Saturday, June 04, 2005

Chick Lit

The downstairs hallway of our building is the repository for everybody's old books, magazines, exercise equipment and whatever you don't feel like hauling to the thrift shop. It's given me a great opportunity to sample stuff I probably wouldn't otherwise pay attention to.

Yesterday, somebody left a copy of "Slightly Single" by Wendy Markham, which is a "Red Dress Ink" book. "Red Dress Ink" is the "new, edgy, single girl in the city" division of Harlequin Romances.

I enjoy reading a good "young single girl in the city" novel, seeing if I can recognize my younger self in the protagonist. But by a few pages into "Slightly Single," I realized that Tracey Spadolini was not me twenty years ago but more like some obnoxious girl who used to follow me around punching me in the arm while chattering obsessively about whether or not her boyfriend is interested in her.

I've been wondering who the audience is for "He's Just Not That Into You," knowing it couldn't have been me: I've been highly cynical since childhood and have tended not to trust that a guy was really into me unless suicide pacts were being mentioned. But now I know who these self-help books for the clueless are aimed at...they're for Tracey Spadolini.

That being said, I enjoyed the book. It was a good Friday night read. Maybe a good beach read. It moved along quickly, and the heroine grew on me. Most of us can remember having one too many margaritas, or making a phone call you shouldn't have made, or having a boss who's a jerk. Also, her apartment is pretty realistic: One room, a tiny kitchen, one window. And I enjoyed the descriptions of the other secretaries in her office, her catering jobs, and spending a three-day weekend with her family in Buffalo. I could definitely see this as some kind of "made for Lifetime" movie.

What really impresses me is that this genre has become mainstream enough for Harlequin to have its own renditions of Bridget Jones. Twenty years ago, when I actually was a young single edgy stand-up comic, I was often told that the kind of stuff I was doing wasn't going to sell in Mainstream, America.

"You're not suburban enough," one promoter said.

"So what does that mean? I should drive onstage in an SUV?"

"Ha ha! You're funny."

"So book me if I'm funny."

"Send me a tape."

What I ought to have done is written a book of "things that promoters say when they're Just Not That Into You."

Spoiler alert, in case you happen to read "Slightly Single." She doesn't end up with the "nice guy" at the end. That's how these stories always ended when I was growing up: The crazy, mixed up single girl would come to her senses at the end and marry the Nice Guy. This is because in the old days, the writers of these stories were always Nice Guys.

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