Thursday, July 07, 2005

FF was unPREPared for the Yuckiness of Prep

FF, inspired by the Sad Billionaire, gets her hate on re:the self-hating book of the moment.

yuck: the disheartening and uninspired story of Lee Fiora, a midwesterner who attends a chi-chi east coast prep school on scholarship, will make you wonder what all the fuss is about.

I'm a little emotionally raw, having stayed up all night reading this let-down of a book. I know, I know. I could've just put the book down and turned off the light. I could have stared reading Rhymes With Witches or Around the Way Girls 2 (both of which I'd procured the same day I got Prep). I could have watched my Buffy or Gilmore Girls dvds. The thing is, despite inspiring all sorts of yuck feelings, I wanted to know what was gonna happen in this tedious yet oddly compelling tome. And because I'm committed to staying up to date with they way teen girls are portrayed / represented, I felt the need to familiarize myself with the emotional landscape of Sittenfeld's protagonist, Lee Fiora. Plus, Sittenfeld's book has gotten tons of media attention and, well, I was curious.

So yeah, it's a page-turner. I stuck with it even though it made me feel sad and yucky ( I admit that I probably skimmed the last 100 or so pages). I'm too tired to go into details now, but this book made me feel really bad, like my best friend was trying to manipulate me. And somehow my empathy / sympathy for Lee was roadblocked by the laborious nature of the narrative, and I also felt suspicious of its motivations. I guess I felt a little betrayed by the trite plot points and the unloving depiction of Lee. And the writing was fine, though not nearly as noteworthy as many reviewers have suggested. I'll just say that after reading all the press linked from Sittenfeld's website, I've lost all faith in book reviews from most major media outlets.
I mean, did we read the same book?

Of course Sittenfeld deserves some props. She does address class, though I think her critique is reluctant -- almost polite. I didn't find any real critique of race or gender that wasn't merely a watered down version of something you might have read in any YA or teen novel from the 70s (the way this book is being treated as "literary fiction" reveals how useless and inaccurate these categories often are). Ultimately, the book suffers from the same burdens as its protagonist: overwhelmed by its atmosphere of regressive values and too mild-mannered for its own good.

yum: radical punk-rock pixie, Weetzie Bat, hates high school so much that she actually does something about it.


Crystal said...

The press hyped that book a lot, especially magazines such as Glamour and Marie Claire. I'm vauguely interested in reading Prep but it's way at the bottom of my list, especially after reading your critique.

Tao Lin said...

prep was good

it doesn't have anything to do with class

more with psychology

the press just mentions class all the time to justify the book's 'importance'

other things that are important include race, foreign cultures, racism, immigration

psychology is self-indulgent

Rachel said...

sorry, i realize this is weird and random, but just read that book and have in an orgy of bitterness been googling things like "curtis sittenfeld overrated hack" and "prep worst book ever," and this entry appeared.

so i just wanted to express my solidarity; all the glowing reviews of a book that i thought was painfully flat and trite and self-indulgent have made me wonder if i'm actually illiterate or secretly hate good literature or something. it's nice to find that i'm not the only one.

i couldn't stop reading it either, though. i think it's because i was just desperate for something, anything, to happen. but then it didn't, and i was sad.