Thursday, March 03, 2005

OK, here's what the hoopla's about....

I've never been a "chick lit" reader. I've been a book snot without really knowing it. I haven't looked down on the people who read it, but I've looked down my schnoz at the genre (or should I say subgenre) itself. Despite the fact that Bridget Jones is fab I still didn't like chick lit, and I was more than a little unwilling to embrace it. I was one of those people, and I'd like to apologize to the Jennifer Weiners (pronounced Wyner) and Jennifer Crusies of the world right now. PLEASE FORGIVE ME!

As you all know, I'm obsessed with Jennifer Weiner. It's a total girl-crush at this point. Val has me turned on to Jennifer Crusie (even though I'm still on page four, I have very high hopes for the snarkiness). I started thinking...always dangerous. There's got to be SOMETHING to this chick lit. thing. Something societal...something tied in to women's mass culture. SOMETHING THAT'S NOT EXPENDABLE! Is chick lit. just a mass of today's pot boilers....are these our "damned scribbling women?" I don't think so. Of course some are schlock....but that's the case in any genre. There's good sci-fi and there's expendable sci-fi....there are the winners of women's studies and then there's Elizabeth Wurtzel (hiss)....there's good literary fiction and there are the losers (Sup, Jonathan Franzen!). I want to analyze whatever differentiates the notable from the forgettable.

Also, I'm not totally down with the "chick lit" label. That definitely adds to the idea that it's expendable and worthless. Although, it does serve the purpose, as we all know, of signaling the subgenre....typically books about 20-30somethings dealing with career/relationship/family/identity issues.

I have QUESTIONS! Questions, questions. Things that need to be worked out and that will likely only be worked out by reading reading reading. I dropped $15 on a trade copy of In Her Shoes (Weiner) on the way to work this morning. God help me. I don't have a lot of dough lately, but I had to have it for my research....and the library didn't have it! Extra validation!

What thoughts have you? Are you a reader of it? Are you a snob about it? Is it worthwhile, worthless?? Shaaare!

I have to go teach another class in 10 minutes. DAMMIT!

19 comments:

  1. Well, crap. I left a comment but it didn't show up! I wonder if i should wait and see if it magically appears...

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  2. maybe not. here it is again, in case it is lost in the netherregions of the internet forest....

    i SAID: I think chicklit has a place in literature, maybe not as book by individual book, but as a sociological phenomenon. It is the realization of a generation of women that they will never find a fulfilling purpose in MEN and a catalogue of their search for something more effective to fill the gaps! Career, friends, possessions, relationships as a means to an end...all used to try and find something that will give them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I think its a LOVELY rejection of the idea of women as people who can be completely satisfied and fulfilled by the nonexistent prince charming. Lots of reality based disillusionment with some very old ideas about guys. (Insert the Clack monologue about God and the purpose that comes from knowing him- i will avoid it for the sake of your patient blogging friends!)

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  3. Amen, Clack! Agreed that in general it won't land books among the classics. Well, on the other hand, do you think Bridget Jones might take something of a seat of honor because it kick-started the genre/craze?? Or from what I know it did. If anyone cares to correct me, go for it. Lovely post. Thanks Clackeroo.

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  4. I think that in a way chick lit is sort of a modern day version of fairy and folk tales. Most of those were told by women, and not neccesarily to children.

    After all in a lot of cases they are escapism, but with a message. Obviously sometimes the message is just get a man, but in most good chick lit there is something more there.

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  5. ha! maybe in the sociology of literature text book it will say "during the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century, the 'chicklit' genre was kicked off by the story of one 'Bridget Jones', the classic tale of....whatever its a classic tale of." I can see it now.
    and i thought it was about time i put something useful on your page besides references to caddo and tidbits about my own personal life!! :)

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  6. Come on now guys, I like chick lit. It will probably never go down in history as a must read for high school students, and will most likely never be looked as a real form of mind expanding literature. For me, and probably alot of other women out there it is an escape from being a mother of two toddlers, it is almost like a form of gossip, that will never hurt anyone elses feelings. A way to forget that your kid pooped in the middle of the floor or poured half a bottle of shampoo in the carpet and smeared it in and you are still trying to figure out how to get it out (Becca). At least we are reading though right? Isn't that what it is all about anyway?
    Congratulations on the pregnancy CJ!!! It's fun being a Mom, but they do drive you crazy!!!!!

