Saturday, August 24, 2013

Everyone Worth Knowing

A young twenty-something girl trying to start her career life in New York finds herself taking a job that drops her in the middle of NY's social elite.  She is soon overwhelmed with the glamour and privilege of that world, but the is the price she pays - her privacy, dignity and self-respect - really worth being a part of this world?

"Wait a second," you might be saying, "didn't she already review The Devil Wears Prada?  What is she talking about?"

I am talking about another one of Lauren Weisberger's books, Everyone Worth Knowing, which bears quite a few similarities to Prada, with the addition of more sex, drugs, and sliminess. 

Bette Robinson is a twenty-seven years old college graduate working 80 hours a week in a banking job that she hates - mostly because, as far as I can tell, Weisberger's female characters are never happy or satisfied in their lives.  She quits that job and winds up working for Kelly & Company, an event planning firm that strives to be with the "in"crowd of New York.  Soon Bette finds her life consumed with showing up and the "right" places, being at the "right" events, and even set up in a fake relationship with the "right" boy.  Slowly this new glamorous lifestyle chips away at Bette's soul until she finally realizes she has become a glorified prostitute and has to decide what she really wants in her life. 

About two-thirds of the way through the book - right around a trip to Istanbul which basically became a week-long orgy of sex and drinking - I realized this book was possibly eating away at MY soul and was the literary equivalent of a Big Mac. But I kept reading hoping that it would get better - it kept hinting at giving Bette a decent relationship, and as her life got more and more outrageous, I kept thinking "surely we are coming to the climactic scene where Bette walks away from all this."  It always seemed just out of my grasp.  When the inevitable showdown scene finally arrived, it had been dragged on so long that it had lost all its power.  Its sister scene in Prada was at least timed well.  This time, I was so OD'ed on a chick-lit that I no longer cared...then I woke up the next day feeling the same way you feel the morning after pigging out on pizza and Twizzlers.  I find myself this morning in some serious need of literary filtered water and celery sticks.  

I also realized around the same place in the book that linguistically the book was pretty weak.  All the characters sound exactly the same - no one has a distinct voice.  I couldn't "see" the scenes play out in my head because the dialogue was so canned.  And there is more than enough profanity to go around, which just got tiresome.

So did the content.  All the characters felt they were much more important than they were.  Even Bette, our heroine, was awfully self-involved - and, as mentioned above, there seems to be some sort of rule about these characters ever feeling fulfilled in their lives.  I don't understand why this twenty-something in New York thing is so attractive - it's not just in Weisberger's books, it's an epidemic.  For a woman to be strong, apparently she has to be in New York, working a corporate job, and utterly miserable.  For Pete's sake, New York is not the only place to have a life, go out and make something of yourself!   I wanted to scream at Bette most of the time to quit whining, have some self-respect, be truthful to herself and her friends, and get a life.  Which is probably one of the points the author was trying to make...but having to wade through all the drinking, clubbing, sex, and general debauchery made me too tired by the end to care what happened to these people. 

Ultimately, the book was depressing.  Depressing to think that this IS really the life some people strive to live.  Depressing to realize that although this is a work of fiction, the club/elite/superstar life is real, and that as I read the covers of magazines while standing in Wal-Mart to buy my milk and bread, many of the people on those covers live this kind of life.  And where does it get them?  Are any of these people happy?  More than that - are they joyful?  Fulfilled?  Even at the end, when Bette has finally gotten her head screwed on straight and walked away, she was still moping around her apartment, wallowing in reality TV and alcohol.  It just all seems so sad. 

So to sum up: these people need Jesus, and you don't need this Big Mac. 

Rating: 1 1/2 stars out of 5
What I'm reading now: Austenland by Shannon Hale (waiting for me at the library!)
1. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
2. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
3. The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser
4. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
5. The Autobiography of Henry VIII  by Margaret George

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