I finished American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved it.
I feel like I should rush to point out that Curtis Sittenfeld is a GIRL, and the reason I'm pointing that out is that I almost didn't read Prep, which I also loved, because I generally don't like to read a book with a female narrator and a male author. Some of them make it clear the male author thinks the female brain is "Shoes shoes shoes SEXY MEN shoes shoes BRAND NAMES shoes shoes!" So if that bugs you, too, you might skip this book thinking it's one of those, just because you think Curtis is a boy's name. It's not! She's a girl!
Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes. The book. I almost didn't read Prep because I thought it had a male author, and I almost didn't read American Wife because I thought it was going to be mean. I don't like to read mean books. But it was not mean.
My mom and I both like to have a mild to moderate awareness of celebrity goings-ons. That is, we both read People magazine, and we sometimes talk a little about celebrity news. And sometimes, the official version we're reading doesn't make sense to us, so we talk about it until we think of an explanation that DOES fit the situation. Sometimes we think we may even be RIGHT---that is, that the reps of everyone involved are trying to spin things to look one way, but that details don't make sense with that explanation, and our explanation is the one that makes sense and is in fact more likely to be true or at least contain more of the essence of the truth.
This is a FICTION book. It is not even "biographical fiction," where the author tries to write as accurately as possible but is forced to fictionalize certain elements such as private dialogue. This is JUST FICTION. BUT! It seems to me that it was MORE TRUE than an autobiography or a biography would have been, in the same way my mom and I sometimes feel like we've come up with an explanation that rings more true than the one the celebrity magazines are giving us.
An autobiography or an authorized biography would be the same carefully-spun information the public is given through magazines and press releases and scripted interviews. And an unauthorized biography tends to be spiteful, making use of quotes from all the people who are eager to speak up for something unauthorized. But this! This is different. This seems MORE TRUE than any of those other things would be, even if the guesses are WAY OFF. I can imagine Laura Bush reading it thinking, "Well, no, heavens no, that didn't happen.........but actually, this does give the GIST of the reason why I did that."
What I get what I read this book is that the author had a lot of the same wonderings I had about George W. Bush and about Laura Bush and about the two of them together, and that the released details didn't make sense to her, and that she went over it and over it and over it until she thought of a context in which all the details WOULD make sense. When things clicked into place, she wrote it down as a story of Charlie and Alice Blackwell, but making no attempt to be coy about it: she makes it clear who they're supposed to be, but also that she made it up so she uses non-real names.
One detail I could have lived a happy life WITHOUT was the fictionalized (ONE HOPES) description of "Charlie Blackwell"'s penis and what "Alice Blackwell" thought of it. I mean, srsly. How am I supposed to recommend this book to my mother?
Summer sleep-away camp supplies - I am in a TIZZ about Elizabeth going to Girl Scouts camp this summer. I’m GLAD she’s going, and I’m glad she WANTS to go, but it’s a week and this is the f...