Girl is an imperfect, but nevertheless extremely impressive, debut
for Molly Jong-Fast, the 23-year- old daughter of Erica Jong and
Jonathan Fast. “It can’t be easy to follow in the parental footsteps
of two such famous authors,” said Lewis Burke Frumkes, the Director
of the Writing Center at Marymount Manhattan College. “It’s a
heavy mantle to carry—the expectations are bound to be unrealistic.
And if you don’t live up to them, it seems like the entire world
is ready to tear you down.”
Tearing down Norman Girl would take some serious stretching as
the novel, slowly, almost imperceptibly, manages to draw the reader
into its weirdly whacked-out world. True, Normal Girl gets off
to a rocky start. The first chapter is poorly paced and very long
and the subject matter—the endless angst of the drugged-out, spoiled-rotten,
monied youth of the ’90s—is one of those “not again” themes that
has already been covered to near-death.
However, to Jong-Fast’s credit, the theme has not been covered
quite like this. She squeezes some novelty out of the well-covered
ground with a spunky writing style and a courageous approach that
constantly leaves the reader wondering just how much of Normal
Girl may be autobiographical.
The heroine, 19 year-old Miranda Woke, walks through an endless
line of funerals that are just like parties, and parties that
are just like funerals, in a drugged-out haze while convinced
that she may have killed her boyfriend by shooting him up with
a dirty needle. The downward spiral of emptiness and self-hate
predictably ends in rehab but, as Miranda finds, even in recovery
there are no easy answers.
The story line is saved by one snazzy line after another: “Each
room in the house is a carefully contrived experience in self-indulgence,
representing a life created for that very thing. The Western Room
is so authentic it smells like horse manure.” Ms. Jong-Fast’s
uniquely self-mocking overall tone rarely fails to be entertaining.
Thus, more often than not, she manages to triumph over her material
and create a solid recreation of life itself.
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