Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'd rather be dating..., enough with the bad dates. Now it's time to acknowledge that not all books are good. In fact, some books are so bad that I'd rather be held hostage in a nutjob's house or explaining about my alien implant that curled up on the couch reading.

So, what book brings this out in me most? Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik. I hated every minute of this book, and it is the singular reason why I will never again be in a book club.

The book takes place in suburban Minneapolis and features a handful of women who live on a cul de sac together and, frankly, are probably the most annoying women ever. I would move out of the neighborhood if these women were near me. The women are all predictable, trite characters. I didn't want to be friends with a single one of them. Honestly, I just wanted the damn book to end.

I guess the thread that ties the book together is that these women have created their own little book club. Each chapter features the title of a book they'd allegedly read. The thing is, none of them ever mention a single book, there is no book discussion. It's a structural technique that never, ever gains traction. In fact, I think it is a lame conceit for one of the big scenes, where the women are having book club and one of them goes into labor.

There is nothing interesting about these womens' lives. One woman is so astoundingly passive in her abusive marriage that she decides hiding food in her hairstyles is the way she's getting back at ther husband. Yeah, I don't know. Is it supposed to be funny? Instructional? Inspiring? It's nothing but dumb and disempowering.

I had a profound visceral reaction to reading this book. I hated every page. I wanted to rip them out of the book and destroy every word. When it came out in paperback a while back, I cringed when I saw the displays. I wanted to burn every last cover. It's the most offensive book I've ever read -- offensive because it wasted my time.

I am actually the only person I know who has reacted so violently to this book. Some people I know have liked it, the balance have tolerated it. Personally, I think the book is grounds for ending Landvik's writing career.

It was also the last book club book I ever read. I was in the club for six months. I was pretty much the only one who read any of the books. One woman even shared that she didn't even like reading at all.

That was the joining the meetings anymore because it wasn't working for me. And, frankly, it was probaly the most healthy breakup I ever had. I simply said I wouldn't be attending any more meetings. Usually "breaking up" consists of me just never answering the phone again until the calls stop. Then again, none of those men ever made me read this sucky book.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What? No ransom request?

It was a chilly winter evening and the Olympics were just getting started. I was answering email through an online dating service I was using and started having a conversation with someone. He asked me if I wanted to come over and watch the games. Just a quiet night. I figured that there was no harm in that -- I knew he had roommates, so I was fairly confident that he wouldn't actually kill me. Kidnapping never entered my mind.

So I drove over and walked up to the door. I think it goes without saying that he didn't look like his picture, but that's pretty much par for the course on line, don't you agree?

He let me in the house and took my coat. He came back into the living room and said "So...what do you think? Do you think I'm cute?"

Yeah. Didn't know what to say to that one. So mostly I just laughed and pretended he hadn't said anything. I kind of wanted to go home.

He took my silence as a hint that I needed more convincing of his relative hotness. (I didn't.) So he stood in the middle of the room, turned his back to me and bent at the waist. From this incredibly appealing position, he looked at me through his legs and asked me if I thought he had a nice ass.

I couldn't even laugh. I looked at him in shock.

Then, because I'm an idiot, I sat down on the couch. He plopped down next to me. Like RIGHT next to me. I tried to concentrate of watching the slalom competition on TV and began counting the minutes until I could politely leave. He started rubbing my shoulder. I cringed. He didn't get it.

Then he started asking me for a kiss. "I'm so loooonely....I just need a little kiss." Over and over he whined this. And over and over I said no.


Wow...that's hot. A man begging for a kiss because he's lonely. Seriously, his roommate was in the other room. Did he have no pride at all? Apparently not.

I told him it was time for me to go home. That it was late (like 9 pm--almost time for curfew!) And that I had a headache. I started for the door.

I realized, however, that my purse and coat were nowhere to be seen. This was a problem.

"Can I please have my purses and coat?"

"No. Not until you give me a kiss."

"I'm not going to do that. Please give me my things. I am going home."

"Please...just a kiss."

"No. I want my coat and purse."

"Fine." He leaves the room and comes beck in and hands me my things. And then stands in front of the door. "Now you have to kiss me or I won't let you out."

Great. I'm being held hostage by a lonely idiot. But oh dear god I don't want to kiss him. So I start trying to pull him away from the door. I can't make him budge.

"Please, just let me out. I want to leave."

"Come on...just one kiss."

Seriously -- how pathetic is this guy? And how bad to I want out? The answer to both: VERY.

I still can't pull him off the door. I'm getting a little nervous. The roommate is out walking the dog, so there's no one to help me if I scream. Just Mr. Need A Hug. But I'm not going to give in. I'm now actually throwing up a little in my mouth thinking that I might have to kiss him to go home. What do I want more? Home? Or my pride?


At this point I hate him.

Just as I'm trying to peel him off the door, the backdoor makes a noise and a dog runs into the room.

