The Never-Ending War on Chick Lit

By Neal Comment

Jennifer Weiner’s comments in yesterday’s SF Chronicle profile about critics, especially female critics, who, as reporter Jane Ganahl puts it, “hold that literature should be closer to Woolf than Bushnell in temperament” will come as little surprise to the author’s fans. “You don’t have to love the term chick lit,” she says, “but if you’re smart, you’ll realize the practical implications of that kind of labeling. Female protagonist, urban setting, smart, sarcastic voice. I don’t see why it matters if you’re thrown into this category. Unless you think you’re the next coming of Virginia Woolf, and then I guess it would be a problem for you.” (Note: Weiner has discussed this issue before, including a stint as a guest author at Beatrice last March.)

To Jessa “Bookslut” Crispin, them’s fighting words: “I didn’t realize that I was a bad feminist for pointing out that chick lit treats women like they’re stupid,” Crispin sneers back. Which leads Ed Champion to wonder what she’s on about, since Crispin never cites any actual chick lit to prove her case, and his reaction to Weiner’s latest, Goodnight Nobody, is that he “didn’t really get the sense that the female characters within its pages were stupid.” He adds, “Even when certain ‘chick lit’ novels disagreed with me, I nevertheless applauded these books for placing women’s issues to the forefront and having the courage to place these plots within popular literature.”

Of course, it’s always possible that Crispin meant that the books treat women readers like they’re stupid…but, again, Champion and others would probably find more specific criticisms useful.