Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Man of My Dreams

 While looking up other works by Curtis Sittenfeld to see how much of a dent I'd made in reading her literary contributions to the world, I came upon the title, This is Not Chick Lit to which Sittenfeld contributed the story Volunteers are Shining Stars, which I have not read yet.  However, that was one of the points I was planning to make about The Man of My Dreams:  This is not Chick Lit.  At least not really.  This is the third work of fiction I have read by Sittenfeld (I have also read Prep and American Wife), and it pretty much struck me as all the others had.  This is a good thing, actually.

To me, Chick Lit (besides reminding me of the tiny, square, plasticy gum as the term bounces around my brain) is the lovely Carribbean vacation of the mind in which one indulges in order to take a break from life; a cute story about fashionable girls, or soon-to-be fashionable girls, or quaint country girls who are smart and sassy and about whom we can smile and indulge ourselves with the notion, "Hey, that's me," while noticing how cute and fashionable we girls kinda really are.

My experiences with Curtis Sittenfeld are not like this.  She is an extremely talented writer, and I love the way she can turn a phrase.  She is also crude, explicit, and embarrassing (and not in a cute way), and I simply can't put her down.  Sittenfeld's protagonists are weak in the way you are weak but won't admit even to yourself.  On the flip side, they are also strong in ways that you -- if you do admit your true weaknesses -- may find you are as well.  If these women find happily ever after, it's in knowing that life is going to go on despite what they've been through -- usually what they've put themselves through.  Because when it comes right down to it, aren't most of the things that happen to us the things that we've done to ourselves? 

There is one way in which this could be considered Chick Lit if the connotation can be suspended momentarily.  I really have no idea how much a man could relate to some of the finer points of the characters' reasoning, not to say that a man couldn't.  Maybe if you read it one of her books and you happen to be one (a man, not a book), you could let me know how it went.

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