Watch out, avid readers: Some hunters could be out to destroy one of your favorite passions.
The term “chick lit” is once again under investigation.
This time, it’s spurred by praise surrounding Jonathan Franzen’s upcoming novel, “Freedom,” which garnered positive coverage in the New York Times as well as a spot for Franzen on the cover of Time magazine.
If you haven’t heard of “Freedom,” you likely know Franzen for his 2001 work, “The Corrections.” The book focuses on a dysfunctional family.
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Franzen’s “Freedom” — his first novel since “The Corrections” — offers a similar glimpse into a fictional family’s interactions. The book is slated for an Aug. 31 release.
Amid the advance praise for “Freedom,” author Jodi Picoult wrote on Twitter, “NYT raved about Franzen’s new book. Is anyone shocked? Would love to see the NYT rave about authors who aren’t white male literary darlings.”
Picoult is known for her novels about family, relationships and love.
Her tweet ignited an Internet debate about how women’s fiction is received. Among the responses? Author Jennifer Weiner, who wrote a series of Twitter posts on the issue.
Weiner took jabs at an apparent bias among reviewers and put out a call for non-Franzen novels about love, identity and families.
At the issue’s center is a belief that men can be praised for writing about family and relationships, while women who navigate those areas are often dubbed light and airy.
Enter the many definitions surrounding one of the literary’s world’s most dubious labels: “chick lit.”
The term rose to prominence in the Bridget Jones era, when it largely classified works of fiction with covers decorated by shoes or shopping sprees.
“Chick lit” initially encompassed fiction’s guilty pleasures, but some critics say it’s now been applied to more substantive relationship-oriented fiction.
National Public Radio’s Linda Holmes — who writes and edits NPR’s entertainment and pop culture blog — wrote a blog post entitled, “Women are not marshmallow Peeps, and other reasons there’s no ‘chick lit.’ ”
She says she doesn’t know what “chick lit” is, “except books that are understood to be aimed at women, written by women and not important.” She suggests it’s time to abandon the label.
It’s too early to decide if the debate will fizzle or permanently change the labels we attach to women’s fiction.
But even if the term “chick lit” disappears, critics likely are already armed with an arsenal of equally vague replacement tags.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at email@example.com or 706-571-8516.