No Boys Allowed

Perusing half-priced review at the Strand, I came across, This Is Not Chick Lit, a compilation of short stories by women. The book had a story by Curtis Sittenfeld, one of my favorite writers of either gender, so I bought it.

I can’t think of a more aggressive title for a compilation of female writers than This Is Not Chick Lit. Instead of being empowering, the title is self-hating. To the millions of women who enjoy chick lit, the title is saying, “This is book is not for you, you’re an idiot.”

So the chick lit fans are out, and so are the guys. A collection of short stories by women would have a tough time winning a male audience anyway, but a mean spirited title doesn’t help. I wouldn’t recommend the collection to a friend, male or female—it was uneven—but it annoys me that Random House is putting out a book that actively splits an already gender divided reading market. From Huckleberry Finn to Philip Roth, so much of American literature is devoted to the male existential crisis. I don’t mind reading about their problems, but I think men would also gain something from an Alice Munro collection. The title only reinforces the idea that chick lit, or what is not chick lit, is for women only.