October 15th – Oh! You Pretty Things

After last week’s book, I craved something light and fluffy and Shanna Mahin’s Oh! You Pretty Things fits the bill. This book falls in the boss-revenge genre (remember The Devil Wears Prada?) but is made even more titillating by its Hollywood setting.

Jess Dunne, slightly overweight and pushing thirty which in Hollywood means you might as well be dead, is dazzled and awed by the very town that wants nothing to do with her. She’s obsessed with celebrity culture and wants in, no matter the cost. And once she begins working as a personal assistant to A-list actress Eva Carlton, she achieves that status but there’s a price. A talented cook, Jess is reduced to accommodating Eva’s every whim and fancy. And there are many. And they change. All. The. Time. But Jess is willing to overlook the challenge that is Eva in order to maintain her place in the inner circle. While Mahin serves up a number of juicy secondary characters, the soul of this book is the relationship between Eva and Jess. In the end, Jess wants something from her boss that is beyond the limited emotional range of such a fabulously famous person.

Mahin’s pitch perfect depiction of Hollywood and its native’s floats this novel above others that have tried the same thing. She succeeds because her details must come from an insider, they are that good. And we, awash in a culture that worships celebrity even as we are simultaneously disdainful of it, feel a twinge of what Jess feels: we want in, if just for a moment. This is classic escapism even if the ending is a little too convenient.

Ok. I’m hoping you can indulge me for just minute while I freak out over Season One of Serial, the podcast from the producers of This American Life (one of my favorites!). This was all the rage last year but I’m just getting around to it now and while I’m only on episode six, I’m sneaking around trying to find ways to plug in and listen.

Hosted by Sarah Koenig, Serial tells one true story over the course of the season. In 1999, Adnan Syed was arrested for the murder of Hae Min Lee, a classmate of his at their Baltimore high school and an ex-girlfriend. Ultimately, Syed was convicted for the crime without a shred of physical evidence. The reexamination of this crime is fascinating and terrifying and once you start listening, it’s incredibly hard to stop! If you’re in the car, at the gym, staring into space, bored at work, whatever, give it a listen. I’m curious what you think.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

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