I'm delighted to welcome author Nick Bezuidenhout as my guest blogger today, who's discussing a genre that's popping up more and more. Have a read and then tell us what you think.
Do a Google search for “chick lit” and soon you can immerse yourself in arguments that either criticize the genre or defend and promote it. The former are usually made by literary critics and people who are into gender politics, and the latter by chic lit authors and the readers who make them very rich.
Into this minefield now wanders “dude lit”, and it appears that I’ve inadvertently written some.
I didn’t know of the existence of this genre until I had to decide in which fiction category a novel I have recently written belongs.
When I started writing How Not To Run Away, I didn’t have a specific genre in mind. What was meant to be an adventure story eventually became the tale of a man who runs away to Nepal to escape from the fall-out of the very messy break-up of his marriage. The diary format of the novel chronicles his experiences and character development during a month-long trek around the Annapurna mountain range. There’s also a romantic element.
When I had finished writing, I still didn’t know how to categorise it.
“Oh, so it’s like Eat, Pray, Love for men!” a friend said when I explained what the book is about. This led me to remark, tongue-in-cheek, to my editor that maybe it could be classified as “dude lit”. To my surprise, she sent me a link to a list of books on Goodreads that users had tagged as exactly that.
Nick Hornby (About a Boy, High Fidelity and Juliet, Naked) and Jonathan Tropper (This is Where I Leave You, The Book of Joe and Everything Changes) seem to be the high priests of this genre. I’ve read some of Hornby’s books and loved them – especially the semi-autobiographical Fever Pitch. Also on this list are classics like On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye and Fight Club.
However, these high priests’ cult is tiny compared to that of chick lit, so I can quite understand why I wasn’t aware of the description.
The dude lit list on Goodreads has 220 books on it. The chick lit list has more than 100,000 books with (of course) Bridget Jones’s Diary topping it. When I searched for “dude lit” in Books > Fiction on Amazon’s UK site, it wanted to know whether I meant “dude kit” instead. The dude lit search eventually yielded 15 results. “Chick lit” yielded 24,090 results. Wikipedia has an entry for chick lit but not for dude lit.
The fact that Amazon has fewer results for dude lit and chick lit than Goodreads might be because both genres have somewhat of a stigma attached to them, despite the huge commercial success of especially the chick lit genre. Most publishers would not overtly market books as belonging to either genre, whereas the actual readers over on Goodreads are a bit more honest, I presume.
It comes as no surprise that Amazon doesn’t have either of these terms in its fiction genre filter tool, which is why you’ll find my book in categories like “Romance”, “Travel” and “Action and Adventure”.
Nick Bezuidenhout was born and raised in South Africa. He has worked as a journalist and in various other roles in news media in South Africa, China, Kenya and Britain, where he currently lives.
He’s a sporadic and ill-disciplined runner, whose form varies from being able to run a 110km ultra-marathon to limping around his local park, nursing a gout-afflicted foot. He likes to counter the good effects of running by indulging in food and drink.
Some of his favourite authors are: Douglas Adams, Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl (his adult stuff), Gabriel García Márquez, Louis de Berniere, Haruki Murakami, Nick Cave, Herman Charles Bosman, Alice Munro, Robert Rankin, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Dawkins, AA Gill, PJ O’Rourke, Alain de Botton and Jared Diamond.
He’s currently writing a novel with the working title Digital Nomads. It takes a humorous look at people earning a living online while travelling all over the world, artificial intelligence, and the authoritarian, populist president of a certain global superpower.