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Chick Lit--are women lowbrows?

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In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2012 2:24:53 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 19, 2012 2:29:57 PM PDT]

Posted on Apr 19, 2012 4:26:28 PM PDT
The deleted response was a personal attack on yours truly. When uninformed minds cannot respond to facts, they resort to name-calling. She obviously thought better of it and self-deleted (reminiscent of Romney's "self-deportation"?) A mind is a terrible thing to waste. I hope that the women in control of today's publishing can see their way clear to providing a forum for writers of both sexes who address serious literary issues.

Posted on Apr 19, 2012 10:17:35 PM PDT
M. C. Buell says:
Serious Reader said:

"There really is no literary fiction left because of it"

Are you for real? Heard of Orhan Pamuk? J.M. Cotzee? Margaret Atwood? Haruki Murakami? Nadine Gordimer? Assia Djebar? Mario Vargas Llosa? You apparently know nothing about the state of modern literature. You also apparently have a problem with women. My guess? You're a failed writer who got turned down by a female publisher. And yes, most of what's published is cheap entertainment. But blaming that on women is completely ignorant. Spy thrillers, epic fantasies, detective novels, and military fiction are all cheap entertainment, and all marketed almost exclusively to men. Cheap entertainment will continue to get the largest share of the publishing market, but that's because PEOPLE, men and women, generally want cheap entertainment.

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 4:37:29 AM PDT
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Posted on Apr 20, 2012 1:52:53 PM PDT
Chele T says:
There are various levels in any genre. I am a fan of chick-lit as well as the classics. When I feel like chick-lit my go-to authors are Marian Keyes for her wonderful humorous and very human characters, Alice Hoffman for the mystical / magical qualities as well as wonderful language, Maeve Binchy for her warm, welcoming characters....I could go on but the point is in any genre there are better and worse authors and audiences for all levels.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2012 4:07:17 PM PDT
I loved (I'm not fond of that word in literary talks) The Glass Lake. It was so Victorian and came very close I think to a Hardy novel at least in plot and structure. I agree with your thoughts about going to and from with both types of books, but note that you have to go to "classics." I assume you mean books from before 1950? Why are such books not being published today?

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 4:58:56 PM PDT
M. C. Buell says:
"Silly woman. Research will often help an argument. Try it. "

I'm not actually a woman. As to your point; I guess we need to narrow your argument down to the American publishing market. Oh wait, all those authors I've mentioned are published in the US. So I guess we have to narrow you argument down once again, this time to "the American publishing market as pertains to American writers". And Nadine Gordimer is a Nobel Prize winning author; further proof that you know next to nothing about the state of modern literature. Want me to name Americans? Heard of Philip Roth? Thomas Pynchon? Toni Morrison? Don DiLillo? Jeffrey Eugenides? Richard Ford? Junot Diaz? Jennifer Egan? I followed your profile and was *shocked* to find out that you are indeed a failed writer, pushing a self-published book. Now we all know what your real problem is: You couldn't hack it as a writer, so instead of taking a good look at your writing and what might be wrong with it, you decided that it must be the industry's fault, and your latent sexism came to the forefront.

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 9:25:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 20, 2012 9:30:55 PM PDT
Erica Bell says:
In England, I knew two women who, I am certain, used Mills and Boone books as a drug. Nine or ten a day....and they had all the classic signs: the tight-knit little huddle of those "in the know". I swear, if they were men, it would have been a child-porn ring. In America, I work in a library, and one chilling trend is the books marketed toward teen and tween girls--the vampirical/angel/magical misunderstood teen. We classify them seperate from the kids' stuff---have to, because of the sex. I call it the Pale Young Men section of the library. Weirdly, boys read them too (albeit secretly).

