I always find it a major disappointment when yet another chic lit author, or a journalist who enjoys romance points out that these books are written by women for women complains about the lack of male readership of the genre. Very often, they are quick to jump to the “misogyny” argument (like this article). Aside from the fact that they are misusing the word (misogyny means hatred of women by the way) few people ever actually ask men who don’t like chic lit novels – or more specifically romance – why that is the case. So here, at least, are my reasons for why I have no interest in the genre.
I’m Put Off by the Covers
Pastel colours I can handle, but if a cover has a picture of a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, a handbag, money symbols, a checkout or anything else that symbolises shopping I’m not even going to read the blurb. I hate shopping at the best of times and if I need new clothes, I go to the shop with an idea of where I will go, what I want and how much I will spend. I aim to be back within the hour. So forgive me if I do not want to read a book about doing something I actually cannot stand to do and for me, will not make a gripping premise for a story.
Romance Bores Me
Of course, we all like a bit of love in our lives and unless we are celibate by choice – who doesn’t? The problem is, I do not like reading about romance – it’s dull. Couple this with the frustration of the predictability of plotting, that the male lead is rarely an average looking or average income man (so I cannot relate to the female desire for the 6′ neurosurgeon/playboy/CEO and care enough to stay gripped by such a plot) and there is very little for me in these books. I love The Hunger Games which was a) written by a woman and b) had a female lead. For the three books, I did not care with which man Katniss might end up. The key thing is that the romance was a side – and that’s where I prefer it.
A Relationship is Not a Plot
By this, I mean relationships outside of romance. Chic Lit isn’t just about romance, sometimes they are about a strained relationship between siblings, parent and child, a divorce and so on. Sometimes tragedy has forced the story, sometimes a falling out, sometimes a misunderstanding etc. I understand that many people get satisfaction from the resolution of such a plot, but I don’t. To me, a relationship is not a plot – it is a side story which should be ideally set against the main story. By all means have a strained relationship, a divorce or separation or people reunited but you won’t keep my attention if something else isn’t going on at the same time. One of the most compelling side plots of Children of Dune is the friction between Alia and her mother Jessica. It was as intriguing as it was tragic yet once again, it is a sub-plot.
I’m Gripped by Ideas
One of the main reasons I read hard sci-fi is the presentation of compelling concepts. I like to read about emerging or future science, I want to read about potential future cultures based on the actions in the present, teach me about your ideas. It is “ideas” that drives most of my reading and as even fanatics of Chic Lit will admit that it is “light fluff”, it is never going to grab me by the brain and shake it about a bit. I want to still be thinking about this book years later. And while we’re on the subject…
Chic Lit is not the only type of light-hearted fluff. Personally, I read comedy in the form of Confessions of a GP, Dear Coca Cola, and books by Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin and other such writers of daft fiction. These books are often clever in their own way. I like fluff, I like light-hearted, but it’s disingenuous to suggest that Chic Lit is the best – or worse, the only – form of it out there.
So if you like romance or chic lit, all power to you. What a better world it would be if we stopped criticising other peoples’ reading choices and leaping to conclusions about them?