Books to the Sky

that should be familiar, but…

Posted on: August 6, 2009

I discovered Chick Lit my last year in college, when I read a string of books in a row intended to distract me from my thesis. These were cutesy romances involving flawed heroines living in cities, and most of the ones I read were fluffy nonsense, but I could recognize something there. Before the books became cookie-cutter Bridget Jones clones, these were books about women, most of whom worked in media and lived in big cities like New York, and who were an interesting contrast to the typical superlatively beautiful and perfect romance heroine. And, hey, what did I do after college? I moved to New York and got a job in media.

I hate the label “chick lit” because I think it’s belittling. I went to an Erica Jong reading around the time her autobiography was published, and I chatted with her a little at the end about chick lit. She also hates the label because it necessarily segregates female authors in the book stores. Because, let’s face it, chick lit is looked down upon as being, well, fluffy nonsense.

But I like the idea of books about urban women with flaws. Maybe because I can see myself in a lot of these heroines, but I think there’s something really appealing in that. I’m also a sucker for a book that takes place somewhere I know well.

A new wave of chick lit is deemed more realistic. An example is Amy Sohn’s new novel about Park Slope (Brooklyn) moms. Themes in these novels include finding oneself after divorce and raising children in affluent communities.

I work in Park Slope and spend a fair amount of my play time there, too, so I know from Park Slope moms, trust me. The idea of a novel about 4 Park Slope couples is kind of appealing, and I’d read it jsut to find familiarity. But after reading the summaries of this novel, I came to realize that I do not know these women. Or if I do, but I don’t like them. What I like to call the Park Slope Mom Brigade is something of a joke around these parts because these moms are crazy and overprotective, and conjure images of helicopter parenting and food co-op memberships (see also Fucked in Park Slope). And I’m supposed to find them sympathetic? Novels featuring wealthy divorcees? Um, what? I have some respect for what these writers are doing, but I feel like it’s not that far removed from Candace Bushnell, and maybe it’s “realistic,” but it’s still kind of whiney and elitist.



2 Responses to "that should be familiar, but…"

I haven’t read any of the ‘new wave’ chick lit books, and just from skimming the Publishers Weekly article, they don’t really appeal to me.

I completely agree with you about reading about women with flaws. Have you read anything by Marian Keyes? She’s probably my favourite author right now because her characters actually have to deal with some tough stuff. My top picks (of the books I’ve read so far) are Anybody Out There?, Watermelon, and This Charming Man.

Frankly I couldn’t disagree more. I find the fiesty, disagreeable, surly kiss me-go away heroines to be annoying, unrealistic and totally people i would hate if they existed. First of all it is really annoying how they describe these plain looking women, yet somehow every male is into them rather then into beautiful, successful and good natured women. HUH? Thats realistic. Second WHY would anyone want to be around them at all? They tend to be unpleasant and rude. Normal men do not enjoy arguing constantly, they do not enjoy being belittled, and they do not have the time to prove their love constantly. The test is simple. Switch the genders and see what you think. If a book is about a fiesty tempramental, slightly overweight women who can’t decide between a gorgeous guy and her career switch it. Would you be interested in a slightly overweight guy, with bad manners who thought about himself constantly and couldn’t decide between you and his career? Even if you were willing to pay for his livelihood? Sound loveable? Didn’t think so.

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Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
--Arnold Lobel

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
--Groucho Marx

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