So the pseudonymous I-hate-chick-lit lady turns out not to have actually, you know, read any chick lit, and has gone trotting back to her single bed in Mom and Dad's basement with her tail between her legs, whining all the way.

I'm trying think of any other genre where critics would feel so completely at ease dismissing every example as superficial, reactionary crapola without doing more than taking a fast glance at the covers and skimming an interview or two, and you know what? I can't.

But in the case of girlie books with high heels and hot pink covers, books in which the heroine might actually care about clothing and her romantic future, books written by women, for women, about women, in a comic voice, books with -- oh, the horror! -- happy endings? Off with their heads!

It would be exasperating if it wasn't so predictable...or if it made any difference in the real world.

I remember after I posted about Curtis Sittenfeld's likening chick-lit writers to sluts, I got an email from a reader in Texas, who gently set me straight.

She doesn't care about the critics' name-calling. She doesn't care what labels the marketers put on books, or where the books get reviewed. She knows what she likes and she knows how to find it, and the whole debate over what constitutes chick lit and whether any of it's any good does not matter to her at all. (I suspect it doesn't matter much to anyone except those of us who write it, those who like to follow inside-baseball publishing tempests in teapots...and writers who can't get published and have determined that this is somehow Sophie Kinsella's fault).

Jen