I will admit a certain fondness for Bridget Jones (could be just a weakness for the English) but if I had to pick one thing in life that I really can’t stomach, it would have to be so-called "Chick Lit". For one thing, it’s not "lit", it’s fluff. "Lit" is writing whereby a certain amount of functioning brain cells are required by the reader in order to process it. "Chick Lit" gives me a sinking feeling. It makes me pity my gender and feel somewhat embarrassed to be associated with it. It is the same feeling I have every morning when I pass by a certain purse store in the underground and observe the women within practically fighting each other over the sale-priced handbags.
I like to wear skirts but I am not a "girly" girl. I don’t care too much for shopping. I don’t think a diamond ring is the key to happiness. A fairy-tale wedding has never been my style (I never intended to marry or change my name, it just worked out that way). I think chasing and obsessing over boys is ridiculous, that women must flex their ability to be self-fulfilled.
I take offense to the notion of gender-specific writing. I recently saw a few of my favourite books (The Chrysalids, 1984, High Fidelity) on a bookstore display table of "Recommendations for Men". Of course the women’s side was all pink and frills. What the fuck ladies? I don’t think this is what the suffragettes envisioned for us and if it is then please sign me up for an operation stat.
A friend said that "Something Borrowed" was SO GOOD, that I had to read it and insisted that I borrow it. I was horrified. My reading time is just so limited I couldn’t bear the thought of spending it on a pink book emblazoned with a diamond ring. But when a friend looks at one so earnestly, sometimes one must take it on the chin for the team. I’m halfway through this thing now, and perhaps it’s not as wholly unbearable as I anticipated, but it is three hundred pages filled with everything I despise about women and the relationships between women and I firmly retain my position on "Chick Lit".
I don’t really know where to go with this rant except to say, there’s such a wealth of great writing out there by and/or about women that I just don’t want us to forget about. Beautiful, lyrical writing with substance instead of filling our heads with trivialities that reinforce stereotypes and gender roles. We’ve come so far, I don’t want to take any steps backwards. Try it, you will see. Quickly, some ideas:
- Orlando by Virginia Woolf
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro (I know some of us EYCI alumni are scarred for life by Ms Hart’s teaching of this book, but seriously, if you read it free of her it’s quite good)
- The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
- Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
- Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
- The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – yes he’s a man, but I think he writes beautifully about these women
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – again, yes he’s a man and frankly I think he hates women, but nevertheless writes the character Anna in a particularly compelling way
- Possession by A.S. Byatt
And for God’s sake, if you don’t like any of those, then start here.