First-timer Begley’s chick-lit novel about a man who writes a chick-lit novel is not as cunningly postmodern as it sounds.
When academic Mitch Samuel’s epic about farm life is rejected yet again, he explodes in his vestibule, tearing up the returned manuscript along with his neighbor’s copy of People. At the bookstore to replace the magazine, he sees a display for Katharine Longwell’s latest, The Cappuccino Club. Enraged again, Mitch steals a copy so he can (figuratively) rip it up, proving to himself that yes, life is unfair. Who should spot Mitch reading The Cappuccino Club in a café, but Katharine herself? He has a cousin who wants to break into the chick-lit market, Mitch lies, Katharine offers her help (and her private number, wink, wink) and the plot is pushed into action. If that bimbo can write a bestselling novel, so can he, Mitch figures. One small problem: He doesn’t know how to think like a woman, or at least not the kind of woman who would read chick lit. Mitch begins watching Oprah and looking at shoes, but his rough draft is flat. Roommate Bradley suggests Mitch go eavesdrop on vapid gal-talk at a dance class Bradley’s sister Marie takes. Masquerading as a pharmaceutical sales rep named Jason, Mitch is soon twirling and talking and actually enjoying himself with Marie. This comes as a surprise to Mitch, because after all, she’s a hairdresser, and what could they have to talk about? That’s right, Mitch is a jerk. By novel’s end he learns his lesson, but along the way he disses not only chick lit, but also its assumed-to-be-vacuous readers—in other words, Begley’s intended audience.
The author has nice comic timing and shows capacity for real depth, but his seeming contempt for the genre he’s working in is unfortunate.