Pursuing the Times
I’ve read good things about Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Bro-Magnet and was excited to read her modern update of Pride and Prejudice. While parts of Pursuing the Times are funny, I didn’t like the characters and found the heroine particularly annoying. This didn’t work for me in any sense, and for the most part was a struggle to read.
In true Pride and Prejudice fashion, the book begins with the sentence, “It is a publishing truth, universally acknowledged, that anyone professionally involved in the pursuit of ‘Lit-e-ra-ture’ must, by definition, despise Chick Lit.” And this is just part of our heroine’s problem.
Successful author Mercury Lauren hates the label chick lit, believing she writes satire and is as far from a chick lit type as anyone could be. But thanks to signing with publisher Pink Pet Press, she’s branded as writing chick lit. I enjoy well-written chick lit and found the heroine’s (and perhaps the author’s?) disparagement of chick lit insulting. And yes, it did come across as disparaging.
Mercury is particularly insulted that despite her phenomenally increasing sales the New York Times won’t review her work (yes, that’s the Times she’s pursuing) and gets a chance to express that displeasure when she attends the National Book Award (NBA) ceremony with her agent. The event isn’t quite the success she planned. Mercury is fashion-challenged (another indication in her mind that she doesn’t write chick lit) and decides to wear a silver lamé cocktail dress to the event, only to discover it’s a tweed crowd. As if being improperly dressed isn’t bad enough, Mercury promptly insults the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times Book Review, Frank D’Arcangelo. Mercury then gets drunk, whines, drinks some more, and then whines some more.
In the ensuing days Mercury starts an email correspondence with Frank, and although intent on apologizing, continues to insult him. The book rambles along with Mercury going from one absurd situation to the next and throwing an incredible amount of money around.
There’s a totally over-the-top section where Mercury chases Frank to Florida to an exclusive resort that did give me some laugh out loud moments, when Mercury tries to play seductive golf. As a result of the episode, Mercury and Frank have a hot night of sex (that’s described in such vague terms that I’m rating this warm). However, Mercury kicks Franks out the next morning when she remembers she’s heard he did awful things to other people (the Jane Bennet and Mr. Wickham of the piece). Yes, I get the connection to Pride and Prejudice here, but Mercury’s actions were completely annoying and truly didn’t work for me.
I don’t dislike Frank as much as I do Mercury. But since the book is told completely from Mercury’s POV I feel as if I never really got to know Frank. And I clearly never came to love him as I do Mr. Darcy. I feel a strong need to re-read Pride and Prejudice to be reminded why I love it, and the beloved characters, so much.
So why a C- and not lower? I did laugh out loud a number of times where I was supposed to, so for that it squeaks into the C range, but just barely. Aside from a few laughs this just didn’t work for me.