Gripes & Graplings

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Chicklit and Other Bookish Stuff

Why is it such a bad thing to like chicklit? Everywhere I go, I see women reading them (you can almost always tell by the cover, can't you?) and yet whenever I tell anybody I like them, I'm almost always met with a look of disapproval.

What is all this snobbery? Why should only certain types of books be acceptable for reading when millions of chicklit and other types of romantic fiction stories are sold and enjoyed by people from all walks of life? Who's to say that chicklit books are just trashy, mind-numbing garbage that should never be allowed to see the light of day? All I can say is that those people who insist on sticking two fingers up at anything other than just the one kind of book they believe to be intellectually acceptable are missing out on a lot of entertainment. The same goes for music and films. I'm afraid I can't be doing with all that snobbery. I like lots of different types of books, lots of different types of music and, although I'm not big into films, will watch them from a variety of genres.

Surely reading from just one genre is like only ever eating one type of cake? I don’t know about you but I'd get sick to death of walnut slice, even though it's my favourite, if I had to eat that every time I fancied some cake. Fruit cake and sponge cake are nice, too. Lemon cake's good, as is carrot cake and cheese cake. I might eat more walnut slice than any other kind but I'll be damned if I'm going to eat ONLY walnut slice.

Chicklit makes me smile. It's light entertainment where women (many of which I can relate to) are put into situations that could possibly be solved in a reasonably easy way but for the sake of entertainment, the author has them tripping up and making tits of themselves along the way. The same goes for the men who appear in the stories. And let's face it, whether it's a romance, a murder mystery or a horror story, there's nothing entertaining about a story where everything goes smoothly, is there?

Comedy's good for us. There's enough to be miserable about in this world as it is so if escaping into chicklit helps bring a smile to my face, what's the problem? I really don't get it. If I want to be frightened, I'll read a horror. If I want suspense, I'll read a mystery. If I want to cry, I'll read a soppy romance. And if I want to laugh, I'll read a comedy.

I don't read sci-fi or fantasy. I've tried but I can't stand it. But do I tell those who enjoy it that they're making some kind of literary mistake? Of course not. It's up to them what they want to read.

So next time you give me that "down the nose" look just because I happen to be reading chicklit (or -- dare I say it -- Mills & Boon!!!), please remember that it's my choice and, unlike you, I'm capable of enjoying different things on different levels for different reasons.

Whatever happened to live and let live?

Rant over.

Related Link: ChickLit Books




  • Err. I dunno. I never read any chicklit. I do hate those little cartoony fifties-style graphics on the covers, if that helps...

    By Blogger Mark Gamon, at 24/5/06 22:18  

  • The only problem I have with romance novels, and I have read a few in my day, is that it is always the same formula: Man meets Woman. Instant Mutual Detesting of each other, yet a strange attraction. Circumstances force them together for some common purpose and they end up falling in love.
    What I would like to see in a romance novel is something that played out repeatedly during my adolescence: Boy has crush on Girl, girl has crush on Other Boy, nobody wins.

    By Blogger Granimore, at 24/5/06 22:34  

  • granimore-you haven't read any good romance or chicklit lately!! no offense intended but that was a very popular formula 20-30 years ago.
    There are lots of great books out there with action, romance, mystery, fun.
    Yes Sharon, I read a wide variety of stuff too. I wouldn't look down my nose at you, even if it was long enough to reach to England from here :-)

    By Blogger Kyahgirl, at 24/5/06 23:21  

  • Chicklit is great for a wet Sunday afternoon when there's nothing else to do except lie in the bath for 3 hours, topping up the hot water with your big toe and reading a book about somebody even more hopeless with blokes than you. But I'm too snobby to be seen reading any in public and I'm rather bitter that Helen Fielding beat me to it.

    By Blogger Cherrypie, at 25/5/06 20:52  

  • Not being a great reader myself I don't feel qualified to make comment on chicklit. How come there is a k in that word. We used to call the girls chics in the 60s. Yuk. Unless I've got it totally wrong and these books are actually about escaping from a battery farm or the free range adventures of an old hen.

    By Blogger tom909, at 26/5/06 08:54  

  • I never read chick-lit, but nor do I read Westerns, crime thrillers, spy thrillers, anything to do with King Arthur apart from Arthurian Legend, Fay Weldon who I read to the point of nausea in the 80s (yes I was only a toddler!, Anne Rice who I once loved but who bombed out with Pandora etc. etc. I so agree Sharon that it is wrong to blanket your opinion. It can only be personal. I used to be a 'chic' but I am a grumpy old woman now. So this year I have been mostly reading hags rags.

