The best description of chick-lit can be found in This is Chick-Lit (2005) edited by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, in which she writes "Chick-lit is entertainment. A wide range of stories designed to draw readers - particularly women - in and, for just a little while, transport them to a new world with new friends, new relationships and new struggles to overcome. Although often with a modern twist, chick-lit represents classic stories and classic entertainment, which is why chick-lit (albeit without the label recently bestowed by marketing types) has been around for centuries."
Literary snobs, the types that actually laugh at Shakespeare comedies, moan something chronic about the popularity of chick-lit, the fact that the genre regularly dominates book charts across the world. There's a reason why these people hate chick-lit, and it's nothing to do with declining standards. It is simply that these people hate escapism and frankly, hate a genre that focuses on the general lives of women.
A bit of blatant sexism, fashioned as concern for literary values has dogged chick-lit for years, and not just from right-wing stick-in-the-muds, but from feminists too. Does anyone remember when Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, trashed chick-lit right after winning the Pulitzer Prize?
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in 2011, Egan gave praise to female writers who are making waves in the literary scene, all good stuff right? Well, slap bang in the middle of all this positivity she began a mini-tirade against chick-lit. Referring to Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard student and author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, who had come under-fire for plagiarising some of her work from such authors as Meg Cabot, Megan McCafferty etc, all chick-lit veterans.
Egan was irked not so much about Viswanathan's plagiary, but the fact she wrote a chick-lit novel, saying "What I want to see is young, ambitious writers. And there are tons of them. Look at The Tiger's Wife. There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models?... My advice for young female writers would be to shoot high and not cower." So essentially Egan views chick-lit as defeatist, low-brow and intellectual cowardice.
Its funny how one literary genre can rub so many people up the wrong way. Well, whether you like it or not chick-lit isn't going anywhere, in-fact the genre is growing in popularity with each year, something that gives people a release from the day-to-day banality of life will always be with us.
So, for any of you new to the wonders of chick-lit, here are six of the best novels from the past 20 years to get stuck into. You'll see that chick-lit is a cavalcade of sweeping themes, intelligence and great wit, able to tell you more about modern life than any Philip Roth novel. These are just six reasons why chick-lit has touched so many people and done what no other genre has done, which is to get people reading.
1. Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman
Dubbed the American version of Bridget Jones, Laura Zigman's 1999 novel about human mating behaviour is clever, funny and very refreshing. It is a slice of real life, dissecting the drama of the dating game, prior to the rise of social networking.
2. Asking for Trouble by Liz Young
With a cast of characters who you instantly recognise from your own life, Asking for Trouble is comic to its core, featuring a heroine who is just an average woman faced with average problems, and finding a boyfriend before her friend's wedding was top of the list.
3. The Nanny by Melissa Nathan
For anyone who's had that desperate urge to escape small town life then The Nanny will ring true more than anything else you've ever read. A tale of family weirdness ensues when Jo Green takes a job as a nanny to an extremely mismatched couple. Swirling themes of relationship trouble, friendship and new beginnings make The Nanny an intriguing read.
4. The Yorkshire Pudding Club by Milly Johnson
Focussing on three friends who are approaching 40 and living in South Yorkshire, Milly Johnson gives us a different type of coming-of-age novel. Richly comic and fearless in its subject matter, Johnson explores relationships, babies and approaching middle age, all with good humour.
5. Accidental IT Girl by Libby Street
Accidental IT Girl centres on the tumultuous life of photographer and celebrity stalker Sadie Price, whose world of glamour and excitement is shaken to its foundations, when she's thrown into a gender war. With surprising plot twists, The Accidental IT Girl is a gripping novel.
6. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Some of called it the ultimate chick-lit novel, Bridget Jones' Diary was and still remains the most engaging, lyrical and funny tale about relationships and single life you'll ever read. With every woman and some men identifying with Bridget in some way or another.