July 13, 2014

THERE'S LITERATURE AND THERE'S CHICK LIT:

Hooked on Boy Books (TAMAR LEWIN, July 23, 1995, NY Times Magazine)

BOOKSTORES AND LIBRARIES CAN DIVIDE up their books however they want, but there are really only two important categories: boy books and girl books.

Boy books are biographies of dead presidents, books by almost any Eastern European intellectual ("How much Solzhenitsyn have you gotten through?" sneers a woman friend) or anything else in which the point is the ideas (Italo Calvino), the landscape (Cormac McCarthy) or the action (Robert Ludlum). It is generally guys who are in thrall to Pete Dexter or Tom Clancy.

Girl books are about relationships, families, feelings and the details of daily life. Think Jane Austen, Margaret Drabble, Alice Hoffman, Toni Morrison or Amy Tan, or the cross-writers, male authors like Henry James or Anthony Trollope who wrote girl books despite themselves.

While there are cross-readers -- women who like boy books and men who like girl books -- the difference between the sexes basically comes down to "Moby Dick" versus "Little Women." So it has been something of a shock to find myself -- an inveterate reader of girl books -- obsessed with Patrick O'Brian's Napoleonic-era historical novels, with the pictures of ships on their covers and the diagrams of the various sails inside.


Posted by at July 13, 2014 9:16 AM
  
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