Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cheek Lit

chick lit--a literary form intended for women and young girl readers; novels and short stories intended to appeal to feminine tastes and issues; a separate genre from romance, with the ultimate goal specifically not focusing on marriage.

Relatively speaking, chick lit is a new kid on the block, an equivalent for feminine readers of the adventure stories aimed at male readers. As adventure stories run the gamut in voice from a drill-sergeant gruffness to a knowledgeable attention to the details of engines, motors, calibers of bullets, and the specific terrains of bull rings, chick lit reflects a full-bore enjoyment of professionalism, fashions, dating, sexuality, and relationships in general. The chick lit voice strives for and often achieves a tone of humor, with all the edge and potential for pain and sad understanding that implies. In other cases, the chick lit protagonist tends to be self-effacing, but by no means embracing victimhood.

It is not so much a case of men being barred from writing chick lit as it is a case of the potential for a male writer of chick lit sounding a few degrees too ironic, which becomes sarcasm, which is no fun for anyone to read. Nor is it a case of chick lit being the emergence of revenge fantasy writ large for women writers; chick lit is an emerged attitude about the conditions and problems of life that follow women about as though they were stalkers.

The works of Candace Bushnell are apt targets for studiers of chick lit, and although it is nonfiction, the works of Maureen Dowd are excellent study guides for what not to do when writing chick lit.

On balance, chick lit may be thought of as serious literature for readers and writers, which means its endings are of a piece with Thelma and Louise and, to mix the gender metaphor, of Huck Finn taking off for the territory ahead, fleeing from civilization. Some endings of chick lit novels are happy in the plausible sense. Others are reminiscent of Yossarian in Catch-22, taking off in a small boat for Sweden, hoping to flee the consummate madness that is war.

As with all emerging genera, chick lit is pushing envelopes of convention. To write it, the writer must remain abreast of the tide.

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