Can Chick Lit Reflect the Post 9/11 World?

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Debra Pickett puts forth an interesting notion: Why hasn’t there been a 9/11-themed chick lit title? It’s an idea that might just get the Merrick & Baratz-Logsted camps declaring a truce.

In her column, Pickett cites Jay McInerney’s The Good Life as a “literary” exemplar of the post-9/11 novel. But even a cursory look reveals that The Good Life is as “fluffy” as its pink cover counterparts. The characters may be older than your typical chick lit protagonists and they may be committing adultery. But in their own way, they’re looking for Mr. or Ms. Right and trying to forge their identities to get behind their stalled midlife crises. They all have a lot of free time and they spend much of the book gleefully swiping their credit cards to obtain more consumer goods.

The Good Life‘s grand conceit is that, despite 9/11’s turmoil, nothing has essentially changed. But its even broader conceit is that these fluffy relationships are viewed by the characters as more substantial than world events.

Ergo, chick lit. Albeit, with really lousy sex scenes and odd references to mersangers.

So if McInerney can do it, why not chick lit authors? What if Mr. Right turned out to be an al-Qaeda terrorist operative? Or what if somebody wrote a book in which a Homeland Security operative or security inspector applied the same scrutiny to her dating life as she does with her job (in one fell swoop, you’ve got chick lit, a way to examine post-9/11 life, and a way to expose women’s issues within an underreported vocational bloc)?

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3 Comments

  1. Caren Lissner’s Starting From Square Two (2004) already IS a chick lit novel about coping with widowhood after 9/11 — although the main character’s husband dies of completely different causes just before the attacks, the emotional tone is certainly shaped by the broader events.

  2. After Caren’s book was published, I read on a messageboard a post from a young widow whose husband died in the World Trade Center, saying Caren’s was the first book that spoke to her specific situation and the difficulties of trying to move on – just one example of a Chick-Lit book that addresses hard issues within a comedic framework.

    On a less salutory note, Helen Fielding did have a post-9/11 Chick-Lit novel, Olivia Joules, about a heroine who finds herself attracted to an Osama bin Ladin lookalike – not to get all jingoistic, but I found it tasteless in the extreme.

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