A few hours into our excursion, my dad pulled out the book he had been reading. "I'm reading this because it was cheap," he said, and I looked over and saw a yellow "$6.99" sticker on the back of his trade paperback, possibly hailing from Wal-Mart or Borders. That was fine and all, but then I looked at the cover. My father was reading Going Topless by Megan McAndrew.
"Dad!" I hissed/shrieked. "That's chick lit!"
The term did not register with my father. (I do not come from the most literary of families unless we're talking about the NIV, King James, or RSV versions of the Bible.) I might as well have said to him, "Dad! That book is written in English!" because as a reply, he gave me a plot summary: "It's about four sisters. One is..." he began. I didn't know what else to do, so I let him continue talking and thus continue reading it. I later encouraged him to buy the mass-market paperback version of Memoirs of a Geisha because at least that wouldn't cause passersby to challenge his heterosexuality.
That aside, I spent my vacation reading the following three books that had similar threads running through them: New York, career choices, a perceptible hum of self-absorption, and the mishaps that befall the authors:
1. The Joys of Much Too Much by Bonnie Fuller:
-Okay, stop laughing. Heck, yes, I read it because who wouldn't want to be the most sought-after and highest-paid magazine editor in the world? I waded through the snappy, hyper, you-go-girl prose in less than three hours and learned a marginal amount about succeeding in life that I didn't already know from the reviews. Clearly, this book is for the post-college, pre-career set, but that doesn't make it bad, necessarily. I'd have paid 10 bucks for it, but probably not $15, which is what I bought it for on Amazon.
2. Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs
-This book is so good that -- nerd that I am -- after I finished it I actually went to Augusten's website to find his e-mail address so I could tell him how much I love his work. (Um, he didn't have his e-mail address up, probably so stalkers like me can't get in direct contact with him.) I've now read most of Augusten's work: Running with Scissors, Dry, Magical Thinking, and now this, and all of them are well worth the time spent reading them. I. Cannot. Wait. for the Running with Scissors movie coming out this fall starring none other than my girl Gwyneth. OMG. Okay, I have to calm down now.
3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
-I read this book when I was about 17 and retained absolutely none of it. Reading it with a somewhat wiser perspective is completely different and wonderful. It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite novels, The Best of Everything, but in mostly superficial ways -- setting, age range of characters, etc. In my opinion, it's every woman's duty to read Plath at some point in her life.
Here are a few other things I've really enjoyed this past week:
>> I read this from Forksplit today, and I found it beautiful and engaging. I enjoy her writing so much, and I love that she writes long, something that the blogosphere seems to discourage.
>> My friend down South made me a mix CD of songs I had never heard of, and I found I love the song "Dakota" by Stereophonics. After a little Googling, I found that this song came out in early 2005, but I am okay with that because I am okay with the fact I am not cool. I'll leave that to the hipsters.