The Reader's Dilemma

Not too long ago, I found myself in a book store. Book stores are happy places. They're also dangerous, because I usually leave with at least one book.

I left Daedalus with three.

All in all I was happy with my purchases. I spent about an hour browsing (seriously. I can kill time in a bookstore like nobody's business) and left with very different books.

The first, "Bluebird: a Novel, or, The Invention Of Happiness" was a pretty good historical fiction piece. I would call it a quick, enjoyable read. The ending kind of irritated me, but I think that's the clash of modern sensibilities versus the values that were more realistic to women at the time (the book takes place around the French Revolution, give or take a few decades at either end). 

I brought the remaining two books with me when I went away this past weekend, because I like to switch between nonfiction (linquistics book, upper right) and fiction (bottom).

I'll get to linguistics later. What I want to talk about here, today, is the novel - "Lipstick Jungle."

I bought this expecting something along the lines of "The Devil Wears Prada" which was actually a wonderful read, and was in novel-form far superior to the movie. What I got with Lipstick Jungle was something different.

Now, let me pause for a minute and explain. I will normally give a book 60 pages before I set it aside. More if I know the payoff is worthwhile. This is not an adversarial attitude. If I'm even remotely interested, I keep reading. 

I gave Lipstick Jungle 65.

I do want to say, I don't normally give negative reviews. If I don't like something, I usually just don't write about it. And I will also say that, even though I was in the mood to read "chick lit," the whole "Sex in the City" franchise (show/movie/etc) is not really my thing, which means the book was probably not meant for me anyway. Another reader might enjoy Lipstick Jungle (also an NBC series), and disagree with my assessment below.

The entire first 65 pages consisted of "strong on the surface but about to shatter" female protagonists, and men that were either potential sex objects or actively trying to keep a sistah down. A series of cracks about how hard it is to make it in a man's world littered the pages, but not even in a way that points to the truth - instead, the novel seemed to take a stereotype feminist line.

I did like how the author, Candace Bushnell, slowly ratcheted up the pressure on her characters so that we could see the cracks forming. There was a sense of foreboding, of the proverbial lipstick about to hit the fan. There was just one small problem.

None of the protagonists were sympathetic, or really even likable, to me in those first chapters, which meant I didn't really care if their lives turned upside down. At one point, one of the three protagonists offended me with a fairly racist thought (this would be a different story if that POV/perception were integral to the plot or character development, but all signs pointed to "No"). 

So why am I bothering to talk about Lipstick Jungle here?  And why did I give it an extra 5 pages over my normal limit?

Well, you see, there was one line.

One sentence that struck a chord. It created an awesome image. It was a great piece of dialogue. It actually gave me some ideas for working through an issue in my current novel.

I can't tell you that line word for word, because at page 65 I more or less threw Lipstick Jungle across the bedroom and left it there. To paraphrase, one of the characters was describing to a journalist what it's like to live a lie, and how doing so bruises the soul a little more each day.

So here's my dilemma.

Should I, as a reader, go back and give it a chance, based on that one line that stuck with me? Could there be more things along the way that I appreciate about the writing, or maybe even the story? Was I too quick to judge (especially since this is not a genre I typically read)?

I already know my answer. Now I'm curious about yours. What would you do? 


  1. No wrath here, just complete agreement. While I loved the "Sex in the City" television show, I absolutely hated "Lipstick Jungle" - both the series and the book. There was one redeeming factor for the show, though: Paul Blackthorne, of "The Dresden Files" played the husband of Brooke Shields' character. And he's pleasant eye candy. :)

  2. My answer would be no. Move on. Of course, I have so little time to read that I don't want to waste it on something that feels like work to read.

    That said, I loved the short-lived TV show. It's funny - I typically disdain books like Candace Bushnell's. But damn, I love her TV shows. That isn't true of all books I dislike, though - I hate sappy books like The Notebook (or any other Nicholas Sparks books), and I don't really like the movies that come from them either.

    It could just be because I love Sarah Jessica Parker, Chris Noth, Brooke Shields, Andrew McCarthy, etc. and I dream of living a fancy life (but not really - my feet could not handle those heels!).

  3. No. If the author gives you only one line out of 65 pages that makes you think ... Dont waist your time.

    There are so many books and so little time.

    Move on!

  4. Darn auto correct! "waste" not "waist"!

    Guess my anal nature is showing again.