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Consume Prey Promote

01/09/2010

This book (you know which I mean and, no, I am not going to type its name) seems to have taken over, now that there’s a film of same, appropriately showcasing the vapid Julia Roberts – whose range extends from mouth open to mouth shut. I had a quick butcher’s through the book in a local library once. Then, having heard the hype – hard to avoid, so deafening and inescapable was it – dutifully returned for a more sustained second shufti. I emerged still thinking the work a pile of steaming self-congratulatory self-indulgence.
Here’s the story: a woman in her thirties, successful, healthy and good-looking; with nice husband, home and job; becomes bored, realises she doesn’t want children so dumps the spouse. She is subsequently assailed by what she calls ‘depression’ and which the rest of us  – including, and most especially, genuine sufferers from depression – recognise as self-pity, as she sobs on bathroom floors after the inevitable rebound romance inevitably goes bung.  After a few chirpy chapters spent in this author’s company, the phrase ‘bottomless pit of emotional demand’ comes to mind. Or, more succinctly, ‘egomaniac’.
So what does this bright, successful, confident and resourceful female do post-crise? Well, she trots off and secures an advance from her publishers sufficiently large to enable her to take an entire year off, travelling in style and indulging every whim, and – adding these together – write a triumphal ‘memoir’ about how she found herself and loved what she found, and everybody else loved her too. And everybody else does, or at least they love the book. Doubtless many will love the film, too. Good grief, what kind of society have we made, if this intellectually and emotionally dishonest tosh is so widely mistaken for wisdom?
Now in case you’re wondering, I can assure you that I am not against eating, praying or loving. Far from it.
Take eating. Before I arrived in France I spent four consecutive English winters – all eight months of ‘em – deciding which to do, eat or have the heating on. And guess what: eating won hands down, every time. So, no, eating is fine by me. And I know how pleasurable it can be.  It bloody well has to be: if you’re freezing your tits off in some insalubrious gaff, something tasty to eat – a bowl of home-made soup, for example – is marvellously comforting.
Prayer, too. Believe me, much praying is done when redundancy is followed by long-term unemployment. And again, when one’s sole opportunity for reconstruction, based on expensive re-acquaintance with full-time education in middle-age,  is scuppered by critical illness just as a feasible new start becomes a real prospect. Add the loss of loved ones, home, pets and possessions, and all of that tends to elicit a fair bit of the “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, Christ!” routine, not to mention serious soul-searching and regular tussles with clinical depression. You may take my word for it.
Love? Nobody can live entirely without it, in all its – thankfully, multifarious – forms. That’s a given.
So why does somebody need to spend 12 months in exotic locations to uncover such self-evident truths? Except, of course, to write a shallow, self-obsessed travelogue complete with supporting cast of  ‘quaint, lil’ ole characters’.

What would I say, supposing anyone were foolish enough to seek my advice on matters spiritual? I might, if pushed very hard, suggest they read Boethius and the ‘shewings’ of Dame Julian of Norwich.  Although I’d probably recommend time spent in tranquility – or, more likely, advise the questioner to sod off and stop bothering me. So let us instead, dear reader, play a little mind game. What, do you suppose, would be the chances of a synopsis submitted to his publishers by the equivalent-person-who-happened-to-be-male – yup, one of those: extra chromosome; dangly bits? And, yes, I know a spoof has already been published (hooray!). But what if a male author tried the same journey? Let’s look at the possible pitch:

“Here’s me: handsome, fit, mid-thirties; nice house; good job, published author; nice wife. My wife wanted kids! Yuk. So I legged it. Anyway, I was bored with all this ….niceness. Where’s the challenge in that? More to the point, where was I? Who was I? And, in the best traditions of equal ops., why should women have the monopoly on these questions?
So I divorced the broody bint, divvied up the proceeds of sale of the conjugal home, got my leg over a few birds then got, well, y’know … You do. You know. That thing. Must you ask me to spell it out? Oh, IF YOU MUST: I got depressed, right? Ended up … you don’t want to know about this. You do? Have you seen a doctor recently? Only joking. I ended up a mess – tears, snot … I can do other bodily fluids, if you like. You don’t?
Here’s the deal, right: you bung me X hundred thousand smackers, and I doss off to …  Ooh, let me see, now – fit totty + good grub in Italy, great curries + amazing insights in India,  then gurus + Aussie glam in Bali …  You fund me for a year’s shagathon-scoffathon with a pinch of spirituality, plenty of the old early mid-life crisis male desperation together with the odd STD and yearning for love thrown into the mix. Then – here’s the clincher – I  write it all up in a form which loudly proclaims ‘behold how wonderful am I, and how entitled to the best of everything simply because of all that over-privileged blokedom’?
Should be a blast. Best-seller. Film …”

Wouldn’t play, would it?  You think me cynical? Really? Just consider what the book itself actually does. It takes the traditionally arduous journey to spiritual awakening and subjects it to the same process applied by Disney to Grimm’s Märchen or Andersen’s eventyr: sanitising, trivialising, ensuring the end product is devoid of any depth or challenge – rendering it meaningless. Therefore, the writer learnt precisely nothing – and yet makes a mint out of offering the consumer, sorry, reader the same yawning void. Now that’s cynicism.

