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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Review by Joanne Rendell

Calling all Chick lit lovers!

It’s time to get mad, make a stand, and buy a copy of This is Chick Lit.

Earlier this year, This is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America’s Best Women Writer’s hit the stands. As the title suggests, this book wants to set itself apart from chick lit writing. In the introduction, editor Elizabeth Merrick claims that the huge popularity of “bubbly” and “fluffy” chick lit novels is obscuring the writing of “some our country’s most gifted women.” She went on to say that chick lit “numbs our senses” and “reduces the complexity of human experience.”

When Lauren Baratz-Logsted, a seasoned chick lit author, heard about this collection she got angry. And then she got motivated! Baratz-Logsted without delay rallied the troops, quickly compiled eighteen stories by loud and proud chick lit writers, and This is Chick-Lit was born.

Straight off the bat, the book proves that chick lit and its authors are far from mind-numbing or fluffy. In her fantastic introduction, Baratz Logsted hits the nail on the head when she considers the publication of Merrick’s This is Not Chick Lit and wonders, “What next: These Are Not Mysteries? This is Not Science Fiction? This is Not a Literary Coming of Age Novel?”

What Baratz-Logsted understands – unlike so many literary critics, book reviewers, and many supposedly smart writers – is that chick lit is a genre. And thus like all genres – mystery, sci-fi, literary fiction – chick lit has its own features and style and concerns. It is not better or worse than any other genre, it is just different. Logsted-Baratz demonstrates how it is basically sexist to single out chick lit, a hugely popular genre by and for women, as the one genre to attack and malign.

Logsted-Baratz’s smart introduction is followed by a whole host of intelligent, funny, sad, ironic, entertaining, and very real tales about women. Jennifer Coburn’s “Two Literary Chicks” wryly captures the whole standoff between a literary chick and her chick lit writing enemy. Deanne Carlyle’s “Dead Man Don’t Eat Quiche” is a mystery set in France and is as hilarious as its title suggests. Heather Swain deals beautifully with the trials and tribulations of postpartum life in “Café con Leche Crush.” Logsted-Baratz’s own story, an eloquent satire called “Shell Game,” is a must for any successful and independent career girl heading for marriage, the suburbs, and potentially the loss of identity.

Many people are going to love This is Chick-Lit. However, true to form, the literary world and the press are putting the boot in. In its review of the book, Publisher’s Weekly says the stories in the collection are marred by “ho-hum dialogue” (and you’re telling me Hemingway never wrote a ho-hum exchange?), “clichéd characters” (uh, and Dickens didn’t have a few stock villains?) and “may pander to female audiences” (oh my god, what a crime!). The Village Voice described the stories as “glib and goal-oriented and focus on well-dressed women afraid of being 30” (hello? Can you read?).

To snoots like these, I say, “Go read what you want to read and leave the chick lit writers and chick lit lovers alone!” And to everyone else, I say, “Buy This is Chick-Lit. You won't just make a purchase. You’ll be making a political stand!!” To purchase This is Chick-Lit, Click Here.

Visit reviewer Joanne Rendell's Rolemommy column: A Laptop Naptime Mama. To return to the Role Mommy home page, click here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

By Marian Keyes

When I first picked up this book, I was a little intimidated. Not that it's hard to read - it's typical breezy chick-lit fare, but it's over 500 pages! Since I like to cram really long books into vacations and car rides, I took this one along on a recent New England getaway with the kids and it was the perfect companion (in addition to my family of course!) Marian Keyes is a hilarious writer and in The Other Side of the Story, she weaves a tale with three points of view. Find out what happens when a woman's life is turned upside down after her dad announces he's leaving her mom and her best friend steals away the love of her life. As she starts emailing her friend about this sour turn of events, her messages get sent to a big time literary agent who gives her the chance to write a book about her life (fiction of course). Meanwhile, the agent, who happens to be having a torrid affair with one of the partners in her firm, represents the two-faced hussy who stole away the boyfriend in the first place. The hussy of course is not a hussy but a guilt-ridden author, mother and ex-friend who, after her book winds up becoming a surprise best seller, hits a run of bad luck when her second novel is a big flop. The twists and turns in this book are terrific and even though a 500 pager can be tough for any mom to tackle, trust me, this one is definitely worth it! To order The Other Side of the Story, Click Here.