Chick lit and escapisim

November 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm 3 comments

I have been reading a lot of chick lit recently. After struggling through A. S. Byatt, and undergoing a significant amount of family drama, I couldn’t bring myself to start anything more strenuous than Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger and Something Blue by Emily Giffin.

Now that I live with my boyfriend, reading chick lit is somewhat of a struggle. I couldn’t do it at all for the first few weeks, only venturing to break out the books with pastel covers and cleverly-named heroines when he wasn’t around. Now, I’m a little more comfortable, only because he seems to find it hilarious that with all of my English education, sometimes all I want is to read a trashy book.

“Is it, like, a rebellion?” he asked this weekend. “Is it like, ‘Oh, I could read Dickens, but I’m going to be bad and read trash instead?’”

I had to think about this for a while, but I eventually concluded that no, it wasn’t that. Though chick lit might not exactly top required reading lists worldwide, it does have its merits—one of them being accessibility, and another being a reassuring conformity to genre. No matter what happens during the course of any given chick lit novel, the reader can relax into the plot, knowing that it will end happily.

In Something Blue, the heroine has cheated on her fiancé only to have the fiancé run off with her best friend. Not only that, but she finds herself pregnant with the guy she cheated on, who quickly flees the picture. It is impossible to imagine that this woman, who up until now has shown herself to be shallow, delusional and self-centered, could ever come out of this situation intact.

In Everyone Worth Knowing, the main character quits her banking job and is thrust into the high-end P.R. world, surrounded by anorexia, cocaine and celebrity gossip. She finds herself a target of a vicious gossip columnist and trying to figure out a way to save her best friend from marrying a party boy.

Of course, everything works out fine in the end. They both find love, they both solve many of their problems, and they both live happily ever after. As well they should; this is chick lit, after all, and that sort of thing is expected. But Weisberger and Giffin are such good writers that you don’t mind the ride to entirely predictable endings.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Eva  |  November 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    This is how I feel about mysteries, which are my comfort reading. I read ‘traditional’ ones, so I know that the victim is probably going to be a bad person (hence all of the suspects) and that the killer will be brought to justice in the end. And it’s lovely to catch up with my favourite sleuths. I’m v picky about my mystery series, though, so I’m delighted to have found another one to add to my arsenal: MC Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth. Pure relaxation!

    Reply
  • 2. Michele Gorman  |  November 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    As a proud chick lit writer I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Kate. It serves an important purpose (to entertain). As such, chick lit is pure escapism, and few women read it to the exclusion of all else, so your boyfriend doesn’t need to worry that it’ll turn your brain to mush :-) After all, we love chocolate cake too but few of us eat it every night for dinner.

    Reply
  • 3. Books 4 Learning  |  April 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Great post and worthy topic to contemplate. While I see the value of chick lit as good old fashion escapism, I am hesitant to read or recommend. First, I have so little time to read, I want to make sure it is something I feel I have “benefited” from. Second, reading chick lit as a teen/young adult warped my sense of reality. I missed out on things during that time in my life and was often disappointed because things did not turn out like the books I read. If you are what you eat, then isn’t it safe to say we are what we read? I agree that in moderation with a steady diet of literary fiction, a chick lit book is harmless. There are many young girls/adults though who do rely on it solely–that is what concerns me.

    Reply

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