They say March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb, and I guess that was sort of true when it came to my literary pursuits. Things started out strong with The Last Girlfriend on Earth and The Happiness Project (reviews here and here), petered off with a couple of duds in the middle, and then ended with a hedgehog.
Have no idea what the hell I am talking about? Read on to find out!
“The Love Song of Johnny Valentine” by Teddy Wayne
11-year-old pop star Johnny Valentine seems to have it all: a successful music career, the admiration of tweens worldwide, a killer hairdo. But is fame really all it’s cracked up to be?
The Love Song of Johnny Valentine attempts to answer this very question by following Johnny and his motley entourage on tour across America, tackling such hard-hitting issues as broken homes, body image and child exploitation along the way.
Think Never Say Never, but with more words.
While The Love Song makes some good arguments about our celebrity obsessed culture and paints an excellent picture of a complicated mother/child relationship, I had a really hard time believing Johnny as narrator. I mean, I get that he was precocious and mature for his age or whatever, but I still don’t know many 11 year olds who contemplate “the meaning of it all” the way he did.
I also wish there had been more of a storyline, rather than just a running narrative of Johnny’s tour. There was a bit thrown in there about his attempts to find his deadbeat dad, but it sort of seemed like an afterthought to give the book some semblance of a plot.
This book received a lot of great reviews (including in The New York Times) so maybe I’m missing something- but it definitely was not my favourite. I felt like it was trying too hard to be meaningful and profound, but the execution just fell short.
So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts
Let me start by saying, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I bought this book. I wandered into Chapters looking for something to read on the plane to Las Vegas, and the lonely looking middle-aged sales lady recommended this book. I guess that should have been my first clue. Or, you know, the fact that the main character’s name was LUCKY FREAKING O’TOOLE.
Anyway, this book was complete garbage. I had to bribe myself with snacks just to get through the final chapters. Too many characters, flawed plotlines, unrealistic dialogue, I could go on, but I won’t torture you with more.
I give it: 1/5 Intellectual Dachshunds:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Renée Michel seems, by all accounts, your ordinary concierge. Fat, cranky and ostensibly ordinary, the residents of her bougie Paris apartment building have no idea she harbours a secret passion for literature, classical music and Japanese culture.
And then there’s Paloma, the 12-year-old child genius who lives upstairs from Renee. Paloma is convinced that life isn’t worth living and has decided to commit suicide and set her family’s apartment on fire on her 13th birthday. Until then she will keep a journal of “profound thoughts” documenting the last days of her life.
Thrown into the mix is a wealthy, cultured Japanese man who has recently moved into the building and takes a special interest in our unassuming concierge. The Elegance of the Hedgehog tells the story of each of these characters, and what happens when their worlds collide.
I had heard some polarizing accounts of this book from my friends; some loved it, others felt it was too pretentious and philosophical. I fell somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed reading it (so much that I read the entire thing in one sitting) and it made me reflect on a lot of issues- class, culture, hypocrisy, etc. Plus, call me a sucker, but I also found it pretty romantic.
At the same time, sometimes the philosophical/existential prose was a bit much for me. I mean, an entire chapter devoted to rain? Phenomenology?
To borrow a line from another review I read: “if this novel were a piece of furniture, it would be an ikea bestseller: popular, but not likely to be passed down the generations”. And that’s why I give it:
3/5 Intellectual Daschunds