Of Scandals, Scarlet Letters, and the Not-So-Banal-Anal

These are strange days we are living in.

On the one hand, we’ve got Hollywood preaching morality with the #metoo and The Time’s Up movements.

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‘On the other, Kim Kardashian is trying to break the internet by tweeting pictures of her exposed breasts as well as her giant naked ass (no, not Kanye–I’m speaking of her prominently protruding plastic buttocks.)

White roses were de rigueur at the “fashionably anti-Trump” award shows (Hello Oscar, you misogynistic pillar of white privilege. Hello Golden Globe, you big fat reminder that America the Oppressor is a blight on the Globalism.)

Somewhere, a feminist is screaming that I’m slut-shaming Kim K, and therefore, I should go choke on Beyonce’s farts and die. (And yes, Mrs. Jay-Z Carter does too fart–and I’ll bet they smell like Brussels sprouts.)

So let me state right here that I don’t think any kind of shaming is right. I think we should build one another up. Let she who is without sin. . . and all that. I’ve got no stones. Rolling, kidney or otherwise.

But if someone in your circle of influence is riding the big old tractor of shame straight to the Hoe-Down Hootenanny, you can certainly tell them to put on some clothes and kill their engines.

Otherwise, keep your trap shut and say nothing unkind (except on the subject of Beyonce’s farts, of course–they are fair game.)

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For those of us in the middle class who have tuned out of the awards shows (as the ratings confirm), it’s because it is insufferable to watch the hypocrisy of  Hollywood’s elites lecturing the rest of us sexual morality when they can’t keep their own marriage vows for more than a month.

The stars stand before us clothed couture gowns made with less fabric than a pair of gloves, but stitched by a team of thirty-seven Indonesian sweat-shop workers who, collectively, earn pennies a day. That’s okay–they have their righteous indignation to keep them warm.  And their #metoo roses.

Anyhow, when I picked up a copy of YOUNG JANE YOUNG off the new release shelf at the library, I was intrigued by its premise. I’ve always wondered how a private citizen (like Monica Lewinski) dealt with life after becoming infamous for schtupping a married politician. Especially since her name became a laughingstock and not Bill Clinton’s. Go figure how that works.

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Title is linked to Amazon and there are no spoilers ahead.

YOUNG JANE YOUNG, Gabrielle Zevin. Algonquin Books, North Carolina, 2017. 294 pages.

Aviva Grossman is a congressional intern with aspirations for a political career. She’s had sex once, if you can call it that, as it was a non-consensual date-rape perpetrated by her high school boyfriend.

Now a college student who has put on the freshman-fifteen (am I still allowed to call it that or is the whole concept misogynistic? This is a rhetorical question–no need to address it in the comments) she has the classic problems of a young woman whose body has developed into womanly proportions–her clothes don’t fit, people judge her for looking ‘inappropriate’ when she isn’t, men stare at her chest and not into her eyes, etc.51LavvIGUwL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

So when the congressman for whom she is interning takes a special interest in Aviva, what’s a girl to do? She’s into it. And she blogs about it–anonymously, of course.

Once the weasel gets out of the box (pun intended) Aviva’s life is front-page news. Of course, the married congressman moves on unscathed, but Aviva must move out of state and reinvent herself as Jane Young.

Especially since she’s leaving town with a souvenir–a baby on the way. Yikes!

This book opens with a bang. The first section is narrated by Aviva’s hilarious mother, Rachel.  I couldn’t put the book down. Her voice was spot-on and engaging.

Section 2 is narrated by Jane. Here we get perspective on starting over, life as a single-mother, and running from ghosts of the past. Jane’s voice is not as engaging as Rachel’s, but the story moves along quickly.

Section 3 is narrated by precocious daughter, Ruby, through a series of letters to her Indonesian pen-pal (who, for the record, does not make couture gowns in her country’s sweat shops.) Ruby is every little girl who ever got bullied. Every little girl who wonders after her MIA father.

Section 4 is narrated by the congressman’s cold-ass wife, Embeth. We see her humanized a bit more than in previous points-of-view. We all have our stories to tell–even the cold-asses among us.

Section 5 is narrated by Aviva Grossman and outlines her True Life Story of the Congressman and the Intern which is something TMZ or E! would be all over. Interestingly, the account is written in second person and a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure format. It works to provide her rationale for her actions, but it also distances us a bit from Aviva.

My only criticism of the novel is in the choice of anal sex as a plot device. With Teen Vogue publishing a spread last summer on “How to Have Anal Sex With Your Boyfriend” (a title to that effect,) I must protest. Anal is not banal.

Besides, a young woman whose only previous experience with sex is a date-rape is not a likely candidate for anal. Hell, any young woman with even a smidgen of self-esteem is not a candidate for anal.

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Despite media efforts to make anal seem “normal,” it is not “normal” practice among the majority of heterosexual women–at least those of us who have no desire to have to wear a diaper in the future because of anal-leakage.

There are other ways the writer could have ensured her desired end result without resorting to the old poop shoot. Repeat after me: ONE WAY TRAFFIC ONLY!

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Moving on, my absolute favorite part of this book was the narration of the mother. Maybe because I am Rachel Grossman–without the ex-husband, the online dating, and the menorah–although I wish I was fully Jewish and not just by the Ashkenazic Jewish blood on my mother’s side. Oy vey!

I just related well to the voice of a middle-aged woman commenting on the lives of those around her. Rachel is hilarious and poignant all at the same time.

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This is a fun read and a brilliantly written novel. Zevin writes with the authority of a much older woman, and I will definitely pick up her other novels. I’m almost sad I finished it already. It took me two days of picking it up here and there in my free-time. That speaks volumes.

Foxy Rating: Four out of Five Foxes – If the voices of Jane, Ruby, Embeth and Aviva were as engaging as Rachel’s, I would have gone for five. Plus, there’s that pesky anal thing. But still, not too shabby. This is an interesting read and a writer to follow.

Thanks for reading and rock on!

foxyxoxo,

Susan J. Anderson

Foxy Writer Chick

 


3 thoughts on “Of Scandals, Scarlet Letters, and the Not-So-Banal-Anal

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