I read an awful lot on holiday!
At the start of the week, I finished off The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt. I have been having a period of Hustvedt immersion, reading What I Loved, The Blindfold and A Plea for Eros before I got to Sorrows. I imagine that this is the novel that will make it to college reading lists, because there are lots of juicy "themes" to sharpen a set of young critical teeth upon. It amused me to come home and find this review of the novel, written as it is by Lisa Appignanesi. The latter's book Mad, Bad and Sad: a history of women and the mind doctors appears in Hustvedt's own reading lists. I can't better the Independent review, so I won't try. I still have The Enchantment of Lily Dahl to read, before I feel ready to say I have "done" Siri Hustvedt! I am still intrigued.
Next up was One Day by David Nicholls. This was a compulsive read. Modern lite-lit, in the mould of a Hornby, but definitely female-friendly. I was gripped by nostalgia as I read about familiar places, feelings, situations and even people. I defy any student of the 1980's not to feel the same way! Yeah, I cried. Just what you need on holiday, a bit of catharsis. Thanks for the recommendation Karen!
And finally, the "trashy novel": I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk. I probably have more to say about this one than both the others put together, because it made me so angry!
It was given away free with Glamour magazine. So it was my 14-year-old daughter who passed it on to me. On the face of it, it is a piece of cheesey chick-lit about a girl who runs off to NYC after catching her boyfriend bonking another girl at her best friend's wedding. But the "messages" therein made me feel physically uncomfortable. Remember that my teen daughter read it first.
Back in the day, chick lit was "romantic" and fairly harmless: girl meets a couple of guys, one is a bounder, the other a knight in shining armour, and she ends up marrying the "right" one. Not exactly feminist, but I could laugh it off.
But this?! Girl meets a couple of guys: one a rich bland eligible banker, the other a glamourous (druggy? I am sure he must be, but it is never actually stated - funny how alcohol is OK but drugs taboo in a tale of excess!) indie rock star, and uses them both for sex, alcohol, blog-fodder and gifts. Her main raison d'etre seems to be spontaneous over-consumption. She stuffs herself with sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol (lots and lots of alcohol) , living a "lad-ette" lifestyle, with an apparently endless source of credit. Marc Jacobs, purveyor of handbags, appears to be the sponsor of this piece of modern literature - if the author did not receive a handsome royalty, she deserves one.
The main protagonist is such an ugly person! I can guarantee that young girls will read this and want what she's got. And get: a massive credit card bill, tango tan, sleek straight hair, a medical dictionary's worth of STDs, a huge wardrobe full of designer labels, clinical obesity, alcohol poisoning... and be left with not even the faintest residue of personal integrity to call their own. Oh - but obviously they will also be head-hunted for a major job on a fabulous new fashion magazine on the strength of living it large in New York and blogging about it. Because nowadays, the new young feminist gets the job, rather than the man and that's Girl Power isn't it? IS IT?!
What is really scary is the reaction of young readers. Have a look at the reviews on Amazon. There are enough young girls out there who believe this s**t to make it genuinely dangerous.
Thank you. I needed to get that off my chest.