One of the things I thought about when starting this blog was: what kind of books do I want to write about? Is this going to be “just” another Chick Lit blog, or am I going to try and write about classics like Great Expectations, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice and so on. You get the idea. And the main reason behind this thought was: I have a BA in English literature. I am supposed to read good books. Chick Lit is bad literature… But is it really?
When I think about the term Chick Lit, what first comes to mind are usually books written by women for women full of sex scenes, poor storylines, naïve shallow characters and far too many stereotype
s. The list goes on. There are so many bad things associated with this particular genre that I often feel embarrassed admitting that I genuinely enjoy reading these “easy” reads. Because I shouldn’t, right? And then I find myself defending my reading preferences by stating that I do love reading the occasional classic. And I do. Really. But I shouldn’t feel like I have to justify my bookshelf full of “Chick Lit”, a term which I hate, btw. It sounds so condescending…
So what is it that is so bad about “Chick Lit”? Is it that those books often have the perfect happy ending? Is it the fact that they
tell stories of people’s everyday lives, admittedly spiced up a bit here and there? I bet that many of you pick up a “Chick Lit” book when you want to relax and maybe escape a bit. And honestly, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with escaping into another world for a bit or letting a good book entertain you. I mean, what’s so bad about entertainment? I spent so many hours studying exactly that; the difference between reality and the fictional/entertaining world and how this fiction is bad for us. But why? It certainly doesn’t have to be. I can function perfectly well without always sticking to the hard facts. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of soft news and “ Chick Lit”. I feel that it really is all about the moderation. Sure, you shouldn’t let yourself believe that the worlds “Chick Lit” portrays are reality. They aren’t. But then again, what is?
There are probably many people who disagree with me here by stating that books form us and should therefore be educational and based in reality. They may go on pointing out that many “Chick Lit” books are written for people who know nothing about the real world and are lost in their dreamland. And yes, maybe you are right. Maybe the people who enjoy reading a good “Chick Lit” book tend to be more on the “soft” side. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s just me. But I do admit that most days, I have problems dealing with all the bad things that are happening in our world and thus tend to burry myself in a book rather than reading the news. And maybe that is bad. But that is the reason I like “Chick Lit” books so much. Because they help me escape. And isn’t that part of what a book should do?
If you are one of those “Chick Lit” critics, I want to let you know that there are many “Chick Lit” books that are very well written, full of witty, funny, loveable and smart characters. There are many “Chick Lit” books that make you smile and dream. Books that inspire you. I know out of my own experience that it doesn’t have to be a classic like Great Expectations to spark your interest and inspire you. It can very well be a “silly” book like Lucy Robinson’s The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me. Also, Great Expectations was a very popular kind of book back in its time. The love story between Pip and Estella was followed with great interest by all kinds of people. And there were many people who were very unhappy with the way it ended and wanted Dickens to change it. (If you haven’t read the book yet, DO!). And yes there might be a great difference between a Dickens novel and a contemporary “Chick Lit” book. I won’t deny that, but it still doesn’t make the latter bad. Another very normative word…
Leaving all of that aside, I do sometimes feel like the quality in today’s book market is sinking. There are many books labelled “Chick Lit” that I have read, where I thought that I could’ve easily written a better version and I am by no means a great writer J. There are so many stories that are re-told in such a boring and uninspired fashion that I sometimes end up skipping more than half of the book. There is a limit to how many bad Pride and Prejudice spin offs you can read, and I like reading them a lot (the good ones that is). Also personally, I am not too keen on reading one sex scene after the other so with some books I end up skipping every other page or giving up entirely after only a couple of pages. So okay, maybe those books can be labelled “bad” literature. But those kinds of books can be found in every genre and not just in “Chick Lit”.
Let this post be a reminder then, for me and all my fellow literature friends that there is nothing bad about enjoying “Chick Lit”. In fact, I strongly believe that women (and men) everywhere can learn just as much from a character like Lucy Robinson’s Chas, Sophie Kinsella’s Poppy or Jenny Colgan’s Polly as they can learn from Jane Austen’s Lizzy and Charlote Brontë’s Jane Eyre. All of them are great women with a kind heart who inspire people all over the world every day.
What do you think about all of that? Do you agree with me or would you say that “Chick Lit” really is bad for you and less valuable than other literary genres? I would love to read your opinion in the comments!
P.S. Let’s not stick to the term “Chick Lit” for the safety of my temper and instead call it contemporary female (?) literature. 🙂