"Get away from the door. I'm going home." I said it just loudly enough that I figured his roommate would hear.

I don't know if he heard or not, but Mr. Icky backed off the door, and I shot through into the cold winter night.

Ten degrees below zero never felt so good.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where are my adidas shell toes?

As anyone who knows me knows -- I love hip hop. Not in a "hit the clubs and go dancing" way (although I do love that), but in a way that really infuses so much of what I believe, how I relate to people, and what inspires me.

I believe that hip hop is a philosophy and a lifestyle, in addition to being about the music. No, I don't carry a gatt, I don't wear my pants low, I don't start beefs with my colleagues. I don't call very many people "ho." I'm a nice white girl from Minnesota who just happens to vividly remember the first time she heard "Rappers Delight", who remembers what she was wearing the first time she danced to Run-DMC. Yeah, I totally kick it old school, people.

But lately, I haven't been feeling the music. The mysogyny is too much, I don't care about cars and your ice. There's a top-ten song that is essentially about bukkake. I'm not going to write about my complaints about contemporary hip hop, this isn't about that.

So, I made a point to watch VH1 Hip Hop Honors. It took me back to what I loved so much about the music with tributes to Whodini, Tribe Called Quest, Snoop, New Jack Swing and Teddy Riley.... This girl was nostalgic. I was rediscovering the essence of what was so important to me.

It inspired me to re-read "Yes Yes Y'all", an oral history of the earliest days of hip hop in New York, mostly in Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens. The people who were there the first time someone scrated a beat. Russell Simmons a million years before he married Kimora. The evolution of the MC and the b-boy. Even though I'm not from the BK, I've never met Kool Herc, and my first exposure to hip hop was on my front lawn in white-bread St. Paul, reading the book makes me understand how this is part of my life.

This book takes you back to what it's all about -- expression, tradition, great music dedicated to raising your consciousness and getting you on the floor for five minutes of funk.

Even if you aren't a big hip hop fan, it's an important book that helps you to understand where hip hop came from, how deep it can be and how it became a major cultural force in the U.S. and around the world.

Oh hell, just read it. Oral histories are fun and easy to read, hip hop is some good music, and it'll maybe even remind you of drinking keg beer in a dank basement in a shady part of town. Good times...

An On-line PSA this one isn't about a single bad date. It's about the source of many bad dates. On-line dating services.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've met a number of good men through a variety of on-line services. One of those men has become one of my dearest friends, another is one of my staunchest supporters. I love them both dearly, and each has enriched my life in so many ways. I've fallen for some, enjoyed the company of others -- and have been appalled by the behavior of many.

Much has been written about the anonymity of the Internet and the behavior that it can inspire. I'm not going to get into that. Personally, I think that just like any communication tool, it has its good and its bad. But I just wonder who raised some of these men or taught them how to interact with women.

I am tired of getting emails that ask about my eagerness and/or ability to perform oral sex. Some people think you just get this on something like Adult Friend Finder. No, kids. You get it on each and every site. I'm willing to bet that if eHarmony hadn't rejected my atheist self, I'd be having good, Christian men asking me if I spit or swallow before they even know my name. If I want you to know, I'll show you. But I don't want it to be the first thing you ask me. In fact, men, you shouldn't even ask at all -- it will cut down on your chances of ever finding out for yourself.

Also, don't ask me my bra size. Are you buying me one? I'll tell you if you're on your way to La Perla with your black AmEx.

The thing is, the men who are going to use on-line dating services are covering their bases -- they are on every site. Every time I go to a new site to investigate, my search uncovers the same 45 men. Forty of whom I don't have much interest in -- either because we've already met or they just scream "bad date" from their profile.

Don't get me wrong, men have as much right to be picky as any woman. But men, please come correct. You're going to be happier with the response you get from me if you ask me a grown up question. Asking me about my "wildest sexual adventure" assures that you will never BE the answer to that question.

What's the best way to catch my attention? Ask me about the last book I read. Ask me if I'm watching A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. Ask me if I liked that latest Jay-Z. Better yet, appeal to my basest interests and ask me if I think he and Beyonce will get married. Or if Lindsay Lohan has a shot at staying sober.

And if we meet, tell me my shoes are hot. The last man to do that got to know all of the other answers first hand.

Ya dig?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Show me the money!

No -- I'm not saying I'm a golddigger. I'm just a girl trying to have a decent date.

So I tried another guy. I drove over to his apartment, and he met me outside. He'd decided we'd rent a movie and hang out at his place. OK...whatever. Not exactly my dream first date, but I didn't feel like turning around and driving home.

He directs me to Blockbuster. We go over to the "new rentals" wall. Keep in mind this was several years ago. Going up and down the aisle, I keep suggesting movies. He's seen them all. You'd think that he'd just agree to one and be on with it. But no. Then he says that he will see Jerry Maguire again. Fine. Whatever.

