READ FOR FILTH: CITY OF GIRLS
We're talking our latest book club pick, Elizabeth Gilbert's CITY OF GIRLS. We'd tell you to beware of spoilers, but like nothing happens in this book. Still we read the whole thing, so: spoilers.
JEREMY: ADRIENNE. I feel like we need to talk about Elizabeth Gilbert before we can talk about her new book. How do you feel about Lizzie?
ADRIENNE: GIRL. She is so earnest and so much and not gonna lie, sometimes it’s like just the energy I want. Did I read Eat, Pray, Love? YES. Did I read Big Magic? YES. Have I listened to her on Super Soul Sunday and On Being? YES. Do I know all about how she became a lesbian and did I text ALL OF MY FRIENDS about how when her girlfriend got cancer, her girlfriend’s EX-GIRLFRIENDS showed up to help Liz nurse the girlfriend, so it was Liz and these two ex-girlfriends nursing this woman full-time until she died and like how men would NEVER do that? YES I DID AND I STILL THINK ABOUT IT, WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL.
JO: YES to everything you just said. She’s kinda my fave. I’m obsessed and in love and I would follow Queen LG right off the side of a bridge. I fell hard back with Eat, Pray, Love. I was young and depressed and lonely and that book was the exact medicine I needed. I’ve been Team Gilbert ever since. Now, her sorta secret possibly lesbian (I KNOW, I KNOW, LIZ IS BEYOND LABELS) life sorta frustrates me as a queer person, but I forgive her because BIG MAGIC and SUPER SOUL and I’m pretty sure she’s currently eating pizza with Oprah right now.
Now that we have that out of the way … WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT? MYGOD.
Girl, here’s what I want to say about this book. For a book that is ostensibly about a woman in the 1940s embracing her sexuality despite social norms and living that independent woman lyfe—this is a deeply unsexy book. Not once was I turned on by this book. Spoiler alert: during the threesome I was like, what is even happening here, how could a threesome be this unsexy. Limbs everywhere, fade to black. WHY LIZ WHY. How did no one tell you that if your main character is gonna be a hedonist, we gotta see and feel some of that hedonism??? It was a serious let down for me. She’d be like, “I had so much sex!” and then spend forty pages on sewing.
JO: Yeahhhhh … it ain’t very sexy. Though to defend that threesome, I had a threesome in college and it was a GD MESSY NIGHTMARE … and nobody knew what was going on and it was a mess and I am still embarrassed about it. It would be fine and good, but for someone who spends a great deal of time fucking her way across and back and forth and all around New York City … it was not super sexy.
The book is billed as this big sexy romp, and there is definitely some silliness and it is fun, but it is not sexy. I’m not even sure I enjoy reading about the sex, which seems like a think I would like to do since I do indeed love sex. AND ALSO. Once we’re at the end, we find out her sex was to “satisfy” her? I think this is intended to make her sex sound like she’s the same as a man? Meaning … dudes fuck around and it’s fine, so why can’t women. But … though I agree with that idea, I’m not super sure it was successful here?
AG: Yeah that was strange, the satisfying part, while she’s having this like platonic love relationship with a man. What do you think Liz is saying about relationships when Vivian is fucking all these dudes but can only love someone she can’t fuck?
JO: I found that to be super confusing and maybe too simple. I think it’s maybe to force love and sex to be separate. It’s to show us that she could fuck herself blind AND she also could fully love someone. Which, aiiight, I get that, but give me a break. Did you really have to hit us over the head with a sledgehammer? I mean, not only can the guy not have sex or any physical touch … he’s a fucking burn victim. SETTLE DOWN. That choice doesn’t give me any credit as a human person reading a book and I do not think it’s sad or romantic (LIKE AT ALL). It’s a little extra, and totally unnecessary. It’s like she wanted to explore this “ladies who FUCK” idea and was willing to drive that plane right into the ground.
AG: I mean I love very deeply a million people I don’t fuck. I love you and we don’t fuck. So like the idea that sex and deep love can be separate is sort of a “no duh” moment for me.
As a person IN THE THEATRE--what did you think of the goings on at the Lily Playhouse?
JO: LOL. Thank you for reminding me I’m sorta theatre adjacent. Uhhh … the theatre section was my FAVORITE part. Once we got to the theatre and it was so alive and messy and fun full of rich and silly and fabulous characters I was like YASSSSSSS I LOVE THIS BOOK. But like … as much as we stayed at the Lily Playhouse and girl we were there for HUNDREDSSSS of pages. That wasn’t the point of the book? Which … to me … felt like maybe not the best idea?
