Monday, 28 July 2014

How To Build A Girl readalong: Part three

Chapters 11-15

This readalong is hosted by Emily at As The Crowe Flies (and Reads.)

When we last saw Johanna Morrigan, AKA Dolly Wilde, she had just been assigned an interview with musician John Kite, all expenses paid, in Dublin. This is her first time on a plane, first time out of the country, and she loves it. She meets Kite and finds him a real kindred spirit, someone who she can really relax around, have fun with, and she ends up besotted. John Kite seems charming enough, in a drunken-rock-star sort of way, but I don't trust him. I don't trust him at all. I feel sure that he's going to betray "Dolly" in some way and break her heart, turn out not to be the person she thinks he is.


Back in England, disaster strikes when her father receives an ominous brown envelope informing him that his claim for disability benefit is being investigated, and the family get a reduction of 11% in their income. 11% may not sound like the end of the world, but for a family with five children who have no luxuries, no savings, they just can't spare that money! "Dolly's" payment for her writing is slow to arrive, and after her first major feature turned out to be a page of gushing fangirling, the work dries up.


Her father makes another attempt at getting his music noticed, but I can't help but feel that if he is too sick to work a regular job - even a part-time one - would he be able to deal with the demands of working as a musician? I think he views "being a rock star" as an easy way out of his desperate situation, without thinking through the reality of the hard work required. Johanna is the only earner of the family: what about the mother, or the eldest brother? But it is easy to say "get a job!" yet last week we saw the extended family all made redundant by Mrs Thatcher's slashing of British industry. Just like today, the jobs just aren't there! 

Still, "Dolly" eventually gets another phone call from the magazine and she goes back to London for some more work, where she gets some gentle pointers as to where she went wrong with the Kite article. She despairs for a moment when her teenage years of musical education just don't seem to be enough, and timidly asks if she can claim expenses for borrowing CDs for the library at 20p per time.


In reply she is told that all she has to do is phone up the record companies and get as much music as a person can handle for free, and even sell the CDs on afterwards: a tidy business plan that could solve all the family's troubles - or at least help a little. Then, on to her first music-industry party, where she pulls out all the stops in making herself seem as fun and quirky and loud as possible. I was cringing on her behalf at times - there is nothing less British than obviously trying too hard.


Still, her colleagues seem to find her amusing rather than embarrassment, and as she got into the character I found myself laughing aloud. I loved the scene with her carefully calculating how to not look like a pig at the buffet table, making up a fictional friend who liked different food from herself, then leaving the loathed scotch eggs in the ladies' room with an explanation that they were dragon eggs, about to hatch! (Query: is what she did really that different from pretending you're not home alone when you order a massive pizza and lots of sides from Domino's? I suspect it isn't.)

Key Quotes:
I don't want anyone watching me change. I will do all my changing in private. In public, I am, always, the finished thing. The right thing, for the right place. A chrysalis is hung in the dark.
I am getting incredibly high on a single, astounding fact: that it's always sunny above the clouds. Always. That every day on Earth - every day I have ever had - was, secretly, sunny, after all.
The house is too small, and nothing happens, and I will never be older than twelve here.

(Minor grumble: in typing up these quotes, I found myself wondering whether Moran really needs all those commas.)

8 comments:

  1. It seems like most of us have some questions about John Kite's trustworthiness. Sigh.

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  2. "The house is too small, and nothing happens, and I will never be older than twelve here" Ah yes, this. This was a good quote. I think we've all felt like that at one point or another.

    I don't know if I felt like she was trying too hard at the party so much as trying to not seem like a complete outcast, and I think she succeeded at that! But I think it usually turns out much better to try to hard than not enough, really.

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  3. That's such a good point about whether dadda could actually make it as a musician, physically. I think you're right - he sees it as a quick 'make everything right' situation without really taking into account exactly how much work does have to go into it. God knows I know plenty of people who tried to make it in bands and gave up when they realised they couldn't just live the rockstar lifestyle from minute one!

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  4. "Her father makes another attempt at getting his music noticed, but I can't help but feel that if he is too sick to work a regular job - even a part-time one - would he be able to deal with the demands of working as a musician? I think he views "being a rock star" as an easy way out of his desperate situation, without thinking through the reality of the hard work required."

    ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. And another reason he frustrates me to no end. He just wants to easy answer, and thinks getting it will be as simple as Johanna hooking him up with her music connections- never mind the fact that his music is apparently awful.

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  5. I completely forgot about the part where the editor tells her she can get free music from record companies and then sell them off to make money.

    Poor Johanna, waiting on her library holds when she could be out hawking that free cassette stash.

    I feel like Johanna's father gravitates toward dreams of a music career because 1) he loves music and wants to do something that would make him happy and 2) with his injury and the unpredictable symptoms, being a musician would actually work with his intermittent pain. Sure, he would maybe have to cancel some gigs if he had a bad episode, but he's not going to get fired for canceling a show every once in a while.

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  6. That's SUCH A GREAT POINT about if Dad can't handle a job - how is he going to handle the stresses of being a rock star... Srsly. Never even crossed my mind. Brilliant.

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  7. It never even crossed my mind that being a rock star would be just as (if not more) demanding than a regular job and that is SUCH A BRILLIANT POINT. Bravo, madam, bravo. :)

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  8. Well shit. My internet is the worst and now you have three comments from me. ;)

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