Do you read chick lit? I do. I've read all the Shopaholic books. I've read things I don't remember the name of but that tell the story of a recently divorced woman who finds love after lots of comical mishaps, or of a younger woman who finds love after lots of comical mishaps. And there are always friends involved: the sassy girlfriend, the gay best friend, the enemy from high school who's rich and anorexic, the parents, etc. These books satisfy my need to have a number of written words entering my head everyday - can't all be good words! And they sometimes make me laugh.
I used to recognise these books in the shop by the cover. Just like you can recognise a sci-fi book because it's usually dark blue with some exploding orange star or spaceship in the middle.
But that's no longer the case. Now most books written by a woman are pink. Just so you know, if you're a man, or a serious woman, to avoid them.
I bought a new copy of Emma, the other day - I recently had to refill the Jane Austen gap on my bookshelf, not an actual physical gap, you understand - haven't had one of those since I was about four. The book was off white, with a black silhouette drawing of the kind that you sometimes see in fashion magazines, and details were coloured in pink. The back cover spelt out the main lines of the story in a very chick lit kind of way. Emma's attractive, gets into trouble, finds love.
Now I'm all for the pimping up of classics so that more people read them. But surely turning Emma into chick lit is ensuring that less people read it, no? Unless we assume that only women read women novelists in the first place.
Part of me doesn't have a huge problem with what that says. That is, I tend to read mostly women novelists. I also tend to think of some writers, like Hemingway, Salinger, John Irving, as 'boy writers', i.e. people who write books that boys like. As opposed to just 'great writers'. Now I know that's not fair, that it reflects double standards, as I wouldn't want writers I love to be dismissed as 'girl' writers. And even if I thought that so-called great male writers were only fun for boys, I wouldn't say something like that in a public forum, like err, on a blog. It wasn't me who wrote I thought most great novelists were women novelists.
But whatever you think about John Irving, Jane Austen's novels aren't just for girls. They're not a way to pass the time and giggle on the train - although they'll be that too. They're for discovering, thinking about, growing old with. Reading Austen is good for us, it helps us mature intellectually and emotionally. So the thing is, if only women read Jane Austen, we'll end up with a world full of wannabe Elisabeths, and Eleanors, and truck loads of Bingleys and Willoughbies to match!
I feel this can all be avoided somewhat if we ditch the pink covered Emma and turn instead to this: