Sunday, June 22, 2008

#41 - Chasing Harry Winston

My reading table has been heavy with chicklit these days because I'm working on a new project with Scarbie. And for reasons that probably have to do with too much bottled plane air and consistent movement, my concentration has been nil. Enter Chasing Harry Winston. The perfect book to read on the subway into work because you're too lazy to pump up your bike tires. The perfect book to read before bed because you don't really miss that much by only getting through 2.5 pages before falling utterly asleep. The perfect book to read without concentration, well, because it doesn't need any.

Lauren Weisberger has achieved a level of lit stardom few writers achieve. It's funny, that the US lit stars are all men writing serious fiction, the Jonathons, the Eggers, and the ladies who sell those kinds of numbers are all either British, Irish or Lauren Weisberger writing bland books of a certain genre that will probably never end up on the 1001 Books list. In the end, though, if someone enjoys the book, does any of that stuff even matter? I'll read anything by anyone, the popular stuff, chicklit, literary fiction, commercial fiction, because all that really matters to me is a good story. And right now, I'm really wondering if chicklit writers can come up with something original. To wit it seems that the purpose of books like Chasing Harry Winston is to make a movie about them two or three years after they're published. In a sense, couldn't they save the trees and just skip right to the cinematic version and save us all the trouble?

That said, Weisberger's latest novel attempts to pull itself up and out of the cliches of its cover (a furry spiked heel with three gorgeous rings stacked from tip to mid-inch). Considering the title is more Plum Sykes than what the actual book is about, and the characters more Sex and the City than anything else, it's an interesting bit of shoe not entirely fitting the foot, I'd say. Three characters, Emmy, Adriana and Leigh, navigate the final year of their thirties while living and working in New York. Only one of them, Emmy, is truly chasing the married with children dream; the other two look a little deeper in terms of self-satisfaction, Leigh in the form of where she'd like her career to go and Adriana simply needs to grow up. Bits and pieces of the story are told from each girl's perspective and the characters are well-drawn, quite engaging and utterly trapped by their circumstances at the moment. Weisberger plays the role well, they wear "the latest" Chloe shoes, are cognizant of trends and fashion, but you can feel her writing trying to pull away from the cliches as she attempts to be a little less "chick" and a bit more "lit."

There are conflicts, petty jealousies, and the reader wishes again and again for the book to delve a bit deeper into the idea of female friendship and less into silly "pacts" and false start-ups to plot. In the end, I can't say that I didn't enjoy the book, because I did, and I can't say that Weisberger isn't a talented writer, because she obviously is, I just hope that her next book abandons all pretense of Harry Winston and lets her spread her wings a little.

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