Was in NY last week, and spent some time skipping in and out of bookstores researching the chicklit - apologies, 'contemporary women's fiction' market.
Best reaction: a mouth-breathing Barnes&Noble assistant who blinked slowly and said 'I wouldn't know. I don't read that kind of book'.
I laughed out loud.
Then, later on, I thought, poor her.
Because here's the thing.
I eat burgers. I also eat kobe beef, rare. I like French fries and potatoes Dauphinoise. I love Dairy Milk chocolate and handmade truffles from l’Artisan du Chocolat. I like the Twilight series and Tolstoy. It is perfectly possible to enjoy so-called low-brow and high-brow things, you know. The point is you should make your own mind up by trying it.
So when someone asks ‘what kind of book is it?’ and I say ‘romantic comedy, you know. Shallow as a pedicure bath,’ and they frown and say sorrowfully ‘oh, I did a degree in English literature you see. I’m a terrible literature snob, I can’t possibly enjoy chick lit’, I just grin and shake my head.
I did a degree in English literature too. And I read everything I can get my hands on. (I started listing my favourite authors here, but started to feel like a prat, I also wrote a blog post on Hardy last week and didn't post it for the same reason.) So big whoopdy-doo for me. Who cares? I don’t define myself by what I read. Every great book fits in a different way – some offer comfort, some excitement, some philisophy, some make me feel introspective, some just make me laugh, some make me cry, and some, like Tolstoy, are like stepping into the literary equivalent of a Porsche.
Now, The Dating Detox isn’t a Porsche. It’s a shiny pushbike with streamers on the handlebars. If you like it, wonderful. If you don’t, tant pis. Which, as Nick Hornby says, is French for tough shit.
I have no problem being called a chicklit author, by the way. I'm happy to be called an author at all. I could start a feminist diatribe now about how we don't say dicklit and there are hundreds of thousands of books about love and life and families and sex and it's only the ones with ovaries that we softly denigrate with the chicklit tag. But why bother?
The point is: people that define themselves by the so-called high-falutin’ things they enjoy probably have a pretty tenuous and frankly, shallow sense of self. And they're also missing out on an awful lot of fun.