Killer reading

Break out the bubbly! "Death by Chick Lit," a new novel by Broadsheet's Lynn Harris, hits stores today.

By Page Rockwell
Published June 5, 2007 9:15PM (EDT)

Party at Broadsheet headquarters! Lynn Harris' novel "Death by Chick Lit" goes on sale today, so we (and you) can get our grubby mitts on her wry sendup of the controversial genre.

The title may elicit some strong reactions, from both fans of the pink-cover trend and those who wish it would die already. (Harris told the Huffington Post's Rachel Kramer Bussel that when mulling potential book material, she asked herself, "Which media -- rightly or wrongly -- provoke murderous rage?") But as Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon noted in her shout-out last week, "Death" is neither a chick-lit tale nor a slam of the genre. Rather, Marcotte wrote, the central plotline -- author heroine investigates the slayings of chick-lit writers, some of whom have been whacked with trade trappings like martini glasses and shoes -- "earns the title 'meta.'" The story spoofs those "dedicated to protesting chick lit as both demeaning to women's dignity and to the publishing industry in general," but, Marcotte observed, it saves its sharpest skewers for "the sexist bent of the publishing industry that treats women -- half the human race -- as a specialty group."

In her Q&A with Kramer Bussel, Harris sketched out the intersection of feminism and women's fiction: "In my opinion, the real feminist issue is not the existence of chick lit -- in its many iterations and levels of distinction -- it's the way it's come to be regarded. It's the way that at this point any book featuring a woman, or by a woman who's not Mary Shelley or Nadine Freaking Gordimer, is considered 'chick lit' ... a label that, let's face it, is not meant by non-fans to be flattering. Or respectful, anyway. It's the way that, by extension, female characters and their friendships and partnerships and other issues important to them are considered fluff ... [and] commercial literature by and for women continues to be seen as less substantial than its 'male' counterpart."

Keep an eye out for an upcoming interview with the author in Salon. Meanwhile, if your summer reading list could use a little feminist meta-murder mystery, you can find "Death" at Amazon or at your local independent bookseller.

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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