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Ceci n'est pas une "dating blog."

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Weekend From My Weekend

On Sunday, thoroughly drained from all forms of human interaction, I decided to spend the day in hiding. Last week I purchased Tom Wolfe's latest novel I am Charlotte Simmons. A portrait of class relations set at a fictitious University (one that resembled something of an amalgamation of Duke and UVA), Charlotte Simmons is over 700 pages long. When I bought it, I assumed it would occupy me for at least a month, given its sheer size alone. What I forgot to factor in, is that as a former English major who often had to read one novel a week for each of her seminars (sometimes two a semester) is that I have been conditioned to read books at a super-human pace. It wasn't so much that I loved the novel. I liked it well enough, and I admire Wolfe's way with words. Although often too self-conscious of his own talent, Wolfe does have a way of combining words in unusual ways, and his affinity towards adjectives make for novels that are richly descriptive and well painted. I wanted to finish it more out of a desire to understand how the book's ending was derived from the events that lead up to it.

Confession time. Some fundamental flaw in my personality compels me to read the last page of a book before I have read the rest of it. There's a line in When Harry Met Sally when Harry says that he reads the end of a book first so that he'll know how it ends if he happens to die before he reads the rest of it. That ain't me. For me, there's something about knowing the ending so that from a mechanical point of view, I can understand how each event leads up to the end as the story unfolds. It's an unorthodox way of appreciating narrative fiction, but it's an approach I've taken for as long as I can remember. I probably even read Nancy Drew and the Sweet Valley High novels that way as well. I think my motivation for this has something to do with the fact that I hate waiting to know something. In general, if information exists and is available for consumption, I want it. I don't like waiting for surprises and I hate being out of gossip loops.

I wasn't expecting Simmons to end the way that it did, and the conclusion that Wolfe chose seemed hastily thrown together and even seemed to undermine the reader's sympathy for the main character. I won't give away what happens, but I left the book feeling incredibly ambivalent towards the main character who struck me as deeply superficial and self-obsessed.

Anyway, so that was that. Perhaps you're curious about my need for a break from my weekend. It has something to do with the fact that knowing at least 8 couples to get engaged/married this year, combined with feeling like the year of 29 has been one of perpetual heartbreak for Ms. Pretty, that made this weekend especially sad. Sure, I don't handle things well. I'm too sensitive by nature. But it's hard. Having to constantly be happy for everyone else's happiness gets exhausting. Having constant reminders of your own romantic failures only makes it more difficult. Plus, I had an argument with a girlfriend on Saturday night. That alone would have ruined the weekend. So this weekend I chose the bummer routine, and hopefully it will soon be out of my system and I can return to my normal irreverently indifferent self.

The bright spot on Sunday, after finishing Charlotte and watching a cheesy romantic comedy (The Truth About Cats and Dogs--Janeane Garofalo always reminds me of me before I developed any semblance of self confidence) I realized I was famished and in dire need of a cheeseburger. Trotting out of the house in a wife beater, yucky old pants, no makeup, and my hair unbrushed and thrown into a clip, I was hardly the picture of glamour. Most people would probably think twice about checking the mail in such a get up, but I really didn't care. Depression does that to girl. Sliding up to the counter at my neighborhood bar/cafe, I suddenly spot a boy I know through a coworker. A boy who I just saw on Friday night. A boy with a beautiful smile and an extremely quirky personality who I have harbored a crush on ever since I met him several months ago. I had forgotten that he works there. Immediately upon spotting me he came over to help me. And suddenly he's grinning at me with that wonderful smile, he's eyes alit. And to my surprise, I forget that I haven't showered in over 24 hours and that I have spent the majority of the day in bed. I'm flirting with him. He takes my order, we chat. I manage to form complete sentences without stammering and I even sound somewhat witty and articulate. He suggests that I eat my cheeseburger (rare with provolone) in, but I explain that I'm alone that I'd rather eat at home with the TV as companionship. We say our goodbyes and I am suddenly renewed with hope. Not hope for him, per say because even if that happened it would never last and would ultimately bum me out all over again. But hope because I have been reminded that there are boys who flirt with me even when I look and feel horrible and the reminder that despite my raggedness, I can still match their game.

3 Comments:

Anonymous the good doctor said...

Your take on I Am Charlotte Simmons is comforting to me. I had high hopes for the book, and it’s always fun to read Wolfe write, but the whole thing left me highly disappointed. I am bitter that Charlotte turned out to be such a vapid whore, though I guess that is the point.

I’m torn on how I feel about this book (it was supposedly on W’s nightstand for a time) representing the current college campus scene to many adults. One thing I did appreciate was it’s depiction of how most current students are focused on status, pleasure and wealth above everything else, and it was good to see the general douchebag-iness of the average student highlighted. I know Wolfe went a little overboard with this aspect, but I think the effect was overall for the better. What I’m worry about is uptight 40-somethings reading this book and then becoming further convinced that young people need more rules to bring them in line. I’m not thinking of anything specific here, I just don’t feel that people who brag about being righteous and support items that legislate morality need to hear about kid’s debauchery via a renowned American author.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Axe said...

Its amusing to find that reading the last page is not just an Indian anachronism then!

In fact, I remember a leading magazine actually put a summary of articles and pages (kinda like an expanded TOC) on the last page for precisely that reason.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Hey Pretty said...

tgd--It was disconcerting to commit to 700+ pages of the plight of a certain heroine only to have her betray you in the end with her sheer lack of character.

Another issue I took with the story was that I'm not sure Tom Wolfe was the most appropriate teller for that story. Much of it translated as fuddy-duddy old writer exercises literary arrogence by looking down on lowly college students.

Axe--Impatience apparently transcends cultural differences!

3:14 PM  

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