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This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers Paperback – August 1, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Chick lit as a genre," writes Merrick in her introduction, "presents one very narrow representation of women's lives." This anthology's 18 stories, on the other hand, present a frequently funny take on women's experiences ranging from the mundane to the riotously absurd. In the first story, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "The Thing Around Your Neck," a young Nigerian immigrant struggles to find her place in America. In Curtis Sittenfeld's "Volunteers Are Shining Stars," a mildly neurotic young volunteer, maddeningly pecked at by her colleagues, is driven to violence. One of the most memorable stories, Jennifer Egan's "Selling the General," puts a disgraced publicist to work for a genocidal dictator to pay for her daughter's private school tuition. Men get some representation too: Cristina Henríquez's "Gabriella My Heart" sees a gay man reflecting on a heterosexual high school crush, while the married biology professor in Binnie Kirshenbaum's "The Matthew Effect" pursues a student. Readers who've been Fendi'd and Choo'd to distraction would do well to pick this up.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This short story collection examines, in illuminating detail, issues and concerns facing women who won't find solace in a Prada bag. In no way is the editor trying to denounce chick lit. With these thought-provoking stories, she aims for mind expansion instead of mental escapism. In one story a woman experiences trepidation upon her wedding night, flees her husband, and becomes a protectoress of orphans. Another showcases the battles and execution of Joan of Arc through the lens of a reality-TV television crew, complete with makeover. A first date starts off with much promise until the two singletons admit lying to each other over the most banal facts. The most disturbing story is chick lit but with a perverted twist--a single, anxious woman volunteers at a shelter, observes other couples with both hunger and disdain, and develops a distorted view of a coworker when a child disappears. No less hopeful than typical chick lit but certainly more poignant and serious, this collection should spur spirited conversation among readers willing to discuss comparisons. Kaite Mediatore
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812975677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812975673
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jessica Lux on September 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
This short story collection is worth the cover price for editor Elizabeth Merrick opening essay alone. Merrick does not hate chick lit (she freely admits to enjoying and respecting several titles), nor does she want it to die a painful death. Merrick, after smartly summing up your basic chick lit heroine, metropolitan setting, token gay friend, wicked boss, diet rules, and relationship drama, grants chick lit its place in the world of genre fiction. With this collection, Merrick simply wants to shine the light on modern literary talent. She wants to share these stories with the world--stories about pushing emotional limits, experiencing new cultures, setting personal challenges (a steak-eating contest, anyone?), and musing about social status and careers. This is a book to read with a stack of sticky flag-notes in hand, to mark stories which inspire the reader to pursue further study or exploration of specific topics.

The opening piece describes the experience of a Nigerian immigrant in pursuit of the American dream. Her remarks about this upside-down country still resonate with me--America is a place in which rich people look starved and poor people are fat, where rich people dress in shabby clothing, and in which not everyone owns the gigantic house and car that represent the American dream. In another contribution, Francine Prose manages to masquerade a contemplative essay as a fictional story, and the gimmick succeeds wildly. Aimee Bender's short story reads pretty much like a piece in any of her other collections, making her one of the weakest (but still excellent) links in the book.

The authors represent a veritable who's who of modern literary talent. Most of them have recent full-length releases (Jennifer Egan's The Keep is not to be missed).
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Format: Paperback
Disclaimer: I'm a man. Presumably because of this, I got an odd look from the bookstore cashier buying this book with "chick lit" in large hot pink letters on the cover. If you're concerned about this happening to you, you can of course buy this book from this very website and it will arrive in a discrete brown package.

If, instead, you stumble across this volume in a bookstore or library, but inadvertently skip the word "not" on the cover, you may be surprised by a curious absence of handbags inside.

What you will find instead will include, among other things, a steak-eating contest, a disgraced publicist's unusual efforts to rehabilitate a dictator, and an explosives-filled FBI sex robot's philosophial debates with the Unabomber.

Whatever your gender, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say there's not a dull story in the bunch, and I'd be surprised if you don't put down the book wanting to read more by at least one, if not several, of the authors included in this excellent collection.
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Format: Paperback
Subtitled: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers

In her introduction, Elizabeth Merrick writes, "Chick lit as a genre presents one very narrow representation of women's lives." While not disparaging Chick Lit as a genre (she mentions writers she likes, including Jennifer Weiner, for example), Merrick proposes that there are a lot of great women writers today that do not fit exactly into that genre, that present varying and strong alternative representations of the varying and strong experiences women face in their lives.

The stories in this book range from funny to deadly serious to touching. A publicist that decides to represent a despotic general tries to make him likeable by putting him in a knitted hat. A woman contemplates her wedding night--and runs. Another woman volunteers at a shelter for women and children, and through the experience reflects upon her own loneliness and neuroses. A couple experiences their last moments together before terrorists crash their plane into one of the Twin Towers.

This book contains everything you'd expect from Chick Lit: first dates, reflections on high school crushes, and relationships gone bad. But it is more inclusive and expansive than what is expected from the Chick Lit genre, with the thought-provoking, the touching and the downright quirky, driving the stories to places as deep and painful the lives of real women living in their thoughtful, touching and quirky real lives.

Armchair Interviews says: Fantastic read!
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Format: Paperback
A diverse collection from some incredibly strong writers. Yes, they all happen to be women, and I understand that that's the point of this collection, but I don't care about their genders as much as I care about the sheer talent contained in this book.

This is one of the best collections I've read recently, right up there with The Best American Short Stories 2012 and Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. "Selling the General" was a re-read for me; I first encountered it in A Visit From the Goon Squad. I forget how good Jennifer Egan is until I read her again; she surprises me anew every time. "Love Machine" was fantastically twisted; "Embrace" was heart-stopping; and "The Epiphany Branch" was funny, politically incorrect, and touching. I loved the anachronistic "Joan, Jeanne, La Pucelle, Maid of Orléans" and couldn't get enough of "Gabriella, My Heart" -- it was like a novel crammed into twenty pages, in the best possible way. The only disappointment was that the last two stories were possibly the weakest, so the collection didn't end on a high note for me. That's not to say that the two final stories were bad, because they weren't; they just weren't as mind-blowing as the others.

All in all: worth reading, worth owning, and opened my eyes to a bevy of amazing, read-more-by-her authors.
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