Fellow blogstress Bookworm has a lovely post about what’s wrong with chick-lit. What’s wrong is that is that all its current practitioners slavishly imitate Helen Fielding’s runaway bestseller “Bridget Jones’s Diary”–without realizing that “Bridget Jones” is grounded in the world of Jane Austen (it’s an updated “Pride and Prejudice”). The neo-Jonesies don’t catch the fact that Austen (and Fielding) created intelligent, independent-minded heroines whose fortunes it was fun as well as instructive to follow. Bookworm zeroes in on why the “Bridget” clones, instead of being delightful and engrossing, are usually boring and predictable::

“Since Fielding’s would-be imitators don’t recognize her plot’s origins, in their books they focus on Bridget’s personal failings: her drinking and weight obsessions. Bridget, of course, was a charming enough character to make these seem interesting, not depressing – which is a testament to Fielding’s skill as a writer. It’s a bad precedent, though, for those less skillful, and the market has been inundated with romances aimed at young women, mostly coming out of England, in which the lead characters are overweight slobs who drink and smoke too much. Most of them have a network of equally screwed up friends who validate their own self-destructive behavior (and most of them usually have at least one intelligent, self-aware gay male friend).

“The plots are always the same: these messy, self-destructive women nevertheless manage to attract the coolest, hippest, and often richest man around.”

Dull-witted as these clones may be, says Bookworm, they do provide a glimpse–unvarnished by politically correct ideology–of what women really want in a man–and that, in itself, makes up for a lot of these romances’ failings:

“I’ve concluded, based on books and conversations with friends (married and unmarried alike) that women want a manly man who cherishes them.

“The manly part means that women don’t want a girlfriend in men’s clothes. They do want someone who is truly a man, with a man’s view of the world. That manly view, however, has to include a belief that this specific woman is the most wonderful person in the world, someone whose company the man wants to enjoy and whose well-being matters deeply to the man.”