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Chick Lit--are women lowbrows?


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Initial post: Dec 5, 2011 9:10:24 AM PST
Anyone hitting bookstores today--or amazon bestsellers--must wonder about the proliferation of novels by women or about women's issues. Most of these are hideously mundane, simplistic and aimed very low. Do publishers think women are stupid or do they know it? I.e., do they publish this garbage because they assume women will buy it or are women asking for it?

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 4:50:48 PM PST
I don't think they would sell it if someone were not buying it (given the precarious business of selling books today). I do indulge in good stories (am currently reading "11/22/63" by S. King), but I also enjoy classics by Trollope, Dickens, Austen, etc. I don't want to criticize anyone's choice of reading material, but chick lit is just too fluffy to appeal to me.

Posted on Dec 5, 2011 6:47:31 PM PST
It's what people in New York like or read.

Posted on Dec 6, 2011 10:04:58 PM PST
pyat says:
Serious, Susan, and Walter: I don't believe stores have a shelf for books with a heroine of substance. Most books can do cheeky, beautiful, ambitious, catty, svelte, even witty, but being of substance might appear to invite the reader to be of substance, herself, and that would threaten, not sell. So many classics, too, vacillate only between long-suffering vapid nitwit and satanic vixen. Pretty frustrating. But I think the central question is, why do you read? Is it to discover who you are or to escape from who you are? Most, unfortunately, are reading to escape from who they are, and so that is what is selling.

Posted on Dec 9, 2011 7:33:46 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 9, 2011 7:43:06 PM PST]

Posted on Jan 7, 2012 9:15:45 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Jan 7, 2012 9:17:20 AM PST]

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 12:07:22 PM PDT
Kelly G. says:
Well, I think some chick lit is better than others. I recently read It's Not A Wonderful Life, and it's become my new favorite precisely for that reason: it's not low-brow. I think it falls more into that category of upmarket-women's fiction than chick lit. The author has a bachelor's degree from U.C. Berkeley in microbiology so I would hardly consider that to be low brow. She also throws in a lot of that stuff into the book as well (the main character works in a lab) so I think it would appeal to a more science-savvy audience.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2012 1:44:26 PM PDT
I think your point is well-taken. But, learning science (or history) or anything else from literature is what makes it low-brow. If you want to learn about Henry VIII, for example, read a bio, not "The Other Bolyen Girl." Great lit addresses issues about the meaning of life, etc. (not to go chesey on you.) The Great Gatsby deals with the meaning of success both spirtitual and economic and how people have a hard time differentiating w/ tragic consequences. It's not a disguised history lesson about the "roaring 20s." There have always been 'popular books" and they have an important fuction but I'm afaid that women (who drive the market) are perceived as vacuous and superficial by publishers--hence books like "The Corner of Bitter and Sweet" or "Definitely Maybe." There really is no literary fiction left because of it. For Faulkner to be published today, he'd have to write "The Sound and the Dancing" or "As I Lay on the Beach" or "The Light in August Diet."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2012 3:30:04 PM PDT
Leona says:
She has a degree in molecular biology, not microbiology. Hate to be pedantic but that's a huge distinction among scientists.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2012 3:35:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2012 3:40:13 PM PDT
Leona says:
I agree, but I don't think that was the point of Kelly's post. You wouldn't read It's Not A Wonderful Life because of the science behind it, it's just sort of incidental, but at the same time, part of what makes the book great. It's the same thing with the X-Files; yeah it's cool that they have a whole scene devoted to conducting a southern blot, but nobody watches the X-files to learn science. It's just a show that a lot of scientists can/do appreciate...and let me just say for the record, I find chick lit to be a huge waste of time, that I don't consider It's Not A Wonderful Life to be chick lit, and that yeah, the American public at large is ipso facto low-brow, including but not limited to women.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2012 9:53:02 PM PDT
Delia says:
Oh, please. Do you wonder about the proliferation of adventure-thriller crap aimed at men that also fills the shelves--or virtual shelves?

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 10:40:45 PM PDT
Orna Ross says:
This question has been asked since the Victorian novelist George Eliot wrote her essay 'Silly Novels by Lady Novelists' -- and probably long before. But I don't think women have a premium on this. The majority of work produced in all genres (indeed artforms) is less than inspiring - Hollywood, anyone? - and Faulkner, James Joyce, and other 'greats' of the past didn't have an easy time getting published back then either. There was just as much dross then as now, it's just that time is a great selector. I personally am a great believer in fiction as a vehicle for history - but then I would be, because that's what I write (After The Rising and Before The Fall. I don't see any incongruity in writing about the deeper dimensions of life - these novels are an exploration of the conflict between freedom and belonging - while informing, perhaps educating, also entertaining, and hopefully inspiring the reader. The ability to juggle all of that at once is what makes fiction such a powerful reading (and writing) experience, I believe. Thank you for this discussion -- it's an important one.

