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Ceridwen

Ceridwen

You kids get off my lawn. 

Tragicomic Comitragedy

Remember Me? - Sophie Kinsella

I've already snapped at this book,but I figure I'll have another go with more shapeliness since I've had to mark it as read. (Note: I didn't actually finish the book, so you are entirely welcome to disregard my grousing. I mean, you are anyway, obviously.) I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on a long drive, and I've had very good luck with silly rom-coms. They don't engage my brain so hard I worry about my ability to drive, and any book where I want to linger over passages is going to do that. Straightforward prose, dialogue heavy, either intentionally or unintentionally funny: this is what I want from audiobooks.

 

Kinsella seemed a good bet because the books I've read of hers are schticky and screwball, following much the same blueprint. A flighty semi-dumbass working girl from London (basically, a watered-down Bridget Jones) gets into a sit-com-like jam. You know, like she switches phones with someone, and then engages in light sexting and adorable meddling. Often there's a lump of a fiance, who is then thrown over for a business bro with no particular personality other than growling and throwing up his hands in exasperation about how zesty and full of life the heroine is. First person, with both oodles and scads of colloquial Britishisms, rigorously middle-class label-dropping, and hijinks.

 

Kinsella books, in the general, would make great movies -- though I have never seen the one that has, Confessions of a Shopaholic -- so I figured an audio was the way to go. And I do think this book would probably work well as a film, and that is ultimately the problem. The situation comedy here is based on retrograde amnesia, or more specifically, "Hollywood amnesia." Our quid-store Bridget Jones wakes up in hospital after what she thinks is a fall while out drinking with her mates, but it turns out she was in a car accident and has somehow lost her memory of the last three years. It also turns out that in the intervening years, she's gotten posh, married a hot business bro, and also turned into a viperous bitch. 

 

Maybe in a movie, this could work. But with the time to linger, as one does on the page, or even more so in the drawl of audio, Lexi's awakening in the hospital and her slow realization that she'd lost a huge chunk of her life filled me with just clenching anxiety. That everyone around her -- and notably her mother -- treated her condition with dismissal or disdain made me want to breath into a bag. I don't even think that this callousness towards mental injury is unrealistic, especially dealing with sudden trauma and the ways people cope with grief, but I do not want it treated comically. "You should just try harder to remember, love" is not fucking funny, it's the usual way mental disability or injury gets treated like something to be solved with will. 

 

In a film, this could move fast enough for me to ignore the shittier implications of her family's response, but on the page, no. (Also, maybe if her mom were played by Edina from Absolutely Fabulous, wot wot.) Amnesia is one of those things so set as a trope on the teevee that you can almost ignore it, because you know it's ridiculous. (Indeed, check the TV Tropes page for amnesia, for your google-holing pleasure.) I gleefully watched many moons of Days of Our Lives that dealt with all manner of brainwashing and convenient amnesia because it was hilarious and awesome (Stephano Dimera! You rat!) because it wasn't situated in the head of a girl coping horribly, internally, with a brain injury that had profoundly screwed up her life. I'm sorry, John Black, but I just don't feel you the same way, and that's entirely due to medium. 

 

Anyway, so that was my problem. I got to the part where her friends were beginning to tell her that she'd fucked up all her relationships and she began to grovel abjectly about actions she couldn't even remember when I gave up in a welter of growing panic and despair. Comedy happens to other people, they say; it's tragedy when it happens to you. Here, I had more than enough time to see the tragedy for other people treated as comedy, and it was a complete buzz-kill.

 

I ended up listening to a Susan Elizabeth Phillips book from the 80s, Glitter Baby, which ended up being a perfectly charming mix of just hideous label-dropping, epic family saga, and star-fucking. After the incomparably inadvertently funny Hot Shot by the same author (also listened to on audio) -- Hot Shot is a heady mix of star-fucking, family saga, and a romantic alt-history of the beginnings of personal computing (I know!) -- maybe I should just make Phillips my go-to on the long drive to Grand Marais. Wot wot.