Book-limia

It’s the weirdest sensation, to feel like there are all these words and stories and quippy things to write floating inside your brain like an alphabet soup –but only more like mushy pea soup, but, you know…. with letters?– and yet feel like you can’t get any of it out because it all sounds pretty stupid or irrelevant or, just not cohesive enough, or perhaps not archetypal of the maiden making her metamorphosis of sorts into a mother figure, as she walks with her husband on a Saturday morning to go get some pastries and, amazingly enough, some booze too.

(And not that you guys really care but retsina still sucks. It has some very romantic memories associated with it, for me, but at the end of the day it still tastes like turpentine and ick. But I still pointed it out so the Monsieur could buy some and take it home. Ick.)

See? It’s been a jumbly weekend, filled with thoughts and action and thoughts again. It didn’t help at all that I binged dangerously on books through last week and this: I finished two books in under five days while reading two others still (maybe that doesn’t sound like too much?). So to add to my own jumbliness I had that of three book heroines (I haven’t finished one book) and that of all their corresponding supporting casts.

_________

Which brings me to the topic at hand: I’d been hearing loads of good things and great reviews about a book called “Prep” and so I’d been meaning to get around to reading it sometime.

So, bless Target and its discounted prices, I got it last Tuesday along with another book, called “Something Blue.” (<–Fun and cute and sweet, actually. Killer first sentence; laughed for like 5 min.)

Confession time? Ok. I LOVE chick lit.

I feel like calling it chick lit is kind of giving in to the stereotype that the media started to mainstream when “Bridget Jones’s Diary” really hit it big, but I do call it that nonetheless. However, many of these authors can weave a mean tale and tell it in such an accessible, glommy-candy-like manner that it’s almost addictive to read. As in, you’re done but you go around scanning the shelves for titles with pastel palettes in hopes that your favorite heroine moved from one book to the other and is ready to start her adventures anew whenever you find the new title where she’s hidden.

Anyway, back to the books:

Maybe I was forever traumatized by my high school AP English teacher and about looking at the true message and symbols in every piece of literature –sometimes I find myself reading medical pamphlets (“If not used as indicated, this product can cause death or tardive stupidity– a fate recognized by the medical community as worse than death”) and trying to figure out motives and relationships and trying to look for the one typo that makes it worth my while.
I lead a boring life, I think.

So meaning. Usually the lighter the chick lit, the fewer the layers of meaning one is bound to find. This is usually not a problem: many of those books are written with the sole purpose of being devoured over a weekend or while lounging by a pool. Or a poo. I had to let that earlier typo I corrected in, after all. I salute the fellow bathroom readers in your midst.

But then there are books that you’re told HAVE meaning. They have layers and layers of it, like a literary napoleon, and you’re supposed to digest them slowly and rave about the way they make you feel and the way they make oblique references to whatever, and how similar they are to other coming-of-age books, bla bla bla.

I’m talking about “Prep” here.

I finished reading it earlier today –around 4:45 am, don’t ask– and I’m still a little pissed off. And I’m not sure if this is the “why-is-Virginia-Woolf-so-confounding” kind of pissed, or even the “why-didn’t-Anna-Karenina-kill-herself-two-hundred-pages-ago” kind of pissed….

… or if it is the “why-did-I-waste-more-than-$10-on-this-fucking-book” kind of pissed.

Who gets to decide whether a book is just little more than a sugary romp covered in royal icing and has no relevance for the future and which book might end up being part of the now-reviled literary canon– a jewel of a book, deserving of our attention, our Cliffs Notes and our top prizes?
_______

Time to regroup.

I did not really like “Prep” as much as I felt I should have, and this has me a little puzzled. Kind of like when everybody just LOOOOOOOVED “The Royal Tenenbaums” while I found it stupid, boring, cheesy, and like whichever scene didn’t have Owen Wilson was probably a waste of film. So whenever I’d end up talking to these intellectual and pseudointellectual people about the movie we’d all go to blows, alternately proclaiming just how much the movie was amazing and brilliant and the kind of sad and sublime you no longer see in American cinema; and how Wes Anderson should probably think about a prefrontal lobotomy.

“Prep” made me nervous in a weird way: I wanted it to end or to change or to do something. Preferably something different, like (SPOILER WARNING! …. that is… if you still want to read this book…), why couldn’t it be Lee popping all those pills Junior year instead of SinJun and not be found by anyone, so we could all fucking be done with her misery? Or as one of the girls muses in the lunch line one day, “Why didn’t she just leave?”

At first I thought I’d be very touched and moved by the account of a high school girl who’s a loner and feels like an outcast– I mean, who didn’t? (Cheerleaders: Do not answer that.) But the more I read, the more I wondered why anyone would really, truly want to pay attention to someone who’s so morbidly self-loathing and stuck in this Samsara of prep school doom?

Or at the very least, why didn’t we as the readers get to hang out with the cool people? We’re people too, you know.

I guess there is always that part of us that feels that, by not finding something as awesome or as smart or as cool as other people find it, we must somehow be very very defective and wrong. And, funny enough, that is what makes high school so very torturous for some and not for others; some people just have the fingers firmly on the pulse, while some of us always had the fingers loopily by the ear –and the models who didn’t make Madrid’s Pasarela Cibeles runway shows had their fingers deep into their mouths.

These fingers are off to play with a baby. Hasta, y’allz.

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This entry was published on September 18, 2006 at 3:55 pm and is filed under Soapboxing. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Book-limia

  1. Prep got so much great press from the indie-lit crowd (like the Bookslut folk) that I really wanted to read it (that, and I’m a sucker for books set in academia). However, the only other person I know who read it didn’t like it, either, so I’m thinking I might not be missing out, after all.

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