June 14, 2005

Relationship Porn

[Off-topic but: I've been seeing an unusual amount of stereotypical bird behavior today. On the way to the Pick'n'Save I saw some sort of dove with a twig in its mouth, presumably for a nest. Just now there was a robin on my front lawn with a worm in its beak, looking unsure what to do next. I plan to avoid seagulls.]

The New Yorker's Briefly Noted review of Melissa Banks' latest novel or story collection or whatever described it as the latest installment of relationship porn. Perfect, I said. I've read every Marian Keyes novel and relationship porn sounds like just what I need to tide me over. (In case it's not clear: The sense of 'porn' at issue has nothing to do with sex; it's like decorating shows as 'lifestyle porn'. Sorry to insult your intelligence, dear reader, but put something on the Interweb and all these other people who might not get it read it too.)

So I obtained and read Banks' previous novel or story collection or whatever, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Unfortunately, it was not Perfect. It was not even satisfactory, in ways I will describe below the fold. But even if it had been better as what it was, it still woudln't have been what I was looking for--too arty, with the prose deliberately stripped down rather than functional. Actually, I think I mean 'deliberately stripped down rather than funny'. In fact, that's exactly what I mean: We want funny!

So this aspired to be about relationships in a Serious way. And I want some recommendations for stuff that isn't. What She Saw was pretty decent. Are Helen Fielding's post-Bridget Jones novels any good? Surely someone out there can help me with this.

As for Girl's Guide; the first story I quite liked, but it was about the narrator as a teen, liking her brother's girlfriend better than her brother did. Not quite in genre. Then it got into some stuff about her foolish involvement with a dashing older editor. Except the Dashing Older Guy seemed to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I mean, at one point Narrator says, "I don't want to just be a character in your made-up anecdotes," and DOG says "To be just," and then pimps it off to the idea that editors don't split infinitives.

What is this BS? Even Ben Wolfson doesn't mind split infinitives. Were I Banks' editor, I would have struck over this, as a slander on all editors everywhere--and I'm the kind of guy who starts a sentence with a totally affected subjunctive.

(The Last Word on split infinitives.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 14, 2005 11:53 AM

Did you spot any quails??

Posted by: Diana Buccafurni at June 15, 2005 09:55 AM

No... and I lied about the gulls. I read Robert Louis Stevenson sitting on some rocks by Lake Michigan, in an extreme gull-tempting position. Fortunately I escaped.

(I wouldn't say anything, but some of my commenters can be picky... shouldn't it be 'quail'?)

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 15, 2005 01:59 PM

According to MW (Merriam Webster), either is acceptable, MW (Matt Weiner).



Posted by: Diana Buccafurni at June 15, 2005 02:08 PM

Picky? I am not!

Posted by: Matt's mom at June 15, 2005 02:15 PM

Cause Celeb, Helen Fielding's first (pre-Bridget Jones) novel, wasn't terrible. A little first novel-y rough around the edges, but a perfectly reasonable way to spend an afternoon.

Mil Millington's Things My Girlfriend and I Fight About is very, very first novel-y rough around the edges, to the point of having a plot that simply doesn't work. On the other hand, on a page-by-page basis, it's extraordinarily funny.

Posted by: LizardBreath at June 15, 2005 02:30 PM

Not you, mom! The split infinitive guy. Anyway, I've been schooled.

Doesn't Mil Millington have an associated blog or website or something? Google google.... This. It's funny. More time-wasting websites! Yay!

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 15, 2005 04:35 PM

I'm aware that for this reply to succeed, even in a tactical sense, it needs the addition of a careering petrol tanker crashing through the front of the house, rupturing instantly and causing a fiery, shattering explosion which kills both of us before another word can be uttered. (I glance quickly out towards the road, hopefully - damn.)

Posted by: Matt at June 15, 2005 04:51 PM

i also did not like 'the girls' guide'. i've been reading jennifer weiner's 'in her shoes' and, though initially lovely and certifiably 'relationship porn', i can't bring myself to finish it because of a ridiculous plot twist involving the princeton library. AS IF!

i hear it's being made into a movie.

Posted by: corey at June 16, 2005 11:29 AM

Weiner power! Now I have to read it just to find out what sort of ridiculous plot twist involving the Princeton Library could possibly lead someone to refuse to finish a book.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 16, 2005 11:53 AM

That would be the Princeton University Library, I suppose, not the Princeton Public Library at which I (shameless self-promotion) read last April and again recently. http://www.princeton.lib.nj.us/events/adults/event/33747167-262A-4728-856C-9BAC5EE3F5D1.html

And who first said "shameless self-promotion"? Shakespeare?

Posted by: Matt's mom at June 21, 2005 11:14 AM