As we have no contributing diarist this week, we'll have an open forum instead. Those of you who have read a book that changed your life and would like to contribute a diary, please kosmail me. I have a template that makes it very easy to write a diary! You need only write three paragraphs and the template tells you exactly what to put in each one. Just think--contribute a diary and you may find yourself on the "Rec" list!
Our open forum topic this week is “Which book is your guilty pleasure?” Follow me below the tangerine-colored barrette and we’ll get down to business.
We all read books that we won’t even admit to owning, much less reading. After all, we’re supposed to be reading the classic, the avant-garde, or the literary forms of fiction. Are we going to admit to reading what we really enjoy when no one’s looking? Yes? All right, I’ll step up to the plate: I read books by Silly Jilly.
Silly Jilly, whose actual name is Jilly Cooper, has written a delicious series of naughty, one might even say rather vulgar, books about the aptly named fictional English county of “Rutshire.” Basically, rutting is what the inhabitants do most of the day—when they’re not riding horses, making television shows, or conducting orchestras. The most wicked of these characters is the blond, blue-eyed, devilishly handsome and irresistible Rupert Campbell-Black, an aristocratic Tory landowner who rides to hounds, works in TV, and gets into a lot of trouble.
These books about gorgeous, rich people are fascinating because they inhabit a world the rest of us don’t. For one thing, there are characters that never eat: they drink and smoke and stay up all night. Do they get boils? Do they suffer from cirrhosis of the liver, lung cancer, bladder cancer, dehydration, and starvation? Do their teeth fall out because of the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables? No, they just get thinner and more beautiful.
Another fascinating aspect is the absolutely awful mother-daughter relationships. Either the daughters are sweet, long-suffering characters (like Taggie in Rivals), whose mothers neglect or exploit them or even actively dislike them, or the daughters are raging bitches (Natasha in The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Perdita in Polo, and Tabitha in Rivals) who sneer at their long-suffering mothers and hold them in contempt.
Out of this series of immensely long books, there are only three likable female characters—Kitty Rannaldini in The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Janna, the teacher in Wicked!, and the put-upon protagonist of Jump.
One thing that attracted my enraptured attention was that in two of the books, some characters have gone to the larder, found an entire dinner for eight standing there waiting to be served the next day—everything from appetizers to the main course to pudding—and eaten it ALL. In the circles in which I move, no one ever cooks an entire dinner and leaves it to stand around—in the larder or anywhere else—for a day. Mind-boggling. I suppose serving an entire cold dinner would certainly leave the hostess time to dress up, make up, and be charming, but I simply can’t imagine its happening in real life.
In Polo, the protagonist, Perdita, receives the gift of a check for a hundred thousand pounds. What does she spend it on? Buying a house to live in? No, she buys a horse that she loves but that has been sold away from her. In The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Lysander, the protagonist, benefits from a legacy left him by an aunt. What does he spend the 20,000 pounds on—a house or flat for himself and his fiancée? No, he buys a horse with it. The fact that both these characters, possessed of no job or income, lacking assets of any kind, choose to spend such sums on horses boggles more than the mind—one’s entire body boggles at the thought.
I feel guilty reading about such trashy people, but it’s enthralling to see what on earth they’re going to do next. One activity that I must refrain from describing because dailykos is a respectable Web site is something that it would never occur to me in five millennia to, er, take part in. It is sadly true that the later volumes in the Rutshire chronicles have become less and less enjoyable because of the sheer vulgarity of the characters. When Amber Lloyd-Foxe, one of the very few female jockeys in this particular fictional world, looks over a stag line of panting males at the local hotel and asks, “Which one of you lot am I going to shag tonight?” it makes one’s stomach roil.
There probably won’t be any more of these books because Ms. Cooper is “aging out,” as she herself might put it. I’ll have to find another guilty pleasure.
So what’s yours? Come on, I told you mine—‘fess up! There’s coffee in the corner to wet your whistle before you speak, and a pile of toasted crumpets, dripping melted butter and honey, in that warming dish over there. Eat, drink, and let’s be merry—we’re all ears!