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“Chick Lit?”

March 3, 2008

Got a book review in the works, for a book that will, in all likelihood, wind up on a “chick lit” table in some large chain bookstore. I don’t know if calling it “chick lit” is an accurate representation of its place in a certain satisfying genre, or if that label diminishes the book and others like it.

There is definitely a genre– young woman searching for tangible things like career success, maybe moving to a new place, and also for the intangibles: fulfilled dreams, sense of body image, and inevitably and invariably, some kind of One True Love.
Successful novels spin the genre by giving it some kind of hook- the themes of an industry, a specific region, or a pastime. Or maybe the heroine sees herself as “different”- a little older, recently divorced, a single mother, struggling with her body image. (Noting- I’m listing these “differences,” not because I see them as anything glaring, but because they seem to be spun as such, set up by protagonist and plot as obstacles prior to self acceptance.) In that, it’s almost a fairy tale- the Disney kind, not the harsher, European originals. No violent monsters, but a soft-focus view of romance, and a strong moral bent: acceptance, not perfection, guarantees happiness, with a plot embedded with unsubtle pushes in that direction.

I’m thinking this through, still. I’m trying to weigh the balance between cynicism and understanding of a genre that has become well defined, and complicated because it is so clearly pitched to women. Any recommendations for other essays and blogs, by those who have already tackled these ideas?

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