Bridget Jones' Diary (which I loved, btw) went nuclear. It's men that got catty and jealous, and tarred all women writers with the Chick Lit brush.

But sure, let's attack each other and write books where we battle back and forth over whether we're worthy to be taken seriously. That's not even remotely obnoxious or sadly misguided.

You know, I don't hate Chick Lit. I loved Bridget Jones, and I was thrilled that Meryl Streep got cast as the Anna Wintour character in The Devil Wears Prada. I loved The Nanny Diaries. I've got all three sitting side by side on my bookshelf and I've read them all a dozen times, for the same reason that all Chick Lit readers love it - the characters seemed like real women, and their challenges and foibles remind me of my own. And there's a strong vein of feminist independence running through it and it glorifies the benefit of female friendship. I support all of that. What I despise is the reactionary concept of this book. It makes me angry. It makes me feel a sense of futility that women are so easy to divide and turn on each other with the slightest criticism. And I strongly disagree with the line of thinking, as a reviewer, that disliking the literary equivalent of bubblegum pop means you hate other women.

But what of the stories themselves? I finished the book yesterday, and of all the stories, the only one I can even remember is the third one about the woman who grew a third eye right in the middle of her neck. I've been musing for a week about how freaky that story was, and what exactly that eye represented.

And that's why the angry, serious women writers don't want pink book covers and drawings of spiked heels at the start of every chapter. They're aiming for longevity, not disposable, unmemorable fiction that all blends together. They don't want to have to write under the name Currer Bell get serious acclaim from a world that is all-too-eager to marginalize women's talents.

There's a place for both Chick Lit and Not Chick Lit, of course there is. But elbowing each other in the ribs isn't the way to go about ensuring an invitation to the dinner table, unless it's as the half-time nude Jell-O wrestling entertainment for the literary boys.


This Is Chick Lit
edited by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
2006 by BenBella Books
Softcover, 268 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-933771-01-4

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