I was tempted to post a comment, but then I thought, why do that when I can post my response here and fulfil my blogging obligation for the day?
I've read more than a dozen chick lit novels, three of them by the amazingly talented Marian Keyes, and I still don't care for the genre. I realize it's not all about shoes and shopping, but those things do seem to figure prominently in the majority of chick lit novels I've seen. I've never been a terribly enthusiastic shopper, so any mention of Prada handbags makes me yawn. But even without the giddy consumerism that seems to permeate the genre, I'd find chick lit off-putting. What irritates me most is the way the books' first-person narration emphasizes the protagonists' total self-absorption.
Of course these things are simple matters of taste. When friends ask, I give my honest opinion of chick lit. I've even blogged about it a couple of times. But what's it to Diane Shipley if people like me disparage her favorite genre? As Ms. Shipley points out,
Chick lit authors are making millions, having their books made into Oscar-nominated films and receiving fan letters by the sackload. The genre's thrived for 12 years and counting and dominates bookshops all over the world.
I suspect her enthusiasm has driven her to overstate the case just a tad, but I ignored that because I was still laughing at a bit of fuzzy logic she presented earlier in the article. Attempting to refute a charge that every chick lit novel is about "the protagonist's relentless pursuit of money, a makeover and Mr Right," Ms. Shipley wrote:
It's true, those once were the main preoccupations of chick lit novels (and what's wrong with that if readers enjoy it?) but the genre has evolved: my favourite chick lit book is Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes, about a young woman's recovery from drug addiction. Keyes, who arguably invented chick lit with her debut novel Watermelon in 1995....
Wait a minute. Rachel's Holiday (which I have read; it's the chick lit novel I came closest to genuinely liking) was published in 1998, when the genre was (arguably) just three years old. So it's ludicrous to use that book to demonstrate the genre's "evolution." Besides, Ms. Shipley's suggestion that the genre is no longer centered on "the protagonist's relentless pursuit of money, a makeover and Mr Right" is demonstrably untrue: walk into any bookstore and you'll find a plethora of brand-new books whose back-cover blurbs describe exactly that type of story.
It's a shame Ms. Shipley is so eager to show that the genre has "matured" to the point that it's no longer all about shoes and handbags. I'm no chick lit fan, but that doesn't mean I assume books containing those elements must be of poor literary quality. I'll agree that there's quality and variety in the genre--just as there is in every other genre.
Here's another eye-roller:
I always find that the people who criticise chick lit, both in the press and to my face (when they discover I edit a chick lit website) are those who know the least about it.
Now she's sounding like my romance-writing sisters who shrilly insist that people who don't like romance novels have never tried romance novels.
That's a stupid assertion. That's like saying if you feed enough lima beans to a recalcitrant toddler, he'll learn to love them. Trust me, he won't. (I tried it with two different kids.)
I know what it's like to have my genre trashed and my own writing unfairly categorized by people who haven't even read it; I write romance novels, after all. Not only that, I write Christian romance novels, which are widely ridiculed even in the romance community. But my intended audience is happy, so when some self-important ignoramus attempts to demonstrate her superior intellect and impeccable taste by wiping her feet on my genre, my response is a slight lift of the eyebrows and a calm, "Excuse me, but I'm not writing to please you."
It takes the wind out of their sails every time.