Sunday, February 04, 2007

Trashy Summer Reading

At the height of summer the long, hot days, the six week break from school and the many alcoholic drinks consumed seem to destroy my brain's ability to comprehend complex and serious literature. Enter Dominick Dunne and the ultimate trashy summer read, An Inconvenient Women.

I try not to read books like this too often. Life is short and there are so many really good books out there that I should be reading. But I find a guilty pleasure in the bitchy, superficial, 'high society' world that Dunne creates in his novels. Vanity Fair readers would be familiar with his monthly diary that appears in that magazine. Dunne is obsessed with wealth, celebrity and scandal and his diary mostly concerns criminal trials involving the rich and famous. His books cover the same ground.

An Inconvenient Women contains some of the least convincing dialogue ever written. Mostly characters speak in order to spell out plot points for the audience. Occasionally they are meant to sound suave and enigmatic, but usually they just end up sounding cliched and dumb. The 'sophisticated' young writer Phillip Quennell is the worst offender, wowing the female characters with such killer lines as 'You're the most fragile tough girl I ever knew', or 'Somehow you don't strike me as the kind of woman who stays away just because someone tells her to stay away'.

Dunne seems to be working on the Dan Brown principle of assuming that your audience is so dumb that they can't retain even the most basic of plot information for more than a few pages. This leads to the most outrageous repetition of whole paragraphs of detail. If I was to read once more about van Gogh's White Roses, a painting that hangs over the fireplace in the wealthy Pauline Mendelson's library, I was going to scream. Each reference to a character has to include catalogue of information about them, a technique that wears very thin, very quickly.

So on all objective scales, An Inconvenient Women is a terrible book. It is predictable, clunky and totally unconvincing. However there is a certain fun to be had with its depiction of outrageous behaviour and gloriously glamorous lives. Thankfully now I can hide it away on a shelf and get back to some decent reading until my next bout of summer madness...


Brandon said...

If it's summer over there, then I'm moving!

All kidding aside, I tend to read serious fiction during the summer and trashy fiction during the winter. I'm not sure why this is, but it has something to do with me needing something to balance the seasons. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but winter tends to depress me, so I need something light and easy, where summer makes me feel immensely happy, so I need something serious.

Lisa Y said...

Haha, I have that book and haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Now I have to read it just to find out how trashy it is. But I've always like Dunne's Vanity Fair narrative journal (probably because it's one notch up from trashy gossipy mags. heh)

jess said...

I have to confess that this was my second Dunne novel. The other one was 'People Like Us' which was a much better (although still delightfully lightweight) read. I'm a big fan of Dunne's column, partly because I have to laugh at the enormous photo he always includes of himself!

Brandon, I like your reverse-seasonal approach to literature and can see that it makes sense. Maybe what I need is a good classic novel to get rid of the icky aftertaste of 'An Inconvenient Woman'...

Anonymous said...

If you're really into trashy novels, check out "Tinseltown Tawdry" by Sophia Bailey. I love that a reader said about it- "Have a go at it if you are not
easily shocked – if you are,
you will not get past the first
page!" It's about the backstage scandals on the set of a TV soap opera.