Listen: the first page of a book shares something in common with the first moments of a song, the first five minutes of a movie, the first date, the first dance, the first steps of your first-born child.
It should be magic.
Raw and beautiful. Powerful and pure.
So on this silly blog, I pay particular attention to the first page of novels. Because you can bet Grandpa’s farm and every cow in sight that a brilliant page one foreshadows a good book, while a terrible collection of clichés and drivel on the first page will not suddenly improve by page 302 to make us laugh, cry and change our life forever.
The first page matters. Behold:
- The Red Pen of Doom puts a stake through TWILIGHT
- The Red Pen of Doom impales FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
- The Red Pen of Doom guts THE NOTEBOOK
- The Red Pen of Doom murders THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
Today, we take on A SHORE THING, allegedly written by Snooki, though we all know she didn’t actually write it.
A professional ghostwriter did the boring “typing of words” part. Snooki did the hard work of cashing the check.
You will be shocked to learn her fellow castmates also got publishing deals, with Jwoww and The Situation also getting checks from publishers to put their infamous names on book-like substances.
Many trees gave their lives to give their words life.
I will pour one out for those trees tonight.
Here’s the text of page one, with edits and comments in red:
A SHORE THING
Life was hard. But a pouf? That should be easy. (Whoa, starting out a novel with a three-word cliché is a bold, bold move. Risky. And it doesn’t pay off here. Because anybody who says “life is hard” and follows that with an extended riff on the difficulties of Big Hair doesn’t actually have a hard life at all.)
Giovanna “Gia” Spumanti was a hair-raising pro. She’d been banging out poufs since age eleven, or as soon as her fingers were long enough to hold a bottle of Deluxe Aqua Net. (Maybe this is intentional, but the innuendo in the first two sentences of this graf is more juvenile than clever.) After ten years of trial and error to find the right combination of spray, twisting, and shine serum, Gia could add four inches to her overall height—which as five feet flat, she could use. Gia’s pouf defied the laws of gravity. It was her crowning glory. (“Crowning glory”–oh, how punny. Please riff on that more in the next sentence.) Although she’d love to wear an actual crown (here we go, as the prophecy foretold) of rhinestone tiara whenever she left the house, it just wasn’t practical. It could fly off on the dance floor and take out an eye. The pouf, however, wasn’t going anywhere (but up). (Wait: seriously? This is like one of those bad SNL skits with one joke they repeat for 10 minutes.)
Tonight, humidity was a bitch. Her thick black mane refused to cooperate. Gia brushed it out to start over—again—feeling discouraged. Her first night out in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, she wanted to present the best version of herself. Hundreds of guys would get a look at her, and she’d be searching among them for her near future fling(s). (I read a ton of fiction, and non-fiction, and this is the weirdest use of parantheticals I’ve seen in forever. Doesn’t work. Also, protags should be likable, and this graf of backstory just makes the reader see the protag as completely self-absorbed.) After the year she had back home in Brooklyn—landing and losing a couple of jobs and boyfriends—she deserved the sexiest summer ever.
Gia hoisted the front section of her hair, holding it high over her head with one hand.
I binge-watched the first season of JERSEY SHORE while visiting my sister in H’wood, so I know enough to be dangerous about Snooki, The Situation and the entire sordid thing.
And no, this novel meant to be lit-RAH-sure.
However: Entertaining trash should still be entertaining, and well-done. This first page is neither.
In this sort of story, sure, you’re going to get a lot of interior monologue, including self-centered nonsense like this.
A full page about hair, though, is a bit much even if you put it in the middle of this kind of novel.
Dedicating the entire page to hair and backstory? Far worse.
Here’s the structural lesson I take from this hot mess: life is hard, and what’s even harder is turning a reality show villain into a fictional hero.
Because that’s what the stars of JERSEY SHORE are: comic villains absolutely swimming in a sea of nasty hubris.
Every comedy targets an institution. Sitcoms typically poke fun at families, marriage and kids. M*A*S*H* went after war. FRIENDS put the bull’s eye on young singles.
The producers of JERSEY SHORE knew Snooki, The Situation and the rest of the gang were comic villains. They’re only fun to watch to see what kind of trouble happens, and every piece of trouble is far from random. Nobody gets hit by a bus while they’re using a crosswalk.
Every episode is all about chaos and craziness that comes straight from the hubris of cast members.
Who will get drunk and start a bar fight?
Who’s so desperate tonight that they’ll hook up with anything and everything?
Which member of the cast is such a self-absorbed dipstick that they’ll get on the phone and try to order a pizza or a cab and give his last name as “Situation” and first name as “The”?
I haven’t read the rest of A SHORE THING and never will. The feeling I get, though, is this is meant to be a comic romp, with the Snooki character, Gia, set up as the protag. That we’re supposed to laugh with her instead of laughing at her.
Sorry. Comedy doesn’t work like that.
VERDICT: Kill it with fire. Nuke it from orbit.