From SALON: Is Chick-Lit Dead?

This morning in the newsletter, there was a piece by Laura Miller asking, “Is Chick-Lit Dead?” I can see her point that characters like the Shopaholic really don’t translate to the current economic climate, but one of the reasons I like chick-lit (or, as I call it, “bathtub reading”) is that it does have an element of escapism. Sure, sometimes I want to read deep, thought-provoking novels, but other times, I just want a little literary mind-candy.

In any case, Ms. Miller’s piece begins:

Is chick lit dead? Less than a decade after commentators clucked at bookstore shelves lined with cartoon high-heels and pink cocktail glasses, the only debate that the once-flourishing genre inspires now is over when to run its obituary. Some say chick lit is well and truly defunct, while others insist there’s some life in the old girl yet. Since there has never been much agreement on what, exactly, chick lit is, perhaps the question can’t be settled.

You can read the rest by following this link. It opens in a new window.

Review: Life’s A Beach by Clare Cook

I picked up Clare Cook’s novel Life’s a Beach because I was in the mood for a book to give me a jolt of laughter the way thoroughbreds get a jolt of energy and nutrients when given horse supplements. I was not disappointed.

Ginger is a fun-loving, woman a bit older than I am (specifically, in her early forties), with a sister about to turn fifty. She’s still living in her parent’s garage apartment (she hates the term FROG – finished room over garage), with her cat named Boyfriend and her non-committal boyfriend, a glass-blower named Noah. Glass is a trend in Ginger’s life. Between real jobs, she’s been trying to find herself, and her current incarnation involves making sea glass jewelry.

Against the background of her mother’s entree into the Red Hat Society, her father’s unwillingness to downsize and sell the family home, and her sister’s upcoming birthday, Ginger is a breath of fresh air, but living in denial, so when her eight-year-old nephew Riley gets tapped to be an extra in a horror movie, she is more than willing to go to the set and act as his guardian.

Clare Cook, who previously gave us Must Love Dogs, sends us on a wonderfully funny, sometimes sappy journey to the shore and beyond, all the while holding up a rather forgiving mirror to those of us who know that fifty really is the new thirty.

The Nanny Diaries

I just finished watching The Nanny Diaries, the movie based on the book by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Klaus, and starring Scarlett Johansson .

While I thought the book was delightful, and enjoyed the movie as much for the story as for the luxury homes in Manhattan where it all took place, I’m never entirely satisfied with book-to-movie translations, because when I read I’m immersed in a story, but when I’m watching something, I’m merely observing it.

That being said, Laura Linney as Mrs. X was fabulous, seemingly cold, but with vulnerability beneath the icy veneer, and Paul Giamatti as the mostly-absent Mr. X was simply perfect, and Donna Murphy was believable as Annie’s mother, even if her New Jersey accent was horribly inconsistent. Young Nicholas Art, as Greyer, the child in the film, was also very good – very much a natural kid.

Where the film excelled (other than at marketing CitiGroup, whose iconic red umbrella was used throughout the film) was in capturing the spirit of life in New York, where small kids really DO know whether something is on the East or West side, and how much there are distinct sub-cultures within it, changing from block to block.

If you haven’t read the book, see the movie first or you might be disappointed in the condensation of the story, but you will not be disappointed in the way they presented the spirit of the novel, or the city in which it all takes place.

Frustration: The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue

This is not a review. Why? Because you can’t review a book if you haven’t read the whole thing, and after a week of attempts I’m still only about forty pages into Barbara Samuel’s The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue.

The cover blurb made it seem like a book I’d like – a story about different women coming together in friendship.

The structure is one I would normally find refreshing – it’s told partly in reproduced email messages, partly in first person accounts. It’s different stories braided together.

But I can’t get into it. I can’t get to the zone – you know the one? – where you’re totally sucked into the story, and just can’t read fast enough, and you can hear/taste/see the people and places described? I can’t get there. And so I’m frustrated. I mean, I could be reading about Tampa real estate, and it would be more gripping than this book.

I’ve read reviews of Goddesses…. that praise it, and call it brilliant and wonderful. Is there something wrong with me, that I just don’t see it?

Is it a flaw in the book, or just a sign that I’m supposed to be writing, not reading, right now?

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is put a book aside, and go back to it later. I’m afraid I’ll have to do that with this book.

save our homes

A Dangerous Dress

by Julia Holden

I bought A Dangerous Dress after reading Julia Holden’s other novel One Dance in Paris a couple weeks ago, and exchanging comments via her MySpace page. She’s kindly consented to do an emailed interview for me, when she has a few free moments, and I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it.

Anyway, this book shares with the other a trip to Paris, and is still a chick-lit coming of age story, but there are no trips to anything like Caesars Palace this time, though there is a movie set, a news set, and a bank involved.

The lead character, Jane, is working in her uncle’s bank, and feeling a bit humdrum, when she gets a call from a French movie director (who happens to be her college roommate’s father), asking her to please come to Paris and find the perfect 1928 dress for the star of his film. Her expertise, he says, comes from the college paper she wrote years before, about her late grandmother’s very own flapper dress – a dress so exotic, so unique, that it is literally dangerous. Dangerous in that edgy, seductive sort of way.

The dress is, of course, merely a catalyst. Jane jets off to find love, adventure, new skills, more adventure, and a lot of self-awareness, in an entertaining read that goes by way too fast.