Jennifer Astle

April 3, 2009

Enough with this Eat, Pray, Love Crap

eatpraylove2Does anyone else cringe when they hear the term “chick lit”?  I always thought it was a term that was thrown around in book reviews to define material written by and for women, but behold, “chick lit” is an entire genre, like horror, that agents and publishers recognize. And, it just won’t go away.  Take Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert for example. Despite the book being published in 2006, it seems to still be lurking in the media, and setting the standard by which all women writers are being compared.

Now, I can’t say I have read the book anymore than I can say I read Confessions of a Shopaholic, beyond of course what Amazon was kind enough to provide me as a preview, and the few minutes I spent leafing through the pages in a book store before moving on to The God Delusion.  Needless to say, a woman’s memoirs about finding herself that starts with the line “I wish Giovanni would kiss me” is unlikely to captivate me the same way that Orwell captured me with his construction of a futuristic society in which the bourgeoisie worship an organization called The Party.

This brings me to another point.  When reading an article about gendered choices in literature, I was shocked to learn that men are actually impressed by women who read Orwell and the like. You know, because wrapping our vaginas brains around a complex political movement marked by submission and rebellion, is like, totally out of our reach…unless someone is going to bring up chocolate.  Which Orwell does, so I guess that’s why I read it.  Not because it is an iconic piece of literature and remarkably timeless in its representation of political fundamentalism (oh, shit I forgot, I am supposed to be talking about shoes).

So this brings me back to chick lit and Elizabeth Gilbert’s quest to get over her failed marriage, and her sense of being lost in life.  Here is my official position; if your life and your travels were that interesting, they wouldn’t be marketed as the bible of chick lit, they would be marketed as a memoir of an interesting life.  Show of hands, how many men have read Eat, Pray, Love?

*insert sound of crickets chirping*

So why is it that the industry finds this type of writing so appealing?  Obviously there is a market for it, or else agents and editors would be tearing the Gilberts of the world down to their heels and hashing it all out on #queryfail.  I can see it now “OMG, another query about her divorce and how she got over it, shut up already! #queryfail”.  Or maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part.

Of course it is no secret that many a woman have written under a nom de plume, or pseudonym (ahem, J.K. Rowling) to draw attention away from the fact that they are women and gain respect in the literary world before anyone looks up their skirts and realizes that they have an inkwell instead of a pen hidden up there.  Unless, of course, they are writing about “women stuff” like pining over 20 something Italian guys as a means to finding oneself.  Then girly names like Elizabeth can be plastered all over the cover like a rogue noodle that broke free from the covers font.

Now, before anyone jumps on me and says women publish literature other than chick lit, just look at Stephanie Meyer and Twilight, I ask you to pause for a moment.  ‘Cause there’s nothing darker than vegetarian vampires that blow sparkles out of their asses.  Stephen King look out, you have some competition (*snorts*).

Words are words, and the last time I checked the area between my belly button and my knees had very little to do with my choices of reading material or writing topics (excluding feminist literature of course, which is much different than wanting Giovanni to kiss you).  Women frequently write from the perspectives of men, and vice versa, with astonishing insight.  This begs the question; do we really need an entire genre of “Oh my god, I found myself in Jimmy Choo?” or are we creating it by filing it under the vagina niche and calling it a day.  You know, so men won’t have to make the mistake of picking up a book written by a woman for a woman while perusing the aisles of their local book store…because there is an entire section segregated off where women can confide in each other about yoga, having babies, being married, getting divorced, and shopping; all of the important life lessons a girl must learn.

This is my call to women writers; stop publishing this Eat, Pray, Love crap, and find a voice based on your writing talents, not on the chance that you got an X instead of a Y in your chromosome make up.

Update: Apparently my writing is worth plagiarizing without credit.  Check it out here, and feel free to let them know how us bloggers love link backs.



  1. I know what you mean, although that extra X is always going to define some parts of your personality and thinking (plus writing, of course) – as well as the more obvious and (from the point of view of an xy like me) more interesting differences.

    However, good, bad, or indifferent, a book is a book is a book and it’s better that it exists than that is doesn’t. So, my view is: read what you like, write whatever you can that pays the bills and, hopefully, you can always chose to be a bit more “sniffy” about what you create when you’re famous.

    Of course, you’ll still be a double X 🙂

    Comment by CJ — April 4, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  2. I file these in the same rank as the hundreds of novels about “a young girl who finds herself” [string instruments play here].


    One once in a while these kind of books can be a nice feel-good brain candy-kind of experience, but more than one is like an over-indulgence of sweets and I get sick. 😉

    Although I have read sections of Eat, Pray, and Love, and it is very well-written. Gilbert is able to communicate her feelings with very nice prose, and I believe that is what is giving Eat, Pray, and Love such strong staying power.

    Is it a classic like 1984? Absolutely not. Gilbert’s book will be forgotten in a few years.

    Will the green-tea-drinking-soccer-mom set eat it up? Yep.

    Comment by Teresa — April 7, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  3. Actually, “Eat, Pray, Love” starts off with that comment about wanting the cute young Italian guy to kiss her, and quickly dismisses the notion. She’s being funny about hot Italian love solving her problems.

    You might read past the first sentence. It’s in fact a very powerful book about self-actualization, which has resonated with women (and men — my husband read it, and not because I suggested it) all over the world.

    I often avoid bestsellers because I think they’ll be stupid (that’s elitism right there) and then I am shocked — SHOCKED — when some of them (but certainly not all) turn out to be really good.

    I challenge you to read that book. It’s not stupid. I don’t love the term “chick-lit” because it seems to mock books that appeal to women. There are things that seem to appeal to women more than men, and I’m fine with that. Maybe we could call such books “strong powerful femmo books” because it doesn’t sound as cutesy as chick lit.

    Comment by patricefitz — June 6, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  4. I am a straight man who has read Eat, Pray, Love and loved it. Ironically, I just found this blog entry because I’m talking about the book with a female friend who is taking a class where they are reading it, and the last book they read was Orwell’s 1984. I just asked her, and a guy is teaching the class. And she says most of the men and women in the class love this book (and loved Orwell). Of course, she says a lot of their discussions are about the representations of religion, which is really what I think is Gilbert’s main focus, which is why I think the book works across genders. Or why it works for a lot of men I know who are readers and who loved the book.

    Comment by Doug — August 2, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

  5. Having a 1000-word long rant about a book that you never read, a genre that does not interest you makes you… an ignorant. Ah, maybe your article was about something different in the end, but hey, I don’t have to read it to be able to judge it, or do I?

    Comment by elke — February 14, 2010 @ 5:38 am

  6. Rant re: chick lit. Which only makes you half right. Happy Valentine’s Day.

    Comment by jenniferastle — February 14, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  7. Possibly the most self-absorbed book I’ve read in years! I read it on a dare with a friend who knows I don’t like this kind of literature. She won the bet, this book isn’t about a woman going on a voyage of self-discovery, it’s about a bored, middle class woman who happens to whine her way throught out the entire book.

    Comment by Janice — August 8, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

  8. Whats wrong with men being impressed that a woman reads 1984? I’m also impressed by women who can reverse with trailers, rebuild engines, weld, beat me at sports and look good doing it.

    Comment by Marky — February 14, 2011 @ 4:43 am

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