This is Your Brain on Chick Lit

I’ve been wanting to write about some of the books I read for awhile now but my job’s been very demanding lately (I know, I’m incredulous too) and it feels like the creativity has been sucked out of my skull. It’s back, however, owing to the three-day workweek, and I’m sitting at my desk with a big ol’ mug of apple cider and I’m raring and ready to discuss a book I finished recently.

It’s called The Shoe Queen by Anna Davis. The premise is that a high-society woman living in Paris during the 1920’s can have any pair of shoes she wants but the ones she really wants will require her to commit adultery with the cobbler because he’s a man-whore and she’s, well, pathetic. You might ask, “Why did I read a book with such a stupid plot?”. I’ve been asking myself that too. I remember picking it up off the shelf at the library and thinking that the cover was beautiful. When I read the jacket I remember wondering how you could possibly write a whole novel about a woman and shoes. I guess curiosity was the true motivator here.

Now, even though the plotline was rather weak, it was a beautiful book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it because the author did a very good job at transporting the reader back to Paris in the 1920’s. In that regard it was fun to read. I suppose if I had to put a finger on what bothered me about the book it’s that there’s a definite undercurrent in women’s literature that stipulates that every female main character must be unhappy with her husband/boyfriend because he doesn’t understand her. Therefore, because she craves that understanding, she must either flirt with the idea of or commit the act of cheating and then suffer the consequences. It’s pretty sad for a number of reasons.

First of all, no man understands any woman. Likewise, no woman understands any man. That’s the whole point. I am by no means an expert on marriage but I’m pretty sure that this is a universal truth. It bothers me that these authors are propagating the notion that it’s possible to find happiness in the arms of another man because that man is a sensitive artist and really gets you. I know women who have tried this. Women who have left their husbands and attempted to find true happiness with other men. This has never once worked out for them. What they find instead are the same problems they faced in their previous relationships, only now with more baggage. The grass isn’t greener in another man’s yard, it’s just harder to see at first.

Another reason why this whole women’s literature trend toward adultery is so sad is because I feel like it reflects the values of a society that has become consumed with the self. It’s almost as though the notions of commitment, fidelity, and sacrifice have become passé in favor of a relentless crusade to ensure the happiness and fulfillment of the individual. All these novels (I’ve read about 20 so far) have the same idea in common: women deciding that their lives are unsatisfactory so they decide to leave whoever they’re with because obviously it’s all the man’s fault.

I may be getting dangerously close to preachy so I’ll stop now. Anyway, I suppose the point of these books is to entertain the minds of women, not to enlighten or educate. I just wish that the minds of women, mine included, did not find this subject matter to be entertaining.

Perhaps the time has come for me to quit women’s literature, much like I had to kick my Perez Hilton habit. I’m reading a book now that is not only entertaining but also has substance (!). It’s called The Girls of Riyadh. I’m enjoying it so far but it’s been quite eye-opening. The narrative revolves around the lives of four upper-class girls living in Saudi Arabia which, as I’m sure you know, is extremely different from America. It’s given me much to think about and I’m barely halfway through yet. It feels nice to dust off my brain and get it churning around ideas again. I think I’ll read A Thousand Splendid Suns next. My co-worker recommended it to me and I’m looking forward to discussing it with her.

One last thought before I sign off…I loved “300”! It was a beautiful movie. Watching it felt like watching artwork breathe and move and the story was very inspiring. I liked it so much that I insisted that we watch it again (I was skeptical about the movie until about the halfway point and I wanted to watch the beginning again knowing I liked the movie. My like or dislike of a movie changes the experience for me). My favorite line in particular was when the Persian messenger was talking to the King at the beginning. He asks the King what makes his wife, the Queen, think she can speak to a man in such a way. The Queen answers, “Because only Spartan women give birth to real men”. That line made me smile, if only because I so look forward to having my own little warriors to raise.

3 thoughts on “This is Your Brain on Chick Lit

  1. I second the recommendation to read A Thousand Splendid Suns. I just finished it about a week ago, and it was magnificent. Just like The Kite Runner.

  2. Dude… I totally agree with you about the chick-lit thing. I don’t read chick-lit, but I have noticed that in romantic comedies/any romance movie that the protagonist’s happiness is always predicated on the dissolution of another relationship. Usually theirs, but sometimes their love interest’s. ALWAYS. And who gets left holding the bag? Normally the perfectly fine gentleman who was perfectly nice and sweet but just not fulfilling for the woman. And he always “understands,” sending her off with a kiss and a wistful “I just want you to be happy.”

    Unless it’s a lifetime movie. Then the dissolution of the relationship usually involves murder or abuse.

  3. HA! Too true. I especially appreciate your use of the word “predicated”. Well-played, my friend.

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