Monday, January 21, 2008

My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman

"I was raised in a brick dormitory at Dewing College, formerly the Mary-Ruth Dewing Academy, a finishing school best known for turning out attractive secretaries..." writes Frederica Hatch, the teenage narrator of Elinor Lipman's wryly funny My Latest Grievance (2006.) Frederica has been raised by liberal college professor parents and is just beginning to rebel against their egalitarian child rearing practises when her father's unscrupulous and melodramatic exwife arrives on campus to stir things up in their well-ordered lives.
Elinor Lipman is one of my favorite contemporary authors; her books are funny in an understated way, character driven, with ironic plot twists and satirical observations of modern life. If you click on the Amazon reviews, you will find reviews that get rather defensive about why funny books can also be very good literature and why women's books can rise above chic-lit, but still be popular, and why Elinor Lipman has devoted fans but really ought to be a best-selling author and is under appreciated. And of course the nod to Jane Austen to whom all good women authors who write comedies of manners or anything close are compared. Leaving aside the defensiveness about humor and the obsession with Austen as the standard for all women's writing, you should read Lipman's books if you like a sardonic look at modern life. Readers don't have to suffer through oh-so-serious tomes to enjoy good literature. To find out more about her, read some of her essays posted on her website.

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