The Chick Lit Teapot*

Meghan McCarron weighs in on the chick lit = tempest making the rounds (again) this week:

The arguement, as well as I can parse it, goes, "Lots of women in the 19th century wrote a lot of popular but forgettable novels that society decried, and a tantalizingly similar thing is going on now. The 19th century produced Jane Austen, whose books (okay, movies) we all know and love, so it’s totally okay that the 21st century’s female literary culture resembles that of the 19th."

That is a terrible arguement. No one deserves that arguement. In fact, if I were to argue in favor of chick lit, from one genre ghetto to another, let’s say, I would put it like this: Pulp always has something to teach us. Its freedom from respectability allows it to experiment, most notably with voice and convention, in a way the literary mainstream rarely attempts (see: Chandler. See: Dick). Chick lit is no exception. I’ve read very little of it, but what charmed me about what I have read was the voice. It observed ravenously, it paid hommage to the world of female friendship, and made me laugh. It was wrapped around narratives that alternately bored me and made me uncomfortable, but it is a big mainstream testament that women are funny, and that women like funny, and women are paying just as much attention as wryly observing men to what’s going on. I am disgusted by the trend of properly MFA’d writers (Sittenfeld, as well as Meghan Daum, whose ‘Quality of Life Report’ has WAY more in common with "Good in Bed" than it does with any reasonable facsimilie of literary 20-something angst, blurbs and credentials aside) writing chick lit and then waving their degrees around and claiming they are somehow ‘better’ than it, when in many ways their literary insecurities actually hamper their efforts in the genre. Chick lit is doing some worthwhile things. To dismiss it as pure crap would be just as irresponsible and almost as dangerous as embracing it whole-heartedly.

Much more there.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with teapots.

1 thought on “The Chick Lit Teapot*”

  1. I haven’t read a lot of chicklit, but I did see both Bridget Jones movies and I was a degenerate Sex in the City addict. I’m not surprised that there is a backlash against the genre. Any time something overtly female becomes popular, society rebels. It’s part of a long boring tradition of fretting needlessly about “women’s proper role.” But if I understand the genre correctly, I think the important phenomenon here is the overt emphasis on both female subjectivity and female friendship. There is not enough of either in literature and as Meghan so eloquently points out, it’s often the genre elements that forge new ground only to be cannibalized later by the literary establishment.
    So bring on female-centric stories about female friends and let the publishing industry take note: chicks read more lit than guys anyway.

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