Brain Candy

Every once in a while, I hit a reading rut.  A point in a book, or in between books, where I just can’t bring myself to read.  There’s something on TV, some website to look at.  I just don’t want to read.  Because I don’t have the momentum.  I’m either in the middle of a book I don’t love, or I’m in between books and can’t decide what to read next.

At times like this, I turn to brain candy.  Chick lit–something that I can read quickly and will get my reading ball rolling again.  And I always think that I’ll love it.  And I never do.  I always find something to critique about the writing, the narrator, the story arc, the characters.  Chick lit never does for me what cheesy romantic comedies do.  What chick lit does for most people.

The book I tried this time to get out of my Sunnyside induced rut was Something Blue, the sequel to Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.  One of my best friends from high school loves Giffin, and I’d heard good things about her books.  So I read Something Borrowed last year.  In April, according to Good Reads.  And it was…OK.  The narrator was fun, and it was nice to read a story where the smart, perhaps less conventionally pretty girl, gets the guy.  But the writing was bland and cliche, and I couldn’t throw my full emotional support behind a character who betrays her best friend like that.  In chick lit, the likable narrator is crucial, and I just didn’t LIKE what Rachel did.

But I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie version of Something Borrowed and I thought the sequel, Something Blue might get me out of my reading lethargy.

And, sure enough, it did.  I finished Something Blue in about two days.  It was fun.  Not life changing, but fun.  The narrator, Rachel’s jilted best friend Darcy was, at first, unlikable.  She was superficial, vain, arrogant, naive.  Finding herself pregnant and alone, she heads to London to wallow with her friend, Ethan.  Her big “aha moment” comes when Ethan yells at her, telling her she is all of these things.  She decides to become a better person for him.

Narratively, there were definitely a few issues with the book.  For starters, Darcy was a self-proclaimed “dumb girl.”  She wasn’t supposed to be smart.  But there were times when Giffin gave her vocabulary or references that were NOT dumb girl references.  Giffin is clearly a smart woman (as evidenced by the more genuine voice of Rachel the lawyer in Something Borrowed and her law school background), and at times Darcy’s voice didn’t match her character.   I also hated that the only thing that catalyzed Darcy’s change was one argument with Ethan.  It just didn’t feel genuine that this character, who KNEW she was vain and self-centered and owned it, would change based on one argument.

But Something Blue did feed my need for a quick, easy read (rhyming is awesome).  It was easy and it was fun and I finished it quickly.  It reminded me that reading can be fun and addictive (which I’ve, of course, always KNOWN) and has given me the momentum to begin again.

After finishing the weekend New York Times, I’m on to my next book.  I’m in two book clubs, and I haven’t read either book yet, so I guess I’ll get started on one of those. Or Columbine, which continues to call my name.

So thank you, Emily Giffin, for reminding me that I do NOT like chick lit and getting me back on the road to reading.


1 Comment

Filed under Books, Uncategorized

One response to “Brain Candy

  1. “For starters, Darcy was a self-proclaimed ‘dumb girl.’ She wasn’t supposed to be smart. But there were times when Giffin gave her vocabulary or references that were NOT dumb girl references.”

    I’m always aware of this, both reading and writing. Of course, some writers give everybody the same voice (Hemingway, Henry James), which can work if you’re consistent about it. But in general how a character speaks can and should inform the reader about the character. Some characters are more articulate than others, and some characters are more intelligent than others (two different questions). Most people speak differently at 54 than they do at 15. There are regional differences. Some people are self-confident and some are shy (which is reflected in how you speak, use of the passive voice, etc.). Some writers differentiate their characters more than others, but the main thing is to be consistent.

    My father was a writer, and his main weakness was that he couldn’t resist a good gag, even to the extent of putting the joke in the mouth of a character who would never have said such a thing, just to get the laugh. I try to learn from the negative example.

    Though I do like to get a laugh, too.

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