Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tom Perrotta owes me $13.95

I once said that I take it very personally when a book fails to live up to my expectations, which, of course, are usually a result of media "buzz". In this case, I hadn't heard much about Little Children, except several vague assertions that it was "good". I had seen it on the TBR lists of some people with whom I share similar tastes in literature, and I had seen it on the bestseller list. I picked it up on impulse, and while I wasn't expecting Pride and Prejudice, I was hoping for something a little more substantial than your average bodice ripper.

The comments on the book jacket were promising:

"Poignantly funny...Little Children will be Mr. Perrotta's breakthrough popular hit"

-New York Times

"A virtuoso set of overlapping character studies...a greatly auspicious and instructive encounter with the dreaded world of maturity."

-The Washington Post

"Little children made me laught so hard I had to put it down...a precise and witty evocation of the sweet, mind-numbing routines and everyday marital conflicts...an effevescent new work."

-Entertainment Weekly

"Engrossing, compassionate"

-Esquire

Clearly, there was some sort of publishing snafu, as the book I read could not possibly be the same about which these remarks were made. Somehow, the reviews for some really good book; one that I would dearly love to read, have made it onto Mr. Perrotta's dust jacket.

I'm trying to be kind, because I hope one day to be an author myself, and I know that I will take any negative reviews straight to heart. But to be quite honest, this book is really just tripe from beginning to end.

The charachters are pallid, self absorbed and whiny. Neither they, nor their their "problems" are interesting enough to warrant an entire volume filled with their pseudo-introspective mewling.

The main charachter, Sarah, is supposed to inspire empathy and a feeling of kinship, I think, but what she inspired in me was the urge to bitchslap her. She made foolish choices which resulted in a bad marriage. She then tries to excuse her infidelity with piteous lamentations about her loveless existence. She is either unwilling or unable to recognize that her circumstances are directly related to her own momumental imprudence. Rather than seeking any real awareness of what brought her to such a place, she seeks to salve her self-inflicted wounds by embarking on an affair with an eye-pleasing paramour; the beautiful but equally eqocentric Todd. Their love affair is neither interesting nor arousing because the reader is painfully aware that it is not driven by passion, but by self-pity.

There is the requisite villain in this story, in this case, the child molester Ron McGorvey. Strangely enough, he is one of the more complex and interesting individuals in the book; possibly because Mr. Perrotta attempts to humanize a person that others see as inhuman by creating a dichotomy between his acts and his character. While this does make him slightly more interesting and genuine, it doesn't really make him any more sympathetic. Instead of creating a tragic figure for which the reader feels a sort of charitable pity, it only serves to make him more ignominious. He is a monster in spite of himself and we don't want to help him, we just want him to go away.

The other characters are so insubstantial as to be insigificant. (With the exception of Sarah's husband, Richard the underwear fetishist, who doesn't figure nearly as prominently as he and Slutty Kay should.) They are bit players in a comedic tragedy that falls markedly short of that designation. Mr. Perrotta writes well enough. He has a decent command of the English Language, and his prose is neither hopelessly hackeneyed nor uncommonly flamboyant. But his character development is decidedly weak, and his story line, for me, was somewhat puzzling.

I suppose he was trying to tap into the cares and concerns of the average housewife, in which case....he should have asked a housewife. Because I'm really more concerned with getting the bills paid on time, juggling four hectic schedules, and keeping my kids physically and emotionally healthy while still maintaining a tenuous grasp on my sense of self and finding some smidgen of personal fulfillment outside the parameters of wife, mother and jack of all trades. I really don't have a lot of time for self-pity, I sure don't have the energy for an affair, and I can't imagine that I'd ever have to resort to husband stealing to convince myself of my own worth. Then again, most women I know are pretty self-assured, so perhaps my view is colored in that regard. Regardless, Macrame might have been a better alternative to adultery for Sarah.

In no way did I find this book representative of "everyday marital conflicts". I don't know about you, but in my life, everyday marital conflicts consist of issues such as leaving the toilet seat up, (him) not gassing up the car until it is on dead empty, prompting a very tense trip to the gas station (me) and finding the time and energy for sex with each other. I don't spend a disproportionate amount of time (we all have those fleeting moments of course) reflecting on how pointless and meaningless my life is. Nor am I, or any women that I know, deluded enough to believe that sleeping with that delectable guy down the street (we all have one of those too) would result in the sudden materialization of an identity or a sense of purpose. It's really sort of insulting when you think about it.

Books are getting mighty expensive these days. $13.95 for a paperback?? For that price, it had better be well worth it. Little Children was not. I want a refund. And since Barnes&Noble isn't particularly inclined to hand out refunds based on "This books sucked rocks", I'm appealing directly the author. Mr. Perrotta, you owe me $13.95. Please have your people get in touch with my people, MMmmkay? Thanks.

10 Comments:

  • At 6:54 PM, Blogger Her Bad Mother said…

    Well, you've convinced me. This was exactly the kind of book review that readers need but never see.

    Quite the public service. But someone should be paying you to do it.

     
  • At 7:59 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Note to self: Do not read that book. A woman whose opinion you value on literature does not like it.

    thanks.

     
  • At 10:06 PM, Blogger sunshine scribe said…

    Thanks for saving me $13.95 BA!

    You should write book reviews for one of the big papers - this was honest and damn convincing!

     
  • At 12:30 AM, Blogger Mary-LUE said…

    Ditto to the above comments. That was a great review. I bet it was more enjoyable than the book itself! ;)

     
  • At 1:30 PM, Blogger Antique Mommy said…

    Thanks for the warming BA. Bad books are like ill fitting underwear. They look good in the store but you don't really know until you get'em home and try them on. And then it's too late.

     
  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    HA! What an excellent analogy. Thank you.

     
  • At 4:00 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    I read this book, but luckily, I borrowed it from the library. Where was your review when I needed it???

     
  • At 7:49 PM, Blogger beth said…

    Ditto, ditto, triple ditto. I borrowed this book from a friend and HATED it. I remember in particular the ridiculous scene where Sarah faces off with the playground mom at the book group and the totally forced way that all the main characters are connected and end up at the park. Oh yeah, and the whole detailed, long winded, painted toe nails thing. Now you've got me hating it all over again!

     
  • At 12:20 AM, Anonymous roo said…

    I made the mistake of buying that book-- for the good reviews on the back, and the goldfish on the front.

    There's a price to be paid for choosing a book by its cover. Apparently, it's $13.95.

    I want my money back, too.

     
  • At 3:42 PM, Blogger Sandy said…

    Well....the good news is that I got my copy from the library. The bad news...I recommended it to my book club, thus forcing seven other people to read it. :-(

    I was seduced by all the glowing reviews, too, that went on about how it was such a satirical look at the sah-parent life and suburbia. Phfftt.

     

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