    By Blogger Cherry Rolfe, at 26/5/06 19:35  

  • Mark. They're not all 50s style, y'know, although I'll admit that they do tend to follow a theme of bubblegum colours.

    Granimore. As Kyahgirl says, you're out-of-date with your romance reading :) They don't follow that old 'formula' anymore. When it comes to chicklit, the girl most certainly doesn't always get the guy! Or at least, not the one she thought she was getting at the outset. Romantic fiction has developed a lot over past 10 years and I very much doubt that anything you'd read today would resemble what you were reading during the "Instant Mutual Detesting" period.

    Kyahgirl. Thank god your nose isn't that long!

    Cherrypie. What is this snobbery all about? Why won't you be seen reading it? I'm honestly curious about this because romantic fiction represents almost 35% of all fiction sold. If it's that popular, how come nobody likes to admit to reading it?

    Tom. There is a sub-genre called "henlit" y'know.

    Cherry. Now that we know what you don't read, what do you read?

    By Anonymous Sharon J, at 27/5/06 13:26  

  • sharon-I've done the depression purging thing now, if you're up for reading four part epic.

    By Blogger Kyahgirl, at 28/5/06 17:49  

  • Do you really want to know!!?? Eclectic, Toni Morrison and Stephen King sharing a bed(side table, Hilary Mantel nestling down with Anita Shreve in a Liason Dangereuse with John (grumpy old demi-fascist) Fowles. I love a bit of magical-realism all barring Isabel Allende, and I need there to be a between-the-lines element, a sixth dimension that chick-lit lacks for me. Language is a baseline, breadth of vision important, generosity on the part of the author crucial. What a load of $%"£! If I like it I want more, if I don't I don't go there again. So I don't do Mary Wesley, but I will snuggle down to a Catherine Cookson mini-series, I have done Fay Weldon to the point of nausea, but I haven't finished with Iris Murdoch. I don't do Jilly Cooper or Jeffrey Archer, but I have a bit of time for Maeve Binchy and I have read The Da Vinci Code. An abridged list, but enough! I would take Eudora Welty's short story collection to my desert island, and I re-read her often. She uses language and metaphor with panache and she has such a generous attitude toward the idiosyncrasies of humanity that you are always reminded that it's 'just a game show' when all is said.

    By Blogger Cherry Rolfe, at 28/5/06 22:43  

  • Eclectic's good, Cherry. That's exactly the point I was trying to make. Nobody should be look down upon because of their choice of reading, that's just plain snobbery and snobbery never led us anywhere worth going.

    I used to read Stephen King until the "Dreamcatcher". I found myself so bored by it that I decided it was time to give King a rest. I have, however, re-read "Needful Things" since, and have "Misery" on my "to be read" shelf. That'll also be a re-read. I've only ever read a couple of Catherine Cookson's (my mum's cast-offs) and didn't enjoy them, although that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the occassional northern saga. Agree re Jilly Cooper and Jeffrey Archer. I've read part of Maeve Binchy's "London Transport" and found the short stories entertaining. I'll finish it one day.

    I can't see myself ever reading The Da Vinci Code but who knows... maybe when I'm 78 and have nothing better to do with my time.

    Kyahgirl. I shall be popping over presently :)

    hngmuse - what happens when the mouse trap doesn't work properly.

    By Anonymous Sharon J, at 29/5/06 11:20  

  • As I was told by a teacher at school who wanted us all to read, it doesn't matter what you read as long as you read! She was refering to Enid Blyton at the time as her books had just been removed from the library by a well meaning but sadly misguided education authority, but I feel the same applies to chicklit. I read loads when I was studying for my A'levels & my Physio finals as they were a great way to switch off! Now I read quite an eclectic selection of books from Harry Potter to Karin Slaughter. If the truth be told I also enjoy a bit of Jaqueline Wilson with my 8yr old! I have even been seen reading Enid Blyton!

    By Blogger sarah, at 29/6/06 17:40  

  • Sarah. I've read Jaqueline Wilson, too. But only the one about Star, Dolphin and Marigold. Can't for the life of me remember what it was called. Anyway, I thought it was brill!

    By Anonymous Sharon J, at 30/6/06 14:21  

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