Thursday, September 29, 2005

Citizen Girl

Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Krauss

If you are at all familiar with The Nanny Diaries or Lauren Weisburger's The Devil Wears Prada, you are aware of the bitching, whining doormats that are the protagonists in these books. In one of the discussion threads over at someone commented that the heroine really needed "to grow a pair." I love this sentiment. It really does feel apt. I can't imagine how people can get themselves into these situations and I find myself so frustrated reading this stuff.

I can never imagine what makes these books appealing to people. I don't mind reading about people overcoming obstacles and hardships. I don't need fairy tale fiction, but why would I want the mundane, everyday atrocities hurled at me? Who enjoys this? Yet, I know the answer to this question, because I know people who read and loved these books. I think it could be that people don't like to feel like it's just them. If things are crappy in your life and you are trapped in a bad situation and feeling like you have no options, you probably would feel better knowing there's someone else in the same boat. Or, maybe that you relate and so it feels comfortable reading these books. Or, it could be that readers like it when they read about someone having it worse than they do. They do nothing for me.

The authors of this book also wrote The Nanny Diaries, which didn't do much for me. I guess their trademark device is the anonymous naming. The protagonist is just called Girl, her boss is Guy, her love interest is Buster and her employer is My Company. I find it pretty lame. Do they not have enough imagination to come up with actual names for characters and businesses. Actually women and tertiary characters get names, most odd or overly simple

I didn't like Girl and I did feel a little bad about that. She should have felt like a kindred spirit. But I couldn't understand how she could be so clueless. She starts out working at a private non-profit organization for women. At first you believe that her boss is a psycho babble spewing bitch (if you've ever worked in human services, you know what I'm talking about) because I've seen the type and it seemed so strange to me that she could be efficient and organized and be accused of just the opposite. But then you notice that she can't get along with anyone. It's hard to believe that it's everyone else. There is only one common denominator in all of your problems. If you keep having the same problem over and over, you might want to evaluate your own role in it.

I know, if you've read the book, this seems kind of harsh. But, Girl and I got off on the wrong foot. She had all these expectations and a sense of entitlement that I had trouble looking past. Everyone was expected to give to her and do for her and cater to her. She went to job interviews and just because someone agreed to meet with her, she assumed that she was going to do what she wanted, more nonprofit, human services work. She didn't bother to look into the company before the interview. She was a disruption everywhere she went. it just seemed ridiculous to me. Who did she think she was? On the Yay Girl? hand, she was gracious. She was grateful for kindnesses shown to her. Her ideas about how things should be were nice, although they didn't synch with the world she lived in.

When she loses her job and moans to her mother, Grace, who runs a writer's retreat, which sounds nothing like the one in Haunted, she suggests that she reread The Grapes of Wrath to put her situation in perspective. At this point in the story, I saw parallels. Well, mostly it was the job fair that seemed like a modern Grapes of Wrath. The economy is bad and there are all these people looking for work and employers who tease large groups of unemployed people with the promise of jobs that may not really exist. The desperation among people fighting over jobs at mass interviews where they weed out the candidates among the familiar faces in the job hunt and the unemployment line.

There were some good descriptive passages. My favorite was about a supply closet described as King Tut's afterlife as planned by Staples. Girl came from the world of private non-profit where there is no such thing as an overflowing supply closet, unless there is money left over at the end of the fiscal year and then all the scrimping all year pays off in some much needed supplies. I'm glad that I didn't read this book, but I was not really crazy about the performance either.

All of the male voices sounded like surfer/skater boys (Duuuude). I was completely annoyed by the precious and pretentious pronunciations. For some reason the reader insisted on mispronouncing words or trying to make them sound French, or I guess high brow. It failed. It grated. An audio book sometimes bears the double burden of not only quality of the printed material, but the aesthetics of the performance. I find that both of these things can really color the way I react to a book. A book in hand, read in your own inner voice, as such, requires only your skill of comprehension and the material provided to you by the author. An audiobook, which can improve comprehension of some books, can also detract from the enjoyment of the experience with a narrator that just doesn't do it for you. There are some narrators that can read me anything and I can enjoy it and some that I can't listen to at all.

If you are a fan of the chicklit books and liked The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada, you'll probably like this too. Otherwise, I'd stay away from this one.


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