The Bad Book
I've adjusted to most of what motherhood entails, for me. I am used to waking up in the night, grudgingly used to being interrupted at the most exciting moment of the book or the writing. I am used to being asked for a snack, then having the same snack rejected for some inexplicable reason.
But I miss Friday nights.
My parents always went out on Friday nights. Always. Even if it was just to a neighbor's house. They could be fighting, shouting over the banging of the closet door and the dance music they always used to get into the Friday mood. But they would go out. Of that there was no doubt.
Thus, I think that same desire is encoded in my emotional DNA. TEG indulged it, pre-parenthood. We might stay home on a Saturday and cuddle on the couch with a movie. We might even go to bed early. But Fridays sang their siren song, luring us out of our house and into the red lit, unpredictability of the night.
So, even though the rest of the week I am (almost) perfectly content, on Fridays I get restless, staring at the ribbon of headlights streaking outside my window. We don't have babysitting, nor any family in the area, so my only outings on Friday nights are the ones in my imagination.
That's when I read chick lit novels, the more frothy the better—something festive, preferably with a stylized picture of shoes. Or a martini glass. That kind of book. It feels a little illicit, like I am cheating on the more serious novels and nonfiction I read during the week.
Now, the thing is...most of these books are perfectly satisfactory. The situations can be a little ordinary, but the characters are well drawn, instantly likable. They follow all of the rules stated in my writing books—setting up the situation, following through with plot suggestions, etc. And, as a bonus the books feel like a couple of hours sitting at a woozy bar table with my single friends, gossiping. They feel like, well, Friday night.
But every now and then you find a book that brings all of those “writing book rules” into relief, and you learn exactly what you DON'T want to do.
I read most of one of those books this last Friday night. It started out promisingly enough, two friends living in London, secretly in love with each other and wondering why their love lives never seemed to work out. And then guy's first love reappears, after having left under mysterious circumstances....
You get the idea. I liked the characters, mostly. I loved the descriptions of London. I settled into my Friday night...until I realized I was thoroughly BORED. For starters, the two main characters kept talking about how wonderful they thought the other person was, but all you saw between them was arguments and history. Their so-called wonderful natures were not SHOWN, but only talked about.
Their work existed only as a glamorous backdrop to their fraught (ha) passion. There was no substance to any of it, and it didn't forward the story at all.
And then there was the flimsy obstacle between them. There was no real reason for them not to just be together, no compelling force keeping them apart. So instead, they acted in increasingly idiotic ways in order to pull the book along. That reminded me, as we all know, that contrivance is not a novelist's friend.
Finally, after yet another drunken and foolish plot twist, I put the book down in irritation. This was no gossip session...it was more like listening to a close friend defend her relationship with a clod you know is no good for her. And who needs a fictionalized version of that?
It wasn't all time wasted, though. I got a few fun London memories out of it (TEG and I went there on our mini-moon) and the realization that all of these writing books are finally sinking in. Sometimes you can learn more from bad art than from good.
Best of all...writer friends..we can do this. This book served as a motivating reminder of that.
So, go and give me something better to read. I'll try to do the same for you.