Monday, December 11, 2006

Why Would A Hot Girl Write A Book?

I was completely, utterly prepared to hate this book, "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" based merely on the author photo ("Oy, you're not that hot," I thought when I saw her deer in the headlights stare on the jacket) and the accompanying comment -- tongue in cheek or not, still asinine -- made by the person who lent it to me, something along the lines of "Why would a girl that hot want to write a book?" (Um, what?) Then, as I made my way, no slogged my way, through the first coupla hundred pages of name-dropping to get to the real story, I still hated it. I failed to be dazzled by her brilliance, remaining merely annoyed at her pretentiousness. For about 350 pages all that happened was that Blue (our "preternaturally erudite" heroine, barf) moved to a new school and made some questionable new friends, including a teacher who is probably a Bad Influence. I just wanted her to hurry up, but I guess all those witty allusions can slow a girl down. Anyway, she finally, finally got to the story and then when she did it was actually pretty decent. I found myself intrigued by Blue's girl sleuthing (her character became a lot more likable at this point, too) and when I had to break from the book to go to work I found myself wanting to return to it to finish it & solve the mystery. It was a very satisfying mystery, judiciously revealing just enough, yet leaving one or two fun surprises for us at the very end.

So, author, since you are capable of writing a decent mystery with some great characters and a winsome heroine, can you leave the whole undergraduate allusions thing alone now? It'll make you a lot more enjoyable as a writer. Insiderism is a very ugly thing. I think it's great that you know Cary Grant's real name but it doesn't do a whole lot for your book other than alienate your readers -- incidentally, you need a better copy editor or fact checker or whatever -- Jimmy Stewart is spelled, well, Jimmy Stewart, not "Stuart." (I assume that's who you meant? Unless I'm missing an obscure Scottish actor here?) I guess that's my main criticism. Other than that, it's a fun book, and one that I think could really appeal to adolescent readers in the best possible way. It's a book I would definitely reccomend to any high-school girl -- actually, something about the tone and the voice of the protagonist reminded me a lot of the way Sassy magazine copy was written back in the day -- who's read Jane Erye and Lolita and would really dig a sophisticated literary mystery. All in all, I have to say Not Bad. I was expecting to feel thoroughly wretched after finishing this bit of hipster fiction and was pleasantly surprised to find a decent, if overwritten, mystery novel in there somewhere. Now seriously, stop with the name dropping, nobody likes a show-off.


Smillaraaq said...

I agree with Spinster Aunt on just about all of her comments with at least one exception. I started to get into it about 100 pages earlier. But Spinster, there's something that kept both you and me a hangin' on through that very long beginnin'(why I am turning Southern now I can not explain, perhaps it has do do with the novel's setting). I think this tenacity-inducing something was the fact that amidst the author's tedious references, literary, historical and otherwise, there would occasionally be something very clever; a genuine literary contribution that did not resort to cheap intellectual thrills.

Spinster Aunt said...

Yes, absolutely. There was a story there, and there was a character there, under all that fancy talk. I would liken this novel to Juno, where it starts off real precious and throws around a lot of pop-culture references to hide its true self. Then, when it warms up, the story (and its characters) relaxes a little, stops posturing, and becomes genuinely appealing and substantive.

Smillaraaq said...

Do you recommend that one see Juno?

Spinster Aunt said...

Yeah, if only so I can hear your opinion of it! I want to talk about it with all my feminist friends. (It would be a good double-bill to watch with Citizen Ruth!)

It's something of a miracle, too, to think that Diablo Cody came out of virtually nowhere, wrote one screenplay, and won an Oscar for it. I am continually astounded when I think what the odds against that are!

The fact that there is a woman out there writing comedies (romantic or otherwise) and succeeding at it makes me happy enough that I feel no need to quibble or bitch about Diablo Cody's trendiness or hipsterness or whatever.

It's a good little movie, and it is quite funny. And it's a nice antidote to all the boy humor (you know, like Knocked Up, Superbad, etc.).

Interestingly enough, Tina Fey has a new movie coming out that is also about babies. I wonder if, in the future, people will look back at this time in history and wonder what's up with all the baby comedies ...