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“Chick lit can be very helpful,” Keyes says, adding the qualifier, “if it’s done well. “Women who read chick lit are often slightly mortified.

But the moment it [a book] looked as if it could be in some way potentially powerful the label ‘chick lit’ was slapped on it and instantly trivialized it. They think ‘Oh God, I should be reading Philip Roth but these books let me know I’m not alone.’ I think the genre is judged by its worst books, by women who miss the point. When I write about low self-esteem it’s not to say it’s okay. When I write about relationships with men, it’s never to say we will be fixed by a relationship to a man.” “Too female, too successful, too often in the bestseller list,” are the reasons Keyes gives for not belonging to Ireland’s literary scene.

That lingering sense of inadequacy has also contributed to her huge international success and is why if you check any Internet chat line about chick lit books Keyes’ name comes up more often than any other. They don’t want to call themselves feminists because it means that they’ll never get a boyfriend.“The desire to please, the desire to be seen to be working hard is what drives me,” she admits. That kind of stereotype of the hairy-legged humorless activist has stuck.“I put a lot of pressure on myself to write the best book I can. The first three books had so much from my own life. I tried to do a course in women’s studies but they don’t do them in Ireland. But more research is needed with each book.” She’s also determined to continue her feminist education. It was in that hopeless space that I read a short story. But I had no idea that I wanted to write – could write.” The experience didn’t entirely rescue her. My mother will never have that confidence.” Keyes has plenty to bolster her self- esteem these days: a successful career, a happy marriage, not to mention the effects of the passage of time (“Turning 40 was great.

I can’t remember what it was now, but I thought, That’s lovely; I really like that! Something had cracked open in me that tried to save me. Early in the following year she attempted suicide and ended up in rehab, where she got sober. “People misunderstand because they think ‘Oh you’re dying for a drink.’ But it’s not that I’m dying for a drink. Because for one reason or another I was born without the coping mechanism that other people seem to get. Suddenly I was able to speak my truth without the worry that I would offend other people and they wouldn’ t love me anymore”).By Lauren Byrne, Contributor August / September 2006 International bestselling Irish author Marian Keyes talks to Lauren Byrne about the other side of chick lit.“Ask me anything,” Marian Keyes invited her audience at a recent reading she gave in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while promoting her latest book “I’m happy to talk about my alcoholism, suicide attempt, my low self-esteem.” Her listeners declined the invitation.But when I ended up in rehab, humor was part of my day-to-day life.” Several of Keyes’ books follow the fortunes of the Walsh sisters, who have in turn dealt with real life issues such as depression, addiction, and death.It’s the character of their madcap mother who seems to veer closer to wishful thinking.While some of them demonstrate some pretty impressive wordplay, others are definitely more face-palm than charm.