A little while ago I saw the movie The Whole Nine Yards with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry. It was a comedy about a man who discovers that his neighbor is a hit-man. Some premise, I thought. A charming sociopath kills people for a living, and we’re supposed to find that funny. What burned me the most about this movie is that at the end, Bruce Willis’s hit-man character finds true love and goes off into the sunset. We’re supposed to ignore all of the things he is and has done and be glad for him. Sue Margolis’s new comedy, Spin Cycle, unfortunately reminded me of watching this film. Her characters get to do all sorts of nasty, thoughtless things, and yet everyone lives happily ever after.
Rachel Katz’s life is in flux. Awhile ago she quit her regular, well-paid daytime job to do stand-up comedy, and she loves it. It doesn’t pay the bills very well, though, and she has to provide for her young son, Sam. Consequently, her parents and her almost-fiancé, Adam, are always pressuring her to go back to her real job and to marry Adam. But when Adam goes to South Africa for a month and Rachel meets Matt Clapton, a sexy washing machine repairman, she decides it might be time to take a new man for a spin. At the same time she gets involved in a national comedy competition that could be a real break for her career.
My initial reaction to this book was tentatively positive. I thought, “Well, that was kind of fun.” Then I closed the book, turned out the light and went to sleep. However, when I woke up the next morning, I found that my mind had been turning over the plot subconsciously while I slept, and I had a lot more problems with it than I first thought.
Sure, this is kind of a funny book, if you’re partial to raunchy humor (I’m not). It reads like a sexy romantic comedy – a farcical film. It’s breezy and fluffy and fun in a way, but underneath all of this sugar coating are a number of ugly realities. This book is about selfish people who never have to take responsibility for their nasty actions.
Rachel cheats on her boyfriend, Adam. And yes, she thinks Adam may be cheating, too, but she doesn’t do the honorable thing and break it off with Adam before she flirts it up with Matt. Does this cause any real problems for her? No. Everything just works itself out without any real heartache for anyone. How likely is this? How right is this? And Rachel’s good friend Shelley is pregnant, but inconveniently enough, there’s no involved daddy-to-be. So enter Tractor, a lovable ne’er-do-well who just happens to love kids. Do any of these characters behave like responsible, considerate adults? No. Do any of them suffer because they were irresponsible and inconsiderate? Well, one character does: the villainess. The main characters get to do anything they want, and life just somehow cleans up the messes that they make. Any serious consequences get swept under the rug. I found this upsetting and unfair.
Also, the relationship between Rachel and Matt is never really developed. They have great sex, steamy sex, really, really hot sex, but that’s all we are treated to. The other aspects of their relationship are glossed over. Why Matt likes Rachel I don’t know. They hardly know each other when they fall into bed. And, for the life of me, I can’t understand, if Matt is really that fantastic in bed, why is he still single?
Spin Cycle is a little hard for me to grade. It was an easy read, and funny in spots. There were parts of it I enjoyed very much, and if I were grading on readability scale alone, it would certainly earn a B. But the characters’ inner flaws and blithe unconcern for the feelings of others infuriated me, and this messed up my enjoyment of the book. Those readers who really enjoy Brit Chick Lit or sexual humor may find more to like here, but I can’t really recommend it.