Kirk's Reviews > Prep

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
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Dec 11, 07

it was ok
Read in October, 2007

I recently read this for an encyclopedia entry I was writing on post-2000 coming-of-age novels, so my assessment, I fear, isn't really fair. On the one hand, I think Sittenfeld is a very talented writer, but on the other, I kept wanting to say GTFU (you know, grow the *#^$ up), which seems very, very ungenerous of me. In the end, I can appreciate what attracted people to this book, making it a surprise success. That doesn't mean the book sticks with me or changed my life in any drastic way---and isn't that what we crave from a novel? I guess the lesson I learned from writing the entry is that WAY too many of us authors (if I may call myself that) go the C-of-Age route early in life. If we're lucky, we mature to recognize that adolescence isn't the be-all, end-all of our lives---despite what the culture tells us about clinging to youth. I want adult books, and I want to say to Curtis, please, please, after THE MAN OF MY DREAMS (the follow up to PREP), take a risk, look beyond your own experience, imagine someone who's not a 16-28 year old girl/woman struggling with place/parental affection/identity, and write me a magnum opus about---oh, I don't know---exploited sugar cane workers in South Florida.

Then again, who am I to ask such a thing of an author?
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (last edited Mar 22, 2009 08:59AM) (new)

Jessica ask away, Kirskter! please do!


message 2: by Pinky (new)

Pinky Kirk--what are the good ones, post-2000? (I just read Colson Whitehead's, which is pretty good, and departs from the structured learning-arc which organizes the plot of so many such novels. I also liked that the Advance Copy includes a note from Whitehead where he discusses being developmentally off, as it took him 'til his fourth novel to do the coming-of-age thing.)

I generally dislike these, but then I never came of age myself.


David Does this mean Colson Whitehead has dismounted from his the one-trick pony of his first three novels?


message 4: by jo (new)

jo looks like her new novel has moved well beyond the coming of age bracket.


Kirk It's weird to see a review written over a year ago pop back up. Man, I sound snotty---whew. Memo to self: no more book reviews after those sloe-gin fizzies. Jo, you're absolutely write to note that w/ AMERICAN WIFE, Sittenfeld has rendered the coming-of-age question moot---it's nice to see her rebound from the (perceived) sophomore slump of MAN OF MY DREAMS. Interestingly, Sittenfeld has actually been credited with helping boost Laura Bush's asking price for her memoir---by none other than Laura Bush's own literary agent.

Mike, you ask a great question. I spent so much time categorizing and taxonomizing in my essay I'm not sure I allowed myself to enjoy those CofA books. But OSCAR WAO is definitely the closest thing to a tour-de-force. I'm also partial to Tristan Egolf's LORD OF THE BARNYARD, which is over-amped and out there in a way that doesn't come off as precious. But I also have a real soft spot for Egolf's work since his 05 suicide, so maybe it's not as good as I like to remember.

I haven't ready Whitehead since JOHN HENRY DAYS, though I think Benjamin Alsup's critique of him in the current Esquire is pretty apt: the guy is a little too cool and laid back. (The essay's apparently not online yet, but will be in early April. I'll update with a link, just because I'm a stickler like that).

I appreciate everyone's chiming in here.


message 6: by jo (new)

jo wow, ben alsup is my buddy and i didn't even know he wrote for esquire. it's quite stunning to see him quoted here -- global village and all that. i should talk to him more often, ask him what he does in his spare time... shiiiiiiit.

kirk, i realized after i wrote my comment that this review is indeed a year old. i would not have posted it if i had realized it sooner. in the meantime, i got intrigued by your book and put it on my to-read list. goodreads, i love it.


Kirk I'm glad you posted, Jo. That's the danger of these reviews, I suppose: you spout off, forget you spot off, time superannuates your spouting off, rendering you a jackass. Such is life. I think AMERICAN WIFE is the best of CS's three novels---though Ben also did a great piece on how the title "American ----" gets overused. I really enjoy his opinions... they're counterintuitive.

I saw you added my book---that's very kind of you! I appreciate it. It's in the same vein as Freedomland, I suppose, though less of a procedural.


message 8: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah I've only read American Wife but I enjoyed it. Didn't like Oscar Wao, though. I don't mind coming-of-age stories. I think they're popular because they're something everyone can relate to. No matter what your situation in life there are some feelings and experiences that are shared by almost everyone.

Bildungsroman novels have had quite their place in history, haven't they? My favorite is A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, but just to name a few that have become important parts of the canon: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Great Expectations... the list goes on and on. It's sad if writers of this century aren't able to meet that standard.


message 9: by Matthieu (last edited Jun 15, 2010 10:42AM) (new)

Matthieu Was not a fan.


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