Welcome to My Planet

Friday, February 27, 2009

I didn't feel like reading today - so getting through today's book was a bit of a struggle. So far, I've had 2 days every month where I don't feel like reading, which I don't think is too bad of an average. When I started this project I thought the number would be a bit higher than that.

Today's book: In Welcome to My Planet, the fictional Shannon Olson--who shares her creator's name--is witty but confused, whip-smart but unable to fully release her ties to bad boyfriends, childhood obsessions, and the "gassy expanse" of marginal jobs. With the help of a therapist known only as the counselor, this almost 30-year-old Midwestern neurotic gamely tries to steer her way past credit-card-fueled Target binges and a too close relationship with her mother, Flo, and to slowly inch toward the elusive land of adulthood."

I have three problems with today's book, which is pretty much the same problem I have with all Chick-lit books (I can't stand that expression, by the way, but I don't know what else to call it) - 1. I quickly grew impatient with the main characters willingness to put up with too much crap from her inconsiderate, unstable boyfriend(s) 2. It's really irritating that so many of the chick-lit books (every time I say that it makes me want gum) feature a 30-something woman who is single and an absolute mess. It ends up feeling like the implication is that if the main character wasn't such a neurotic, screwed-up mess then she would be married and the fact that she isn't means that she has done something horribly wrong and 3. The main character is always obsessed with getting married. - I keep waiting for the chick-lit genre to expand a bit into any one of the following scenarios: 1. Women who, while on their journey (do I sound like I'm on The Bachelor) to finding the right person, date men who are at least not the biggest jerks who ever walked the face of the earth. 2. A plot that features a woman in her 30's who is actually stable, sane, and has her life in order, but just hasn't found the person she wants to marry yet or who 3. Doesn't want to get married at all, or doesn't want to get married yet, or who does want to get married but isn't obsessed with it to the point where she eats, sleeps, and breaths the pursuit of finding a husband. - I'm sure some would say that the main character being a neurotic mess is what makes the book interesting and funny, but I'm just not seeing the humor in it. I don't mind a character who is quirky and interesting and funny - but a character that is totally screwed up, for no apparent reason, just starts to grate on my nerves after awhile. My other annoyance, which seems to be unique to this book, is that the author never mentions her boyfriends names and instead refers to him constantly as "my boyfriend" - the expression is used about 5 times per page, and it made me feel like I was at a junior high school slumber party with a girl who just found her first boyfriend and is so excited about it that she feels the need to remind everyone in the room about it approximately every two minutes.

And now, since I've insulted the book a bit, it's time to talk about the good qualities:

The highlight of the book for me was the main character's mother, Flo, who was delightful and amusing and and quirky without being over-the-top. Sometimes books go too far with the "look how crazy my family is" theme and it ends up being too much. This was just the right amount of weirdness to make it seem believable. And, the most important good quality, there wasn't too much of a back story on the irrelevant characters (I'll spare you the rant on why that bugs me, because you've already had to sit through that one twice).

Random, shallow thoughts:

  • The main character (Shannon) was an undergraduate at Saint Olaf - and the whole time I was reading about her college experiences I kept thinking about Golden Girls, and Rose's Saint Olaf stories. I think my favorite was the one about the guy from Saint Olaf who drove the turnip truck - although I did enjoy the one about the children's cheese museum as well. I love that show.
  • The ages of the character don't match up. In the beginning Shannon says that he parents were in their 50's when she was in high school and then later Shannon is 25 and her Mom is 56. Something doesn't add up here (You see dear readers, I didn't get that high school diploma for nothing). The same thing happened when I read that Danielle Steel novel last month, but I expect that kind of inconsistency from a Danielle Steel novel. I think my parents are going to be proud when they read this entry because they loves to watch TV and point out all the things that don't make sense or are unrealistic - they seem to feel triumphant as they rattle of all the stuff that doesn't add up. I would be upset about turning into my parents like this - but I think that ship already sailed back when I was working as a nanny and I found myself using phrases like, "Do I look like a waitress to you?" and "This is not a restaurant."
  • Technology really dates a book. At one point during the book Shannon registers to win a TV/VCR combo - and the book was only written about 9 years ago. I think it's going to be interesting in 30 years to look back at books written now and see all the gadgets mentioned that are no longer available. The VCR is going to become my version of the "back when I was young, technology sucked" stories that my parents always told us. I can regale my children and grandchildren with stories along these lines, "When I was a child we didn't have any way of recording our shows, so we had to race home from our errands to watch Today's Special. And then when we did have a way to record them we could only record 6 hours at a time, and then the tape would run out - and we could only tape one thing at a time, so if Today's Special and Sesame Street came on at the same time we would have to make some hard choices " And then the children will respond with horror at how hard we had . . . or they'll look at me like I'm insane and way too dramatic.