Thursday, February 7, 2008
6. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
The title: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
The author: Laurie Viera Rigler
Publication: Dutton, 2007
Got it from: The library. I'm cheap.
First, let me get this off my chest straightaway, before I review this and possibly other chick lit books: I am not a chick lit fan. It's not because I look down on a genre aimed at the 20-something lady demographic, to which I clearly belong. Hell, you're looking at a woman who is happy-dance excited that she beat out a scillion other romance-reading Smart Bitches to be crowned with the SB title "Viscountess Wette t'Shirte", which I wish was my real name that I could use to sign cheques, and put the O-faced lady on my passport. "Oh I'm sorry, Viscountess, I didn't realize. Here, your daquiris are on the house." But I digress. Speaking of the SBs, they pretty much outline my reasons for why I think the genre stinks. It's a long article, but I'll put the best parts here:
"...what irritates the shit out of me is that these characters [the chick lit heroines], they let you look down on them. They exist to make you feel better about yourself. And not only that, things happen to them because they are “nice” or “good” or “kind” and they aren’t complete bitchasses, and so they earn their happily ever after, and maybe it’s with the rich executive guy who just got his MBA and a promotion by age 24, and all is right with the world because suddenly, Dippi McHeroine can afford a new cell phone, now that hers is in pieces on the street. Or Jemima J-heroine loses weight after seeing herself photoshopped into slender glory, and ends up with a hot job, a new sense of self-worth, and a hot, hot man she’s lusted for all along. Or maybe Frumpi L’Heroine figures out all by herself a way to deal with her annoying evil boss and her annoying evil stepmother and finds a modicum of personal happiness - and of course a guy figures into the story most of the time somehow. But isn’t this genre often inculcating among young women the idea that fulfillment isn’t to be had professionally? That true fulfillment is money, goods acquisition, and a hot, hunky man? How is that addressing the needs to the young, female workforce, except using common rhetoric to slide the idea into their heads that the workplace isn’t really where they want to be, and reinforcing old, dangerous standards of what modern femininity is?" [emphasis added]
"Most of all, Chick Lit also doesn’t do it for me because the heroines never do anything, aside from make big messes. Stuff happens to them. Then, when they happen to do something, it’s a catastrophe. They aren’t often autonomous and they don’t make decisions to better themselves after they’ve had a three-martini lunch with their shallow friends about how much things suck. That’s not inspiring, and it’s not interesting. It’s dumb and I get irritated with people like that in real life. I don’t care about shoes and handbags to the exclusion of your having a brain. And I surely do not care about this that or the other hot guy, and it’s not because I’m married. I have single friends, but they are not weight-obsessed slackasses who stick their heads up their asses then complain about the view. I can’t handle people like that with a great degree of patience. I’m not friends with them. They annoy me. And I hate spending my leisure time with them."
Tell me about it. The world is full of people who think women are nothing but man-obsessed, shoe-lovin', chocolate-eating, airheaded messes. And that's the nice version. The last thing I want to do is read about some dumbass heroine who just perpetuates that and with whom I have NOTHING in common. Heroines whose lives, both inner and outer, are so devoid of life I want to explode something, like publishing houses. Just last year, I read three chick lit novels (Jenny Cruisie's Tell Me Lies, MaryJanice Davidson's Undead and Unwed and Gemma Townley's When in Rome) whose heroine were so stupid, so lifeless and so annoying I would have ceremonially burned the books had not they belonged to the library. (Yes, yes. I know that Betsey from U and U is a vampire so she's literally dead. I meant inside, people!) For a woman like me, who grew up with the cream tea awesomeness of, say, Marion Zimmer Bradley's heroines, the ladies of chick lit seem like Cream of Crap.
As for the book in question...
I didn't hate it. Which, considering the above views on chick lit, is saying a lot. Nor did I love it, even though my husband insists because it involves Jane Austen AND time travel it was written for me. The heroine of this book, Courtney Stone, is a rather frustrating embodiment of the chick lit genre, but she does get a little more interesting as the book progresses. The story basically involves her waking up in the body of Jane, a 19th century woman from the same genteel class of Austen's heroines. It's glaringly obvious that this book is a wish fulfillment for the author, who not only looks exactly like the heroine (based on her jacket picture) but also leads a similar life. Hey, we've all had our Mary Sue moments, but I wish the similarities hadn't been quite so close.
Courtney/Jane does have her moments, like when she ponders the time/space continuum and has her "OMG I really am selfish!" revelation at the end, but most of the time she's Dumb Chick Lit girl: "I'm so ashamed of my Jane Austen addiction because it's not cool!" "I drink vodka to escape the reality that my ex-fiance was a chick lit a-hole caricature!" "I'm going to stalk Jane Austen when I see her on the street!" The pièce de résistance comes very close to the end, when she completely lost all credibility with me and I pushed back all the ground she gained. I can't tell you what it is, but if you read the book you'll know it when you read it. Suffice to say, her stupidity reared its ugly head in a very disappointing way.
And the payoff? Very disappointing. You're not even sure who the hero's supposed to be until 3/4 through the book, and the ending is confusing and rushed.
The reason I'm not totally trashing this book? Because it's the Regency. Sigh. I'm such a sucker. And because Jane/Courtney has a great friend in it named Mary, who reminds me of my own friend Mary. It's a slim save, but it's something. At least it only took a few hours to read. B-