It’s rare that I’ll read an entire terrible book, but I was driven by a perverse desire to see how bad the bundle of trash disguised as a book could be. Lurie is an amateur hack, yet has several titles to her name, so maybe I’ve misjudged? I’ll give her another shot with Foreign Affairs, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I cannot trust any book recommendations from the women at Lenny.
It has a promising start, a first line that I glanced at before saying Hell yeah! and tottering off to the self-checkout at the library: “Polly Alter used to like men, but she didn’t trust them anymore, or have very much to do with them.” Unfortunately, this isn’t a particularly graceful sentence and it’s the best thing in the book. This is how we meet Polly, a woman writing the biography about the great forgotten (fictional) woman painter Lorin Jones while on leave from her job at the Met and while her own artistic dreams simmer underground. She’s divorced with a teenage son Stevie who shuttled between NYC and Denver, and flirts with her good friend Jeanne before giving up women completely and falling for a guy in Key West, the last boyfriend of Lorin Jones before she died. The nightmare of a book ends with this piece of rock candy, “She stared at the harmless-looking wall telephone for a second, took a final deep breath, and picked up the receiver.” In other words, she reaches out to the Key West guy to end the book.
So what was so bad about it? The worst was the stilted dialogue choking every page. Besides that were descriptions of Polly’s day to day life that were just flat and uninteresting. She’s working on a book about her idol, and yet she fights with nearly every interviewee she reaches out to. Here’s some mind-numbing language for you:
Polly’s immediate impulse was to tell Lennie to go to hell and walk out. But she checked herself; she had to get on with him, because among other things he held the copyright to Lorin Jones’ work. He knows it too, she thought furiously.
Her rage boils over on nearly every page, and while that might seem interesting to feminists, it gets old before a few pages are out. It’s an unproductive rage, she works against her own purposes and seems like the tantrum-throwing child she later describes because her father walked out on her and her mother early in life. Ugh, enough. I want to forget this book ever crossed my threshold.