I read Curtis Sittenfeld’s first novel, Prep. I thought it was well-written but I hated that it reminded me of the shitfest that was high school. Some of the characters pissed me off so badly I wanted to jump in the book and beat them. She got high school/cruelty of teenagers more or less right. A little too right, even. I did not read her follow-up, Man of My Dreams. Reviews weren’t great, and it didn’t seem up my alley. So I avoided it.
I thought she was a talented writer, if nothing else. Then I read about her newest novel, and it just makes me groan and shake my head.
Read the excerpts with caution and perhaps a dose of amnesia potion so you can get the images out of your head. Now, on one hand, I can sort of see that maybe, as a writer, she wanted to imagine what it was like for someone to marry a man like Dubya, who wasn’t exactly uh, ambitious, yet went on to be leader of the alleged free world. But yet it’s clearly being marketed as at least “This isn’t Laura Bush. But what if it was? Ohh don’t ya wanna read it?”
No, Curtis, I am sorry, but I do not. And some of the scenes excerpted look horrid and badly written on top of everything else. I suppose there might be a way to make this work, but I doubt this is it. I’m sure Radar picked the most embarrassing excerpts possible, but really, the scene where she decides she loves him based on his Dick Cheney? NO ONE WANTS TO THINK ABOUT THAT.
OK then. Curtis, come on now. Romance novels can be tawdry, but never have I seen a scene as cringe-inducing as that. Or if I have, I’ve blocked it out. I have a feeling she’s going to be the laughingstock of the literary world before too long, if she isn’t already. Initial sales may be good, but the people buying it probably won’t realize just what it’s about until it’s too late, and their mind’s eye has been gouged out, to borrow from Frasier.
I’ve seen some blogosphere worry that it will hurt Obama, and while I can see media talking about it, um, Obama didn’t write the book. Curtis Sittenfeld did. Besides, the media has far more important things to worry about like, you know, campaign bullshit. But I’m sure the White House will release an outraged statement or two. Sittenfeld is trying to do a tricky thing anyway, and she’s apparently doing it badly. And the “outrage” over it will just force those bad images in our head anyway. But if, by some chance, this blows up and does cost Obama the presidency after McCain sternly tells everyone that he and Cindy have never had any sort of non-procreative relations, causing a relieved America to embrace him? Blame it on Sittenfeld, by all means.
I do not want to read about any presidential-like person doing that. Unless Steve Nash is president. Which alas, cannot happen, as he was not born on American soil.
Besides, Sittenfeld got some things in her book very wrong. Even The Onion knows that:
I’m all for free speech, and I hope this doesn’t result in the White House bombing Curtis Sittenfeld’s house or anything. But really, I can ask her the same question I’ve often wanted to ask Dubya: What were you thinking?