Feed on

Big Bad Belle

I started writing this review (such as it is) before I finished reading the book, but  most of the original objections stand.  I did finally slog my way through to the conclusion, and while the protagonist (for want of a a better word) does become somewhat less detestable and hateful, the story doesn’t improve significantly. In fact, the love story, the climax, and the resolution feel hastily kludged together to make this into a “story” with a “story line.” The clumsy way the story is handled, along with the execrable writing makes me think that Brooke Parkhurst and her publisher should demand a refund from her editor.

That said, here are my impressions upon reading Belle In The Big Apple.

Normally when I write about a book, I am writing about it because I liked it so much that I feel the need to tell everyone I know about how freakin’ amazing it was.

Today, however, I’m writing to warn you to avoid at all costs the tedious freshman effort of Brooke Parkhurst, AKA “Belle In The Big Apple.” The tagline of her erstwhile blog is the title of her first (and so far mercifully only) novel, which appears to be a fictionalized autobiography.

The writing is overwrought (overwritten?).  She’s the damnable type who seems to think that not only is it okay, it is laudable to open a chapter with a sentence like, “Moving day and the morning lay heavy on my skin.” It’s full of tortured similes and baroque descriptions that characterize a lot of painfully Suth-uhn fiction.

I adore chintzy chick-lit; I seem to check out at least one book with “shoes on the cover” (via Mimi Smartypants) per library jaunt. I need something to read on my lunch hour that doesn’t require too much brain power. I remembered Parkhurst’s blog from ages ago (I think I discovered her in some sort of minor kerfuffle between her and Gawker) and I found her blog to be a little insufferable at times, but overall pretty cute.   She seemed to live a glam lifestyle for a young woman in a notoriously expensive city, and I was kind of intrigued about how she did it.

But being an amusing blogger does not necessarily translate into being an amusing novelist and throughout “Belle,” I was mostly just irritated with the arrogance of the protagonist. I believe she was meant to be irreverent and insouciant, but she mostly came across as snobby and peevish. The story opens with her looking down on people: the young lads she hired as moversi, the secretaries and security guards at all of the places where Belle sought workii, her eventual bossiii, most of her co-workers…nearly everyone Belle interacts with is described in lowly, unappealing terms. You can tell the protagonist holds up an imaginary measuring stick graded with social classes and only considers people above a certain mark interesting. She accepts friendship with a posh, dilettante shopowner who runs an antiques/housewares shop and has the same Spode china pattern as the one Belle is set to inherit. She flirts with the handsome mogul who runs the company where she works, and considers a hunky co-worker for an office romance, but most of the rest of her co-workers are dismissed as either lumpen or stringy. Pretty much anyone who is Not Our Kind, Dear is framed as an unsympathetic and unappealing character.

The storyline, a tale of small-town-girl-makes-good-in-the-big-city isn’t compelling enough to carry my interest beyond the terrible writing and obnoxious protagonist, so I’m not even sure that I will finish this book. If I do, it will be out of a sense of obligation; I’m one of those people who feels committed to finish a book just because she started it, but this is one that I may just tote back to the library when the due date is up.

i …their clunky shoes falling silent on the asphalt, The two twenty-somethings stumbled my way from across the street, looking more like overgrown adolescents than the burly moving men that I had expected. They were a lesson in opposites: one was tall, wiry, and hesitant in his gait while the other was short, proudly led by a big, soft belly…The tall one lifted the bill of his cap to get a better look at the tattered piece of paper he held in his palm. “…uh, Bellelee?” he said, merging my first and last name in a slur of consonants, pronouncing them without their familiar molasses coating. His pale, lean face, deep-set eyes, and wiry frame made me think of a childhood spent on cement playgrounds, syringes poppin’ out of public trash cans. He was young and just short of being a tragedy… (p. 11)

ii …I nodded and I smiled at security guards and polyester secretaries, entrusting them with my life-in-a-manila-envelope as if my task were an easy and thoroughly enjoyable one…But the office drones were otherwise occupied. I was not nearly as important as their keyboards, cell phones, and Lee Press On Nails, stained with last night’s supper…I do believe that many of the envelopes (my life!) went straight into the trash, Naturally I got to fantasizing; of ways to teach them a lesson.

Soon enough, important and wearing some serious St. John on my way to have luncheon with Cindy Adams, I’d deliver them a surprise. Special delivery, Ms. Secretary and Mr. Rent-A-Cop – flaming poop! They’d sit up and take notice then, wouldn’t they? As long as I could manage a hundred-yard-dash in Ferragamo heels out of the building and into the sidewalk milieu, I was game. Daddy would support my symbolic gesture. He claimed that all Yankees were nothing more than a bunch of turds and as a graduate of Sewanee University—a fraternity with lecture halls high up in the Tennessee Mountains—he knew a thing or two about practical jokes. This fantasy of mine was wholly appropriate… p.29

iii …a whippet thin, dark-haired woman…looked as if nothing could have parted her skinny, maroon lips into a smile…black, close-set eyes, down to a nose with nostrils so pinches, a tip so lifted, it looked as if she were kin of the Gloved One. Before turning on her sensibly outfitted heel, she wiped the crimson that had bled from her lips and traveled north to the wrinkles beneath her plasticized nose…Gina could never have made it down South. Below the Mason-Dixon, it takes five seconds and a limp handshake to determine a stranger’s potential status…I couldn’t shake the feeling that Gina was a scrawny, high-strung, second-string high school football player—tiny ass, oversized shoulder-pads, helmet hair—masquerading as a starting quarterback. She was tense, charmless, overbearing… p.63

2 Responses to “Big Bad Belle”

  1. gloria stitz says:

    NOt for the first time,
    a book review proves WAY MORE ENTERTAINING & THOUGHTFUL
    than the book it’s covering. WELL DONE!
    Next question: When’s your book coming oot?

  2. Meetzorp says:

    Heh…probably never.

    I do have a series of ideas for a kind of “alternative chick-lit” novel, but I don’t know that I have the talent (or discipline) to make it happen.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

Leave a Reply