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>The Girl Made of Cool

May 17, 2010

>I read a review of a book by Alan Fox, The Seeker in Forever, over at Experiments in Reading and made a comment that I’d have to check it out sometime. I was surprised to find that my comment had consequences when Alan Fox himself contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing one of his books. I said yes, and he sent me a copy of The Girl Made of Cool, which is a collection of three stories, the title story being the longest at 120 pages.

Fox has a unique writing style, characterized, at least in these stories, by sketchiness and interruptions. It’s almost like hearing my teenage daughter, a fan of the wiki called TV Tropes, tell a story by listing the tropes it includes.

The Girl Made of Cool is a love story, and here’s the section in which you first hear the title from the mouth of Ridley, the romantic hero:
“Why wouldn’t I be in love with you?”
“Because we just met.”
“That’s how love at first sight works.”
“Love is knowing someone.”
“You’re a girl.”
“Yes.”
“You’re uhm,…made of,…uhm,…cool.”
“Yes, I’m cool. But there’s more to me.”
“So I’ll fall in love with that later. I’m pacing myself.”

The guy who at first gets the girl, a cocky philanderer named Chet who doesn’t deserve her, is Ridley’s landlord and likes to take the imaginary audience he imagines for his life into Ridley’s bedroom and show them things:

“Look at all the books he has here. He’s got more in storage. As if the library at the college down the block didn’t have enough ink on paper for you. He’s got to be a know-it-all about everything. You talk about something that happened to hundred, one thousand, two thousand years ago–it doesn’t matter when–he’d like to have a view….Is it important? Who knows, but it shows you something about him. He has an arrogant streak. Normally that’s a very good thing, but not like this. He could learn all he wants about history, psychology, art. It doesn’t mean he knows anything. Do you think ink on paper impresses me? He reads his books and goes to museums. Me–I’m real; I’m into the reality that’s out there. I’m not an elitist.”

I like the way Chet is quickly characterized as not one of us–readers, that is.

Some of the sketchy feeling comes from the cinematic shifts that divide the narrative. Rather than chapters, this story has “Acts” like a play. At one point, when Ridley walks away from Jayne, who is “the girl made of cool,” he’s “not sure where he was now meant to go” and then the text reads “The Strange Moment” and then “Ridley’s Apartment, Early Evening” before the first line of the next part of the story, which is “Ridley stepped into his apartment.”

Later, when Jayne has discovered what a philanderer Chet is, broken all his dishes and walked out on him, there’s a “Chet Finale” in which Chet continues to try to fool himself and his imaginary audience:

“I am so glad I broke it off with her–as soon as she started talking about leaving me…I saw where that was going right away.
You see what she’s like. She’s manipulative. And you were feeling sorry for her. Admit it. You were. I was starting to feel a little peculiar about bluffing her too. On the surface she looked like such a nice person. Innocent. Loving. You can never tell what’s buried inside of some people.
She deserves what I did.”

There’s some nice back and forth with perspective on the different romantic techniques used by the two male characters in the story–Chet, who is able to make himself more immediately appealing to Jayne, and Ridley, who is willing to try and try again with her.

The second story, Hell Has Blue Skies, is a story that spoofs reliance on cynical business techniques, some of which are summarized like this near the beginning:

How to select the right business promise. “The sky’s the limit” is the right promise. “Blue skies from now on,” is the right promise. “The harder you work, the luckier you get,” is the right promise.

Near the end of the story, one of the businessmen who is trying to get rid of the main character, Jack, tries to apply Othello’s farewell speech to the way Jack has just gotten fired, calling him “one that loved not wisely but too well,” but Jack turns the tables by not only revealing that he is wiser than anyone in the business world suspected, but also that he is the one who gets the girl.

The final story, The Lovely Lady at The Love Museum, is a short amalgam of what has already been expressed in the first two stories–don’t try to be too slick and insincere about love, and don’t believe that it’s okay cheat ordinary people just because you’re a rich and successful businessman.

If you’re in an arch mood–that kind of cynical, adolescent mood that seems to always have one eyebrow lifted–you’ll find that these are interestingly told stories.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 3:32 pm

    >Sounds well worth a read. Ta.

  2. May 17, 2010 4:07 pm

    >Glad you got to try some Alan Fox! 🙂

  3. May 17, 2010 4:59 pm

    >I like those excerpts! It's funny to me how often authors will do quick gain-sympathy/lose-sympathy ploys by having a character love or make fun of reading. Playing to their audience there… 😛

  4. May 17, 2010 8:12 pm

    >Thank you for the quotes you shared- I feel like I have a gauge of Fox as an author now. Great review! (she says, with one eyebrow raised archly)

  5. May 18, 2010 5:51 pm

    >Jenny, Fox may well be playing to his audience, seeing as how he's in the PR business. Some authors do it simply because that's how they relate to the world, I think.Aarti, as Phoenix also observed, this is a different kind of prose.

  6. May 19, 2010 10:04 pm

    >This sounds really cute from the bits you've quoted. I have also wondered at the seeming increase in books where the characters are readers. As much as I love reading and characters who read I find it a bit of a nice change to meet characters who aren't readers but are awesome (Micah in 'Liar' springs right to mind).

  7. May 20, 2010 5:20 pm

    >Jodie, I agree. Because people who don't read are so different from anyone I know well.Although sometimes that just means that, like the characters in an old movie I once watched, Stranger Than Paradise, they just stand around looking out of windows and smoking.

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