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 1:58:54 AM PDT
Robertrreese says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 5:58:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 24, 2012 6:19:53 AM PDT
In response to Delia: This also-crap is for the young men market. They drive 'graphic novel' publishing (what was formerly called comic books.) Its a niche market thatis comparable to the totally witless romance novel that women gobble up. The fact is that women account for 80% of novel sales (not book sales.) Publishers perceive that demographic as the type that wll read trash like "It's Complicated," a book ( and film) DESIGNED for women readers. Any novel that is designed is by definition garbage because it does not deal with truth but with marketing. I'm afraid that the chick-lit genre is fast becoming the norm (like female-oriented reality TV.)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 6:17:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 24, 2012 6:19:29 AM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 6:17:44 AM PDT
Point proved, ladies.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 9:19:28 PM PDT
Delia says:
Point proved? You should have checked the link. It leads to the guy's kindle edition of his recently published book. The only point proved is that he's haunting the discussion boards trying to drum up sales.

And it's not just young men who are reading the would-be Clancy's and Ludlum's. Plenty of fifty- or sixty-somethings use those for their popcorn reading. I'll grant you the younger guys probably go for the graphic novels, but since we're all just making up statistics out of thin air, it's easy to give you that one.

Now, since you seem to have initiated this whole discussion in order to put down women's reading habits, a behavior I find trollish at best, I'm going to absent myself from the continuation of this thread and wish you well in your search for validation.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2012 6:00:57 AM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2012 8:13:23 AM PDT
Serious Reader:

70% of readers are women. Most editors are women. Most of the women I know really love the novels printed for women by women. When I was in New York and at a pitch and shop convention, the women editors were not in the mood for actual reality of say, a "heavy" subject, when thinking about publishing a book about and for women. The disdain I saw on the face of one editor when I started speaking about the atomic bombs blowing off at the Nevada Test site was disheartening, to say the least. They wanted another form of the Cinderella story, but Cinderella got to wear expensive clothes and get rich and so on. When I buy groceries, I have to look at man with his chest exposed and with a woman dangling from his arm. Let me just imagine a title:
Love's Furious Denial.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2012 8:48:39 AM PDT
Come on, there are intellectual levels of readers in both genders. As a writing teacher/author, I think I can safely say the difference is that more women read books than do men. At the most basic levels of interests, women will still pick up a book that is not too taxing while men will pick up a TV remote. This is not to disparage either sex; there are high levels of intellectual reading interest in both.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2012 7:19:56 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2012 6:59:15 AM PDT
Serious Reader:

Since I write very little non-fiction, I am writing about fiction, and I agree with you. Fiction has slid down a dark and watery tube.

Posted on Apr 11, 2012 4:12:32 PM PDT
Kate says:
Most women only want to read crap novels. That is true. It is ALSO true that most men only want to read crap novels. They just read a different type of crap. Dan Brown and Steve Berry, just as an example, have made whole careers writing crap. Replace dumbed down crappy romance/relationship focused novels with dumbed down crappy action/suspense focused novels and there you have the overwhelming majority of novels aimed towards male readers.

There may be more crappy novels geared toward stupid female readers, but that's only because women buy more novels. It's not because women are dumber. The fact is most people, regardless of gender, are just dumb.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2012 7:10:36 AM PDT
Kate--everything you say is true unfortunately. However, publishers have decided to pander to low taste by putting out only crap novels to the exclusion of finer lit. And, it is women who drive the fiction market accounting by the latest stats to 85% of all fiction sold. The real test is to look at what topped the best-seller lists 50 years ago. Faulkner, Leon Uris, etc. Not a chick lit piece in the bunch! While men may read crap as you say, they are, I think, forced to for lack of proffered material. And nothing will change this as long as women control not only the marketplace but publishing itself.

Posted on Apr 13, 2012 5:30:15 PM PDT
Liadin says:
It's true that women read more fiction than men. The time women spend reading romance and chick lit, men spend watching crappy movies or TV. Maybe you should be complaining instead about men who don't read for entertainment at all. But you seem a little too invested in criticizing women to do so.
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Discussion in:  Literary Fiction forum
Participants:  30
Total posts:  60
Initial post:  Dec 5, 2011
Latest post:  Nov 29, 2012

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