AG: I adored Edna Parker Watson and wanted to like leave with her when she left, hahahhaha. Take me with you to your next play, Edna! I read a review of this book before we picked it that called out when Edna tells Vivian that she is NOT INTERESTING and that that was basically the fatal flaw of the book—that Vivian was not interesting—and I’m not sure if I do or do not agree. Like when she’s at the theatre and she’s young, I was definitely into the dynamic of like everyone else who is older and fully formed humans were more interesting and she was just wide-eyed and figuring it out. But as we go along with her and she leaves the Lily and has her life for like another 200 pages, I was definitely like, um what is this book about?
JO: OMGAH. I love Edna! She was great. I totes forgot about her big YOU’RE BORING moment. It’s super true. She’s fun up until the big fall out, but then we have a whole 300 pages of the book left and there ain’t much going on after that and she doesn’t change or get more interesting. LG tries to tack on big life lessons at the end, but I’m so exhausted from reading about characters and events I wasn’t invested in, it’s hard to care.
I mean she was almost married to someone and we had to watch that relationship come and go … only for her to be able to say he was boring and she almost got trapped in a loveless marriage like everyone else? What was even the point of that?
AG: Liz has said over and over again that she wanted this book to go down like a glass of champagne and I’m not sure it did. The first half sure. But the back half had me like what is happening where did the fun go, somebody bring Billy Buell back up in here, okuurrr.
JO: Girl. Stop being nice. I had champs. It was bad champs. And when I put my glass on the table it broke and now I have a headache and a sticky champagne mess to cleanup and I’m pissed. Yeah, I had fun until everything exploded. I really think the book fell apart and wasn’t sure what it was doing after that point.
What did you think about the form/style/structure of the book? Just so everybody knows … the book is basically written as a letter to a character.
AG: As you know because I texted you immediately upon reading the reveal of WHO THE DAMN LETTER WAS TO, that I hated it. LOL. I dunno, if you’re gonna set up a book that way, the reveal has to be real exciting and I was like, wait WHAT, THIS IS IT? And, honestly, Jeremy, do i just not understand the implications of being called a whore in the 1940s?
JO: Oh my lord in heaven.
First of all. That narration was kinda cold and super NOT SEXY for a person who is supposed to fuck everything all over the place. I honestly had a hard time getting into the book at the beginning because it felt like an oldsy timesy letter thing? LG took a while letting that whole NARRATING HARD THROUGH A LETTER thing REALLL seriously for a while and that shit was boring. Don’t just tell me a story, girl, take me to the place and let me figure this shit out. Once she let the story run and we were living in it … it was cool. BUT. She spent the whole time coming back to that device and I’m still mad about it.
Second. Yeah. When we finally find out who the letter is to I had already forgotten there was supposed to be a secret and I didn’t care. AND ALSO. What a duddddd of a big reveal.
AND. The book drives to the middle and then falls apart. I haven’t written a book, but it seems to me she could have done flashbacks or started at the end or something in order to keep that energy going through the whole book. Instead you get to the middle and then you basically crawl on your hands and knees to the end.
While we’re raging about this book … do you remember a single thing anyone said to you in your twenties? Like … anything hurtful?
AG: Oh girl. I mean NO. And that’s not to say I didn’t say anything hurtful, because surely I was a terrible asshole who said ridiculous things all the time and thank the lord I didn’t end up on the Real World and have it saved on DVD forever. I am completely of the mind that this dude had many more pressing problems LIKE BEING BLOWN UP ON A BOAT and had a hard time believing that he’d been obsessed about this for decades, but am willing to concede perhaps I don’t understand the implications of calling someone a whore in the 1940s. But then, Lizzie, honey, I need you to make me understand.
JO: I 100% Agree. Some shit was said to me and I said some shit, but neither ruined my whole entire life. Also? I struggle to believe this dude can’t have sex or have anybody touch him. It just feels a little dramatic. AND I KNOW. PTSD and he was literally on fire and shit, but NAH.
AG: Final verdict! Will you
Keep this book on your bookshelf forever
Give it to a friend with recommends
Sell it to the Books-A-Million or wherever you go
JO: LOL … I will sell this book to Half-Priced Books at my earliest convenience.
AG: Hahhaha, good, take mine too. Or better yet, I’ll come with and we’ll go for ice cream and discuss picking a better book for August.