Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Keep your friends close but by George,keep your Frenemies closer!

A couple of books that I've been reading lately would ,at first glance,appear to have nothing more in common than the same publisher. However,both stories do deal with themes of friendship and betrayal, and of secrets kept and revealed. Let's take a look at each one in turn to decide if they really would fit in together on the same book shelf. Instead of flipping a coin to see who we should begin with,why don't we take the traditional "Ladies First!" approach:

Frenemies starts off in a bar where Augusta "Gus" Curtis is attempting to drown her sorrows over her recent break-up with Nate,who she caught cheating on her with one of her longtime gal pals from college,Helen. That becomes harder to do as the happy couple just happens to walk in the door. Fueled by anger(and a few too many drinks),Gus goes on the offense with a literally in-their-face karoake performance of Janis Joplin's "Take Another Piece of my Heart."

Later in the week,a much more Gus runs into Helen at a Halloween party and Helen insists on asking Gus why she's so mad at her. Stunned by the obliviousness of that question, Gus then has to listen to Helen attempt to give her an "invention" type speech and then embarrass her further at the party by insisting on finding a man for her(and also Georgia,another old college friend,who is standing by Gus in this situation)right then and there.

Nate is sending Gus mixed signals-one moment,he's defending Helen against what she says is Gus's harrassment of her(Helen is the one who gets into stalker mode as she leaves dozens of messages on Gus's phone and corners her at mutual social gatherings to talk about their"probelm")and the next,he's calling Gus at late hours,wanting to be "friends".

To further complicate things,Gus has a love-hate relationship going on with Henry,Nate's room mate who let her walk in on Nate and Helen. Gus blames Henry for her finding out that way,even tho she has taken comfort(and taken him to bed)from him. Hatefully hooking up with Henry is extra tricky,since Georgia has had a crush on him for years and it feels like breaking the friend code to want to be with him. All of this drama adds layers to the anxiety cake that Gus is baking about turning thirty shortly after New Year's.

To be honest,I wasn't sure that I was really going to like this book at first but after awhile,the characters really started to grow on me. Crane keeps a lively pace going and skillfully manages to make what could be a sitcom plot feel true to life. Her characters get to grow up emotionally( well,some of them do,anyway)and particularly Gus,who makes a few life changes without resorting to melodramatics or overblown browbeating. Instead,the reader enjoys the highs and lows of a life that feels very much like their own or of someone close to them.

Frenemies is out in paperback and just perfect for a light summer read. Get yourself a cool glass of iced tea and settle in for a heartfelt and at times,humorous look at taking charge of your love and mental life without letting someone taking a little piece of your heart along the way.

by George is the tale of two Georges,one of whom is never truly alive. The first George is the ventriloquist dummy or "boy" of Joe Fisher,son of famed ventriloquiste,Echo Endor. Joe wants nothing to do with George at first,hoping to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Valentine Vox who threw his voice on stage for the sheer artisty of it. Echo quickly squashes that dream and is determined to push Joe into the type of theaterical career she thinks is best for him that also reflects well on her.

Joe eventually uses "Garrulous" George in his act,and finds his own way to fame. Most of his story is told from the point of view of George,who sees all and knows more than he could ever tell about the secrets and lies in the family household as Joe spends more time away from home and his wife,Queenie,finds solace in the attentions of another.

The other George is the grandson of Joe Fisher,who is entering a all-boy's school in the early 1970s,where his mother's fame as a Mary Martin like actress only isolates him further from his classmates. Due to his reluctance to take part in sports,George leaps at the chance to work with Donald,the groundskeeper who becomes his best friend and encourages him in his interest in the art of ventriloquism(which is sparked by his great grandmother"Evie" passing on to him a book about Valentine Vox along with some of his grandfather's journals).

Mysteriously,George's friendship with Donald is grounded to a halt and while he tries to figure out the whys and wherefores of that,a few other family secrets pop out that send him on a mission to uncover the truth. Eventually the two Georges meet up to reveal all and then some.

This is Wesley Stace's second novel and I regret not having read his first novel,Misfortune,after experiencing such a literary delight in these pages. Stace's grandfather was a ventriloquist,which gave him the inspiration for this story and his words let you breathe in the richly intoxicating atmosphere of the traveling theater world,both of the distant and not so far away past,that defines the characters and gives them a solid place to stand on amidst their emotional turmoil.

Stace is no stranger to performance(many know him best as singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding) but he is also no stranger to creating a realistically imagined world on paper and making it sing and soar. Don't make my mistake and hesistate to enter the realm of Wesley Stace-seek out this book at all costs! by George is due to be released by August 22(if not sooner)and you won't find a better look at what lies beneath the surface of a family dedicated to creating illusions for others and a few for themselves to live with. by George is also a glorious tribute to the art of ventriloquism,which is not what it use to be but is still going on strong,even in this high tech entertainment world of ours.

So,would this odd couple fit well together in your library? I think so. Variety is the spice of life,even a literary one,and it nevers hurts to mix and match. If you're in need of a fresh book club suggestion,either or both of these wonderful books would certainly stir up some good talk and give everyone a really special shared experience.

1 comment:

Pop Culture Diva said...

Frenemies! That's so Sex and the City. Love it. It sounds like fluffy fun.