Sunday, July 04, 2004

I declare, Welcome to My Planet by Shannon Olsen has got to be the worst book. I don't even know what I'd be saying if I didn't pay a dollar for it at the library, but instead paid full price. The heroine could be sympathetic, but we never see her really react to all this bad stuff that is happening. I'm sorry, but being raped repeatedly by your boyfriend doesn't exactly equal the 'blahs', and to piss me off even more, her 'counselor' is the worst one ever. She could get better advice from a schizophrenic alcoholic.

I'm sorry, but the proper answer to a rape survivor is not "let's plan how to do your thesis', thank you? The writer may write competent sentences, but she has a bad ear for character. That sort of book only really works if the character is sort of drifting in a random anomie for no reason, and it's totally self inflicted. But if your mom is facing hearing loss, your first boyfriend rapes you, and your second one is really distant and can't pencil you in for an appointment, I'm sorry, but I can't really say "Oh, my god, she is watching TV, while getting her masters with honors! Where is her drive and ambition?"

Bridget Jones worked, because you could say that her problems were at least her own problems. While she didn't just stand up and say "Well, today I have decided that my weight and boys is the most important thing in my life", she probably just went with the flow. It's a perfectly normal flaw, exaggerated a bit.

Confessions of a Shopoholic also works in the same mode. Lots of people have problems with debt, because they want the comfort of shopping, and the status things provides, and while our society has a problem with consumerism and all, it's not like our heroine is a single mom who sometimes buys too much to fill her emotional void. She is a single twenty-something who buys a lot of stuff, because it is fun to buy stuff.

I guess what I am getting at is that if you have a major problem in your plot, you can't write it as a thirty-something neurotic novel, it'd probably be better as an Oprah novel. Leave the neurosis to those who have nothing to complain about, and let us laugh at our own foibles. Never put rape in a light plot, it draws it down.

In other book talk, Box Office Poison has a good depiction of what happens in the real world to pop psych. Sherman, our main character, meets with his dad, and he is a total douche. He cheats on his wife, and you know what? blames it on his wife. He says, basically, I met a giving woman, and my wife got mad. Doesn't she understand that I',m not responsible for her feelings?

That's a common use of this sort of thing, to excuse yourself. Even if the person who started the whole Only you are responsible for your own feelings thing has good intentions, s/he certainly opened up the door to a whole lot of assholery. If I don't have to think of others' feelings, why do things to not hurt them? That's what Sherman's dad does- he acts in a completely selfish manner, and alienates his sons and his sister.

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