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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Chick Lit Has Gone Too Far

I finished The Washingtonienne, the tell-all book by former Senate staffer Jessica Cutler, a few days ago and I’ve been stumped about what to say about it. Saying anything at all seems dubious, actually, since the only reason the book is interesting is that she got a $300,000 advance based on a sex blog that lasted for a mere few weeks.

Yet I read it. I finished it. The first 35 pages were stilted and I forced myself to get through them. But then the pace and writing of the book picked up after that and I found it easy to read.

So on that level – entertaining, mindless, chick-lit – the book works. But on a fundamental level, the book fails because of its shallowness. It is one recitation after another of the brand names of fabulous clothes, excursions into various Washington bars to drink copious amounts of liquor, snorting cocaine, picking up men, and sleeping with them in every imaginable position. Cutler tries to have her protagonist grow and learn as her sex blog is discovered, but she doesn’t change. She remains as callow and bland as ever.

I can take shallow, not just this shallow. With good chick lit, the reader cares about the main character. I was once in my 20s and young and frivolous, but I can’t imagine living in Washington, working for a Senator, and still seeing the world only in terms of how many free drinks I can score and who I can seduce to get my rent paid.

But Cutler must represent some new kind of celebrity, since she fudged her age and educational background and still made the cover of major magazines. She’s getting a lot of press for her book, even if the ad for it was turned down by Roll Call. “This summer one woman will bring Washington to its knees,” it read.

Cutler now lives in New York and is working on another novel. She told Wired News “that her own lifestyle hasn't changed much since her sexcapades were outed by the web, although money -- which was tight in Washington -- is no longer a problem. "I still date around and stuff," she said. "I guess you can buy more drugs and whatnot."

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

Frances, thank you for your comments about the Washingtonienne. I agree with you 100%. The author is shallow and shameless (and it's interesting that she proudly admits to the latter).