Well, Look At That, The Girl Can Think

July 4th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Cover to The Wonder SpotWe were confused way back when Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing was labeled “chicklit”. Naturally our confusion stemmed from our inability to properly connect dots; the book read, to us, like a collection of connected short stories. That the stories were written by a woman and featured a female protagonist did not seem to make it worthy of carrying the banner for a new genre. Shows what we know.

Now Bank has a new novel out (The Wonder Spot), and it’s being labeled as chicklit, ostensibly because the first book was. It would be easy enough to review the collection of stories on their own merit — and reviewers have generally found the writing to be good and some stories to be stronger than others — yet reviewers are using the opportunity to twist a knife in the heart of chicklit. It would be amusing if it didn’t feel a little, well, desperate.

Joanna Briscoe is the latest to jump on the bandwagon started by Curtis Sittenfeld, whose now-infamous New York Times review amused us because it’s about time women stopped being so darn nice to each other. That we thought the review missed the point about Bank’s book and chicklit in general is beside the point. This was a review that got people talking and hopefully got people buying, reading, and discussing. Briscoe’s reaction to the fact that Bank writes with depth is almost too disingenuous to be believed, as was Sittenfeld’s distancing herself from the chicklit movement.

It is now time to dispense with the cheap shots and review the book on its own merits. Sittenfeld won the review snark war by virtue of being first. Trying to top her reeks of copycatism. Is this a successful follow-up to Bank’s first book (which we also felt faltered in a few places)? Is it worth buying and reading? Should we wait for the movie?

Is chicklit a little too Mr. Right obsessed? Yes, but considering the pressure society places on women to marry and have children, it’s not unexpected. Could chicklit do itself a service by stopping with the scratching the surface and really exploring the issues today’s women face? Yes, but then the carping would be about the domestic nature of the books. Can women truly write about what matter to them? Yes, but first they need to embrace the fact that these are the issues that matter to them.

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