International Writers Magazine: Chick Lit Uncovered
Lit and Chick Flicks
Lit and Chick Flicks. Its sexist, elitist, self indulgent
and often badly written. And you know what? Its exactly the
same as mens.
came to this conclusion when flicking through How to Kill
your Husband by Kathy Lette. Chapter by chapter I had
been intrigued by its ridiculous stereotypical male characters,
bad dialogue, classest views and overblown sex scenes.
But then it suddenly
hit me. Casting my eye across the room, seeing the open Ian Fleming
novel by my bed and the book shelf containing countless George MacDonald
Fraser novels, a few disconcerting similarities sprang to mind. Sex?
Yes, Ian Fleming and George MacDonald Fraser defiantly included that.
Class? Yes, the characters Flashman and Bond where both roguish social
high fliers of their time. And as for stereotyping, in On Her
Majestys Secret Service Bonds infiltration of a group
of dense but attractive young females at a ski resort in Switzerland
is hardly a balanced view of the female psyche.
Delving into womens fiction for the first time had been a scary
revelation. At first I felt like an impostor. How should I tackle this?
Should I go all out, don my pyjamas, bring out the duvet and snuggle
down with a cup of hot chocolate? No, I thought not. A cup of tea, a
pint of beer, a glass of whisky to really assert my masculinity as I
endured what I thought was sure to be hours of unrequited love, soppy
love scenes, midlife crises and the stiff upper lip of the modern British
Fingering through the first pages like a bungee jumper who, teetering
on the edge has decided maybe he doesnt want to jump into the
abyss after all, I steadied myself and took the plunge. It was hard
going to begin with. Some of Kathy Lettes dialogue was awful, and after
the first few pages of "Dah-lings" and painful one liners
such as "
advice is like syphilis. Its better to give
than receive" I was about ready to put the book down. However,
I persevered, all the while feeling heavily emasculated by the chiselled
six foot alpha males that littered the plot.
As I continued through the book, implausible plot point followed by
ridiculous plot point I began to realise something. This was not a skewed
take on real life but actually pure escapism. If I could suspend disbelief
that Flashman survives unscathed after falling the complete height of
Niagara Falls I could believe Jasmines cheating husband could
manage to have sex with seven different women on seven consecutive nights.
I wont say I was beginning to enjoy the book but I was at least
starting to understand how the genre worked. The jokes arent funny,
in the same way that Steven Siegels one liners in Under
Siege, such as Youre in the Navy, remember? Its
not a job, its an adventure arent funny, but I could
still sit through and enjoy watching that. Why? I realised it was because
it was so ridiculous it was actually good.
It was this tongue in cheek attitude that I was beginning to warm to.
This was re-affirmed by a viewing of Bridget Jones Diary. A film
which, like many males, I had previously avoided watching in the past
because it just wasnt my thing. However, there was
a certain skill to the film. I could appreciate the terrible fight between
Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, and the witty dialogue.
after reading Taking Sides by Emma Lee Potter
I could see how when written badly the genre could be truly awful.
Where as How to Kill Your Husband had at least
made fun of itself, Taking Sides seemed to be
terribly serious and mundane in comparison. It lacked the escapism
of the previous whilst being sickeningly bourgeois.
In all the male
orientated books I had read the protagonists solved their problems through
adventure and where necessary a certain amount of ruthless violence.
I was surprised to find that in How to Murder your Husband
the women did exactly the same thing. Substitute the suspicious wife
for a spy and the cheating husband for a villain and you have the beginnings
of a thriller. Kathy Lette even throws in a few high brow dinner parties,
a suspicious death and the odd sex scene. All it was missing was a car
chase, (although there were some references to action in
My expectations had been blown away. Men and women arent so different.
They both want sex, death and suspense from fiction. The balances between
each might be slightly different, the reasons for the above occurring
might change, but ultimately these seem the elements, that when written
well, hold any reader, regardless of gender gripped to the story.
Graham - December 2008
callum.graham at btinternet.com
Callum is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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Callum Graham review
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