Friday, August 21, 2009

The New "Old" Face of Chick Lit

Chick Lit is being redefined--or at least it is according to the August 3 edition of Publishers Weekly. The magazine's cover article, Women's Lit: Chick Lit Gets an Update, focuses on three recently published/upcoming novels that are expected to give the genre a bit of face-lift: Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn, Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich, and Queen Takes King by Gigi Levangie Grazer.

Yet, the stigma "chick lit" has acquired over the years makes even these three writers adamant that their novel not be considered chick lit. Authors, publishers, and agents throughout the industry seem to dislike the term "chick lit" these days. It's become a taboo term in offices throughout the city, with people shying away, claiming that chick lit is dead--but just look at the bestseller lists, though, and you'll see it's alive and well--and that stories about modern women searching for Mr. Right and finding him are unrealistic and unnatural. Some of these authors no longer want to be written off as writing fairytales worthy of a Disney film. But my question is this: when was chick lit ever that way?

Of course, there are a fair share of novels out there where the girl does in fact get the guy, but as far as I've learned and read and been taught working in commercial fiction, that's not the point of chick lit in the first place. My personal definition of "chick lit" is a simple one: "chick lit" is fiction for women where the story revolves around a central female protagonist, often touting a fun and humorous tone. It's a book about the girl. It's not about her conquests or her husband or even their relationship. Chick lit will likely have all those elements somewhere but it's not the focal point of the story. A book centered on a relationship between two characters is a romance novel, not chick lit novel. Whether the protagonist gets the guy or not, who cares? It doesn't matter. Chick lit isn't about that and never has been.

Chick lit has always been more complicated than a formulaic romance novel--which, my friends, don't even think of going there, I work in romance novels and will beat down any one of you start ragging on it. And chick lit has always been "women's fiction," as is romance. They are two sub-genres of a very vast genre that varies in commercial and literary appeal. So all-in-all I'm honestly baffled here about why this topic is even news.

Yes, trends have been happening in chick lit speficially. It's become darker in a lot of ways, the character's have become more self-empowered and confident, some even downright bitchy. Yet, changes like this occur in all kinds of genres. As society shifts and new attitudes and ideas become more accepted, characters in novels are bound to evolve as well. So, who really cares? Characters have changed, I won't deny that. But the heart of chick lit drastically changing?

No way.

Check out some of these "chick lit" favs: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, Pack Up the Moon by Anna McPartlin, Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner, Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fieldging, and The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne.

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