Things are tough around here. I can't go into details, but take my word for it. One of the hardest side effects of our particular (massively irritating but not truly terrible) troubles: no books. Or, almost no books. None in the house, none on the kitchen table, just (almost) no books. It's part of the trouble, it's temporary, and it bites.
It wears on a person. Add to that the fact that I finished the one, lone book I was reading (A Visit From the Goon Squad—moving but also discombobulating in ways both good and bad) halfway through a long subway child-ferrying odyssey. So there I was, miles to go before I slept, profound exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, but at least a seat on the train. "Help," I said to Diana. "I need a book. You'll have to give me one of yours."
Diana is a young lady very protective about her books, and her privacy (which are somehow linked in her mind). She pushed me away from some, rooted around in her we-just-got-back-from-the-library bag (she only got to take out 3 books, quel horreur) and gave me this:
Reader: I tried. I swear I did. I mean, I like a silly book as much as the next person. I've happily read Amber Brown over and over. I'll read People magazine! I'll ready anything. But this? I just didn't like it.
What's weird is that I've always had a very friendly feelings towards these books previously, just judging by their covers (isn't that wise of me? Judging a book by its cover?). They seemed so normal, somehow, some sort of cross between Judy Blume and manga and…I don't know, something reassuring.
But that's not what it was at all! It felt entirely off to me. All this cutesy talk of "gerds" (girl nerds) and the popularity levels; it in no way resonated. Is this because I am old? I (of course) don't think so. It felt false to me, the person behind the curtain far too evident, the wires visible trying to make things funny! It tried so hard. I kept thinking, "She wouldn't think like that, she wouldn't talk like that, her mother wouldn't do that at all!"
This scares me, because I don't want to become James Wood talking about The Finkler Question: in which criticism he responded to every comic exaggeration with "No he didn't." Which ended up making him sound a tad, um, less than fun?
Which I guess is where I am now. And what I don't understand is that I see kids responding like crazy to these books. One of Diana's good friends did nothing but read these books for two years; both my children read them happily. I say this not because they are such arbiters of literary excellence, but because they're, you know, kids. Wouldn't the falsehood, if it were there, grate on them even more than it did on me? But then again, this is the generation that has happily gulped down the awful Junie B. Jones, whose utter falseness stinks to high heaven. So there you go.
But what gives? Am I just too old and severe to appreciate the humor here? Or what?