“Guy Not Taken” showcases a maturing Weiner
By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY
“In Her Shoes” author Jennifer Weiner is resigned to the fact that in some circles she is referred to as the “Queen of Chick Lit.” But I challenge anyone who says her short-story collection, “The Guy Not Taken,” isn't serious women's fiction.
Not that there's anything wrong with chick lit, but the women in these stories are a far cry from the Manolo-obsessed bubbleheads sometimes found in chick lit novels. These women apply healthy doses of self-doubt, loneliness and misgivings along with their lip gloss and mascara. The 11 stories in “The Guy Not Taken” have an interesting history and arrangement. Written by Weiner over 18 years, they are arranged not in the order in which they were written but chronologically based on the ages of the main protagonists.
The first two, “Just Desserts” and “Travels With Nicki,” were written while Weiner was a student at Princeton. They feature two sisters whose teenage lives – like Weiner's – play out against the backdrop of their parents' divorce and its aftershocks. Some of the best stories – and this certainly says something about Weiner's maturation as writer – are the ones she wrote most recently.
In “The Mother's Hour” (2006), the newly minted friendship between two mothers with different lifestyles and backgrounds is shattered by suspicion and judgments based on appearances. The signature story, “The Guy Not Taken” (2005), takes on a magic-realism quality when a lonely stay-at-home mom finds her ex-boyfriend's name on an online wedding gift registry. She deletes the name of his fiancee and inserts her own. The rest of the story is a delicious reminder to be careful what you wish for. All the stories in Weiner's collection have that “Calgon, Take Me Away” quality to which smart women, whose lives are complicated by careers, men, babies, parents and siblings, can relate.
By Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY
Once you've read Max Brooks' “World War Z,” it will be crystal clear why Brad Pitt's development company paid seven figures for the film rights. Written by the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, this tale of how a zombie virus almost obliterates the human race possesses more creativity and zip than entire crates of other new fiction titles.
Think Mad Max meets “The Hot Zone.” Brooks' clever premise is that a virus has turned people into the undead. Hordes of flesh-devouring zombies roam the earth, hunting down and infecting the living. Governments, armies, doctors, economies collapse in turn. It's Apocalypse Now, pandemic-style. Creepy but fascinating.
“Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders” (Morrow, $26.95, Sept. 26).
Gaiman, master of sci-fi, fantasy and graphic novels, releases a collection of 31 short pieces and poems.
“The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton, $24.95; Sept. 25) “will sell like crazy for us” at airports and train stations, says Hinckley of Hudson Booksellers.
“The Republican Playbook”
(Hyperion, $16.95, Oct. 3).
Irreverent guide to tricks Borowitz says the GOP used to win elections.
“The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog”
(Penguin, $15.95, Nov. 7).
Hilarious holiday traditions and a calamity-filled pageant make for a memorable Christmas
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