I’ve been reading a lot of bestsellers lately. It’s summer, it’s hot, and in between finishing up my own books I’ve been enjoying reading a bunch.
THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett: I had this book on my shelf for a long long time and the size of it looked intimidating. Also for some reason I thought it was a very “serious” book ie, not entertaining. I was very very wrong. You cannot put this book down, you just inhale it. I loved it mostly because of the depiction of this completely different lifestyle- not just the help, but the bridge clubs, the pool clubs, the junior league. I liked all the ‘society’ parts, I found it so fascinating, it’s a window into a world that we haven’t really seen. Can completely understand why it got so huge, it covers so many tricky subjects: race, domestic life, women, their friendships, their roles in the 60s and in the South. Some of my writer friends think the plot structure is amateurish, ie, in the end one of the characters writes a book called “The Help”, but it didn’t bother me too much. I have a fondness for the book-within-a-book thing, I think I even did it in Au Pairs: Crazy Hot. It’s kind of an “easy out” to end the story, but a forgivable one I think.
CUM LAUDE by Cecily Von Ziegesar: My editor sent me this to read and it was fun to be back in Gossip Girl land, sort of. It’s quite different and the author tries for something that we haven’t seen before either: the iconic college novel. What IS it about college: first-year (NOT freshman!) orientation, the strange intense people who are your roommates who become your best friends, the ear-flap-cap wearing boarding-school crunchies. (One of my roommate’s boyfriends was classic boho pseudo-intellectual prepster: he refused to change in their room because he was protesting the difference between public and private space. Yeeeeah. Put your clothes back on, hippie, we don’t need to see the meat and two veg, as my Aussie friends used to say.) Entertaining and fun and makes you nostalgic for Top Ramen and long-winded philosophical discussions about the meaning of life. (What, you didn’t do that in college? It was all “Beirut” and funnels? Hmmm.)
CHEAP CABERNET by Cathie Beck. Another Hyperion book (my adult publisher sent me a buttload of books, huzzah!). Crazy intense story of a friendship that changed her life, it’s extremely sad, very funny and really captures what it’s like to have that one wonderful crazy friend who makes everything better but with whom it’s also hard to sustain a friendship in the end. I so related to this roller-coaster friendship of all or nothing, a friend who will lend you money, ie steal it from her husband’s account so you can get a mortgage on your first house kind of friend, who is also the friend who will drop you and not talk to you for three months. Oy. It made me miss my crazy friend, and be glad that I had that friend for a time, but these friendships are almost more than friendships – they are like relationships without the sex. The love is so strong but…misdirected maybe? (My mom told me once that it was unhealthy to have this kind of relationship outside of marriage.) Real friends keep *some* distance. But what can you do? Sometimes you are damaged and you turn to these magnetic people who love you so intensely they also have to cut you off from their life.
Right now I am reading SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY by Gary Shteyngart. I cannot pronounce his last name, but he is a genius. This is an amazing book. Believe the hype. It is so funny and true and crazy and intense. And he gets so many things right, although I have a quarrel over the obvious Asian-fetish streak the guy has. I had never read anything by the guy except all the hype surrounding him and I only bought the book because the trailer was so funny and I realized, oh literary writers have a sense of humor too! (I am genre writer biased of course!) Also it’s slightly sci-fi, Orwellian, dystopian which appealed to me. Also very funny. It made me laugh/snort out loud. Dirty and raunchy and smart and insane. A mean and sharp satire of the “Decline of the West” (in college my friends and I used to point out the vacuous and the super-indulged among us and knowingly whisper to each other “Decline of the West!”) A great book that is a great work of art. Fabulous and inspiring.
That’s it for me. I’ve got two books due before the end of the month so I’ll be working a lot. I’m reading as I work this time, I find it makes the work go faster!