Bari Weiss of The Wall Street Journal reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
"Friendship," a new novel by blogger and memoirist Emily Gould, is aimed directly at readers like me: 20-and-30-something women living in gentrifying Brooklyn who follow Lena Dunham on Twitter.
The characters on Dunham's HBO show "Girls" are not unlike the subjects of Gould's novel: Two best friends and aspiring writers nearing 30 who are alarmed that their lives have barely changed in a decade. Amy hates her job at a Jewish blog, and is nostalgic for the minor celebrity she enjoyed when she worked at a gossip website. (In-the-know readers will note that this was the author's own career trajectory). Bev, Amy's friend, works dead-end temp jobs, lives with roommates, and can barely make rent, let alone pay off her student loans. When Bev gets pregnant from a one-night stand, their friendship reaches a crisis.
I get it. Some of you will hear this description and roll your eyes at the indulgence of Generations X and Y. But I am relatively sympathetic to these sorts of characters, and besides, "Friendship" had been hyped on various blogs and podcasts as an incisive, hilarious portrait of female friendship. Right up my alley.
I'll spare you the hours I lost reading it: This book is like a bad mumblecore movie. Nothing really happens, and what little does (the birth of Bev's child, say) happens offstage. Pivotal scenes, like Amy's affair with a married man, and the eventual confrontation with his wife, are glossed over in a few pages.
What's worse is the book's lack of humor. Consider this indignant speech by Amy, who has been advised by Bev take a short-term job in retail to pay the bills.
"I can't work in a store, Bev," Amy replies. "I mean, what if someone found out? It would be so humiliating…There was a time when people totally recognized me on the subway! I got thousands of emails. Thousands! They were so mean, too. Everyone was so mean to me. That has to have meant something. It has to have happened for some reason; there has to have been some payoff for that, and it can't be that I work in a store!"
Perhaps some will read this dialogue as candid or self-aware, but I can't hear it as anything more than whining.