Friday, May 25, 2007

Hey chicky babe: championing chicklit

Yesterday’s meme reminded me of Jess’s post at this delicious solitude about her unexpected discovery of the Jane Austen Book Club. To the disappointment of her book-purist heart, she found herself enjoying it. Her problem was that the novel may be considered ‘chicklit’. Evaluative and enlightening, her post and the comments received provide an interesting take on our assumptions as readers.

Stigma surrounds chicklit. But if content counts, then shouldn’t we as readers be open to new reading adventures? Sure, chick lit books are marketed with bubble-gum covers that scream cultural commodification. This sucks for authors who mix the frivolity of the fashion world with astute observation. Intelligent chick lit, like La’Brooy, can appeal on different levels. I do wonder though, if I wasn’t young and female would I still find La’Brooy equally amusing and enjoyable?

One day, a customer came in to work looking for a book. She was afflicted with a common customer ailment; details had fled her brain. Not even a title or author to go on. She lingered in front of the Alphabet Sisters . She was searching for a book ‘kind of like that.’ I ascertained she meant something with that candy-pink, girly appeal. She wavered at classifying this mysterious book as chick lit. We couldn’t work out what it was.

Alternatively, I recommended the book I was shelving - La’Brooy’s love struck . I raved about its intellectual merit, Salinger allusions, quality prose. Realizing these things mighn’t appeal, I talked up its humourous plot. She looked dubiously for a moment at the garish cover, until recognition hit: ‘that’s it! That’s the author I read!’. Turns out, she had read La’Brooy’s new novel Serendipity, but almost didn’t recognize the author owing to the different nature of the covers adorning her first two books. She happily bought La’Brooy's other books. We were both spun out.

The wish list was truly a riotous read. Particularly amusing was a scene involving an intellectual rendezvous at a bookstore gone awry. Intellectual pretensions are satirized as they create misunderstanding and embarrassment. The incident ends with the accidental theft of some Marquis de Sade. I’ll zip it with the rave review, but the humour definitely gave me an ab workout.


jess said...

La'Brooy does sound like fun. I'll have to read some of her work.

I'm interested in this clash between the cover art and the content of some books. Wouldn't it be interesting to be present at some of the meetings where these things are decided...

Dewey said...

I have nothing against chick lit at all, but I really disliked The Jane Austen Book Club! Love Jane Austen, though.

Siew Cooper said...

*Amused that you would cast Salinger allusions on a chicklit book* :)

Actually, I shouldn't scoff; I've never tried the genre, and to be honest I'm not apt to any time soon.

I guess there's a huge franchise in that area, and what with (admittedly enjoyable) movies being made from many, it's not slowing any time soon. Am I correct?

acquisitionist said...

Dewey, I'm not sure I would enjoy the Jane Austen Book Club myself but you never know! My chichlit foray is limited to La'Brooy at the moment, so if you know of any wildly funny authors with enough literary weight to entertain me, please share some recommendations!

Siew Cooper, They were fairly overt Salinger references, as the characters were named Fran and Zoe. Which reminds me, it's about time I revisit the Nine Stories .

Bummer, I didn't convince you to try La'Brooy. If you ever get the itch to try the genre, she's an Australian author and hence you could pick up an unadulterated Aussie humour hit(apparently they modify the jokes for the audience abroad.

You've got me though about the movies. I haven't seen many 'chickflick' type movies. Any recommendations?

Siew Cooper said...

I was just thinking of the spate of Devil Wears Prada-esque stuff that's come out recently, like, well, Devil Wears Prada. Also The Nanny Diaries, I believe is in the same vein and possibly the same author; I've watched neither, so I can't really say except that reviews are promising. I did enjoy Bridget Jones, however.

acquisitionist said...

jess, missed you out last time. Oh yeah it would be fun. I'm wondering if the authors are impressed with the horrible covers that are chosen.

Bookfool said...

I love some chick lit but not others. Not a book snob - I'll read whatever entertains me. Personally, I think chick lit fills a need and that's why it survives. There's good and bad, just like any other genre.

Penni said...

I read an interesting article last year about women and novels and chicklit. It's kind of not completely relevant but interesting nonetheless. Found it: