Book Review: Crash Diet

Crash Diet by Jill McCorkle is a series of short stories.

See, I decided that I would break out of my genre and try reading some literary fiction for a change. I went to the fiction stacks and avoided all of the thrillers and serial killers and *shudders* thinly-disguised romance novels and found what looked to be a solid literary author with short stories that harkened back to my days of reading for the lit journal in college. It’s the author’s fourth book. The inside flap had some excellent snippets from the stories, so, since it was the library, I took the chance.

Oh boy, was I wrong. So, terribly, terribly, achingly wrong that nothing can save me from the unforgivable triumvirate of mistakes I made.

1) Literary fiction short stories. I read for a lit journal. I should know I don’t like most of the tripe that the editors love.

2) Southern Female author. I’ll grant, I read women writers all the time. It’s just that they’re writing in genres I like. And honestly, I have yet to read a Southern female writer. (For those non-US readers: Southern writers come from Virginia or below. This author is from North Carolina)

3) The blurbs were by people I don’t know. I will give a short story author recommended by Neil Gaiman or Stephen King a chance in a heartbeat. If Poppy Z. Brite says “it scared me” I’ll pick it up. Not being in the literary genre, I didn’t know the writers of the blurbs. I’ll know better the next time. If the NY Times likes it, I’ll run the other way.

Now, I have obviously become enamored of silly things like plot and characterization. To paraphrase Mark Twain, stories should be headed to a climax and then a tie up afterward. The stories in Crash Diet are not stories. They are barely even vignettes.

Next, I should care about your characters. This does not mean that I should be willing to testify as to why their psychologist who has two lines should be kicked out of the field. I should also not want to bitch-slap every female in the book.

Again, going back to the most lauded Twain: One should be able to tell the characters from the corpse. Sadly, there is not one story in the book which could not be improved by the following sentences:

“And then the zombies appeared.”
“And then she discovered that this was truly Hell.”

In fact, they’d be fascinating stories if the women were all trapped in Satre’s “No Exit.” Because, you know, there’d be an over-arching story involved that started one place and built until the release of emotion when the next victim was thrown in or pulled out for torture.

Never again. I will not make this mistake again. I want plots! I want emotion! I want Dialog! I do not want to listen to the inner ramblings of women who define themselves by their relationships with the men in their lives and cannot seem to form a thought that doesn’t revolve around men and how they’ve been betrayed, battered, or otherwise disappointed. I get it. Men are evil. Women are long suffering. I call bullshit.

Go swallow some more sweet tea or drown in a mint julep. Just leave me out of it.


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