chick lit anonymous
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My name is Andrea Semple and I read chick lit. I write it as well, which makes me a double sinner. It’s terrible, I know, but I had to tell someone.

You see, when given the choice between a book about sex and shopping and a book about seventeenth century missionaries discussing their relationship with God while trapped on a sinking ship, I’d go for the sex and shopping option every time.

The only comforting thought is that there are millions of women suffering from the same condition. And men too, although few are likely to make their chick-lit habit public. Just as many young women often enjoy curling up on the sofa in front of Friends and Sex and the City, so too do they get pleasure from reading books by the likes of Sophie Kinsella, Candice Bushnell, Lisa Jewell, Jessica Adams, Helen Fielding and Marian Keyes. But these women are clearly misguided.

They cannot know what they are doing. While they are empathising with the heroines or anti-heroines of these novels, they are simultaneously holding back their gender. While it is perfectly okay for male readers to indulge their Action Man inspired fantasies of joining the SAS by flicking through the pages of the latest Andy McNab thriller, young women who want to read about relationships, sex and love should keep their dark secret to themselves.

One of the main criticisms levelled against chick-lit is that most novels which fall into the genre end with the heroine finding love or sexual fulfilment in the arms of a (typically male) partner. And it’s a fair point. Most chick-lit novels do end up with the heroine and main male character pairing off and in some instances, the results are vomit-inducing and worthy of Mills and Boon or Barbara Taylor Bradford.

However, when handled intelligently, such an ending can provide a worthy resolution to a novel which centres around relationships. After all, many other genres of fiction exhibit similarly predictable endings. For instance, most readers of crime fiction understand the killer will be caught in the closing chapters. In a novel about relationships the girl-ends-up-with-boy ending is not so much cynical as inevitable; it is not anti-feminist any more than Thomas Harris is pro-cannibalist.

Of course, there are a disproportionately large number of crap chick-lit books. The success of Bridget Jones led many publishers to plough money into titles which followed the same formula but with considerably less panache. Eventually, when many of these Bridget clones flopped, the publishers started to blame the genre itself. As a result, the pendulum swung the other way in 2001 and any first-time novelist trying to get her chick-lit novel published, faced a tough battle.

Now, however, things are starting to balance out. The book industry is beginning to understand that young women are always going to be interested in books that are relevant to their own anxieties regarding relationships. The books that cater for this demand may be dismissed as ‘froth’ by Beryl Bainbridge, but the readers remain undeterred. They are clearly unaware that the sole purpose of reading is intellectual stimulation, rather than entertainment.

But why is it the women novelists who get the blame? Why aren’t Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons and John O’Farrell treated in the same way as their female counterparts? Why are women authors only granted legitimacy if they write literary novels such as White Teeth or The Blind Assassin?

I have no answers to these questions. All I know is that I will continue to enjoy reading and writing comic novels about women and relationships without feeling bad about it.

Come on, chick-lit readers of the world unite! We have nothing to lose but our Milano Blahniks.