Monday, August 30, 2010

Review - Lulu Meets God And Doubts Him by Danielle Ganek

Summary (via Goodreads): As The Devil Wears Prada demystified the world of high fashion, this funny and insightful debut novel dishes the crazy and captivating Manhattan art scene. When painter Jeffrey Finelli is run over by a cab, the art world clamors for the instantly in-demand work by the late "emerging artist"especially an enormous painting called Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him.

Gallery receptionist and aspiring artist Mia McMurray finds herself at the center of the hype. She is an amused witness as a Birkin-toting collector, a well-muscled Irish artist, a real estate baron, and Lulu herself, the artist's niece and muse, battle over the brand-new masterpiece. In the midst of the madness, Mia finds her own creative expression and artistic identity, not to mention love.
Review:  Having read and really enjoyed If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend by Alison Pace (recommended by Emily, who I have to thank for reviewing a book that I initially dismissed because of its title), I was looking forward to Lulu Meets God And Doubts Him, hoping for a fun, intriguing look at the art world coupled with a little romance.  While Lulu wasn’t bad, per se, I was pretty disappointed.
I think my main issue is the choice of Mia as narrator.  Mia is presented as such a spectator to the whirlwind battle for this suddenly "hot" painting that she almost ceases to exist for a good part of the story.  She's only there to tell you one plot point after another.  There’s no real sense of character and I found myself unsure why she was even there at certain points (as she did herself many times).  She had no real relationship to anyone central to the storyline.  Not only that, I realized about 150 pages in that the girl didn’t have any friends!  No one is mentioned outside the art world except in passing.  So not only are we privvy to only seeing this character in a world she says she doesn't even seem to like, but we don't even get a good idea of what she's really like outside her work persona. 
It didn’t help that Mia instantly grated on me with proclamations that she wasn’t a “gallery girl,” but seemed fairly petty and superficial in her assessments of other characters.  She doesn’t have any real struggle or conflict in the book so she becomes boring and a bit self-centered.  She’s also so self-deprecating it borders on annoying, constantly saying she’s not pretty even though many other people are telling her how beautiful she is.  It got to the point where I began to think the girl either lacked any kind of self-awareness or was playing some sort of game with the reader so we would find her modest, when in reality she spends most of the book acting like she’s better than everyone else (when she’s not comparing herself to them).
Not overly familiar with the art scene, I did find the journey of this painting comical and often times absurd.  Ganek created a nice satirical look at not just the art world, but the New York “scene.”  The characters surrounding the battle over the painting were humorous, but seemed almost cardboard cutouts rather than well-rounded characters.  I wanted to like them much more than I did, but, again, this might have been because I was seeing them through Mia's eyes.  I found Lulu the most interesting character and was pretty surprised that Ganek didn’t tell this story from her point of view.  As the central figure of the painting and the story, I wanted to know what Lulu felt about all of it instead of just having Mia's third-party conclusions.
I think most of my criticism for Lulu stems from my dislike of Mia.  The central story is intriguing, but I think it just missed the mark in its execution.  Without a likable protagonist this story just didn't have enough charm and wit to keep me interested.
Lit Snit Grade: C-

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