Thursday, October 25, 2007

Guest Post: Lad Lit vs. Chick Lit

Can debauchery ever be as marketable as romance?

Chick Lit
– a well established genre of writing, usually written by women for women and dealing with issues such as fashion, shopping and men. The female lead character, always good looking but she rarely knows it, stumbles from one no-good guy to another, before falling madly in love with Mr Perfect. Mr Perfect proves stubborn at first, but then comes to his senses, sweeps the girl off her feet and takes her for a romantic weekend in Paris aboard his private jet where he proposes mid-orgasm while conceiving their first set of triplets.

Lad Lit
aka Boychik Lit, Guy Lit, Dick Lit, or Fratire
– a new breed of novel, usually written by men for men and dealing with issues such as drinking, vomiting, and sex. The male lead, never good looking and he always knows it, stalks one unobtainable girl after another, before falling madly in love with a keg of beer and numbing his pain on a nightly basis. Just when all hope seems lost, he finally finds a girl who will drop her knickers in his presence and wipe the crusting vomit from his face in the morning. His life is complete.

With the definitions out of the way, we can now get down to the nitty-gritty. Let us first consider the market appeal of each of these species of book. More women read novels than men, due no doubt to their inherent capacity to multi-task. Women are freely able to read books whilst simultaneously performing activities such as bossing men around, telling men they have small penises, chatting about loser-men to their girlfriends, and boasting about how much better they are at multi-tasking than men. Being aimed at women, Chick Lit therefore clearly has the advantage in market appeal. This is particularly true as men are too busy playing video games and browsing ever more depraved pornography to even consider picking up a Lad Lit novel.

Maybe, then, we should consider the potential for multi-million dollar movie spin-offs. While gross-out comedies clearly have their place in the market, their box office pull is dwarfed by that of the chick flick. It’s not too difficult to drill down and analyse the reasons for this, which all revolve around the fact that men need sex more than women. You see, men are so desperate for a good dose of sweet lovin’ that they will happily endure another vomit-inducing Anne Hathaway movie on a Friday night. They will even put up with a tortuous 4 hour Legally Blonde DVD marathon if there is the merest sniff of some panty action to be found at the end of the night. Women, on the other hand, would much rather go without sausage for eternity than watch a Will Ferrell film or yet another sequel to American Pie.

So should Lad Lit authors resign themselves to the fact that there just isn’t the market out there to sustain a living from their smut-filled pages? Yes, we should. But in the absence of that kind of common sense, we should instead focus on making our work more chick-friendly. Love, romance and premenstrual should no longer be regarded as dirty words, and women should no longer be treated as slabs of meat to be rated, ridiculed and drooled over. Well, at least not on even and odd numbered pages. This is a new world order, where proud owners of titties and todgers are all welcome to enjoy the delights of the modern Lad Lit novel.

Craig Alan Williamson is the author of the chick-friendly Lad Lit college comedy novel ‘A Foreign Education’. He welcomes all sexes to sample the opening chapter of his book at or buy the paperback from Amazon using the links below.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: "A Foreign Education"

Fellow fratirist Craig Alan Williamson has joined this little community of bloggers on lad lit, and his hazing includes a playful poke inside his new campus-comedy novel. The title would suggest it's aimed at an audience of Brits like himself, since goings-on at the University of Colorado would hardly be considered foreign to Yanks. (Someone should explain to Craig that Americans don't "sort" their problems. We reserve that activity for our sock drawers on nights when we despair of venturing out.) Like his hero Ross Cooper, Craig did time at CU--majoring in physics, no less. Geekier than that they don't get, and the story of the callow and sensitive intellectual who is bewildered by sex is a familiar fish-out-of-water theme.

Ross's story isn't American Pie or even Salisbury Pasty. (Okay, one character saves fecal samples from the jock villain in jars, but thankfully no details emerge. And be glad that the manner of collection is also left entirely to the imagination.) In short, you might expect CU life as observed by a too-polite Brit to be a gross-out, but it's not. In tone, it's more like Goodbye, Columbus than Portnoy's Complaint.

