Bitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Paperback – 7 Mar 2006
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About the Author
Jen Lancaster is the author of "Bitter is the New Black." She has lived in Chicago for ten years with her husband and pets, and has yet to get the hang of the subway or returning library books in a timely manner. Visit www.jennsylvania.com
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It all comes crashing down one day when Jen gets downsized. It's a tough economy, and in the 22 months it takes to land a new job, she learns about not taking anything for granted. When Fletch also gets laid off, they get perilously close to having to move in with her parents, and she starts to examine her silly spending habits.
Jen is a selfish, unsympathetic character who can be downright mean, but I have to admit she's funny, and while I wouldn't actually say the things she says to people, I was right there with her on her train of thought. There were times I wondered why Fletch stood by her, but mostly I just want to know where to find a guy like him. He weathers her constant tantrums without batting an eye, and when times got really tough, I admired Jen and Fletch's ability to stick together and support one another.
What I really liked about this novel was that though Jen had to learn some hard lessons and rearrange her priorities, the experience didn't change who she was inside. Though she learned not to blow wads of money on senseless things, and learned some respect for menial jobs, she didn't lose her mean streak. I also had to admire her ability to keep fighting, uncowed, even when things seemed impossible.
Though I'm uncertain whether I'd like her in person, Jen is amusing on the page. For an inside look at the downward spiral of an annoying, self-serving princess, this book does a nice job.
Jen (NOT JENNY) is one of the most loveable, egocentric, witty characters I have ever read about. The fact that it's a memoir is even better! She cusses a blue streak and comes up with awesome one-liners. When she called herself, "Carbohydate Barbie" I cracked up and could totally relate. Jen loses her high paying corporate job and must (gasp) even sell her Kate Spade shoes on Ebay before all is said and done. Her man, Fletch, is a baby doll and true blue friend. The account of their wedding in Las Vegas (where, unfortunately a porn convention was being held at the same time) was my favorite part.
If you're tired of the same old chick lit [...], get this refreshing book. Jen is an inspiring, creative survivor. I look forward to more books from her.
She begins, for a few scant pages at the very end, to share the true source of her misguided materialism and and to show us the insecure girl from Indiana, but as soon as she touches on something real or tender, the book is over. We can all see through the bombastic personality and hipper-than-thou superiority from the beginning and recognize it right away for what it is: deep seeded insecurity and fear. The only problem is that Jen never QUITE admits it out loud, to us, her reader, and we're left wondering if everyone knows it but her.
What simultaneously disappoints and infuriates me is the sheer lack of polish and skill on these pages. Relying on cutesy 'footnotes', reprints of emails and weblog submissions seems to indicate a laziness on the part of the author, or more likely, a lack of confidence and undeveloped skill. She ardently professes her desire to "be a writer" and yet throughout the book I find myself thinking: then work on your craft! Where is the editor? Who let her publish this material in this form? This is the fifth sentence in this chapter that isn't even gramatically correct.' Some make the arguement that because it's "memoir" and not "fiction" the author is allowed free reign to write how she pleases. There are plenty of well-crafted memoirs that showcase beautiful prose, accomplished storytelling,and impeccable form, and are stitched together with threads so fine you never see the writer's handiwork at all.
Instead, this is another case of a would-be writer throwing together some thoughts, cocktail party chatter, mildly interesting anecdotes, a couple of blog posts, and assembling it under the guise of a book. You can practially see Ms.Lancaster furiously pecking away at her laptop in a rush to get her manuscript to her publisher, all the while wondering "who will play me in the movie?"
And to the protesters who argue, "But this is Chic-lit. It's supposed to be light, fluffy, and mindless," I agree, there's nothing like an enjoyable piece of fluff. And the best kind of fluff is good, strong story-telling at its finest. I'm so tired of picking up books lately, expecting a good read only to get 250 pages of bad, unskilled writing by "writers" who don't even seem to respect their reader enough to work hard at perfecting their craft. Blurting out your inner-thoughts and throwing them down on the page does not make you interesting, witty, deep, and least of all, it doesn't make you a writer. Please, you seem like you might actually have something to say. Work hard at improving your storytelling, because after another book or two, this one-note song will be over.
All the "traumas" she whines about incessantly in this book involve things like having to cut back on thousand dollar handbags and designer sofas. I didn't burn through much kleenex.
I am not sure why such whiny self-indulgent nastiness was published, unless it is as a warning against self-delusion.
Our narrator finds herself fabulous in every way, at all times (as she constantly reminds us). When, as an overweight person, she has to pick up something for a friend at a fitness club (as a favor to a good friend who has done many for her over the years, yet she has to be strong-armed into doing this one little thing in return and claims that now they're even), she looks down on all the slim/fit people training the club from the greatest height and has nothing but mean-spirited criticism for them. When she is turned down for a job because the prospective employer finds that on her blog she has been writing that all their clients "suck", she gets angry at the employer for their lack of humor and professionalism. Everything rolls off her: she is always brilliant and right, everyone else is always wrong and stupid.
I think the other reason that I really disliked her is that she was incapable of kindness or compassion. When she watches a construction worker on fire, she laughs out loud because she can see his bald spot. I lost any last vestige of sympathy for her at that point.
I kept hoping that she would learn something and grow as a person -- the point of a book like this, perhaps? -- but no, at the end of the book she still had no more self-awareness, perspective or depth and no less arrogant viciousness than she started out with, and she remained every bit as shallow.
It's no mystery why no one will hire her. The only mystery is why Fletch is with her, but we are told he was raised by an abusive father so perhaps nastiness is normal to him and people gravitate to the familiar. Poor him. He certainly deserves better.
So do we readers.