I rely on authors such as Ian McEwan to diagnose the problem, which he does in "On Chesil Beach", for instance, a book that takes the "first time" experience to a tragic, mundane inevitability. He says that being an adult used to be seen as an advantage---until you worked, married, had children, you were not considered a serious person. Now, being twenty is to be aged. And so we now must be perpetually in love, perpetually moody, perpetually orgasmic and adolescently finding ourselves. When we stop doing thesee things--or at least come to terms with our limitations--we become "boring" (look at Hollywood's women and roles~)

And so the chick-lit rolls out, postponing adulthood indefinitely. But don't worry, ladies! The guys are Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne, each with a fourteen-year-old on his arm and a bedroom in the backround!

thus our society grinds slowly to a halt, not with a bang but a simper. Please excuse my crappy mood: the travelling pants must be in the dryer.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2012 9:54:34 PM PDT
Erica Bell says:
Serious Reader, we hear complaints all the time about the whole entertainment industry, both from within and from without. I remember hearing complaints about the popular music that got released as far back as the early 70's. Music, film, books---every company that deals in entertainment kvetches about the huge financial layout they must pony up to promote and pay for an entertainment product, so they're shy of any new script, MS or tune that hasn't proved itself somewhere else. At least, that's been the excuse for the last going-on-50 years now.

For film, it's totally understandable (I personally do not have $100M to throw away on a dud), but with digital everything now, I wonder if there's just no freaking excuse anymore. Anyone can publish anything, or release the next megahit digitally. The trick is getting you and me to read it or listen to it.

Distribution, distribution. I'd argue that most great art is popularized by word of mouth, but I'd be patently wrong. Sheckles, tiresome sheckles, dahling. In a perfect world, I'd finally muscle my way through Proust and REALLY read Joyce. But I'm afraid that this won't happen until I want it to. If I persue art, I find it. And I frequently do persue art. But we're talking about entertainment. At the risk of being even more tiresome than I already have been here, all great art is entertaining, but not all entertainment is art. I think that almost by definition entertainment is passively received.

But I see you twisting your face into a smile, thinking, "So you're saying that art is 'hard' and entertainment is 'easy'?"

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2012 6:21:10 AM PDT
Art can be hard. Entertainment should be easy. Obvious points well-taken.Movies have made the choice for the most part to push what will most likely sell. Hence, films based on "books" that have an established market. Fortunately, indie film makers can still raise their hands and be noticed. Books, on the other hand, cannot follow that pattern. Harry Potter's success gave birth to a slew of imitators. As did Twilight. And now Hunger Games. No problem understanding the drive of producers to make a profit. That's the way it should be. But if that's true, as I just said, how does one account for publishers putting out Faulkner or Joyce or Fitzgerald, e.g. all of whom sold very poorly. There used to be an "obligation" I think, on the part of publishers to put out works they knew or felt were "great" (or there would be no poetry published) even if they lost money. Best seller entertainment fiction paid the bills. But now, I believe they've shirked the duty. It's not women's fault that many of them seek entertainment in pages. First and foremost a novel should be entertaining. (I can see why you haven't tackled Ulysses or Remembrance of Things Past. Tough going, for me at least.) And then you have the teen/tween market. If they can read about ghouls having soft core sex, why read The Mayor of Casterbridge? It's an impossible situation to fathom. And I'm afraid we're (or I'm) lamenting the good old days, something that every generation has faced. But the decline is evident and obvious to anyone who loves literature. Just talking about this has brought many wackos out of the woodwork. The mere enquiry is enough to release the ad homonym attacks in droves. Someone points out that the Nobel Prize is still given out--try to remember even a few of those authors. Even more political than the Pulitzer. As if a prize was a measure of anything. Interestingly, I found Chesil Beach more a long short story than a novel and thought even in its scantness that it was much ado about very little. On your recommendation, I'll re-read it and I thank you for that. As you can see from some of the schizo postings above, when I ask where is today's Thomas Hardy or Emile Zola or Joyce or Faulkner, the response is Don DeLillo! Or poor lame Serious Reader hasn't read every single book on the shelf and never heard of Jennifer Egan (the future Edith Wharton? I think not.) The posing of the question as in most pursuits today, allows for the irrational to jump and shout. No matter how high the jumping or how loud the shout, fiction is being taken over by people interested only in money. Here's a quick story that proves the point. Zola wrote in French of course. A Brit publisher admired his works so much, he had them translated into English for which he was promptly tried and convicted on obscenity charges. He went to jail, but his son and his company kept at it--into bankruptcy. This man sacrificed everything for the love of the art. Can you imagine Random House or Penguin doing anything remotely similar? If Don Delillo wrote Lolita, his MS would be in the trash so fast his bankers head would swim. He'd have to live at The Corner of Bitter and Sweet and write about that to get back in everyone's good graces. Oh, someone already did that? Didn't read it. Sorry

