12.27.2005

#27 Crapometer

GENRE: Women’s Fiction/Fantasy


Do you want to contact somebody first?
Leave someone a letter?

No, Donna decides, remembering the Joni Mitchell song from her youth, she won’t contact anybody. She will save her daughter alone. She will make amends for the terrible example of her own loveless marriage, an example her daughter is about to follow. And since only twelve hours remain until her daughter’s wedding, she must make amends by magic.

The magic is not Donna’s idea. Donna's idea is simply reckless--take the train into New York and hit the fancier bars. Her hairdresser, Rodney, forbids such a colossal stupidity. He produces a magic garter that through the ages has supposedly preserved women from harm--or so he claims. “You’re armed and dangerous, Miss Priss,” says Rodney, perfuming Donna's pulse points. “Buy high-priced tickets. Stay in the best hotels. Above all, be steadfast, be brave, and be vocal.”

Donna will need her courage. Arrayed against her are the forces of purse-lipped suburban propriety, personified in Gloria, fat-cheeked and nail-bitten, who now confronts Donna at the bus stop. Going into town the night before the wedding? How very odd! Gloria has always thought Donna the poster girl for perfect suburban happiness. Donna’s perfect husband, Rupert, even paid for Donna’s perfect orthodonture.

Donna, meanwhile, carefully follows Rodney’s instructions. She gets a first-class Amtrak seat, angling her legs to attract. And attract she does. A kid, she thinks. It is so, but one at least of age: Jeffrey, an out-of-work actor on his way to a Manhattan cattle-call audition. Donna does not commute regularly, and when the train squeals to a halt beneath the Hudson, Jeffrey’s perfect Humphrey Bogart impressions calm her. At Penn Station, he leaves his card.

Meanwhile, at a party back in the suburbs, Gloria sees Rupert’s law partner, a thick, unappetizing man who has long made thick, unappetizing remarks about Donna. When Gloria suggests to him that Donna is having an affair, he calls his partner, Rupert, who as usual is working late in Manhattan. The chase is on.

At Penn Station, Donna foolishly takes a dimly lit pedestrian tunnel. Elegantly coifed, taking exaggerated care with her purse, she abruptly finds herself behind a flight of urine-smelling tile steps, her arms pinned beneath the knees of gritty sweatpants, being forced at knifepoint to give up her cash and wallet to the hoarse and increasingly sexual whisper above her--That all you got, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch--when she manages to reach the garter and dangle it in the monster’s face. Her attacker collapses. Donna is, indeed, beyond harm, and she realizes at that moment she has spent her marriage in a state of physical intimidation.

Armed with the serenity of physical courage, Donna confronts her trials: The perfect logic of The Man With No Imagination Whatever, who offers her security in exchange for feeling; the closing vice (I bet you mean vise) of guilt as she meets and romances Jeffrey; and, at an end-of-season party for the Rothschild Ballet, philanthropist Harrison Boyd Bucknell, whose wealth long ago precluded him from being loved “for myself. It is just as my mother warned me."

Insulted when Donna rejects him for Jeffrey, Bucknell has the couple kidnapped, Mafia style. He offers Jeffrey a stellar acting career in exchange for Donna. “All is power,” Bucknell says. "It's impersonal, but it's all we have." “No,” says Jeffrey, “all is vanity. That is as personal as you like. Allow me to demonstrate." They return to the party where, with Jeffrey's encouragement, Bucknell courts and wins one of the dancers. His mother's spell broken, Bucknell becomes the couples’ ally.

The couple needs him. Rupert is stalking the catered steam tables, a coyote among swans, navigating by Gloria’s phoned-in detective work. All in vain: Far above, in the hotel's bridal suite, Donna and Jeffrey are consummating the first part of Donna’s quest. Rupert rages. He paid for all that orthodonture! The orthodonture, of course, is replacement work. Rupert has beaten his wife, occasioning the expense.

Gloria, still west of the Hudson, always suspected as much, but she does not care. Is not marriage sacred? Rupert now confirms her worst suspicions about Donna, and as the sun rises on the day of the wedding, Gloria climbs into her aging SUV to meet Rupert. They may not be able to find Donna now, but they will find her at the wedding, and there they will vindicate all that is true, just and right.

The wedding party assembles on a great sunlit Westchester lawn. The groom, rodent-eyed and seething (much like Rupert) impatiently awaits his due. The band plays. The guests dance. Gloria and Rupert arrive. A modern-day coach-and-six arrives--only a Harrison Boyd Bucknell could afford such an automobile--and the crowd falls silent. Such a conveyance can only transport royalty.

And so it does. Donna steps forth, queenly, radiant, transcendent. She has left Jeffrey behind, so as not to hurt her children. She asks her daughter to reconsider. “There is better,” she says. Gloria rises, points, exposes Donna’s affair; the crowd gasps as Donna reveals Rupert’s brutality. Donna pleads with her daughter: “We can choose from courage," she says, "instead of settling from fear.” The bride, staring wide-eyed at Rupert, gently puts down her bouquet.

A melee. In the confusion, Donna confronts her husband, alone, and demands a divorce. She does not touch the garter. Rupert can only spit limp legalities. Rupert and Gloria slink away; Donna and daughter embrace; Jeffrey appears; and as Donna and Jeffrey glide away in the modern-day coach-and-six, to live happily ever after, Rodney calls and requests the garter be kept safe.

This is a pretty fair synopsis. The writing is as over fluffed as a meringue, but there’s a market for that.

You can cut about half the word count and still give us a pretty good idea of the novel. When synopsis are over stuffed like this, I always think the novel is going to be over written as well. There’s a lot to be said for putting a synopsis in the crisper-upper before sending it out.

This is women’s fiction not fantasy. You shelve this in fantasy and the dragon lovers are going to be very very unhappy. Even though it has magical elements, magic is only a device. Calling this fantasy is like calling The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a fantasy.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wait! Am I misunderstanding or does Donna have to make amends by going out and getting laid as quickly as possible?