Skip to main content

The Blondes

The Blondes

Emily Schultz (Doubleday Canada 2012, hardcover) 386 pages, $29.95 cover price

All you young writers with your gleaming white laptops and over-priced gourmet coffee rushing across the quad to your MFA Creative writing seminar – drop your blue jean molded bums down on the lawn, right here right now, and pay attention to what I'm going to tell you.

In choosing to write a novel n(and I do question your sanity) the crucial question is one that is generally over-looked by the audience which is much more interested in, 'How realistic was the sex scene?'; along with, 'Will reading this help me to have more sex?' The answers to the above of course are: No more so than usual, and get a life.

Emily Schultz presents a case study in what separates the very good from the great as writers go. Oh she has a devilishly accurate eye and ear for the foibles found in the panoply of life. For example, this skewering:

Beautiful women,” I said, “are full of anger over their privilege. They use deceit as a kind of trade. They receive more attention than other women, and want to be the centre of attention at all times. It's an addiction. And like all addicts, they're controlling and abusive, full of insecurity and rage.”

The hell they are. Over the course of, in Elia Kazan's wonderful phrase, a long and frequently lively life, it has been my poetic pleasure to have been the friend and on sonnet-worthy occasion the lover of more than a dozen women who would make Vogue's Anna Wintour weep for their absence from her magazine covers. There is not a one I've discovered over the course of this pleasant anthropological study who thought that way. Centre of attention? Certainly? Addictive and controlling? Possibly. Insecurity and rage? Hah!

No, no and no again; beautiful women exist in a warm snow bubble of serenity, above and beyond the storm. In that way they are exactly like brilliant people I have known in the arts of whatever sex they were born into. As Bogart would say, 'You're good. Oh you're damn good.', and they know it. They won the cultural and genetic battle that the rest of us lost and they move about the Earth with the serene complacency of Ming Dynasty Empresses. Beauty implies and implants a security which leaves the rest of us to pound pillows and weep the tears of insecurity.

And that, my darlings, is a problem when you choose an insecure character to be the first-person narrator of your novel. Your keen perception is seen through the finger-smudged glasses worn by your protagonist. Problem? You bet your ass it is.

It is true that my beloved Mrs. Parker – Dorothy Parker in case you didn't know – made similar sorts of observations as the above, although hers were much wittier and definitely feminist. However, when Parker wrote about women as forgotten playthings (see: Big Blonde), she looked at the situation from the point of view of the all-knowing third person. Would that Emily Schultz have done the same.

You see, 386 pages is a long time to spend with a person and if you're going to cash in that time, she had better be worth it. In describing a world infected by a sort of plague where blonde women (both naturally so and improbably the Clairoled) be, come murderous super-zombies, the red-haired and insecure Hazel Hayes is, well, kind of a bore. Hazel has a pregnancy which she regrets, which is the product of an affair which she regrets, living in a world which has no love for red-heads, which she regrets, and is … oh hell, I need a drink.

There is a mirthful social satire buried within The Blondes. Unfortunately, Schultz picked a voice to tell it that is more Zeppo Marx than Groucho; or perhaps more to the point, it is Duck Soup told from Margaret Dumont's perspective. Pity. Pity and, Be seeing you.


Popular posts from this blog

The Blocks by Karl Parkinson

The Blocks

Karl Parkinson (New Binary Press 2016, Trade Paperback) 274 pages, cover price N/A

There's a tremendous irony in our lives you know, and it is one as large and predominant as the oxygen we breathe yet equally as invisible, equally ignored; an irony as imperceptible as the blood within our veins that itself only comes to our notice when the skin breaks and the blood trickles free before we hide the wound with a bandage and secure the blood back where it belongs. That irony is this: Our most basic desire, expressed in equal parts of hope and fear, is that we want to continue to live. And why? Because we want our individual lives to be different than what they are.
Karl Parkinson's first novel, The Blocks is a mad, tragic, stylish and daring exploration into that self-same need to survive and yet to change. The Blocks of the title themselves are neither those of the prison nor a child's alphabet; at least not literally although the reader may rightly infer those meta…

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan (Knopf Canada edition 2016, Hard Cover) 197 pages, $29.95 cover price
We have to talk about the concept first. Oh I had a long and lively internal debate about it, you can be sure of that. After all, all books have concepts that we accept without too much fuss – talking animals, sentient corpses, thought-filled trees, the whole Harrod's bought stuffed menagerie of Winnie the Pooh carrying on like a picnic gathering of the British Women's Institute with special invited guests from the Royal Society of St George – we accept all of those without too much fuss. I've even admitted to sniffing up a tear or two over The Brave Little Toaster, so if one can be moved by a bloody kitchen appliance then why not a sentient foetus as the central character of Ian McEwan's Nutshell?It probably won't surprise you that I have a theory to go with that, slightly more substantial than an amuse-bouche if not quite a meal in itself. My thinking is that we go with the ta…

White and Red Cherries by Tanja Tuma

White and Red Cherries: A Slovenian Civil War Novel

Tanja Tuma (Self-published 2016, Trade paperback) 301 pages with glossary and bibliography, cover price n/a
It dawned on me like a thunder strikes a tree: this petite young girl embodies a mission, her reason to exist. Every one of us embodies his mission by what he does. We are what we do. Not chemical elements, but our deeds define our being. We are neither the faith we trust in God, nor the love we give and take. The least of what we are is the genetic code we get from our parents, which in turn lives on in our descendants. No. We are what we do at this moment in this bloody world. Our deeds can defy eternity. They can mirror our will and freedom forever. Those words are thoughts by the elderly Martin, born during the Second World War and raised by the partisan heroine Valeria Batič as her son, when his natural mother Ada quite literally tossed her baby from a train window to Valeria as the train pulled out for Vienna. Ada you see w…