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12 Comments
  1. 02/09/2010 00:54

    Thank you for reading this book so I don’t have to! It sounds exactly as awful as I thought it would be.

    • Minnie permalink*
      02/09/2010 08:22

      Caroline: ah, at least one good result for my pains! It’s awful how really bad books somehow stay in the mind, as if they were especially noxious globs of glue.

  2. 02/09/2010 12:11

    Am I living in cloud-cuckoo-land/arty ivory tower? I’ve no idea what the book is to which you refer…and may it stay that way.

    • Minnie permalink*
      03/09/2010 13:04

      David: perhaps you should consider yourself lucky. Some of us suffer from too much reality.

  3. 03/09/2010 12:44

    Awesome post! And how long has this book been around for? It’s stuns me everytime someone asks me “have you read…?” No, I answer then ask if they liked it, and they grumble a reply, as if they didn’t! As if they read it merely for the emptiness of its popularity. I don’t get it!

    • Minnie permalink*
      03/09/2010 13:06

      Amber Ruth: welcome to my blog. Thank you for your kind comment. And, yes, it is rather dispiriting, isn’t it? Never mind, as long as there are enough people who see through this nonsense, there’s hope (I hope)!

  4. 03/09/2010 14:28

    Serendipity (or perhaps a less happy coincidence): last night we saw the excellent Sophie Thompson in a new play at the Royal Court (so-so, as it happened, though funny and well acted). I saw from her biog that she’d been in a certain film starring Julia Roberts…and Ashley, visiting us on the way from Australia to walk the Camino in Spain, filled us in on film and book. So now I have tasted the apple.

    • Minnie permalink*
      03/09/2010 15:57

      David: aha! An apple rotten to the core, I’m afraid.
      Do so agree re Sophie Thompson – as an actress, far preferable to her sister (although they’re so different it’s probably very unfair to compare). Sounds like the right time of year to take on El Camino: bonne route to your friend!

  5. 03/09/2010 20:07

    Oh Lawks a mercy in truth. Tell you what, I pitied the poor old bathroom floor once I knew the shallow bint had defiled it with her bodily fluids (tears, dears….tears)…and what I want to know is when are they going to send me multifarious thousands in order to make an icle filmette moi-meme?
    I shall cast it thus: Main character, Minne! hanger-onne with a bottle of good red, moi! Script -a few blatherings about how great are the buttocks of waiters in Avignon… how does that sound?

    vxx

    • Minnie permalink*
      03/09/2010 21:08

      Vanessa: darling N, you might as well know there was worse – far worse – on the bally book’s bodily fluids front; but af I doe fhudder at ye thoughte mine lyppef if fealed forfooth, innit? Frankly my gentle readers (yes, all four of you) should be bloody grateful for the omission …
      Anyway, enough of the weedy-wet thingy-person: let us robust ones revert to matters essential, such as your latest satirical wheeze. Let’s go for it, with or without the red wine – who needs vino, when there are scriptwriters like us?!
      Bon weekend + bon courage for the final edit – hugs, bisous & see you in Avignon!

  6. 17/09/2010 09:28

    Perhaps far too many people claim to be “depressed” these days. The book sounds terribly self-indulgent and frankly if the film stars Julia Roberts then its one I’d miss anyway.

    Your thoughts about what would happen if the author had been male are quite true of course, but there are quite a few of those too I suspect (although I don’t browse that end of the bookstore usually).

    An interesting post – let’s hope the author reads it!

    • Minnie permalink*
      17/09/2010 11:07

      Tom: Yes! When I first began blogging I read so many personal blogs where the writer whinged regularly about relative trivia, calling this ‘depression’ before strangely cheering up immediately due to messages of sympathy from followers or the next purchase or holiday. That’s not depression, that’s mere dissatisfaction. Indeed, most enjoyed things I’d love to have: homes, income, family … stability. Plus this self-absorption seems to go hand-in-hand with a peculiarly sententious variety of self-righteousness prevalent in the blogosphere – these people are never wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault ;-)! ‘Self-indulgent’ sums it up. But I don’t suppose any criticism whatsoever could possibly dent this type’s ironclad self-regard and/or have any impact on their sense of entitlement.
      Hope you have a great time in Cornwall.

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