Book Reviews: Sellivision, by Augusten Burroughs, & Girls of Riyadh, byn Rajaa Alsanea


2 very different books, both novels.  One, Sellevision, about what I think of as about a uniquely American experience. The other, Girls of Riyadh an interesting take on life in Saudi Arabia as lived  by well educated, upper middle class young women.

Sellevision is funny. Well crafted. Fast paced.

If you’ve read Running With Scissors, you know Augusten Burroughs can write. This  is his first novel, and while it was published in 2000, it still reads as fresh.

The main characters work for a home shopping channel, and each has his pathos and quirks.    A bit of irony. They are well drawn, and  you can picture the scene playing out in your head.  I am surprised that  nobody has made a movie out of this.

What else can I say?  Even if you didn’t like Running With Scissors, or his other 2 books, Dry  and Magical Thinking, if you are up for a good story, this is it.  I read it in  about 4 hours, and laughed out loud.

What keeps us in America  separated from the rest of the world is our xenophobia, which means  ‘fear of strangers’: thinking of others as odd, & not sharing our values and feelings.  I have found my own neighbors to be at odds with many of my values, more so than  people in other countries.

I also have to admit, the title of this book didn’t readily appeal to me, and I was going to   give it to a group that provides  books to women in prison, unread. I have to say straight away, I am not a lover of ‘chick lit’.  There is some that is very well written, but it’s brain candy, and life, to me is too short.  I got this book at a book swap, and I have to  recommend it as a good read.

Apparently, Alsanea originally wrote it in Arabic, and with some help, translated it into English.  She did a wonderful job.

It is about several upper middle class young women, and what their lives are like.

She chronicles the lives of several friends  who  all have similar backgrounds, who met  either via school or their parents’ friends, and  their  love lives.  Several are paired into arranged marriages, which they hope will turn into love.  One meets a man she  resists, but falls in love with due to his attentions. One meets a schoolmate, and the  affection and shared interests turn into love.

She alludes to the telling of each girl’s drama as  blog posts, which she then wrote at the book.    Yes, this is a quite modern tale.  I don’t want to compare this to Sex in the City (in Arabia), because the women depicted are not  career women on the make.  They want to fit into their communities.  I recommend it to anyone curious about young women in the Middle
East.  Keep in mind, however, the lives of these characters are  far from typical. they are all  upper middle class.

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