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Where words thrive and emoticons go to die

The requisite fifth-grade book report was a chore for some and a challenge for others, but for the visitors and contributors to www.chicklit.com, it was most likely a labor of love.

“I wanted to create a place for us word geeks, female or male, to congregate online, a place to unapologetically indulge our obsession,” reads a post from site creator Deborah Birkett, a freelance writer-editor from Ontario, Canada.

Although the website’s name is a misnomer -- its focus encompasses much more than chicklit classics such as Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary” or Jennifer Weiner’s “Good in Bed” -- this online Algonquin generally lives up to its tagline: “smart, witty and literate as hell.”

The “Book Bundle” section provides comparative reviews of works with a common thread. Writer Robin Smith’s “Rhyme and Reason: A Bundle of Novels in Verse,” which begins with a short history of epic poetry, shows that even bibliophiles can have a sense of humor: "... and onwards to Milton, who must really have had some sort of axe to grind as he churned out ‘Paradise Lost,’ ten books of iambic pentameter destined to plague fresh-faced English Lit students forevermore; a sort of literary purgatory, as it were.”

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In the essay “10 Steps to Being Well-Read,” author “AltoidsAddict” describes the road to erudition, advising readers to be wary of gimmicks used to obtain bestseller status, including the rabid marketing of a book when its film adaptation is released. Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean good, AltoidsAddict observes, adding: “Hollywood made a movie out of it? So what? Hollywood also made ‘Baby Geniuses’ and gave Ed Wood a career.”

Eschewing standard Web rules of sound-bite-length postings and pedantic exchanges, contributors to the site’s “Forums” (with topic titles including “Irish Literature” and “Sit for a Spell: English Orthography”) conduct a refreshing exchange of discourse and mannered debate about literature, syntax and grammar.

Those prone to netspeak (r u ROTFL?) or who overuse obnoxious emoticons to express thoughts might feel a little lost in the language atchicklit.com -- it’s called proper English.


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