Anybody who reads romance, chick lit, or women's lit (and I do read all of those, although mostly I end up disliking women's lit) inevitably comes across the name Elinor Lipman.
Lipman is a novelist with several well-reviewed and (I'm guessing) respectably selling novels to her name. I have always seen her name a lot, offered as a reading suggestion for those who like a bit of humor with their romance, and the interesting thing about Lipman is that she seems popular with both readers and critics. She seems like she would be a sure bet.
But you know what? I just don't get the appeal.
I tried to read her a few years back, and I don't think I got through the novel in question (or it certainly didn't make much of an impression). This time, trying to be fair, I thought I would read one of her older novels, one of her newer ones, and just for good measure, I would throw in her recent essay collection (I Can't Complain).
The Way Men Act, published 1992. Melinda LeBlanc returns to her hometown to be a floral designer and falls in love with the owner of the shop next to hers on Main Street, and then denies it for the course of the entire book.
The View from Penthouse B, published 2013. Two sisters room together in a Manhattan penthouse, although their surroundings belie their circumstance. One sister is a young(ish) widow; the other is a divorced woman who lost her money to Bernie Madoff. (And, oh yes, her husband was a fertility doctor who, ahem, sometimes offered personalized fertilization services to his patients.) They also end up taking in another boarder, an unemployed finance worker who they think is making cupcakes for his dates with women, when really they are dates with men.
God, frankly, I'm bored even typing out those briefest of synopses.
And I didn't find the essays all that scintillating either. They're short, and were published in a variety of sources, from Good Housekeeping to the Boston Globe. They center on a variety of family topics (including the loss of Lipman's own husband at the age of 60), the writing life, and personal foibles. And it's all nice enough stuff:
"My sister and I do solemnly believe--no, we insist--that each of us was, unquestionably, her father's favorite child, the shiniest apple of his eye. The argument goes like this: I was Daddy's favorite child. No, sorry, you're wrong. I was. We smile as we present the evidence of his devotion made visible. Finally, we agree to disagree, recognizing what a sweet and lucky argument ours is." (p. 14.)
But none of it really seems to have any teeth, you know? If I had to describe her succinctly I'd say she reminds me a bit of Nora Ephron, without the anger (and without nearly as much humor), or Susan Minot without the slightly more interesting grit.
Either way: I've given her what I think is a fair try, and I'm done now.