Writing: 5.5/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 5/5
Loved, loved, loved this book! It’s clever, witty, full of intra- and inter-personal insights and … it simply made me happy. Our narrator is a 26-year old writer for The Night Owls (TNO — think Saturday Night Live) whose goal is to one day write “non-condescending, ragingly feminist screenplays for romantic comedies.” The book opens with a grumpy and well depicted annoyance that her office mate — middle aged schlub writer Danny Horst — is engaged to a gorgeous and popular celebrity. Her curmudgeonly point? This could never happen if the genders were reversed. And this sets the stage for this laugh-out-loud and deeply satisfying examination of love, romance, gender stereotyping, and personal insight with plenty of grammar jokes, neuroses, soul baring and an extremely funny and yet poignant story of how she got her hamster tattoo.
It is a self-referential, Covid fueled, Romantic Comedy for our times. I always love Sittenfeld’s writing — it is clean, pointed, and intelligent (and allows her audience to engage intelligently) while never belaboring an obvious point and always remaining simultaneously funny and meaningful. I would love to see some of the SNL style skits her characters propose and the whole thing would make a great movie that would easily bear multiple rewatches. Great cast of characters.
Some great quotes — out of context and just a drop in the bucket:
“Did he realize I wasn’t yet wearing earbuds or did he not care? I suspected the latter; every day, things were said at TNO, often on camera, that would have constituted sexual harassment in any other workplace except the current White House.”
“Even with the baked-in sexism, even when I’ve barely slept. I just can’t imagine a job where I laugh more, or the people are more talented and hard-working. And to get paid to make fun of stuff that deserves to be made fun of and have this huge platform — what more could a misanthrope from Missouri wish for?”
“Another of my pet peeves is that the female characters used to all be sort of cutesy, like having flour on their nose after they baked cookies and not knowing it. And now they’re all a mess, like waking up really hungover and getting fired. I want to create characters who aren’t flawless but also aren’t ridiculous or incompetent at life.”
“Just to be clear, I do lead a life of quiet desperation. I wouldn’t want to be friends with anyone who doesn’t, or anyone who isn’t filled with ambivalence, because I assume they’d be incredibly shallow. But I’m sure I’d be ten times more quietly desperate if I were living in the suburbs with a two-car garage.”
“Aren’t we all just looking for someone to talk about everything with? Someone worth the effort of telling our stories and opinions to, whose stories and opinions we actually want to hear?”
“All of which was to say that the sketches I’d written over the years about the absurdity and arbitrariness of beauty standards for women had arisen not from my clear-eyed renunciation of them, but from my resentment at their hold on me.”
“I thought, not for the first time, that plainly expressing what you thought about fraught topics was significantly harder than writing banter between imaginary characters.”
Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 11th, 2023