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the pathetic caverns - books by author - Mimi Smartypants

eclectic reviews and opinions

Mimi Smartypants

The World According to Mimi Smartypants

Pamela Ribon's Why Girls are Weird took a popular web diary and spun it into a "novel" that dared you to guess to what degree it was or wasn't a roman à clef. (Note: I'm sorry, but I hate the word "blog" -- it's you gee ell wye, it ain't got no alibi.)

The World According to Mimi Smartypants sort of one-ups Ribon -- it takes the musings of another popular web diarist, edits and truncates them, and puts them between covers. There's no framing story and hardly any additional content -- in fact, overall, there's less content. (No links, obviously, and lots of time-sensitive and/or indie-rock oriented writing deleted, says the quick survey.) The UK edition has some brute force word substitution -- "flat" for "apartment" and the like -- that's odd and a bit humorous when reading about life in Chicago.)

The book suggests two obvious questions to me: is it really worth reading, and is it really worth printing? (given that you can still read the whole thing at Mimi Smartypant's Diaryland site)

To the first, I say "yes." Mimi is breezy, often very funny, and occasionally (sometimes unexpectedly) genuinely insightful. Part of the appeal for me is the strange sense of twinnedness: like my partner, Mimi is an editor; like me, her partner's self-employment is computer related. Mimi frequently namechecks exactly the sort of indie rock bands that I write about here in Pathetic Caverns and travels mostly by public transportation. If she'd been in the DC metro the night I watched that guy on the other side of the tracks waving his arms and loudly declaiming what seemed to be terrible sci-fi movie dialogue ("I didn't realize it was a fucking BATTLEstar!") she might well have wracked her brain trying to remember what dumb show was being referenced and written about the incident on her site. (Note: this was a good few years before the exhumation of Battlestar Galactica's wooden corpse.)

Anyway, I wonder if this (false) sense of connection isn't a large part of the appeal of the Web diary phenomenon -- I get a weird frisson when I read an observation that I had uniquely and separately -- epsecially when it's not a thought I would expect someone else to have had. This sometimes happens with novels, too, but I find that it's more potent with something that at least purports to be nonfiction (although, obviously, there is always a level of artifice -- you won't learn "Mimi's" real name looking at the book's indicia). Perhaps it's less surprising (and therefore less interesting) when a fictional character subsequently deviates from a perspective you share: I think we -- I, anyway -- often tend to extrapolate excessively from details that we think are telling: If we both like band "Y" then you will also enjoy the novels of "Z" and vote for "X" over "W." (I'd vote for almost any "X" over "W" -- ooh, cheap shot.)

As to the second question: yes, absolutely. Mimi's site is reasonably laid out -- legible font and background, but it still takes a lot of scrolling and clicking. Turning a page is still a much more comfortable interface, and even though the book is rather shoddily printed -- some of the pages are absolutely grey -- it's easier on the eyes. Those of you who follow my rambles about digital music distribution will recognize a common theme: here's something that's available free in some online form, but is also a physical product for which you must pay. As with music, it's a different value proposition, not necessarily better or worse. The book is easier to carry around, but I can't click on it to see what Mimi wrote last week. I'm amused to note, though, that the UK edition doesn't seem to mention the site's URL anywhere.

Dept. of Tilting at Windmills:
Mimi Smartypants was reportedly satisfied with the compromise arrived at, but she didn't particularly want a picture of a woman's shoe on her book jacket at all. When will it end?

-- mr. antithetical sees Diaryland but reads Dairyland.

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