Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Laughter Reviews, #7

Here another review with the focus: funny or not, and why?


Careerwoman approaching forty takes a hard look at artificial rejuvenation from a personal and business point of view.

What works
The oneliners. Witty quips come so fast and (often literally) furious from beginning to end that the top of Apprentice Writers copy was splayed to double the width of the bottom from all the corners turned down to mark especially good ones.

Heroine introducing herself: 'This morning (I) got my antihistamine and spermicide sprays confused. I now have a vagina that can breathe more freely and nostrils I can safely have sex in for at least six hours.'

On husband changing from idealist to conservative businessman: 'When did I first notice he was turning into the sort of bloke who wore pinstriped condoms?'

Model sister on Forty: 'A terrible age. Too old to lambada, too young to die.' and: 'Turning forty is the major cause of old age.' and: 'Whoever says money can't buy happiness doesn't know where to shop.'

On preparation to surprise spouse with new lingerie, etc. (summarized): 'Due to breastfeeding, my boobs were like day-old party balloons with all the air leaked out. A pelt of pubic growth sprouted from each leg hole (so) I took to my pubes with a pair of kids' project scissors (until) my spiky rear resembled a sea creature disturbed in a rock pool, preparing to attack. My thighs were spilling over (the) stocking tops like lava from a flesh volcano. I tore off the nylons (exposing) acres of of white flesh. While the kids yapped around me, demanding to know why their fingers and nostrils had to be kept apart when they so obviously fitted and whether sneezes were really your soul trying to escape, I slapped (on some old tanning lotion). Forty minutes or so later...I looked as if I was wearing a tangerine wet suit...I took to my body with a pot improvement. By the time I gave up on my attempt (to insert ben-wa balls) I was so depleted with exhaustion that I had to eat the banana-flavored erecto gel. With the sound of my husband's key grating in the lock, I leapt onto the bed to lie sensuously among pillows that I now noticed were splattered with squashed chicken nuggets...I seemed to have hirsute toenails. Oh, God! My pube trimmings had fallen into the wet nail polish and dried there...Dry of mouth, I licked my lips - only to discover I was still wearing mustache bleach. Dry-retching from the poisonous taste...I gawked into the bedside mirror to see the bleach...had turned my top lip albino. It neoned out at me from my reflection...Bloody hell! I also had a stress pimple erupting on my nose. Now there's a good look - wrinkles and pimples...'

It is a rare page that doesn't contain a wry assessment from one character or another's perspective.

What doesn't
The oneliners. The author's outstanding talent with incisive, stinging remarks comes at a price; in this case, character development, dialogue, and plausibility all seemed to suffer the more the story unfolded. The way the characters spoke with one another and sometimes acted , the sitations in which they were placed, the time frame in which characters were supposed to achieve and revert from certain mindsets - all these elements seemed occasionally fake (pun intended and appropriate). The children often seemed curiously absent from the action and from the characters' thoughts, to the point that Apprentice Writer is undecided about whether the novel is more accurately described as momlit or chicklit.

So long as she thrives in her job as news correspondent and feels secure in her marriage to reconstructive surgeon Hugo, Lizzie is certain that her model sister Victoria's ferocious pursuit of youthful beauty is misguided. But when she is fired to make way for someone more eye-appealling, and suspicions that her spouse is having an affair with a starlet known for the size of her chest instead of IQ mount, Lizzie's conviction wavers.

In an age when cosmetic surgery and chemical procedures are rampant, this book asks some tough questions. Where does the pressure to look young no matter the physical, emotional and financial cost come from? Why do so many more women than men feel compelled to drastically 'improve' themselves? And what happens when a woman who is confident that intelligence and wit outshine youth and big breasts is put to the test?

There are no simple answers. The story of how Lizzie, Victoria, and Hugo arrive at different conclusions has rough spots, but it is without a doubt thought-provoking.

But does it make you laugh? ABSOLUTELY.
Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. If one accepts this, and concentrates on what he/she does well rather than throwing the baby out with the weak dialogue/ one-note characters/ implausible situations bathwater, it makes one's reading life much more enjoyable.

This author's skill at distilling large-scale observations down to smart, amusing, bite-sized chunks is extraordinary. Apprentice Writer will seek out Lette's backlist without delay.


Christine d'Abo said...

Oh I love one liners like that. The spermicide joke cracked me up! May have to check this out.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I really liked Lette's Mad Cows a LOT, so I've had my eyes open for her other books, too. Thanks for the words on this one!

M. said...

christine - glad you liked it

susan - welcome to my blog! i will look out for 'mad cows' though i can't imagine a comedy about agricultural crisis