But the Blockbuster excitement isn't over yet. We walk toward the counter and he says to me, "Your half is $1.67."


I reply that I don't happen to have exact change, so I hand him a fiver. Does he hand it back and say "oh...I've got it."? No. He takes the money, pays for the movie and pockets the change.

Why didn't I just go home? Good question. If I had an answer, I'd share it.

We drive back to his apartment and go up to his bachelor pad. Which seriously needs to not be decorated with milk crates from college. He directs me to sit on the couch and asks if I want something to drink. I say sure. Whatever.

He comes back with a huge plastic cup -- like the kind beer comes in at the ballpark -- filled with water. Not even ice water. Just water from the tap. Barely cold. And tasting like plastic. Ok...sure.

Then he goes over and puts in the movie. I think he's going to come sit on the couch with me, since it's the only place to sit with a view of the television. No. I'm wrong. He sits on a chair across the room from me. Just sits there watching me while I watch the movie. A movie I didn't even really want to see since Tom Cruise creeps me out.

About an hour in, he clearly gets tired of watching me try not to nod off. He gets up, walks to another corner of the room. And starts to sort his CD collection. He's now doing housework. I tell him I'm going to go home. He gets up to walk me to the outside door.

We get to the door and he picks up his mail. Then asks if he can kiss me goodnight.

Whatever. You make me pay for the movie and you keep the change. You stare at me for an hour. Then you stsart to clean your house. You don't even get out an actual glass for the water. can't kiss me.

Instead I say "no, I wouldn't feel right cheating on my boyfriend like that."

Yeah, that would be the boyfriend that totally doesn't exist. I wonder if he remembers I already said I didn't have one.

And then I don't care. He can keep the change, I'm going home for a hot bath and a good book.

I'm Not Proud

Yeah -- the headline says it all. When it comes to my reading lists, I'm not too proud. As I've said before, I've made an occasional foray into Young Adult books. But now I'm hooked on them. I've entered the world of Gossip Girl, and I don't want to leave.

It started because I was looking forward to the CW television series, which focuses on insanely sophisticated, wealthy and largely unsupervised Upper East Side high schoolers. Which is exactly what I've wanteed to be my whole life. Even now.

So, I decided to read the book that started it all. I read it in a single afternoon. As soon as I turned the last page, I was back in the car to run to Barnes and Noble for the next ones. It's a series of 10 books, and each one is compelling -- when I start one, there's no way I'm putting it down. And if I don't have the next one on hand, I start to get a little panicky.

The characters smoke, drink, use drugs, stay out all night, sleep around, steal things -- but they do it all in Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel, carrying Balenciaga bags and walking in Manolos. They have free run of massive UES apartments, summer homes in the Hamptons, heck the entire city. Do I sound jealous? I totally am.

Yes, the books are completely absorbing, not all that well edited, and definitely inappropriate reading matter for the "Tweens" they are meant for. At the same time, they are sheer genius. The author wrote maybe the first few, but you know the rest were written by underpaid writers toiling in anonymity in a writing factory. So, the woman who invented the concept doesn't even really have to do work as the dollars roll in. How did I not think of this sooner?

So, instead of just being a trashy early-Autumn escape, Gossip Girl has inspired me. To come up with a singluar Young Adult concept, write a couple, have it take off -- and then spend my life sitting back while fresh college grads pump out slim volume after volume with my name on the spine.

Wish me luck -- and to quote the titular Gossip Girl: You know you love me!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Disturbing...but wow!

I'd never read any Japanese fiction before, until I picked up Out by Natsuo Kirino. Obviously translated because, my Japanese is, well, nonexistent.

Winner of Japan's Grand Prix for Crime Fiction and an Edgar Award finalist, this book is beyond intense. And really not for the squeamish. Also, make sure you've taken your Prozac, because it's also depressing as hell.

The book is about a japanese woman who works a menial-type, night-shift job in a bento box factory. In addition to having a crap job, she has a pretty crap life. Her son has quit speaking. Her husband is abusive. She leads a life of quiet desperation -- until she kills her husband. That's when Masako comes to life. Scary life. She enlists three female coworkers -- whose lives are equally depressing, but in different ways -- to help her dispose of the body. In a really gross way.

Then Masako discovers she's not half bad at the whole murder and dismemberment thing, and enlists her coworkers in several more crimes. But they are not the pliant subjects they seem and everything starts to spiral into violence, fear and suspense.

Sometimes translations aren't much fun to read. But this seems to be a top-notch one. The storytelling is taut and compelling. The dark, dark comedy comes through while remaining a harrowing read.

There are lots of levels to talk about with this book -- so if you're in a book club, it might be worth a selection. But for our purposes here, I'm just going to give it two thumbs up. And not because men are the targets of violence. Like I said -- men are just fine in my book...