She was wearing silk shorts and a tank top, white athletic socks and tennis shoes; and her fist, the one that wasn’t holding the phone, shot out at seemingly random intervals to connect with an invisible target. When Happy answered, she stopped jogging and punching and leaned over in concentration…
“What is this?”
“This,” said Jennifer, with obvious delight, “is you, fighting me, for the privilege of buying my gas station.”…
Happy reached not for the doorknob but for the pair of shorts hanging on the wall. She shucked off her sweats, pulled on the shorts, and cinched them tight. Then she put on her gloves, smacked them together, and spat. “Get in the circle, slut,” Jennifer croaked.
Happy stepped over the tape. “No tits, no kicking.”
Outside, the oily toll of the Crim Hall bell sounded over the town. “Now have at me, trailer trash,” the doll mogul growled, and she socked Jennifer Triesman right between the eyes.
observations: "Have at me, trailer trash"? Was this ever the book for me. Having randomly picked up this author’s Familiar, and adored it, I looked to see what else he’d written, and saw that this book was being published, after a very odd history. So I ordered it straightaway, and oh, it is a good book. It tells the story of Happy Masters, a fierce businesswoman who owns a hugely successful doll company. She visits a small town in New York state, takes a fancy to it, and uses her immense wealth to buy up great swathes of it. The town contains a women-only liberal arts college, and this also is the focus of her attention. Some of the residents are happy to go along with her plans, others resist strongly. The book moves from person to person, from event to event, following this bizarre story.
He is such a good writer – from small perfect phrases (‘a laptop computer the color and thickness of a slate shingle’) to the description of the library: ‘sagging stacks, worthless in the dark: and then suddenly, with the crackling dawn of daylight-corrected light, taking on its glorious burden of meaning.’ The book is a complete joy to read: hilariously funny, and very clever, and obviously satirical.
So far, so brilliant. But there is a whole other feature to this, which is that people have thought that he was actually writing about a real person and a real situation – Pleasant Rowland and the American Girl Company (a business venture well-known in my family). That is why the book was dumped by its publisher in 2003, and has only now been put out by a small company. Pleasant Rowland herself – showing some grace - has said that she will not sue because “he said it’s all fictional.”
Author Lennon says “its real inspiration [is] the 2004-era Bush administration that I reviled, and that distracted me from everything in my life that I loved. (Read Mayor Archie, for instance, as Colin Powell.)”
Well. We’ll have to hope that it’s OK to use American Girl dolls for the pictures for this entry.
There she was, wrapped in a pair of gray wool pants and a fluorescent yellow fleece. She looked up at him [Mayor Archie/Colin Powell] and, apropos of nothing, winked.
American Girl doll Samantha has starred on the blog before, but might be hard to find. J Robert Lennon is here.