junk lit

What’s the opposite of Chick Lit?

You might be familiar with the concept of chick flicks- Hollywood romantic comedies targeted towards the segment of society that paints its nails to match its clothing. You may even have heard of chick lit, which is basically the literary version of the same thing (but slightly more intellectual, because reading). Both of those things, to me, are good entertainment but not really works of art.

This is my review of High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. I’d seen this book recommended several times on Reddit as a light, amusing read and decided to give it a shot.

Our narrator is Rob Fleming, a thirty-something former DJ who now runs a record store. He and his colleagues (whom he doesn’t seem to like too much) spend most of their time making Top 5 lists, but they manage to scrape by. Rob’s just gone through a breakup, which prompts him to list his top 5 most painful breakups to stop himself from obsessing about the most recent one. Which is amusing, but doesn’t seem like a great idea…

Rob soon goes back to obsessing about his relationship, and the next-door neighbour that his ex seems to be shacking up with. And then about his unsuccessful career. And then about how his parents have a more lively social life than he does. And then about his commitment phobia. Spoiler alert: A lot of obsessing happens in this book.

He does have some pretty insightful views on life and relationships. This isn’t a romance per se- there are no confessions of love or weddings or epiphanies- but that’s what makes this book a 1000x more realistic than all the other fluff out there. ‘Cause everyone feels like a loser once in a while, and I doubt real life happy endings are accompanied by cheerful pop music.

Read this, if you want a light story with a good narrative style. Or if you want to read the male version of Princess Diaries– overthinking and self improvement plans everywhere! 3/5 from me.

PS: The answer to the question posed in the title is apparently “dick-lit”. The Internet is very, uh, educational.

Pumped Up Kicks

Today’s theme is school shootings. If you didn’t figure that out from the title of the post, please listen to this before proceeding.

Back? Okay.

Last week I read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. This is a drama-thriller-fluff book about a school shooting and the aftermath, focusing on the personal lives of the killer and victims, and the defense presented by the killer’s lawyer in court.

Quite a few Picoult novels have a similar courtroom setting. It’s quite interesting for a layperson because the role of the attorney in a case like this is to make the guilty seem less guilty.

Picoult handles this disturbing subject quite well. She tries to include several plot twists, though none (bar one) are shocking in the least. And alas, the interesting, thought-provoking twist comes right at the end and is not fully fleshed out. Which makes me wonder if I am giving the author too much credit, and the twist is not as clever as it seems…

The writing style is simplistic and filled with corny dialogues, which I began to sincerely record about 20 pages in:

“He tasted of maple syrup and apologies”
“Hope, Patrick knew, was the exact measure of distance between himself and the person who’d come for help”
“A loose handful of grapes scattered like gasps”

And all this was just the first 150 pages.

3/5. Read it if you want some timepass entertainment.

On the other hand, if you want an intense, chilling portrayal of a school shooting, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is my nomination. It is written in the form of a series of letters from the mother of a school shooter, and her analysis of what she might have done wrong. Neither the mother nor the son is a pitiable figure; but you can’t help but root for them, especially when you realize that the mom has become the town’s public enemy #1. And the tale only gets more horrific towards the end.

I couldn’t get through this book on the first attempt, and watching the movie gave my friends a couple of sleepless nights. Do read if you like psychological thrillers.