Saturday, February 03, 2007

good novel, bad novel

Bad: "Becoming Strangers" by Louise Dean, who seems to be one of those women who just hates other women and prides herself on being "a man's woman." Her novel was filled with complex, basically good male characters (with the exception of one evil male character, who made only a tiny cameo appearance, probably because man-loving Dean was unable to bear writing about a man who was not wonderful). The women Dean creates are all utterly loathsome. She describes several European and American women, who are universally petty, rude, selfish, and dependent upon their men whom they mistreat, the ingrates. The character who prides herself upon having a man's approach to sex is the most loathsome of the book, despised by all, with the signs of age creeping up on to her described mercilessly by Dean. The only good woman in her book is the only Asian character: a drop-dead gorgeous, kind, thoughtful, religious woman who oozes sex and ethics. Incidentally, and probably not accidentally, the good Asian woman is the only woman with a career: she has earned a fortune in the Hong Kong financial world. The evil, evil Americans and British women do not work outside the home and suck money off their men like loathsome leeches. Of course, the Asian character has very little dialogue or, for that matter, believability. She is just there to highlight the horribleness of the main female characters, as though Dean were not satisfied with the wretched acts and dialogue she has written for the Western women. Probably thinking she needed to really spell it all out plainly for the idiotic American and English women who might pick up her book, Dean wracked her brain to find a way to really, really illustrate how bad these women are and arrived at the conceit of a perfect Asian dreamgirl for contrast. Feh.

Good: "Alternatives to Sex" by Stephen McCauley. McCauley doesn't have anything serious to say here, but he writes so delightfully, and this book is about two of my favorite things: love and real estate. God, I love real estate (this is a love I arrived at in my middle age, perhaps a consolation for the lost pleasures of youth). This book follows a middle-aged, gay real estate salesman in Boston who has lost focus in his personal and professional life, and it's a joy. McCauley has a keen eye for details, so the world he creates feels quite habitable. The scene where the main character is taken to a yoga class is worth the price of the book all by itself.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the rec. the McCauley book sounds great.

Kinga said...

Hey, I was bidding on "Becoming Strangers" but I lost. And now I am glad I did. Thanks :)