All Grown Up and Ready to Rumble

July 29th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

It is natural that our thoughts turn to chicklit at a time like this (this being when we are helping our friend Linda sort through the fifty or so books she acquired at last night’s literacy signing — we’ll get to that later — many of which were chicklit, despite Linda’s skepticism of such a thing). The concept surrounds us in the hallways and on the elevators. It’s not that romance is dead; it’s just that romance…needs to evolve like any other living creature. Tastes change and readers grow. And while it seemed like a cute fad in the early days, it turns out that chicklit speaks to many readers.

Jessica Lee Jernigan has excerpted her article on the coming of age of chicklit (the full article appears in the summer issue of Bitch — follow the link for more information). We’re not sure when chicklit evolved into shopping and cosmos, but we cannot blame Bridget Jones (there is much the poor soul should be held responsible for, but not the sharp left the genre took in the United States). Now authors are moving beyond the surface, and taking a long hard look at how women of a certain age are facing the world we live in…it’s rough out there.

Because of the randomness Linda employed (you’d think an engineer would be more systematic, but what do we know?), we were welcome to take our pick of her pile. This despite our vow to absolutely limit the number of books we haul home (see previous re: stacks of books about to acquire their own mortgage). We read the back cover copy of many and looked at the front covers. In the industry, this is known as judging a book by its cover. And based on our scientific study, the authors may be moving on, but the publishers aren’t being cooperative. We passed on more than we took because there was a sense of “been there, done that” to the cover copy. Not good. Readers crave variety, and, while we like to think we’re ahead of the curve, probably we’re not so far out in front of the crowd. Other readers are going to bypass chicklit because it sounds the same.

We enjoyed early chicklit because it offered something different (we never could relate to the cowboys, babies, and brides phenomenon that’s swept romance publishing for the past twenty years). Yet the very thing that drew readers — voice, situation, plot — is the marketing hook we’re seeing time and again. We love our friends and have been known to indulge in drinking and carousing. More than once. But where it could be celebration of choices made by today’s women, chicklit has become about finding a man. Like other entertainment industries, publishing likes to take a fresh concept and keep repeating it until it becomes a cultural joke.

Chicklit might be coming of age — but until the publishers catch on to the fact, the revolution may escape the average reader.

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