Lipshtick

Gwen Macsai, Author
Gwen Macsai, Author HarperCollins $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-019101-6
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-06-093061-5
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-196799-3
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The title and subtitle say it all, as NPR essayist Macsai attempts in her first book to trace the milestones of female life, from junior high crushes to marriage and motherhood, in this collection of closely connected essays. Purportedly a celebration of ""girlfriends""--odd as the moniker seems when applied to a mother of two, as the author is--the ""girls"" practically disappear as Macsai moves on to describe her forays into dating and marriage. Heterosexual in outlook, the sections on friendship cover familiar territory (girlfriends are practically perfect--they dish about men and clothes and eat ice cream with you, but you can't sleep with them). Macsai includes a supposedly ""liberating"" dating game you can play with your friends: assign a point value for various types of dates (lunch, dinner, meeting his parents, etc.) and see who wins. When the author meets her future husband, the reader is unprepared for what follows--a hackneyed account of the various ways her husband annoys her, summed up with the (unattributed) Elvis paraphrase: ""I've never been quite sure which came first, the hotheaded woman or the oblivious man."" Macsai's discussion of the age-old problem of how to balance children and the rest of life merely reinforces hidebound gender roles. Even worse, the humor of her outdated shtick often falls flat and her attempts to portray herself as hip (""I am a rhythm machine"") don't ring true. This is The Rules couched in the language of talk-show, ""you go, girl"" feminism, unlikely to instruct or amuse. (Feb.)
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