Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Salon

The Sunday

Yes, I know: my blog has been sorely neglected as of late. I actually do have a post I've been working on for the past few days that I plan to have up by either today or tomorrow (though it might be dated retroactively), and then I plan on getting to reviewing The Crimes of Paris, 2666, and Follow Me.

You may recall from my previous Sunday Salon that I returned to my alma mater last weekend for the graduation of some of my friends. (Good Lord, it's really been one whole year since I myself graduated!) When I arrived, most of my old floor (it's a "special interest" floor - kind of like a coed fraternity) was at a picnic in a park two miles away. I was wearing four-inch heels but I wanted to see everyone so I walked! (Not as big a deal as you'd think - I do everything in heels, and these were platforms, not stilettos.) Being back felt very surreal. I was in school from the time I was five to age twenty-two. I loved college and wish I was still there, instead of sitting at home doing nothing except work as a legal secretary in a city I hate. I thought I was too young to feel nostalgia, but recalling my own graduation and how exciting it was forced me to really look back on the past year, at the months of unemployment, the ensuing months of working part-time for minimum wage ringing groceries, and only now getting a full-time job that's basically dead-end and paying only $9 an hour.

Fucking economy. "Oh trust me," one of my friends told me, "no one is hopeful. We know it's bad out there." Well no kidding.

I didn't attend any of the department ceremonies, although I did crash the English and History receptions to see some of my old professors. And speaking of old professors. . .

This is Follow Me by Joanna Scott, who I had for International Fiction my senior year. (Yes, I did get an A!) It's been a big hit among my fellow book bloggers, so when I saw it in the Faculty Authors section, you know I had to snatch it up! (I knew that there are other writers named Joanna Scott, so I wasn't 100% sure it was the same person at first.) Alas, Professor Scott was not at the English reception. She was giving an honorary degree at another school. So next time I'm in town I'll make sure to stop by and have her autograph it. At the moment, however, I do have mixed feelings about the story so far. To begin with, Follow Me is not the type of book I usually read - it has a very "Oprah's Book Club" feel to it. Yet on the other hand, Professor Scott's prose is beautifully done, and I've always contended that great prose can make up for a ho-hum plot. Unfortunately, I'm putting it on hiatus for the moment, as I have to get the first part of 2666 read by the end of May as part of the five-month reading challenge I'm taking part in.

I started reading Follow Me in my favorite room at the school library: a dark-hued scholarly-type place with thick leather couches, low lighting, wood paneling, and marble floors covered with antique area rugs.

The dorms closed Monday morning at nine, and by Sunday night most people had left. Our floor, never neat, remained an atrocious mess, even at 5:00am, when my taxi arrived to take me to the train station (for some reason, there were no trains available Sunday). The lounges were littered with God-knows-whose stuff, dishes and old food on the cheap folding tables, dust and dirt all over the floors, junk everywhere, overflowing trash cans, overflowing recycle bins (but at least we recycle), empty liquor bottles still packing the shelves; in the Core were boxes and boxes of dishes from the kitchen (which were prompty unpacked, since people apparently still needed to cook), a bicycle frame with no wheels (don't ask), random miscellaneous papers, and more junk people didn't want anymore. I slept on the couch in what had been the Video Game Lounge, now largely cleaned up except for the aforementioned dirt and debris, as well as a computer of unknown origin.

The river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind

Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,

Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends

Or other testimony of summer nights.
The nymphs are departed.

And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;

Departed, have left no addresses.

With most of my friends gone, The Crimes of Paris finished, and Follow Me getting tiresome, I was lacking in things to do. In one of the lounges was a plastic crate box full of books and magazines in which I found this:
With the exception of Twilight, I have never read a contemporary novel, written by a woman, more insulting to women than this. It was like one of those horrible things you witness and yet find that you just can't look away. Amanda Trimble's Singletini is the single most vapid work of fiction I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Any chick lit fan who wonders why people disparage her fave genre should look no further than Singletini. The main character, a borderline-alcoholic named Vic, is as shallow as a cheap plastic kiddie pool in some cookie-cutter suburban wasteland. The narration is first-person, and, I swear to God, every last one of Vic's thoughts and feelings revolved around drinking, dating, fashion, shopping, clubbing, and rich people. She was more manic than a bipolar patient amped on crystal meth. I mean, the story moves at this a crazy-fast pace that should be impossible without the protagonist eventually suffering severe burnout. Apparently Trimble comes from an advertising background, so I guess that makes sense, but writing a novel is not the same as writing catchy copy. Look, I know there is thoughtful chick lit out there, but this isn't it. I simply cannot believe this was written by a grown woman for grown women. Actually, I think Twilight was better-written and far more mature.

I finished Singletini in about an hour. It may be 352 pages, but that's 352 pages of pure fluff. I went back to the lounge I had taken it from, but the plastic crate was gone! I don't know if whoever's book it was had left or not, so I left it on the couch. It was a library book (not from our school's library), so I sure hope she found it. I would hate to be responsible for overdue fees, but maybe taking Singletini out of circulation isn't really such a bad thing. . .

But anyway, I have a full literary load on my hands right now. Happy reading everyone!


Wendy said...

I'm looking forward to reading your review of Follow Me! I agree that the plot was slow, but writing was beautiful.

claire said...

I was a bit disappointed with Follow Me, but then a lot of other bloggers really liked it, too. For me it was just okay. I'm guessing we might be feeling the same.

So I hope you are getting along well with 2666. In any case, so looking forward to your thoughts. Cheering you on. :)

E. L. Fay said...

Wendy and Clair: So far I agree: slow plot, beautiful writing, overall a tad disappointing (so far, anyway). My mother actually abandoned it, but hopefully I'll like it better.

Clair: I do like 2666 so far! It reminds me of A.S. Byrant's Possession.

E. L. Fay said...


Meghan said...

I graduated about a year ago and I've been feeling similarly nostalgic lately. I went straight for a one year grad program, but haven't been able to find any part-time work while here. I'm graduating from this in September and I'm dreading entering the job market, even though I recognize that I need to before I devote my life to academia. I hope you find something better soon.

Follow Me got a lot better past the first 100 or so pages, I found. How awesome that Joanna Scott was your professor! I'm jealous.

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