Review #1: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Despite the terrible title, and true to the preliminary grapevine reviews, Lauren Graham’s “Someday, Someday, Maybe” actually didn’t suck. If nothing else, it was at least an entertaining read. But there were definitely some beautiful bits of prose and funny moments that made it really worth reading. If you’re looking for a quick beach read that’s not about vampires, then this is the book for you.
As the story of a young twenty-something aspiring actress living in New York City, it was hard not to think of it as a thinly veiled autobiography. I couldn’t help but imagine Lauren Graham as the protagonist, speaking in the same fast-paced manner as the characters from “Gilmore Girls.” This didn’t deter from the story, but did make me curious as to which parts and stories from her life actually made it in there, and which were pure fabrication. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to share so much of my own life, but I have to admit, if I was writing a book, most of the stories would probably come from my own experiences. Or maybe those of my friends (urinal bathing comes to mind).
1. The Prose
The writing was witty and full of creative imagery, and there were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments (I tend to judge something that can make me laugh as something pretty good). The following are quotes that caught my attention.
In describing someone’s living space she’s seeing for the first time; it’s a small Brooklyn apartment crammed with oddly luxurious furniture: “It’s as if he’s royalty of some kind, who had to hurriedly move from a large mansion to far less desirable accommodations and could take only his favorite pieces” (184). This description dredged up a history of context from past stories I had heard, whether from fairy tales or Disney movies or bad early 90s movies about African princes trying and failing to live inconspicuously in Queens. While I found the character whose living quarters she was describing to be quite pretentious, I can see why she was taken with him at first if she felt even a little bit of that “prince in disguise” characteristic.
While at a swanky bar after a bad day: “I’m overwhelmed by the jewel box of dimly lit liquor bottles, arranged like colorful soldiers awaiting their orders behind the bar” (221). Not only does this imagery perfectly capture the odd beauty of glass bottles lined up behind an upscale bar, but the personification cleverly nods to their functionality. Each of those bottles have been designed specifically to represent a brand – shape, size, color, opacity, logos, color of the liquid – and they compete with one another as they sit side by side on the crowded shelves. Their job is to catch your attention and end up in your glass.
Graham also liked to feature the city as an active character, specifically lit signage:
“The neon signs that sometimes glare too loud and lonely seem warm and friendly now. Tonight, they blink cheerfully at me, almost in unison, as if in celebration, letting me know they’re glad I decided to stay” (74). And: “The blinking lights from the various theater marquees are dazzlingly relentless, demanding our attention” (220). I have to say, though, I was waiting for the predictable “the signs are mocking me now,” but Graham mercifully didn’t go that far.
I also enjoyed the comparison of people to the sea. Franny is standing in a dense crowd of people all moving to get into a theater: “I’m a rock in their ocean, the only thing not moving forward. I’m nothing much to look at, not one of the beautiful fish that continue to stream past me, only something to pass over swiftly.” Later: “The crowd spills into the cool, relative quiet of the theater. Finally the traffic thins and we’re deposited into the lobby like something coughed up by the ocean” (298). This definitely conjured up images of coral reefs and the cool muffled quiet of an aquarium that I could definitely compare to the inside of the heavily carpeted and draped lobby of a theater.
While some of the sections just sounded like snippets of standup, I still thoroughly enjoyed them. For example, there’s this whole diatribe about how the dry cleaners and dry-clean-only clothes are unfair and a conspiracy. Franny says, “Clothes that have to be dry-cleaned are already the most expensive clothes. Then it’s like they’re charging you another three dollars every time you wear them.” She continues on to rant, “Dry cleaning is like this secret society you’re not allowed into…You can have a Ph.D. in anything, but you still can’t dry clean your own clothes. They’ll never tell you how. No one’s ever seen what the machine looks like. …Even rich people. You know any rich people with dry-cleaning machines in their house? Exactly. Even they still have to pick it up and drop it off like everyone else” (131).
2. The Visuals
It was a bit strange and disconcerting to find pictures in an adult novel, but in this case, what looked like photocopies of a filofax (who calls it that? It’s a day planner) served the dual purpose of illustrating the passage of time and filling in the gaps. Whether they were blank, full of distracted doodles, or jammed with appointments scribbled in hurried notes, the pages gave a real picture of Franny’s state of mind and day-to-day actions. It neatly provided the framework and background while providing a break from the chapters of Franny’s inner monologue.
Although I really did like the book, there were definitely things that were lacking. Maybe if I wasn’t writing a review, I wouldn’t have cared so much about these things, but since I was reading with a critical eye, I found myself having to pay attention to what I didn’t like. So here it is.
1. The Disassociation
It irritated me how the protagonist took a while to see things that I saw, or understand things that I understood, and it made the book seem a bit predictable. While overall the book was a very quick read, these parts seemed to drag a bit. I knew Franny would eventually realize her errors and catch up to me, but I found myself unconsciously skipping ahead just to get there. I don’t like feeling that way when I read something. I like to be so fully engrossed that the pacing isn’t even noticeable.
Also, usually when I read a book, I get so attached to the protagonist and his or her point of view that I lose my own sense of judgment. I see the world only as they see it. While reading “Someday,” I found that I was still myself, and instead of assuming the role of the protagonist, I felt like a friend listening to her stories and forming my own opinions. Maybe that’s a product of my having more life experience than her (which is probably untrue), or maybe it’s Lauren Graham’s failure to fully explain Franny’s reasoning. I’m really not sure. I just didn’t like it.
2. The Attempt to Be Meta
It seemed that she spelled things out for the reader a bit too much. At some point Franny and her roommate go to a movie, and the plot of the movie (a typical rom-com movie cliché) is almost exactly like the plot of the book. The two of them discuss it to the last detail, and it’s really awkward and annoying to me. It’s just so in-your-face obvious that, instead of characters talking about a movie and comparing it to their lives, it’s really the author making commentary on her own book. Franny even criticizes the movie for predictability and says “it wasn’t even well written,” which could be a reference to Graham’s own self doubt about the quality of her book.
3. The “Ending”
There’s no real ending. I suppose it could have been a conscious choice Graham made in order to make a statement about real life and how things are never really wrapped up neatly, and instead overlap and flow into one another. But really it just made the book feel unfinished – like there should have been one last chapter or an afterword to tell us a few final things. I’m not really sure how I’d fix it, but there definitely needed to be something.