The Fun/Smart Divide: Why Books Are Candy-CoatedIt has been suggested that females prefer pink because of an evolutionary preference for reddish things like ripe fruits and healthy faces. We also prefer pink books. Or at least the publishing industry is so convinced of this that to cover their asses they're wantonly packaging any book written by a woman with a chick-litish cover in the desperate hopes that we'll buy it. Says The Guardian's Diane Shipley, "Having cottoned on to the fact that chick lit books sell like cupcakes, publishers are now adding chick lit-style covers to any book written by a woman whether it fits the genre definition or not."This is, not surprisingly, becoming an issue with authors who regard their work as more than beach reads. But Shipley sites several authors who try to buck this trivializing trend and lose; having found a winning formula, the publishing industry, which everyone knows to be in shaky shape in the best of economic climates, is taking no chances. Shipley concludes that, bored by the number of identical-looking choices, we're going to experience a backlash. Doubtful; homogeneity has never hurt genre fiction like Romance and SciFi, and people looking for fun escapism are unlikely to be repelled by an increasing number of options. They are, however, likely to be disappointed when they get to the beach and find that instead of some heartwarming bit of froth they've ended up with Serious Fiction full of incest and substance abuse. Yes, I can see why a serious writer would be irritated by what is most definitely misrepresentation (and Shipley's at pains to point out that this kind of branding now extends even to the work of male writers whose stories involve female protagonists.) But in a sense, they should regard this commercial branding as a vote of confidence: to my layman's eye, it means a publisher thinks it might actually sell. It seems to me (and this owes way more to my time in bookstores and on Amazon than my foray into the publishing world) that there's a fairly clear divide between "serious" fiction, and that which actually sells, and unless you're Cormac McCarthy or Annie Proulx, never the twain shall meet. A few Iowa grads on the roster with serious covers might spell prestige, but that's not where anyone's bread is buttered. There seems to be a feeling in our society now that if something's fun - be it movie or novel - it isn't Serious. Serious things are punishment, full of lives of quiet desperation and family tragedies - albeit repressed, undramatic ones. If you're having too much fun, you're not being intellectual. Yes, I'm oversimplifying and there are certainly exceptions that prove rules, almost exclusively by men, who probably have an easier time being taken seriously as bon-vivant wits without sacrificing literary cred. But nowadays there are far fewer Laurie Colwins or Barbara Pyms - great writers who happen to use levity as a medium - and if there are, it's hard to know because they're hidden under pink covers with lounging, thoughtful women on them. Oh, well; if good books are medicine, and you can't blame people for preferring it Pepto-Bismol colored. The Great Chick Lit Cover Up [The Guardian] Related: Brand-Obsessed Chick Lit Makes Us Lose Our Breakfast (At Tiffany's) Blogging Towards Bethlehem