Back in March, I had every intention in the world to spend my summer lazing about, filling my free time with stacks of fabulous books & bottles of delicious vintages. And, like most people, it always seems to slip my mind that I still work for a living and that free time is at a premium (read: it hardly exists); factor in spotty weather & long weekend gridlock and you end up with an incredibly messy calendar with very little white space.
Alas, those hours lazing about with a glass of Merlot & a good read don’t seem to be happening so far, this year. Or, at least, they’re not happening as often as I’d like.
I must admit that when it comes to Jen Lancaster, I have more than a bit of a fan-girl crush. I mean, out of her five memoirs, I’ve read three… and, considering I don’t even read celebrity memoirs (never mind non-celebrity ones), that’s pretty telling. What can I say, though? I really do admire her indefatigable snark. That, and her penchant for all things ’80s (particularly her love for the late, great John Hughes. ) Either way, I feel an affinity for her work. And I knew, as soon as it was announced that she was working on a novel, I’d be lined up to grab my copy as soon as it hit shelves. If You Were Here (taken from the Thompson Twins song of the same name that plays during that oh-so awesome scene at the end of Sixteen Candles; you know the one: Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, angsty teen smoochies over a birthday cake) is funny, acerbic & smart-assy. And, if I didn’t know it was a piece of fiction, I could easily imagine the author and her husband as the two main characters. Flaws & all, they make blundering into (shudder) Suburbia entertaining. This is as good a piece of chick lit (yes, I know the PC term is now Women’s Fiction) as you’re bound to run into this summer. So do yourself a favour and just let it happen. Yep. My fan-girl crush still stands. The funny thing is, had we met during the 80s, Jen Lancaster & I would have been on polar opposite sides of the school cafeteria. Now? Now I want to drink wine with her and mock others’ unfortunate fashion decisions.
I happened upon this book quite by accident one day while browsing around Amazon.ca (incidentally, is it too late to buy shares in this company? Given the frequency with which I send them money, I’m pretty sure I must already own a few.) Other than the jacket blurb, I knew absolutely nothing about this novel. It simply sounded like an interesting read, so I tossed it in the ol’ virtual shopping cart. I’m SO glad I did. This is, officially, my newest favourite and I’m telling everyone who’ll listen to grab a copy and start reading; I’ve even forced my own copy onto unsuspecting friends. Truly Plaice is a young girl born in the early ’50s with Acromegaly (a disorder of the pituitary gland that produces excess growth hormone & causes symptoms associated with – for lack of a better term – gigantism) who is dubbed “a giant” by a bitter & unthinking teacher. With an older, beautiful, princess-like sister to whom she is continuously compared, the novel follows Truly’s tragedies & triumphs as she struggles to fit in, both literally & figuratively. But Tiffany Baker hasn’t just given us a hero to laud because we feel sorry for her. Quite the contrary – we have a hero because she’s so very human. No one person is ever entirely ugly. No one person is ever entirely beautiful. We all have moments of both – inside & out.
I really love that there is a community of impassioned writers out there willing to risk it all, self-publish & then offer up their work to the public for free. And I had really high hopes for this novel. I really did. With a futuristic storyline drawing influence from the likes of Philip K. Dick and Margaret Atwood, I wanted to like it. I really did. And maybe, with an editor, this might have been a fabulous read. Unfortunately, it appears that the services of an editor were never involved. At least, I certainly hope they weren’t.
Oh, Oscar, how I love thee and the magical things you do with words (I mean, how can you not love a man responsible for gems like: “The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history” or “Nothing makes one so vain as being told one is a sinner.” ) Hooray for another wonderful It-Came-Free-With-My-Kobo read! I’d originally discovered this, for the first time, back in high school. It started a life-long adoration for almost any sentence strung together by Oscar Wilde. Now, 25+ years later (good CHRIST, how did that happen?!), I still love this story. We all know the tale: a beautiful young man playfully wishes that he forever remain young & unmarred, while the painting that captured said visage begins to age & wither with each new morally corrupt act he perpetrates. But which came first: did he begin to explore the life of the debauched hedonist because he realized the painting would bear the marks of his sin? Or did the painting begin exhibiting his corrupt soul after his descent had already begun? Be careful what you wish for.