Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Book Report: Bitch Lit

Today's t-shirt: "My colleagues went to COMDEX and I had to buy my OWN lousy t-shirt." I snagged it when we were cleaning out the office storage room at my last job prior to a major remodeling project. I thought it was so absurdly hilarious, especially when I heard the story behind it. Apparently, a former middle manager there (who might have been part of the inspiration for one of the characters in my books) had thought that a great way to reward the staff who had to do all the work to get clients ready for a major trade show but then didn't get to go would be to have these fun t-shirts made that they could then buy and wear to work (never mind that actually going to COMDEX was anything but a treat). It's a tactic right out of the Michael Scott school of employee motivation (for all you fans of "The Office"). Needless to say, the employees were less than enthused about the idea of "getting" to buy a lousy t-shirt, so the unsold shirts got stashed in the storage room, where we then all got them for free when it came time to clear out all the junk. I was going to be using bleach while doing laundry today, so I wore it rather than risk anything better.

For further proof of my problems with time (as discussed yesterday), yesterday (Tuesday) I was checking in on one of the blogs I read daily and saw that the most recent entry was from Monday. I thought, "Gee, I hope she didn't lose nearly a week's worth of entries because of some glitch." For a moment, I thought I actually remembered reading several additional days worth of entries that were no longer there. And then I remembered that it was only Tuesday. Argh.

Now for the topic of the day:
As you might have noticed in my various rants on romantic comedy movies, I find it really annoying when the so-called heroine is some self-centered, psycho harpy, and yet we're supposed to be sympathizing with her and pulling for her to get the guy. But this same kind of main character can actually be a lot of fun if we're supposed to think she's a self-centered, psycho harpy from hell. In a strange sort of way, I sometimes even end up sympathizing more with this kind of character, as long as she acknowledges what she is. Here are a few selections of what might be called "bitch lit."

Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber, by Adele Lang -- the title pretty much says it all. I'd describe it as "Bridget Jones's Evil Twin's Diary." A shallow, self-centered, psycho harpy starts keeping a journal as a way of documenting her business expenses when she's threatened with a tax audit. And then she learns from an aspiring writer friend that a newspaper is looking for a columnist, so she submits her journal (thus stealing the job from her friend). It goes on from there as she gradually destroys the lives of everyone around her while simultaneously destroying her own life and remaining blissfully oblivious about the consequences of her actions. It sounds grim, but it's written in such a way that it's absolutely hilarious. You enjoy watching her keep messing up and keep missing entirely that she's the cause of it all. There was a movie version of this on Oxygen, but it was very little like the book because they added a romance plot and had the heroine learn A Big Life Lesson and change her ways (never mind that it's a British book but the movie was set in San Francisco).

Her by Laura Zigman -- was a little more serious. It's about a woman whose fiance has the ex from hell -- an absolutely perfect woman who has a body like Barbie, a Yale-educated brain, lots of family money, a list of connections that reads like Who's Who, and the kind of personality that seems to charm everyone into being under her spell. Our heroine becomes obsessed with this woman even before the first date with the man who becomes her fiance, when he mentions her casually during a small-talk conversation on an airplane. The first time she sleeps over at his house, she sneaks into his office during the night to find whatever info she can on this woman. Just when she's starting to feel secure in the relationship as they plan their wedding, the ex moves into town and wants them all to be friends, since she doesn't know anyone else locally. That's when the downward spiral of stalking and spying begins -- in spite of the fact that the fiance gives her no real reason for suspicion and even is able to articulate why he chose her over the ex. But if you dig hard enough and long enough, you're sure to find what you're looking for ... This was kind of "train wreck" reading, where I was just waiting for her to really mess up. I wanted to slap her around a bit and tell her to get over herself, but at the same time, I could understand the roots of the insecurity. I have to admit, though, that a big part of my enjoyment of reading the book was the fact that it takes place in my favorite part of Washington, D.C., the part of town where I once dreamed of living.

I've already mentioned Something Blue by Emily Giffin, but it fits into this category, too. At the start of the book, the heroine has become pregnant by one man -- who had been dating her best friend -- while she was engaged to another man, and yet she still manages to cast herself as the victim when her wedding is called off. Her actions are pretty despicable through much of the book, until she gets a few big wakeup calls, courtesy of a friend who cares enough to tell her the truth. By the end of the book, I actually liked her, which is a rare feat.

Now, though, I have the urge to deal with some nice heroines. I guess that means I should get back to work on my revisions, since Katie is (I hope) the kind of heroine you want to cheer for.

1 comment:

Maureen McGowan said...

I love a good bitchy heroine. In fact, I'd never thought of it before, but I think I might be writing bitch lit. Don't think I'll be calling my agent tomorrow to tell her to market my books using that moniker, though... (She's already drawn the Emily Giffin comparison. Best compliment I've ever received.)

I enjoy likeable heroines, too... but I find people who do bad things and make mistakes, so much more interesting to read and write about...

I think that's why I personally don't enjoy most romances... The heroines all act the way we wish we'd act in a situation... Well, I want to see the heroine be really immature and defensive and mean and destructive when she's hurt. That's the way I usually behave in relationships :-) Maybe that's why I'm still single?