In fact, the happenings in dorm Cheyenne Arapaho are so verisimilitudinous, so mundane, that one wonders if we're not reading an autobiography helped by a cleverly cached digital voice recorder (one of those geek techno-tricks).

The subtle attraction of A Foreign Education stems from its literary heritage--the Victorian romance. You know the plot--if either of the lovers could manage to form the words "I love you," there would be no story. Ross lusts after the luscious April but just won't blurt it out, and their courtship is pretty much pathetically Platonic until, well, it's not. (Don't tell me you didn't see that coming.) So I guess you'd call it justice--Bridget Jones updates Jane Austen; Ross Cooper dusts off the corpse of Edith Wharton and gives her a good shagging.

Don't get me wrong. This book has courage--the boldness to describe collegiate sexual angst as something other than a feverish quest for the slam-bam conquest. Early on, Ross actually turns down freely offered sex, not because the partner is repulsive, but because she's attractive and yet he has no feelings for her. His roommate Jak suffers a chronic, inexplicable case of E.D.--inexplicable until you realize that performance anxiety might not be all that uncommon in a generation confronted by STDs, identity crises, competitive stress, and endless commercials for duration-prolonging pills.

This book is wry, wise, and touching. If you start it thinking that's a chicken-shit way to approach a sex comedy, you might end up rethinking what it is to be a "real man."

By the way, these days Craig works as a research scientist, lives in Salisbury with his wife and his laptop. Seems like he got his priorities sorted. (And I'm really curious whether his wife is American and has green eyes!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Don't Accept Imitations!

I have a Hollywood rep who is peddling the movie/TV rights to My Inflatable Friend. Now, you might think a challenge would be that the presumed subject matter is deviant, bizarre, or insufficiently squeaky for a PG-13 rating.

Think again. The biggest objection so far is--it's been done!

Mind you, these other stories bear only superficial resemblance to Rollo Hemphill's pathetic misadventure. The first of the recent ones is The Valet (La Doublure, 2006), a French movie about a hapless car jockey at a luxury hotel in Paris who gets involved in a phony love triangle. Except in this case, the real-live femaleness of the woman in question is not at all in question. She's a doll, but a fleshy one, runway model lookalike Alice Taglioni. I'm one of the five people in the U.S. who saw the movie, and I have no worries that I was ripped off or vice versa.

However, apparently the Farrelly brothers thought the story was sufficiently zany and commercial to produce an English-language remake, also titled The Valet, which some say will be released this holiday season. I can't get much advance information about its plot but unless they've squared the love triangle with a rubber doll, I doubt they ripped me off.

A lump also came to my throat when I learned about Lars and the Real Girl, a movie premiering this month starring Ryan Gosling as a lonely guy who has a delusional relationship with a lifelike silicone dummy. Turns out they used a silicone-and-steel babe from the same manufacturer I cite (with permission) in MIF. There the similarity ends.

And... at least two episodes of Boston Legal have also featured synthetic females. (From the same source I suspect: Do you see a strong resemblance between the doll Jerry had in the car to Lars' main squeeze? I do.)

But remember the magic formula of Hollywood, which could well be a Goldwynism:

Kid, gimme a new idea that stood the test of time!

There are plenty of antecedents. Closer to Lars' story than to Rollo's is the movie Mannequin (1985) in which a love affair with a fashion dummy results in a transformation to live flesh with an attitude.

That idea was nothing new at all. In the ancient myth, Pygmalion, a sculptor, falls in love with the lovely statue he calls Galatea, and his passion brings her to life. George Bernard Shaw borrowed the story to craft his Pygmalion, from which Lerner and Loewe created My Fair Lady. Somewhere along the line the girl's transformation began as a street urchin rather than a statue.

So expect the new cable-TV series (aimed squarely at the Entourage audience and the guys who didn't care that Flight of the Conchords was lame) The Misadventures of Rollo Hemphill -- I just can't give you a date. We're waiting to see whether the dummy goes SAG and holds out for Web residuals.

And if the Hollywood truism holds true, also be looking for a remake of My Fair Lady with Eliza first seen in remarkably realistic silicone and steel.

You read it here first!