Friday, January 20, 2012

Lucky Break by Esther Freud and Another Wish List

I think Sonya Chung and I would get along just fine, as I agree with her about the uplifting qualities of bookstores and the fact that cheap books in bad condition are a boon to poor students everywhere:

"The independent bookstores I love in New York are literary havens, the
soul-nourishing equivalent of your grandmother's Sunday-afternoon
kitchen," author Sonya Chung (Long for This World) wrote in a Tin House
piece about the role bookstores in Seattle and New York City
have played in her literary education. "What I mean is that a beloved
bookstore is more than just a smart place, it's a warm place. Over the
years, I find that I've come to frequent independent bookstores
primarily to boost my spirit; and when I walk out with a book or two
that happens to blow my mind (which is more often than not the case), I
count myself an extra-lucky girl."

Half Price Books in Seattle proved to be the "most influential on my
literary education," she recalled, noting that when she was an MFA
student, the shop became "the perfect candy man for this remedial book
fiend. They had an abundant clearance section with books in sh*ty
condition and editions with the ugliest covers. It was a students'
dumping ground that became my gold mine."

Yesterday I finished reading Esther Freud's "Lucky Break" which I picked up because it was about theater majors with big dreams, and, though the novel was set up a bit like the 80s TV series "Fame" it seemed, from the jacket and short review pieces, to have characters I could identify with, as an old theater major whose life got in the way of her dreams.
Though the story began in the London England theater world, I kept hearing the lyrics to "Dance 10, Looks 3"(or as it's commonly known, the T and A Song)from " A Chorus Line" throughout the first 75 pages, mainly because the young women in the story were so fixated on how they looked to others and to themselves. Still Nell, Charlie (a girl), Dan, Jemma and to a lesser extent Pierre, the token gay and Sita, Nell's Indian room mate were off to an interesting start at "Drama Arts" college, which was a stand in for RADA, (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts). The school was run by a variety of strange old characters and two vicious gay men who tended to keep only the young men they fancied for the third year, ruthlessly cutting the others with a patronizing and denegrating lecture at the end of year 2. The only protagonist allowed to stay is Dan, the golden boy of the story, who can do no wrong, and who is in love with Jemma, while Nell worships him from afar. Charlie, meanwhile, is something of a gorgeous mixed-race harlot who uses people and sleeps with whomever she feels will advance her career.
Nell, who actually has talent as an actress, is left to struggle along in the real world, working odd jobs and constantly auditioning, while dodging casting-couch slimebags who claim to be agents, and hoping for her big break. Dan and Jemma marry right out of school, and Jemma basically becomes a whiny cow, producing four children for Dan and then kvetching at him when he doesn't spend enough time with them, or her, though she knows what the theater business is like. Charlie seems to get her big break first, but squanders it, though she discovers a talent for Reiki healing. Dan gets a Broadway theater job in an Ibsen play and Nell gets the lead role in a blockbuster movie.
Though I loved the fact that the prose was savory and hearty, and the plot swift and sure, I wasn't terribly happy with Freud's ending, which left us in doubt as to whether the golden lad Dan was going to have an affair with his co-star and we're also left wondering if Charlie will have a career as a healer or continue in the theater. We do know that Nell is now on the fast track to fame and fortune, which only seems right, as she's been our underdog from the start, but I really wanted closure for all the main characters, though I despised stupid Jemma, who did nothing but complain and pout and cry like one of her children. I also thought Charlie was a bit too much of a narcisist and was surprised that her sluttish ways didn't catch up with her.
I'd recommend this book to those who, like myself, have a love of theater and actors, and believe, as I do, that most of the best actors and actresses are from England...there must be something in the water of the Thames. Anyway, a B is the best I can do for this novel.

Here's another Wishlist of books that I want to peruse:

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesy
Lady Almira and the Real Downton Abbey by Countess Carnarvon (whose father or grandfather discovered King Tuts tomb and died of an infected mosquito bite,which some claim was the Mummy's Curse!)
Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
A Lady Cyclists Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson
Jumping the Queue and Part of the Furniture by Mary Wesley
The English Breakfast Murder by Laura Childs
And, there is a new book by the marvelous Adriana Trigiani coming out in March called "The Shoemaker's Wife" that I can hardly wait to read! I've read all of her novels and really enjoyed them, as has my mother. Come on, Spring!
Oh,and one final note to those who suggested I rent the movie "Moneyball" with Brad Pitt. What were you thinking? This was a movie for baseball fans and Brad Pitt fans, but really no one else. I found that the only character I enjoyed was the overweight kid who created the system by which Pitts character was able to rebuild his team, the Oakland A's, with 'overlooked' talent. Other than the kids explanation of the system and his discussions of why the various ballplayers were overlooked ("It's like the Island of Misfit Toys" LOL), the movie dragged like a slug on ice. How exciting can it be, after all, to watch Brad Pitt work out? I really do not need to see him sweat, as I saw him in 1994 and I didn't find him attractive then, when he hadn't aged so badly.

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