Queen of Babble in the Big City
Reviewed by Molly Jong-Fast
Midway though Cabot's latest novel, Chaz (the boyfriend of protagonist Lizzie Nichols's best friend) tells Lizzie, “Someday you're really going to have to describe to me in more detail what life is like on the planet you live on. Because it sounds really great, and I'd like to visit there one day.” Ultimately, this is what is both problematic and enormously appealing about the work of Cabot, the woman who shot to fame selling the idea that fairy tales really do come true.
Lizzie is the fairy tale heroine. She is the fat, awkward girl in all of us, profoundly Midwestern, from the Spanks (modern Spandex girdles) she wears to her indignation at subway rudeness to her insistence on paying her wealthy boyfriend rent for living in his mother's Fifth Avenue apartment.
As the book opens, Lizzie has just moved to New York City with her best friend, Shari, and their boyfriends, Luke and Chaz. Lizzie is determined not to become like her acquaintance Kathy Pennebaker, the prototypical smalltown girl who fails in Manhattan and returns home to wander the aisles of the local grocery store loading up on cough syrup for a weekend meth-making session.
Things quickly become perfect for Lizzie. Luke asks her to move into his mother's apartment. She finds an amusing though nonpaying job working as a wedding dress restorer with an insane French couple. Lizzie also takes a paying job as a receptionist at Chaz's father's law firm.
There are slight problems in paradise: the wedding store where Lizzie works has fallen on hard times and is involved in a rivalry with another wedding dress restorer. Luckily, Lizzie stumbles on a wedding dress gold mine when she befriends a woman who takes cares of seals at the zoo. It turns out that the seal-keeper is about to marry into one of Manhattan's most prominent families; suddenly, the smart crowd is coming to Lizzie's store. But Lizzie's quest to become successful is sidetracked by Shari's relationship problems and Lizzie's conviction that Luke's mother is having an affair and her obsession with the idea that Luke will never marry her. There is something oddly affirming about Cabot's writing. After sitting down with Queen of Babble in the Big City , it is totally clear to me why her books are huge bestsellers. Meg Cabot is nice. She sees the world as a wonderful place, and you want to live in her world and be her best friend. Her characters are charming. There is a school of thought that says reading should be entertaining, and this is exactly what Meg Cabot produces for us: fun. She is the master of her genre; she is the George Bernard Shaw if not the George Eliot of chick lit.
Molly Jong-Fast's third book,
The Social Climbe's Handbook, will be published by Villard in 2009.