Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.

Yes, I like my Arundhati Roy with a dash of Shopaholic and Judith Krantz on the side. And you’ll find very few of the female species who don’t. Being a closet chick-lit reader is nothing to be ashamed of. Women read chick-lit for the same reasons they’ve been reading Harlequins and Mills&Boon’s for decades. Not just for the taste of romance in their otherwise humdrum lives, but for that magic word : Escapism.

While writers like Arundhati Roy, Phillippa Gregory and Zadie Smith are all brilliant writers, there’s something about a glossily clad book that’s usually a bright color that tugs at your most stubborn and intellectual desires whenever you enter a bookstore.

And despite worldwide assumptions, not all chick lit is stupid.

Take the Jessica Darling series by Megan Mcafferty for example. The characters are deep and well carved. Both Jessica Darling and her complicated love interest Marcus Flutie are geniuses in their own right, who create haiku’s out of spam, and who write journal after journal of thoughts – profound, stupid, smart, lovable, hateful etc. There isn’t a single mention of a clothing line or designer, and New York isn’t portrayed as JUST being one of the fashion capitals of the world, where sex is an everyday word i.e Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar. Instead, it’s perceived as being a harsh, brutally honest and scarily smart city, which magnetically pulls in raw ambition on daily, if not hourly basis.

Another author who transcends the clichéd boundaries of chick-lit, is Judith Krantz. While its been years that shes written anything new, here’s an author whose characters have lives beyond sex, designers and husbands/boyfriends. All of her books target an industry that her heroine battles with : publishing, modeling, retail, advertising, painting, photography, aviation, acting etc. Characters like Maxi Amberville and Billy Ikehorn become icons, not just because their gloriously talented and marvelously beautiful (in that unfair way only fictional heroines can be), but because somehow, Krantz manages to make them breathlessly human. They have migraines, they make their kids do their homework, they have bags under their eyes, they wear dirty sneakers and groan at Customs, they down Bloody Mary’s to cure a hangover – they live, and oddly enough, despite their unfair beauty and talent, they become your friend. The same goes for the lovable goofball Bridget Jones, by Helen Fielding. Jones’s obsession with her weight, her desperate need to be anyone but herself, her friends, her Chardonnay and her smokes, her maniacal hair makes her blessedly alive – which also explains why over 71 million women have brought her into their homes.

The worst part about Chick Lit is that until the book becomes a movie or TV show (Gossip Girl, The Shopaholic Series, The Devil Wears Prada, Scruples), most women are ashamed to acknowledge that they read such “stupid books”. In reality, any book that gives you ANYTHING is not trash. If it offers you escapism, it’s not trash. If it makes you laugh, it’s not trash. If you connect to even one character, even if it’s the hostile cat or the gay friend, it’s not trash. Just because the cover may be emblazoned with high heels and martini glasses, doesn’t mean what’s inside is trash and by default that you are trash-worthy. Whatever happened to not judging a book by its cover? Sometimes it’s time to get OUT of the closet. Haven’t you learnt anything from the chick-lit you devour? Closets are meant for Blahnik’s and Barney’s. Not yourself.

Chick-lit that won’t disappoint:
1. The Devil wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
2. Anything by Judith Krantz
3. Faking it/Welcome to Temptation/Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie
4. Bridget Jones Diary/The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
5. Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell
6. Sloppy Firsts/Second Helpings/Charmed Thirds/Fourth Comings by Megan Mcafferty

Note: Next on the Chick-Lit debate: Chick Lit vs. Dick Lit. If books written about women by women are chick lit, why not “quick lit for short stories, sick lit for the horror genre and dick lit for books by men about men”?

5 responses to "Coming Out of the Chick-Lit Closet"

  1. Very enlightening. And I am a sucker for chick flicks, so there! I am out of the proverbial closet.
    Question: Is Lipstick Jungle the same as the show with Brooke Shields that recently got axed? Also I never knew that Gossip Girl was based on a book!

    Heres my vote for ShitLit as trashworthy books! and StickLit as those books which have gum on them and then they like stick on your arm or leg, because its like, got gum on it you know? Its pretty rare though.


  2. Nice post and pretty pertinent.
    I can't say I've read a lot of chick lit myself, but of the few books I did read, I must say they were pretty awesome.
    A friend dropped The Time Traveller's wife on me at some point, and I have to say other than an awesome premise, the book was pretty awesome.
    I think part of the stigma is that there's a lot of 'touchy feely' which doesn't quite fit in to the 'macho' image. Which isn't really fair to men because let's face it, chicks know their shit.
    The only thing is, since I don't read as much as you guys do, for me something light and fleeting, even a Ludlum or a Grisham, isn't usually too high up on my list.
    Well this comment is aimless.
    verification Word of the day- pataliv.


  3. I is love chick lit. Even the silly kind helps sometimes. I want to believe in the mush and the happy endings. Where's the harm in a little escapism, I ask you?

    Have you read Julie Garwood? There's the Rose series which is just lovely. It has everything you could want in a book. If everything is indeed what you want in a book.

    Must read.

    Quaint Murmur

  4. Tejas - yea, i think that IS the one. Its sad. Sex and the City was a shitty book, but made a popular Tv show. Lipstick Jungle was an awesome book but failed on TV. Didnt get the right characters I is thinking. Brooke Shields was so wrong, it is very unamusing. I is also liking ShitLit. What about funny books?And of course you're out of the closet. You're a brave brave man. Good boy.

    Hobo - Time Travellers Wife is NOT chick lit! Aye Vey! And actually, most chick lit these days ARENT touchy feely. They go on the whole liberated independent woman thing. Which is why sex plays a big part while love plays a smaller, yet equally significant part. The way the author does the sex vs. love issue is what separates good from bad chick-lit. MY word is hysted. Hee.

    Mrs Robinson - Sorry, I cant call you QM! You're Mrs R to me! A little escapism is a vairy naice thing. And with the kind of lives we lead, its good to grab it in whatever form it comes. Ive heard and seen Julie Garwood, but havent read it. Will to do so. Yes plizz, indeed.


  5. I guess funny books would be either WitLit or SlickLit? IdunnoLit.


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