Thursday, October 14, 2010

She Shopped, I Dropped

As you've probably already guessed, I am a compulsive reader.  User guides, food labels, license plates - I read anything with printing on it that passes before my eyes, and I probably critique the font choice, too.  Until this week, I can only remember failing to finish reading one work of fiction.  That was Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.  I bought it because I loved The Name of the Rose, but after four attempts at reading it, I gave up.  Always before, no matter how bad the book, I had read the whole thing, but Foucault's Pendulum was just too ponderous.  I was very disappointed because I had expected Eco to become one of my favorite authors.  Instead, I gave up on him, too.

This week I failed to finish a second novel, and again it was one I had hoped and expected to enjoy - Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.  I didn't read the book when it was first published and I didn't see the movie, but I saw ads for the movie and thought it looked both funny and smart.  Hah.

For the rest of you who have not yet read the book, the main character is a financial journalist who is also a compulsive shopper, and the book is supposed to be the story of how, despite failing to control her spending addiction, she ends up living happily ever.  Since I also hear the siren songs of designer names and final sales, I expected to empathize with the heroine and root for her throughout the book.  Instead, I hated her guts.  This character is so shallow, self-destructive and unlovable she makes pond scum look cuddly and deep.

The other reservation I have about this book has to do with the extent of the protagonist's shopping habit.  This is not just a woman who has a hard time passing up a bargain; if she were real, she would be a serious candidate for a 12-step program.  Making fun of "happy drunks" and people with eating disorders is no longer politically correct; why are compulsive spenders still fair game?  I realize the author is exaggerating for comic effect, but she went too far for me.  I only got a third of the way through before consigning Ms. Shopaholic to whatever circle of hell Dante reserved for debtors.  I don't understand why this novel was a best-seller, and I certainly won't bother with any of the sequels.

I apologize to anyone who thinks this is the greatest book ever.  I've never written a negative book report before, and the thought that I've done so now depresses me so much that I may have to go buy another book to recover.

"It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish." ~S.I. Hiyakawa

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