Saturday, August 30, 2008

American Life

I would say a good chunk of my job is sitting in my cubicle, hovering over a crystal ball, trying to predict the future. What will be hot? What will not? What books will slowly build thanks to word of mouth? And what books will sink like a stone and fade into obscurity?

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is one book currently giving me a case of the vapors.
Description: On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.”

A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.

As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek–one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility. As Charlie’s tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?
Gee, I wonder where Sittenfeld found "inspiration" for this story?

I'm of two minds on this book. My good angel thinks people are going to want to read this because it's a fictionalized account of Laura Bush. Because no matter how polarizing a figure her husband has been, people seem to genuinely "like" her. My bad angel? Well she thinks this book will sink like a stone because after 8 years, a very unpopular war, and an economy that's sputtering along, people are really friggin' sick of the Bush family.

Now before you call me Little Miss Liberal Softy Pants, I'd feel the exact same way if someone wrote a fictionalized account of Hillary Clinton's life. I'd rather be rolled in honey and staked to a fire ant hill than read that book either.

I'm an equal opportunity political book depiser.

So where does that leave me? Obsessively monitoring the holds list, and wondering if it will jump overnight when this book lands on September 2. As usual, I think this one is going to boil down to how much media coverage the author gets. Right now our holds list is strictly in modest territory.


little alys said...

"...rolling in honey and staked on an anthil..."

Ahahahaha, I'm right there with ya! It would sound more fun than that book.

MayberryMom said...

"I'm an equal opportunity political book depiser."

bwahahahahaha I'm right there with ya!

Big sis said...

If it will explain how a lovely intelligent thoughtful woman fell in love with a complete moron...I may have to read it. The curiosity has been killing me for oh, say about 8 years.

Wendy said...

Big Sis: Well, it's "fiction" - so we'll probably never truly know.

The author wrote an article for Salon a few years back detailing that while she's anti-Bush, she's very pro-Laura (much to the horror of her liberal hippie friends). You can read that article here:

Everyone else feel free to ignore this article pimpin'. My sister - geez. She actually "likes" to read political books. I'm thinking of having her deprogrammed for Christmas.

Liz V said...

Confessing to be a politcal junkie, I'll read it. There are 65 holds on it at my library.

joykenn said...

You know I hate to say it but I think big sis may be right. People do seem to like LB--after all what's not to like, since we know so little about her. Most of us DO think of her as the bookish, nice-girl who married the frat boy and wound up being First Lady. Now, maybe in private among her family she's the traditional southern woman stereotype iron-fist-in-velvet-glove or Steel Magnolia type. Maybe she channels Tammy Wynette and "stands by her man". We don't know so, as much as I personally agree with "rolling in honey and staked on an anthill" about a Laura-fictbio or Hillary-fictbio if I were you I'd monitor this like crazy.

'Course it could be one of those books that people won't pick up unless they see it or unless the author does a tour. THAT I'd watch Really, Really closely.

Jennifer B. said...

LMAO Wendy!

Wendy said...

I just found out that People magazine reviewed it - which I think is why my holds list has climbed a little this week. Still, in the grand scheme of things, our list is still on the modest side.