A to Z: 26 ways he can do you wrong
I can’t help wondering if The Dictionary of Failed Relationships fell into my in-box as some sort of reparation for my failure to get on the Sex and the City bandwagon.
This, sisters, is the Diva of chick books.
The Dictionary’s 26 entries (from “Ambivalence” to “Zero”) are dedicated to one Tony Columbo, the millennium’s sorriest cad not a felon. Tony Columbo and his graceless treatment of The Dictionary’s editor, Meredith Broussard, serve as the cynical glue binding the stories of a gaggle of uniformly young and talented female writers, who, if they have not necessarily all had their Tony Columbo’s , would certainly know how to make short work of him if they had.
Now that the guys have been warned off, here’s my plug for the ladies: If you like quick stories that leave you feeling like you have an irresolute hangover, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships is a sure bet.
Like all good bouts of excess, this anthology gets off to an exhilarating start. “Ambivalence” by Heidi Julavits is one of the finest short stories I have ever read. It tells the tale of two doomed lovers on a road trip whose exquisite banter can’t breach a fundamental disagreement: Is taking the risk of running out of gas a cliché or a rite of passage? We’ve all seen perfect couples fall apart over that one.
On to “Berniced,” a fairly trite monologue saved (maybe?) by the (almost) irritating gimmick of using the vernacular of washed-up youth of the early ‘90s. In which everyone is a Valley Girl? Even if they, like, live in some snowy city that appears to be on the Great Lakes? Whatever.
The alphabet proceeds apace with tales of obsessive behavior and sophomoric metaphors so that by “Island,” (lost virginity) the reader may start feeling bloated, and by “Queer,” (broken-heart inspires lesbianism), the pheromones have set up an achy salon behind the eyes.
Not to fear– respite comes regularly. The ‘F’ entry (FAQ) is a hilarious piece of self-deprecating advice on men; “Honeymoon” is a delicate story of a first fight in which the grrrrl wears kid gloves; and “Justice” involves shoving raw shrimp into an ex’s curtain rod-– take that Tony Columbo!
Most importantly, by alphabet’s end, we understand that none of these relationships have actually failed… but that all humans seek ferret out others’ flaws. As we all know from the Manolo Blahnik-wearing gals from Sex and the City: no pain, no gain.
Editor Meredith Broussard and authors Leslie Pietrzyk and Colleen Curran discuss the stories of The Dictionary of Failed Relationships: 26 Tales of Love Gone Wrong at Barnes & Noble, Thursday, July 10, at 7pm. Barracks Road Shopping Center. 984-0461.