Sunday, May 17, 2009

What is that supposed to mean?

Hello, Mr. Heartache, by Jincy Willett, New York Times via Jennifer Weiner´s blog.

Holly Frick, the writer at the heart of Sarah Dunn’s new novel, hates the term “chick lit.” Since we never actually get to read her own novel, “Hello, Mr. Heartache” — whose horrible title was imposed by her publisher’s marketing department — we can’t be certain that she hasn’t actually written “fiction by and for women,” the generally agreed-­upon definition of that loathsome term. But the novel in which Holly herself appears was definitely not written just for women, no matter how it’s packaged. True, the protagonist is female, the setting is Manhattan, and the focus is on relationships — and there’s a big shopping scene. True, mostly women will read it. But then women are the ones mostly reading every­thing. Besides, it’s not about shoes. And the shopping is for books, at the Strand. Also, unlike chick lit, chick TV and chick movies, “Secrets to Happiness” is actually funny.

Way to self-hate, Ms. Willett.

bt-dubs, New York Times: aren´t you up for sale?


Jincy said...

What does the term "chick-lit" mean to you? Fiction written by chicks? Only if I agreed to that definition would I be "self-hating" in this review. Since I took the time to define "chick-lit" in the review, and since I certainly don't write fiction aimed expressly at women, I don't see your point.

Bianca Reagan said...

Jincy, I´m super excited you read my post! When I read your article, I felt that your words described female-oriented media as unfunny. Which is not true. I don´t like the term ´chick-lit´ or ´chick-flick´ either. I find the terms demeaning. However, suggesting that everything in a female-oriented category is unfunny comes across as self-hating, if not misguided and in need of further explanation.

Jincy said...


I'm happy to see we're on the same page here. It was certainly never my intention to criticize "everything in a female-oriented category." I'm not even sure there's such a thing as a female-oriented category. After all, most of the readers of all kinds of fiction are women. My remarks were about a particular kind of fiction, marketed not toward "women" but toward a specific group. One problem--a big problem--is that everybody thinks they know what "chick-lit" means, but nobody ever defines it. I'd be happy to defend my own opinions on this issue in more detail, but first there needs to be an agreed-upon definition. A discussion of this question is going on (I hope) at



Jincy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bianca Reagan said...

Okay, I think I got the comment moderation correct regarding the double posting.

Thank you for sharing your opinion! You should write an article about the definition, or lack thereof, of allegedly female-oriented products. I would read the article, and share it with others.

Stephanie said...

I don't get what the big deal about being called "Chick lit" is? BTW I have always thought it was a genre marketed towards single young women in their 20s and 30s w/ a humorous slant. (Yes, shopping is sometimes involved)

I thought Bridget Jones was the first? Maybe Sex in the City? (The book) Red Dress Ink sort of started marketing right after that with See Jane Date and etc. I remember reading a big article in the paper when they launched their publishing line of "chick lit".

I don't think it's bad term. I get that maybe this woman is afraid of being put into a box but the whole statement "Secrets to Happiness is actually funny" is upsetting.

Chick lit is VERY FUNNY! Sometimes funnier than some of those supposed literature books that hipsters shove at us as funny.

I will take my Meg Cabot over David Sedaris, thank you!

Bianca Reagan said...

You're welcome, Stephanie! Some people, like me, would appreciate more from literature targeted at women, than a formulaic tale about a thin white woman in New York meeting and marrying a older rich white man and eventually having his babies. It has become a self-perpetuating cycle: since those books (and movies and television shows) sell, and are seen as "chick lit", more of those are produced, and their creators are pigeon-holed into that category.

I do have a separate problem with books (and movies and television shows), almost exclusively written by (white) men, that are thrust upon as funny or innovative or edgy. Many of those projects are simply familar or wish-fulfilling to their male publishers, and are often misogynistic. I should write about that issue at another time.