01 July 2006

"Good Girl" Chick Lit

First there was Chick Lit. Lizzie Skurnick, writing for the Baltimore City Paper described it as follows:

The trouble began, as it always does, with a Helen. I'm referring, of course, to Helen Fielding, author of 1997's Bridget Jones's Diary. Perhaps you've heard of it? It was only 271 pages long, but the publishing boom it created grossed $71 million dollars in the last year alone, according to a recent report by ABC News, and launched a flurry of manuscripts that could bury a small nation in typescript. And this summer it seems like they all made it to your local bookstore.

We're talking about Chick Lit--a trend variously described as "breezy novels written by and about young women" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram); "stories of fallible, single professional women" (The Sydney Morning Herald); and "tales dominated by a plucky heroine who searches for her place in the big city" (Hollywood Reporter). (Chick Lit has arguably started its own cottage industry: articles about Chick Lit.) It's the Bildungsroman of the spike-heeled, single girl--and she's downing some Chardonnay at a multilevel bookstore display near you.

Chick Lit is often confused with romance literature, but it has little to do with bodice-rippers and frothy historical pas de deux. Its roots are in books like Mary McCarthy's The Group, Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl, Rona Jaffe's Best of Everything, and Nora Ephron's Heartburn: works that linked the touchstones of their eras--white-gloved marriages, career girls, the Pill, divorce--to the women.

I read Rona Jaffe growing up (she drew me in with a little tale called Mazes and Monsters that was made into a TV movie about role playing game players, and I read more from there). And, the Bridget Jones movie wasn't half bad. But, like all newly emerging genres, it has mutated.

"It's the good girls who keep diaries," said Tallulah Bankhead. And, while the bad girls have been busy writing sex blogs instead, the good girls have turned their diaries into literary ventures.

The result? "Good girl" Chick Lit. What is it?

Let’s face it. Life is messy. And trying to live by faith only makes it harder. Good Girl Lit features contemporary characters dealing with modern life. It’s about facing real issues with faith. It’s about trying to live as God wants, and failing. It’s also about the redeeming power of grace. It’s Christian fiction for the real world.

Here's a blurb about one of the latest offerings in the genre, Consider Lily:

A tale of love, trials, and faith set against a wonderfully drawn portrait of San Francisco, Consider Lily is chick lit with a heart.

Lily Traywick thinks she must have been adopted. It’s easier than believing she’s actually related to Jane and Roland Traywick, her power-couple parents who own Traywick’s of San Francisco, the most chichi department store on the West Coast. While her parents party with Muccia in Milan and Gabbana in Paris, Lily hangs out at home in ratty jeans and an old T-shirt. She loves softball, guys, and Jesus, and she’s eager to make her own way in the world. Feeling that her life is on hold, she turns to her best friend Reagan Axness. Reagan, a fashionista who has it all, offers just the solution: a major life makeover.

Lily is soon dressing in the latest must-have fashions and pursuing a writing career. She’s even dating the “perfect” guy. But does he love her for who she really is? And will he be able to resist the tempting seductress who has her eye on him? As Lily’s old friends question her new way of life, and public scandal, family drama, and technological disasters add to her confusion, Lily is forced to consider whether her quest to have it all will cause her to lose everything that matters.

Hot off their debut success, Emily Ever After, “good-girl” chick-lit trailblazers Dayton and Vanderbilt return with a witty, refreshingly real story of a young woman’s adventures in the high-powered world of San Francisco high fashion.

Decadence and teenage rebellion are alive and well, it seems, but these days, apparently, it is the parents who are being decadent, and the teens who are rebeling against it. This anti-Paris Hilton protagonist is on K-Mart book section shelves everywhere.

Indeed, my comments above notwithstanding, they even have charming little blog, with stories like:

There IS a God

Saturday, July 1, 2006
Coffee and alcohol work together!


little observations like:

I saw someone reading Consider Lily on the subway today. I giggled like a child. It caught my eye because, well, because it is florescent.

Newsflash: Dating is good for you, spiritually.

Honestly, while my first thought upon discovering it is a gag reflex, it is probably one of the most healthy developments on the American Christian scene in decades. Somebody has to rescue Christianity from the cultural deficiencies of the land of peaches and magnolias, and who better to do it than a couple of spiritual women who are still in tune with the soul of New York City.

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