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012 12:45:17 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 29, 2012 8:53:14 AM PDT
Wando Wande says:
You keep shifting goal posts. You say real literature isn't published anymore. Someone points out the contemporary literary fiction authors. You give this, "when I ask where is today's Thomas Hardy or Emile Zola or Joyce or Faulkner, the response is Don DeLillo!" In short, these authors don't measure up to YOUR standard of excellence. This is hardly a debate anymore. This is thinly veiled screed for the good ole days of literature. And you blame women for the low-brow deluge.

You only know about Zola and the like because time has sifted through the crap for you. There is crap now as there was crap then. Why do you only think of the chick lit crap? Why not the thrillers, the fantasies, the sci-fi, mysteries? Why single out chick-lit for the decline of literature? Chic-lit doesn't dominate the fiction sales. Seriously how does this matter anyway? The division of reading tastes isn't a zero-sum game. All those chick-lit readers aren't suddenly going become Faulkner readers. Go find the literary fiction readers. Don't complain that people would rather read fluff than questionable tomes on the 'human condition'

Literary fiction is a hard sell, even then more women than men read it. Jonathan Franzen bemoaned this reality, explaining his misgivings about Oprah recommending his book for her book club. What can I say? I just don't think that all of sudden if men read more, we would get a bigger market of literary fiction. In fact, I would wager men would shrink from it even more because literary fiction has a reputation of navel grazing fiction, the books where nothing happen. And men tend to prefer the plot heavy, action type books.

Anyway. I do understand your point somewhat, not the blaming of women though. Publishers have become more cut throat and less forgiving of authors who aren't profitable. In past, they could grow authors, accept moderate losses and in the hope that the authors would grow an audience and break out with something good eventually. Note, even then low brow stuff subsidized that sort of patronage. But now, giving the shrinking of the book business, publishers are more interested in the next sure thing than in taking gambles over literary stuff. The next sure thing is easier had in fluff, be it chick-lit or police procedurals. And being an author of literary fiction becomes a lot harder than before.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012 5:49:44 AM PDT
I think you've got the final word on this topic. My only exception to your well-reasoned statement is that chick-lit is not a genre anymore. Thrillers, horror, romance are niche markets. Chick-lit is THE lit. My original question was: is it the publishers fault for pandering to what they think women want or is it that women really do want junk-lit? Keep in mind that women dominate the publishing trade. This is a very recent development. And the combo of female buyers and female sellers is what is, in my opinion, sinking the ship. However, I realize this sounds sexist. But it is no more sexist than blaming teenagers for liking the Twilight series. But put some tweens in charge of Random House and watch what comes out. Reversible? I think not.

Posted on May 1, 2012 1:37:53 PM PDT
No one should think this is serious. It is the same as men reading or looking at pornography.
Just less graphic.
There are not a lot of serious readers. There never was.

Posted on May 2, 2012 8:42:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 2, 2012 8:45:50 AM PDT
Kokabiel says:
All these comments about fiction are exactly why I eschew fiction almost entirely--I read books about history, anthropology, astronomy, etc. And I wouldn't touch a chick ANYTHING with a 10' pole. I'm a female too. (and no, I'm not mannish! lol) I have a couple female friends who like serious reading as well, but I have to admit--not many females seem to be serious readers, but I've not met many men who are either,'s a societal thing, I think--I blame television.

Posted on May 2, 2012 4:31:03 PM PDT
Whoa... I'm a little turned off by the title of this discussion: Chick Lit--are women lowbrows? No. Not all women. Sheesh that's a massive generalization. I would have rather the title read, "Chick lit - does it suck?" to which I could much more confidently answer, Yes! I think so, but that's what's great about writing, there's room for any and all tastes.

Larry Nocella
author of the novels Loser's Memorial and Where Did This Come From? available on Amazon.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2012 1:02:45 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 6, 2013 8:53:02 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2012 1:48:29 PM PDT
Au contraire. You're certainly no book snob. You're just not literary. This discussion is about fiction and the art of literature. Your comment would be akin to saying "I enjoy blueprints, pie charts and maps; why waste my time on Picasso?" Yipes. When people say that humans are not keeping up spiritually with technology, your comment makes the point.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2012 1:55:12 PM PDT
The irony of poor Larry's post is that he is simultaneously condemning fiction aimed at a female audience--and most of the contributors to this forum, while outing his own books--sorta like running an Obama ad on Fox News. I'm not certain that this is the tragedy of modern publishing or its hope. At least he can reach a few readers here. It's just hard to imagine the greats of lit past touting their own stuff. (Although a few, notably Sinclair Lewis, did quite a good job at it.)

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2012 5:23:46 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 6, 2013 8:53:17 PM PDT]

Posted on May 9, 2012 12:15:50 AM PDT
Quinton Blue says:
It's not as if chick-lit displaces anything. The book market is broader than ever because the Internet has made even out of print literary books easier to find. I recently read Elaine Gottlieb's 1947 novel "Darkling." Thirty years ago, it would've taken a major effort to find it.

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2012 7:39:57 AM PDT
Thanks for your contribution, Quinton. Unfortunately, the proliferation of female-oriented literature (and movies & TV) does displace other more serious literature. Publishers are in it for the money--nothing wrong or complex about that. But formerly, they published and promoted books that were "serious' and not always niche-marketed. Just research on google older Times best-seller lists and you'll see what I mean. My favorite example of how this process affects the system is Cormac McCarthy. His early books are masterpieces of "literary fiction." Blood Meridian was his most notable. They did not sell at all. So, he cranked out All the Pretty Horses. I think the title comparo sums it all up. Joyce, Faulkner and Hemingway all sold poorly. But their publishers did not press them to write for sales, which in this case would be "chick-lit." A notable and literary female writer whose name escapes me (Alice Walker, I think) brought a suit against her publisher because they put out her very serious novel in a pink cover! Which she thought was reprehensible and unrelated to the content of the novel. What can you make of this? It isn't good, whatever else it may be.) The fact that the internet allows people to find books that are not readily available conventionally, proves the existence of the problem.

Posted on May 12, 2012 12:58:34 AM PDT
Erica Bell says:
Forgive me if someone mentioned this before, but maybe the explanation as to why so many awful books are being marketed for women now is simply that popular culture, like water, seeks a level, and women are the only ones currently buying books.

I don't think either is "always" true, but it might be a start.

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2012 2:28:47 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 12, 2012 12:45:24 PM PDT
seaayre says:
Awful can be subjective. Women got the short end of the stick in publishing for many years, and had to publish under such names as Acton Bell, George Eliot, and Andre Norton. I think it is fun that what goes around has come around. :) It should also be noted that most jobs in the publishing field are rather low paying as these things go in this day and age, and many men are not apparently willing to settle. They have apparently abdicated the throne and gone into banking or become attorneys. Writers like Hemingway and McCarthy simply do not appeal to me, and no, I do not consider myself a low-brow. I just dont care for the dreary plots, the old boy networks, and the violence. So sue me. :) These things are not relevant to me and I don't enjoy reading them. One of my favorite authors just passed away. Her name was Elizabeth Fromberg Schaeffer and I always believed she was highly underated. Joyce Carol Oates can be uneven, but I find she much to offer. I tihink everyone should llighten up and read what they like. I remember a time back in the 60s or early 70s when the number one book was "The Valley of the Dolls." There have always been crappy books out there.:)

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2012 8:58:47 AM PDT
Quinton Blue says:
I don't know if the problem is gender as much as class. The jobs are low paying but superficially prestigious and require at least a college education. That's a recipe for drawing people who have never seen the inside of a machine shop and don't understand people outside their narrow world. When I read books nowadays, I start but don't finish most of them. Once I figure out the author is well-schooled but nothing else, what's left? The MFA programs have given us a slew of these writers and most of them are weak. ... I'm curious about Elizabeth Fromburg Schaeffer. When I cut and paste and put in Amazon book search I get nothing. What did she write?

Posted on May 12, 2012 12:35:21 PM PDT
seaayre says:
My mistake, Quinton. I must have had Elizabeth Gaskell on my mind. :) Try Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. :)
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