MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR….This is a little off the beaten path for this blog, but I was fascinated to see that Slate ran an essay today by Alana Newhouse about, of all things, Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar ? which, if Newhouse is to be believed, remains a favorite after all these years among “today’s post-feminist women.” Here’s how the essay ends:

Regardless, there is one point of agreement: Almost everyone loves the Marjorie of the first 556 pages. This Marjorie evokes the period when girls are still free to dream about their future, before they actually have to start making choices about it. Wouk might wince at the thought, but what women enjoy about his book is the promise of adolescence. As she enters middle age, Marjorie continues to defy her paternal creator, like the rebellious teenager she was meant to be.

Is this really true? Does everyone really love the Marjorie of the first 556 pages?

Now, I read the book many years ago when I was on a Herman Wouk kick and I don’t remember it very sharply, but I do remember what my reaction to the first 556 pages was: that Wouk had written the novel on a bet. I figured Wouk was trying to prove that he could write a good novel even if it featured a primary character who the reader knew from the start was shallow, middlebrow, and never meant to accomplish anything meaningful ? her own delusions to the contrary notwithstanding. The final nine pages aren’t a surprising twist, they’re simply an acknowledgment of what Marjorie always was.

Am I the only one who thought that? Did everyone else truly love the Marjorie of the first 556 pages?

POSTSCRIPT: On the other hand, I think City Boy is underappreciated. It’s a lot of fun and never gets much attention.

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