Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mary Sue Got Married

Okay, after reading several essays on the subject, I might be taking slight liberties with the term Mary Sue. But my personal understanding has always been that this character is someone who is obviously the author's idealized self and stand-in in a story, and whose role is to allow the author to live out their fantasy of interacting with the awesome characters they're writing about. The term is usually used in fan fic, where you can imagine the temptation to write a story in which "you" basically get to have your way with your favorite hunky TV heroes.

Anyway, The Housewife and the Bachelor, by Shannon Hale, is a book about a very pregnant Mormon housewife with a very sharp wit who, on a brief trip to LA to sell a screenplay she wrote, happens to run into, charm, and have dinner with a vaguely Hugh Grantish Hollywood heartthrob whose movies she's drooled over for ages. In the first 30 pages, she's proven to the jaded actor that pregnant Mormon housewives who've never had a drink can be every bit as scintillating with their anecdotes about the neighbor's wiener dog as can the most jaded movie starlet.

Let me tell you what it really reminds me of--once I was browsing through the YA section and I found a book targeted at seventh grade girls, containing four stories that were basically the fantasies these girls have anyway, of meeting and being wooed by movie stars. The one I remember is a girl who goes with a friend to her rich cousin's party at her Malibu beach house. Our Heroine wanders away from the wild party where she doesn't belong and goes for a lonely nighttime walk on the beach, where she sees another figure walking toward her. Lo and behold, it's Leonardo DiCaprio, also going for a solitary stroll, and they walk together and really bond and he kisses her before they part ways.

That is what this book reminds me of.

But as I got further into it, I started to realize that the author buys way too much into the "wholesome" thing, and into the idea that all those sad Hollywood stars need is a healthy dose of good middle-American fun and they'll be happier. I started to suspect that the upshot of this story is that men and women can't be friends, because it will get in the way of their marriages. I don't trust the author enough to read the rest of the book and see if I'm wrong.

Also, a funny book should be shorter than this.



Carrie said...

So did you quit? I was curious when I saw you reading this because I've read Austenland by her, and it was appallingly bad. I really don't think I could bring myself to read another of her adult books after that.

LibraryHungry said...

I did quit. I didn't want to, because I love the vicarious thrills as much as the next person. It's like a platonic Harlequin romance. So I might have stuck it out, except for two things.

1) The domesticity was absolutely cloying. "Regular gal," fine; "Supermom-housewife-Mormon," who not only folds laundry with the superstar but takes a free moment to bake zucchini bread just because--ugh.

2) The book was humor--the good part was the funny. 400 pages is too long to sustain a book that's basically a long gag. It was like watching a movie made out of an SNL skit. And not Wayne's World. No, we're talking The Ladies' Man.

So yeah, I quit. Shamelessly!