No one told me that being 30 would be like this. Sigh!
Everyone just focuses on the 20s, the taken-for-granted golden era of your life. I envisioned at least a decade of living in a rented apartment with F.R.IE.N.D.S-like friends. In my head, there was the occasional Friday night Twisters or Monopoly. On some rare nights, my faceless friends and I would huddle up on a dusty terrace to catch a meteor shower. On most days, we’d all sit in our favourite coffee house, betting about things that don’t matter and discussing people who won’t eventually. All this happiness would sustain even though our careers were spiraling without catching the up-drift even once. In the end though, the thirties would come to the rescue, take control and everything – including my love and work life – would have magically fallen into place like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Even my family would finally start respecting me!
At least that’s what every sitcom involving a group of friends told me. If only any of this was true.
But here I am, reading Happily Never After in which a woman in her thirties just can’t stop cribbing about her crappy life even if she has legitimate reasons to -- like three exhausting kids and an absentee husband. Like a true netizen, Tina Raja (Is the name another comic source?) starts writing a blog to – wait-for-it – grumble and vent her frustration. Meanwhile, chaos rules, baby diapers stink, cheating husband reveals himself to be loving after all and a online friend turns out to be a lesson-in-the-making.
If you couldn’t bear 259 words of my monologue, I doubt you can stomach Jane De Suza’s Happily Never After.
It isn’t that people don’t love ‘chick lit’. I’m guilty of showcasing a collection of Meg Cabots and Sophie Kinsellas of the world. Who wouldn’t still fall for the most charming ghost Jesse (after Casper, of course) of the Mediator series or relate to the modern women stumbling on their heels but learning the art eventually? There’s a reason this genre is warm and soothing. It dismisses the pious Disney princess and moulds her into a clumsy wreck before her final transformation into a strong woman who shines through her imperfections. It isn’t meant to be realistic or graceful. The aim is to feed your fairy tale fantasies and give you respite from the blistering real-life problems that can’t be solved with the swish of a wand.
But it doesn’t do to forget that popular fiction serves another purpose. It rattles the intellectual elite and topples them off their high throne. It smears the smugness of writers who seldom touch the common reader while clinging to their literary exclusivity. There’s no ignoring that popular fiction has a wider reach and audience, but it fails when the end result is merely a success story – a lot like mainstream Bollywood. It is time for authors to accept the challenge and tell stories with the depth of Charles Bukowski novels, the intensity of Lord Byron’s poems, and the appeal of Frederick Forsyth’s thrillers.
It isn’t the easiest pinnacle to claim. Sadly, most popular fiction, including Happily Never After doesn’t even attempt to claim it. Instead, it sits comfortably in its tardy cocoon, content with hyphenating every single expression.