Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Little Black Dress That Could

So, I've decided that once a month, I'm going to do a book review!

What? People get paid to do this. I'm doing it for free. Be grateful. God.

Seriously though, lately I've been reading some pretty awesome books, and since I'm reading, I figure, I might as well suggest some books if I find them worth suggesting.

The first novel I'm going to review is Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is Rhoda Janzen's first novel. But fear not - the woman totally comes to bat facing the right direction. In fact, she has experience; she's a Poet Laureate (this means that if her poetry was a car, it would be a Lexus) and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California. So, as you might expect, it could help to keep a dictionary handy. I learned words that didn't even show up on the 'top 500 GRE vocabulary words study guide'.

I'd be really, really scared if Rhoda took to working for the GRE. Seriously.

But, her saving grace (besides spacing these words out so as not to make you feel incredibly stupid, as you are apt to do when reading the work of a Ph.D. - and take that little bit of advice to heart, from me to you, as a person who's studying underneath 3 or 4 of them on a weekly basis) is that she is absolutely hilarious. She's got gall, you guys. And any writer who's willing to make fun of themselves, and actually be good at it, is worth checking out.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is a fictional memoir piece - in the same style as Elizabeth Gilbert and David Sedaris - about how Rhoda falls apart and heads back to her Mennonite home after her husband Nick leaves her for a man he met on (Oops, right?) The quirkiness of Rhoda's crazy family stands out in stark contrast to her liberalized educational life as a college professor, with the help of Rhoda's well crafted writing. She pulls out several of the unorthodox stops to really keep you interested, and she's just insightful enough to make you smile a little bit at the end of each chapter. You won't want to put the book down. And when you do, your mom will pick it up while she's visiting, read the back, and say, "this sounds funny - I want to read it when you're done."

And then you'll have to say, "Sure mom," but hide the novel because, even though Rhoda is anything but homophobic, her husband still leaves her for a man on There's just no getting around that:
One day Nick came home with a pair of Yohji Yamamoto gloves that had cost $385. This was in 1996, mind you. Granted, these gloves were wondrously conceived: over an interior pebbled leather glove, a leather mitt unzipped and folded back into a gauntlet of sorts. It was just the kind of witty sartorial gesture that a dandified socialite might affect, very Oscar Wilde, if Oscar Wilde would have ditched the lily and firmed up the tummy and got full-sleeve tatts designed by the famed Los Angeles artist Bob Roberts. Nick wasn't a dandified socialite, though. He was a grad student. We were supposed to be living on the ten bucks an hour I was making as a receptionist at the law firm.

The man clearly sucks cooooooo...pper piping. *ahem*. Which he does. Metaphorically.

But my absolute favorite sentence from the novel is this: At twenty all I wanted to do was read philosophy, feminism, and fashion. Oh, didn't we all, Rhoda? Didn't we all?

That is why this novel is forthwith gaining the rating, "totally awesome." She's smart, she's classy, and she's not afraid to turn her mother down when she tells her that her very Mennonite first cousin is on the market after she gets divorced.

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