Monday, 14 January 2008

You Know You Love Me: a Gossip Girl Book Review

heatherSometimes you have to say to yourself: Self, what you’re about to do just there, it’s going to make you dumber. But you go ahead and do it anyway, because pleasure is greater than intellect, and that’s why I bought not one, but three of Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl—um, what does the bookstore call them? ah, yes—novels. Novels in which I unearthed such literary gems as this: “[The dress] was long and black, cut low in the front and back, with a dramatic white ruffle that flapped around her ankles. He thought she looked like a tiny black-and-white angel. An angel with the best set of bazongas he had ever seen.”

The Gossip Girl novels (of which there are twelve) are narrated by the pseudonymous Gossip Girl herself: webmistress of, a blog dedicated to laying bare all the drama and debauchery of a clique of well-to-do teenagers that attend elite prep schools and social functions on Manhattan's Upper East Side. I went to high school in a small town in north Georgia, and on Saturday nights we’d all go to the Waffle House and eat bacon and hashbrowns, and then go on home because everyone had to be up early in time for Sunday School. So I don’t really know how accurately these books portray the lives of UES teens Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen. What I do know is that Blair’s erstwhile boyfriend, Nate Archibald, smokes so much weed that every time he pops up in a chapter I have to go out for snacks.

The books never get around to mentioning the vocations of these kids’ parents, but their careers must be similar to the ones on Days of Our Lives, because everyone seems to have an unlimited supply of money and time. And also booze. Basically the plot goes like this: Serena van der Woodsen has been BFF with Blair Waldorf since before either of them could even say Manolo Blahnik. While Serena is away at boarding school (read: traveling around Europe), Bair falls in love with Nate Archibald. Serena gets kicked out of boarding school (read: her parents realize she’s been spreading van der Woodsen all over Europe instead of, you know, prepping for the SATs) so she returns to the UES, where Nate confesses that Serena actually spread her van der Woodsen all over him before she left. Blair decides to hate Serena and love Nate, but Nate starts loving a little ninth grade gal named Jenny Humphrey (the one with the bazongas). Jenny’s brother, Dan, loves Serena, and Serena’s film class partner, Vanessa Abrams, loves Dan. There is also a Chuck, and he loves date rape. Blair’s mom gets engaged to a guy named Cyrus, who has a son named Aaron who loves Blair. Aaron’s best friend also loves Blair, but mostly Serena, because everyone, including Blair’s own mother, loves Serena best. Really, though, in a mostly-non-sexual way, Blair loves Serena and Serena loves Blair, and their friendship, best friendship, is the crux of the entire series. (And also, kinda, of life.)

I started reading Gossip Girl because I started watching the show on The CW. And I started watching the show on The CW because I fell in love with Jacob, the guy who recaps the show for Television Without Pity. Parenthetically, Abigail found and loved Jacob first; thus, apparently, Abigail loves him most. I like to read Gossip Girl novels on the weekend so I can watch Gossip Girl the show on Wednesday so I can read the recap the following Tuesday and just be right there with Jacob. I was explaining Jacob’s appeal to my own BFF like this: “You know how there are, like, a dozen words that mean the same thing?” She said that yes, she was in fact familiar with the concept of synonyms. I said that even though there are loads of similar words, there is always one right word, and that Jacob, in addition to being insightful and uproarious, always chooses the right word. Jacob is a better writer than The CW and the CW is a better writer than Cecily von Ziegesar, but don’t let the hierarchy fool you; there are some really important life lessons in these books:


"Jenny watched the fare on the meter go up and up while they stood still. She could have bought three new MAC lip glosses for what this cab ride was costing her."


[A Dan Humphrey original poem, written for Serena]

When I cut myself shaving, I think of your teeth on my lips and the pain becomes pleasure.


"Jenny stared at his hand for a second, then reached out and took it. 'I’m Jennifer,' she said. Jennifer sounded so much older and more sophisticated than Jenny. From now on, she promised herself, she was going to be Jennifer."


"Nate noticed Jenny’s chest. Man, was it ever huge. He couldn’t let her get away, not without Jeremy and the other guys getting a chance to check it out."


"If it weren’t for the fact that she was head of Constance’s social service board, leader of the French club, and chairwoman of all the worthwhile junior social functions in the city, Blair would have told Becky to fuck off. But Blair was a role model: she had a reputation to uphold."


"Dan inhaled too quickly and nearly coughed up a lung, Then he lit another cigarette with the one he was already smoking. He was going to chain-smoke until [Serena] showed up. He might be dead when she got there, but at least they’d be together."


"I know hate is a strong word and everything, but it’s okay: we’re teenagers."


"Kelly green is great if you wear it ironically. But Marjorie looked like she was actually serious about it."

And, um, more Romance

"The way to any girl’s heart is to tell her she looks tiny. Girls kill to be tiny."


My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, but my favorite author is Jane Austen. My favorite Jane Austen book is Emma, but the Austen I read the most is Pride and Prejudice. Charlotte Bronte hated Jane Austen, but I love Jane Eyre. Bronte for Bronte, Charlotte is better, because Emily’s Wuthering Heights makes me want to poke my eyes out. My thing, literature and life-wise, is British. Why, then, am I spending my days reading trashy American teenage smut? Because I want to feel closer to Jacob, the Television Without Pity recapper.

We all have to have goals.

Take Vanessa Abrams for example:

“Vanessa picked a ball of lint off of her fishnets and flicked it onto the bar floor. She couldn’t believe she was actually flirting with Dan. She hadn’t even broken up with Clark yet! But it was kind of fun to be such a slut.”

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again: Jane Austen is my girlfriend. If you tell her I am cheating with TWoP Jacob, I will Blair Waldorf you. Trust me, you don’t even want to know what that means.

Slut, indeed. You know you love me.


Heather Anne

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