Horrible phrase, isn’t it? Chick lit — demeaning both poultry and the written word. Just as an FYI, having grown up on a farm — not as thrilled with the idea of women as brainless, flightless avians either. I always tell kids there are no “boy books,” or “girl books” — just lots of possibilities to choose. Unfortunately, as librarians and readers know, books do get judged by their covers and “chick lit” aka fiction marketed toward women is relegated to a lesser canon.
Not all women, not all of their works — In 1994 Harold Bloom published his book on seminal works of Western literature, The Western Canon: The Books & School of the Ages, through which he argues for a known standard of greatness and communal knowledge. Of the 26 author he posits, four of them are women (Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf).In the appendix, listing great works from the dawn of literature through Kushner’s Angels in America (1991), one doesn’t need to be too creative with their digits to tally the women on the list…
Yet, in this age of mass publications there are whole industries aimed at marketing gendered literature from violently pink picture books to the naughty-lite of the 50 Shades phenomena. Sure, there is dreck out there and not every novel that will cross your path (or Oprah’s for that matter) is great literature — any more so than those written by or targeted to men. However, to blanket label books, to market them as “chick lit” does a great many books and definitely readers a disservice.
One book dismissed out of hand was the incredibly popular, Bridges of Madison County by Robert Waller. Originally published in Britain as Love in Black and White, Bridges debuted strong climbing to number one, and staying on the bestseller list for over 3 years. With the subsequent release of the movie (1995), its pop culture, “chick lit,” cred was firmly in place.
Waller’s story is one of love, in a a particular time and place. Like Same Time, Next Year or Romeo & Juliet — love came swiftly… and remade the contours of the tale. Now, writing Neil Simon or William Shakespeare in the same paragraph could cause apoplexy among critics. Maudlin might be one of the kinder words used by the readers over at the “virtual” book club that is GoodReads. True, it is emotional…. not the most tightly written prose, and you can see the strings as Waller manipulates your responses…. but with word pictures like this, he’s allowed:
He could have walked out on this earlier, could still walk. Rationality shrieked at him. “Let it go, Kincaid, get back on the road. Shoot the bridges, go to India. Stop in Bangkok on the way and look up the silk merchant’s daughter who knows every ecstatic secret the old ways can teach. Swim naked with her at dawn in jungle pools and listen to her scream as you turn her inside out at twilight. Let go of this”- the voice was hissing now – “it’s outrunning you.”
But the slow street tango had begun. Somewhere it played; he could hear it, an old accordion. It was far back, or far ahead, he couldn’t be sure. Yet it moved toward him steadily. And the sound of it blurred his criteria and funneled his own alternatives toward unity. Inexorably it did that, until there was nowhere left to go, except toward Francesca Johnson
- How your Love Makes me feel (Diamond Rio) — straightforward country love song — rendered delightful by “real world” love moments
- She Keeps Me Warm (Mary Lambert) — Macklemore made this track famous by using it in his equality single, Same Love — the song itself is tender and intimate
- Girl I Want to Lay you Down (Jack Johnson & ALO) — one of the most charming invitations one could hear….
- Angel of the Morning (Carrie Rodriguez & Chip Taylor) — love this duet version, it’s all growly and middle of the night-ish
- The Way you Look Tonight (Frank Sinatra) — “oh. Frankie….” the 1st time this was performed was in a Fred Astaire movie — he sang it to a bathing Ginger Rogers with a soap horn…
- Ain’t No Other Man (Christina Aguilera) — the first song I heard her perform, it’s a straight up r&b love anthem — and the horns, well yes they work.
- Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton) — everyone knows the song’s story — it’s one of those songs if someone sang it to you….. wow!
- I Burn for You (Sting) — quite overt and amazing — just never, ever, ever watch the movie….
- She’s Got a Way (Billy Joel) — another of those — ooh, he dedicated “that” song — it’s like flowers, one doesn’t need that cliched memento of affection — but wow, it sure is nice to get them.
- Need you Tonight (INXS) — not subtle, and quite evocative of the 90s
- Come What May (from Moulin Rouge) — adored the inventive soundtrack for this Baz Luhrman extravaganza — Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor (hi Obi-Wan) handle this romantic ballad deftly
- In the Air Tonight (Phil Collins) — had a friend in NC for whom this song defined romance —
- Little Wing (Sting) — Sting’s cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic is romantic, hot, just pleasure….
- Just the Way you Are (Bruno Mars) — modern performer who totally gets romance
- My Baby just cares for Me (Nina Simone) — listening to her sultry certainties — music just is.
- S&M (Rihanna) — for something a smidge different — love, love how she articulates her desires
- First time ever I saw your face (Leona Lewis) — her cover of Roberta Flack’s classic is nuanced and pulsed
- There is a light that never goes out (the Smiths) — so it’s the Smiths — little dark, lots of mood….
- Your Song (Elton John) — another one of those — if someone sang this to me — back to hearts & flowers… 1 sweet boy brought me a single rose, champagne and “Henry & June,” to watch in the rain… the little thoughts….
- Save tonight (Eagle Eye Cherry) — stripping the romance from the passion….
- Baby I’m Yours (Barbara Lewis) — the pas de deux in Bridges of Madison County as they make their way together
- Let’s Get it on (Straight no chaser) — weirdly compelling cover —
- Come on Get Higher (Matt Nathanson) — there’s a line in the bridge about, “tasting the sparks on your tongue,” that is amazing….
- I’ll Cover you (from Rent) — quite possibly the perfect love song,,,
In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.–> Robert Waller