Come inside my world where all I do is read and read lots and lots of romance..............................

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Chick-Lit versus The World

After watching a fascinating documentary about women’s fiction on the television I had to write this post. This documentary focused on the snobbery in Ireland and all over the world towards the genre of chick-lit. I think it really tied in well with a few blog posts I’ve read in recent days. The main one which was at Access Romance’s Reader’s Gab where the writer basically (I’m paraphrasing here) told us that books written by women are stupid. I couldn’t post a reply to this post because I was so outraged. The bloody cheek. It made me wonder what books this woman had been reading, that she would come out so strongly against women’s fiction/romance. As the lovely May put it, you cannot make such a generalisation across the board.. It was bullshit. Crap. Rubbish.

Okay, the vent is out of the way, now about that documentary.

I was really impressed with this programme, the way it dealt by this issue of prejudice against women’s fiction. I was actually quite taken aback by it. It was a lesson to me how arrogant people, especially men can be. And how insecure women can be.

Do you know that most women won’t display their chick lit novels in a bookshelf for people to see? I didn’t, but that’s what this documentary told me. And did you know that most women will not tell a man that she reads chick lit novels on a first date? I didn’t know that either. Apparently women will only admit to reading thrillers and ‘literary’ fiction on a date. This is to impress the man and show that they are strong, sexy women. If they admitted to being chick lit lovers, they’d be portrayed as Bridget Jones-esque, needy, desperate and stupid.

Isn’t that terrible?

Something else that was addressed in this documentary was how so many authors are being branded as chick lit because it is so marketable. Basically, any novel, written by a woman that is related to domestic life is chick-lit. No literary fiction, just chick-lit. And I was so surprised to learn that men who write in the chick-lit/romance genre like Nicholas Sparks and Nick Hornby are considered literary authors who have been compared to really famous esteemed writers. You can read those books, even though they are the same genre as those written by women, but you don’t have to feel ashamed. Because they are written by men.

I really feel like a feminist here.

And going back to that AR blog post for a second. What was insinuated was that women do not write intelligent fiction. Bollocks. I can list off so many female authors who write ‘intelligent’ thrillers. Susan Lewis, Kathy Reichs, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner, Patricia Cornwall, the list is endless. And then let’s move away from the thrillers. Just because a novel isn’t full of twists and turns does not mean that it is not intelligent. Any book that is true to life, deals with universal themes, brings a new angle to an ongoing debate is intelligent. Authors who can do this include Nora Roberts, Alison Kent, Maeve Binchy, Helen Fielding, this list is endless too and I am sure lots of names are popping into your head. And what about those authors who are intelligent enough to create these amazing paranormal worlds that suck you in like JR Ward, and the new kid on the block Lara Adrian? It must take a great deal of intelligence to do that, I sure as hell couldn’t.

And something that cropped up quite a lot in the interviews with the Irish authors in the documentary was that people are always telling them ‘I could have written that’. And the fabulous Maeve Binchy put her response perfectly when she said ‘Yes, you could have………..but you didn’t.’

I’m not saying by any means that every book written by a female is fantastic. Of course not. And there are many authors out there writing chick lit by numbers, just for the money. I can name so many females who do it, but I won’t. And I can tell when I read a book if that is the case. That is not intelligent fiction.

In the documentary one of Ireland’s radio DJs took on to write a chick-lit novel, purely for the sake of the documentary. He insisted he could do it by just following the basic rules of chick-lit, and he said he’d do it better than any female writer. When the producers of the documentary took the outline to a publishing house it was rejected. And when they took it to another publishing house it was rejected again. I laughed my ass off, the pompous git.

I love chick-lit, the good chick-lit. The books with real characters who are flawed and you can say, that’s me, or hey I know that person, or wow, what a great story. And after watching the documentary and reading that god-awful AR post I feel even prouder of this genre and I will stand by it to the bitter end. Because chick-lit and romance rock my world. They are ‘an amusing companion in a hostile world.’

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Susan said...

You go Maria. I agree with you. There is alot of intelligent fiction out there, written by women that happens to be a romance, but stands on its own as just plain good old fashion writing. I mean, I give up on a book if the writing is bad, if the plot is bad. I may be into the love story or the romance, but it has to hold my attention and be well written.

Amie Stuart said...

I really do think that here in the states chick lit has waned but it's also left an indelible mark on publishing. I hear NAL isn't buying anymore and Kensington ended the strapless line.

However, I think the one thing that gets me is when I hear criticism of chick lit those critics sound...threatened. I hear it time and time again among RWA members (usually older women who have been writing for years and are frustrated writers who can't sell). These are the people who never gave chick lit a chance, who never tried to learn anything from it, who roundly criticized it based on a few bad books (like no other genre ever published a bad book *eyeroll*) they heard about. They were afraid, so afraid they never even bothered to read it, just passed judgment based on cute covers and other people's opinions, and trust me there is some kick-ASS chick lit out there.

Those are the same people who will probably never sell a book so ignore them. I do. =)

Holly said...

Fabulous post, Maria. Personally, I don't care much for chick-lit. I've read some wonderful books from that genre, but as a whole I don't care for them.

Does that mean they aren't well written, intelligent books? NO! It just means they aren't my preference. Similar to how Historical Romance isn't my preference. Do I still read one occasionally? Yes, of course. But as a whole? I prefer contemps.

It makes me so angry to hear generalizations like that. Goodness, there are good and bad books/authors in every genre.

I'd like to tell those people to go suck a goat. :P

Angelle Trieste said...

I ignored her. I don't see why I should waste my time reading something that's not only untrue, but obviously said with a great deal of bias. Obviously she's never read books by men that featured stupid characters.

Maria, Lover of All Things Romance said...

Thanks everyone for making great points.

Amie, I like what you think about it. They do sound threatened, it's interesting

Holly, lol, I love your choice of phrasing

Angelle, it was the bias that really narked me too