Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This Book Needs a Werewolf

I’m done with Meg Wolitzer. Not that I’ve read much: I abandoned The Position, and now I’ve just slogged my way through The Ten-Year Nap, and that’s enough. She’s a fine writer, style-wise, I guess. But she really just needs to get over her mother already (she’s written eight novels, so I hope not all of them are generated by the need to lambast the parental failings of the 70s, but I’ll let someone else figure that out--like I said, I’m done).

Here are some things that are wrong with The Ten-Year Nap (plot: four fortyish Manhattan stay-at-home moms wonder what to do with their lives--oh my god, just writing that sentence makes me want to shoot myself!):

- It says nothing that hasn’t been said ad nauseam in NY Times articles about Manhattan stay-at-home moms. And a bunch of Ayelet Waldman novels.

- Its characters are incredibly dreary. Especially the adoptive mother who doesn’t love her daughter. Done much better (not the adoption part, but the not loving part) by Charlotte Mendelson in When We Were Bad. (I did feel quite fond of and intrigued by the happy, number-obsessed, husband-loving, wealth-enjoying second-generation Chinese-American wife, but she was clearly the character in whom Wolitzer had the least interest.)

- Nothing happens (except for the parasailer falling out of the sky, but if you can’t make a parasailer falling out of the sky interesting, well, there’s little hope).*

- You simply cannot be a woman novelist and give a female character the last name of Ramsey and have another woman yearn for her. You can’t. And then you really can’t compound it by having the yearning woman quote The Hours. Really, you can’t. Or at least, you shouldn’t (on the other hand, if you named the werewolf Ramsey, you might have yourself a novel!).

Here is the one thing that Wolitzer does really well:

- Make the war an omnipresent low buzz in the background that everyone feels bad about but nobody ever mentions or addresses. (I do think--hmm, now that I think of my thought, it seems completely obvious, but here goes anyway--that when we look back at this time, we being historians or us as individuals, it will become clear how deeply the war infiltrated every aspect of our existence, even when we thought--those of us who have that privilege--that we were ignoring it.)

*I must confess that I initially wrote this post when I had about 60 pages left to read. I subsequently discovered that things do happen in the last 60 pages, but they are of a nice and ideologically acceptable and not unpredictable nature that does little to advance the book’s cause.

1 comment:

Libby said...

thanks for writing this. I read it a few weeks ago meaning to review it and just felt bored. It all seemed way too tidy--despite the artful untidiness of the middle--and I didn't like anyone at all. Sigh. There was some very pointed and sharp sentence-level stuff, but I couldn't make it all add up to anything I cared about.