Hot Town, Super in the City

January 27, 2009 at 2:13 pm 3 comments

Super in the City by Daphne Uviller is (Devil Wears Prada aside) my first true foray into what society at large has not-so-lovingly dubbed “chick lit.” I must say that I was more inclined than most to read this book and even more inclined to like it, having become e-quainted with said author over the past few months (she just seems wonderful). And yet…?

The book’s main flaw is its very genre. Chick lit is by nature infuriating with its rampant escapism, its unattainable alternate realities and, at the gushy heart of any chick lit book, its mythical One striding about in a very manful manner. It is nice to delve into and even disappear into this relatively tidy little world where you just know everything is going to eventually work out. It’s peppy and comforting and wonderfully distracting, but it is not real. The moment you lift your nose out of any chick lit book’s light pages, you immediately crash. On the cover of this book, Elizabeth Gilbert compares the novel to candy (“intelligent candy,” mind you) and I think that is very much accurate of the genre. You get this happy little sugar rush reading and then, once done, you crash back to reality with very little residual buzz to show for your time. It’s disheartening even as you were moments ago reveling in your sunny little chick lit world.

However, setting the main constraints of the genre itself aside, the book was not in and of itself at all bad. In fact, I just plain old liked it! There isn’t anything really deeper to read into that or anything to really comment on why or why not, I just liked it. The book is the simple, friendly little tale of an extremely likable woman with the fantastic name of Zephyr Zuckerman. She merrily skips through the novel, going through a range of emotions and catastrophic situations before finally getting her perfect, rainbow over Manhattan happy ending. It’s great.

Most simply, this book was a nice little moment of escapism and one that is not so far-fetched as to really hurt you when you come crashing back down from chick lit land. Ms. Uviller’s writing style is utterly fantastic: intelligent without seeming pretentious (although, as a Yale graduate, she would have every right to be so), funny without hitting you over the head with the punchline and wonderfully real-feeling, even in its moments of greatest unreality. Zephyr honestly comes to life, as do the people she encounters along the way. I have absolutely no idea what other genre Zephyr might have more happily fit into (although judging by her preoccupation with romantic fantasies of the mind perhaps chick lit is the right place for her), but it might have been nice for Ms. Uviller to try out her debut writing chops on something equally shiny, equally nicely written but perhaps slightly more substantive.

Note: I actually wrote this review some weeks ago since I was beneficently given a review copy and, since then, I have slightly revised my thoughts on the book. This book stuck with me a surprisingly long time and I still find myself thinking about it sometimes, weeks later. While no one is going to confuse Super in the City with high literature, I must say this was a good, thoroughly likable book. Please do read it in your spare hours! It goes quickly and is quite an “upper.”

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Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Romance and Chick Lit.

Valley of the Dolls, not the chicks Relevant Writing

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. KT  |  January 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    You’ve goaded me into asking my standard popular culture question: Since so many of the books we now read as classics were considered ‘fluff’ at the time, such as Dickens, Austen, and Radcliffe, what makes chick lit, and this novel in particular, any different from those previously-derided genres?

    But apart from my admittedly skewed viewpoint, excellent review! I’m glad this was a book you could enjoy for the moment without getting all irritated about the perfect ending :)

    And Elizabeth Gilbert is always right. About everything. I want her to follow me around and tell me what to do with my life, because she is just. That. Good.

    Reply
  • 2. Corey  |  January 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Oh you and your graduate degree deepness… I have nothing really intelligent to say in response to your question about the difference other than to say that there is an undefinable line between the “fluff” of the previous centuries and that which we dub so now. There is just a difference and I can’t describe it! That isn’t to say that these books are at all bad; in fact, they are often quite enjoyable!

    Reply
  • 3. KT  |  January 27, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    You would never get away with that answer in my program, but I’ll let it go :D

    I think the main difference is complexity, however — while standard fluff novels only deal with a gimmick or a trope to get a plot going, and maybe deal with one issue in depth, what I consider literature would draw on many sources, consider and examine many issues, either historical or contemporary.

    That’s not to say that one can’t enjoy a good story once in a while :D As for historical fluff…maybe they were just inherently smarter than we are. This is becoming my new theory about why old literature is just better.

    Reply

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