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  7. YEAH THANKS, VAL. Give me something to look forward to... between you and my husband having dreams about a toddler who throws up all the time.....

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  8. i think to understand it you may have to define it a bit, m'dear.

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  9. Val,
    Def not bashing chick lit here. I think it's an interesting social statement. And I do hope you get that shampoo out of the carpet (I thought it was lotion, actually). Anyhoo, I've enjoyed reading all the comments from you guys! Keep bringin' 'em if you have 'em.

    And Jenn, are you a Jenn from a book group?? lol Just checking...thanks for the comment, and yes, it needs a clearer definition, but I haven't read enough of it to define it yet.

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  10. I used to be a chick lit snob until Jennifer Weiner's Good In Bed. I still don't accept it as a genre because to me, some of it is on the same level as romance novels, which I'm a snob about as well. I don't care if other people like them, I just don't. But I felt that Good In Bed and In Her Shoes both had a whole lot more to say than just "get the guy!"

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  11. I've dabbled in chick lit, oh yes. Jennifer Belle's novel "Going Down" is particularly memorable. And really, isn't Jane Austen chick lit circa The Olden Days?

    I firmly believe that all literature has its place. Even low brow literature is a meaningful representation of something -- it being low brow doesn't make it invalid.

    I'm rambling. What I mean to say is that you're on to something, Andi. Especially with the idea that these novels may just be "potboilers." Did you know Anne Sexton called Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar a potboiler when it was first published? Novels, especially the earliest novels, were considered light entertainment for featherbrained upper-crust ladies who had nothing better to do with their time but read in their closets. But literature served a function then and made a powerful impact on how women expressed themselves (or didn't).

    Maybe that's happening all over again. Maybe women are writing about romances, baby shit and kitchen woes as a way of appropriating the very things that feminism claimed we were trapped by.

    That being said, I have a Jennifer Crusie sitting over here, unread for over a year now. Fast Women - have you read it? I picked it up for a dollar at a ubs and will read it right after I finish my current book.

    You inspire.

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  12. she has done the lotion too. any dense liquid object, to include butter. CJ, they really are a blast.

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  13. Denaroo,
    I haven't read Fast Women..have you, Val? I'm enjoying Bet Me, but I would probably still recommend that you pick up a Jennifer Weiner first. Add it to your monstrous library list. lol

    I did read recently that Sexton called The Bell Jar a potboiler. Eeek! Now it's bugging me that I can't remember where I read it. Bitch (Wurtzel) maybe??

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  14. Oh, and Jennifer Weiner thinks about as much of Elizabeth Wurtzel as we do, Dena. Another reason to read one of her books soon.

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  15. Andi, Weiner's negative opinion of Wurtzel is reason to read her. Wurtzel SUCKS. Bitch was unreadable. Prozac Nation intriguing but sloppily written (again). And then her latest book? I couldn't stomach the cover. Strung out skank, she is.

    I read the Sylvia-potboiler comment in Diane Middlebrook's very fantastic biography of Anne Sexton. I think she said it out of jealousy and frustration, but interesting reaction, eh?

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  16. toddler_ninja_fighter3/04/2005 11:40 PM

    I haven't read that one yet, I think that I may have it at home though.(I'm in Cali right now). I'll have to give it a crack when I get back on Sunday. Oh, I think that August just may be the magical month to return to Texas!!!!Yea for me, you and CJ need to cross your fingers for me.

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  17. D-roo,
    I slogged my way throug th rest of Bitch a few months ago. It only took me 3 years to read the book. Wooha! Prozac Nation was unreadable, IMO, and I haven't given her newest so much as a sniff.

    Did you know she's even lived with her editor because she's been so strung out, broke, and generally a mess?

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  18. Val...aka toddler_ninja_fighter...LOL, by the way. I've got all my parts crossed that you come back to TX soon. It's been too long since we've been in the same state.

    And speaking of being in close proximity with old friends, I think I'm having lunch with Lesa week after next.

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  19. I talked to Lesa a few weeks ago... she sounds to be good. I wish that I could have lunch with you guys. :-( I felt like I was fighting ninjas yesterday! They were driving me up the wall!!!

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