Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Boys Will Only Break Your Heart

The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

There's something Curtis Sittenfeld does exceptionally well. I noticed it when I read Prep, and I noticed it in this book. When you look back at your adolescent self, you remember the moments when you were awkward, pitiful, and unloved, but without the immediacy or intensity that you felt when you were, say, ditched by your friends at a pool party so they could go splash water on boys who would never ever in a million years lift you, in your chaste Speedo bathing suit, up on their shoulders for a chicken fight.

What Sittenfeld captures better than any writer I can think of is the adolescent state of mind that says, "I am a maladjust, and there is never a time when I am not."

The Man of My Dreams begins with a teenage Hannah and her aunt musing upon the upcoming nuptials of Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland, ever so happy for Julia to have found her special, till death do us part soul mate. Later chapters follow Hannah through college and her early 20s, revealing her to be a person who would rather chase after unrequited love and wallow in her self-absorbed neuroses than find happiness, well... wherever she can find it.

A lot of reviews have described this book as asking the question, "Can you turn a messed up childhood into a happy adulthood?" (paging Dr. Laura...). However, I think it's more a book about why getting out of your own head and choosing happiness is a lot harder for people than it ought to be.

If you liked...: Prep, of course, Kinflicks by Lisa Alther, Saving Grace by Lee Smith, or books about women trying to get their shit together over the course of many years, this book is for you.


Gwen said...

This comment is entirely unrelated to that post.

Here's the thing: I adore Brady. You know that. He knows that. So this is nothing personal. All things equal, I'd be happy for you two to go on being married and happy forever.

But things are not equal. And I have decided it is our absolute *destiny* to go to Alabama, find Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood, marry them, and spend the rest of our lives making them biscuits and gravy and banana pudding and helping them overcome their many emotional scars.

As I said, no offense to Brady, and I hope he understands.

mary_m said...

Gwen, I can totally see us as next door neighbors in aprons hanging out on our front porches drinking sweet tea and talking about our new husbands out on the road earning the rent with their post-alt-country rocker and how we helped work a few post-feminist lyrics into their new album....

somehow I fee we would be getting the short end of that rock and roll stick.

However, their crush factor is without argument.

Gwen said...

Well, maybe Brady needs to get a job in some nice southern town and then find a guy for me to marry so I can move there too, and we can do the sittin'-on-the-front-porch-chatting thing without the completely emotionally damaged, always on the road husbands.

Yes, I believe this will work out well.

mary_m said...

Now, we just have to get both of you jobs at the University of Memphis and one for me at the Memphis Public Library.

Then we'll buy little bungalows in the trendy Cooper Young district and have lots of cookouts.

Memphis is full of great thrift and vintage stores. We must make this happen, yes?

Gwen said...

Yes. It is an undeniably good plan. I will keep a lookout for jobs in Memphis.

If the puppy. Does not. SHUT UP. My brain is going. To. EXPLODE.