Jackie Collins novels are fun to read

jackiecollins1"Jackie Collins's Poor Little Bitch Girl contains a unique form of synactics that exemplifies the openly humanistic need for effortless, albeit exciting, access to non-empirically acquired experiences. Collins explores the rich tensions of consciousness within the characters, promoting a noesis of experience by subjecting her characters to intense and often morally compromising situations."
-- Dr. My Nguyen, fake professor of linguistics, in her groundbreaking, non-existing paper Cheap Thrills and the Noumena of Generative Grammar.

I am a big fan of guilty pleasures. Gossip Girl? I own all 11 novels in the series. Korn? Who doesn’t feel like they have Issues every now and then? Britney Spears? Don’t you dare put your itchy paws on the radio dial when “Til the World Ends” comes on.

Hey, we all need a way to relax. Some enjoy more scholarly endeavors, like Sudoku or the New York Times crossword puzzle. Some ignore their girlfriends for days in pursuit of perfecting the sacred art of creating music (which, in turn, gives me reason to indulge in yet another guilty pleasure, Julie Klausner’s I Don’t Care About Your Band). Some build birdhouses, or engage in recreational eating contests, or watch whole marathons of Absolutely Fabulous.

I, however, enjoy putting Roland Barthes on the back burner every now and then, and unwinding with a delightfully trashy Jackie Collins novel.

The argument for highbrow art and literature is usually tied up in hoity-toity notions accepted by the public of what is considered good and cultured. Good and cultured are, sadly, also at times synonymous with wildly boring and weirdly verbose, as exemplified by any Dickens novel I’ve ever read and any Heidegger treatise I’ll ever attempt to read. And you know what? Jackie Collins novels are many things but no one I know has ever accused them of being boring or verbose — such accusations being a writer’s greatest sin, if you ask me.

With titles like The World Is Full of Married Men and Lethal Seduction, no one will ever openly equate Ms. Collins with the standard by which many cultural elitists hold dear: The Bard. (Even though there seems to be more sex, sardonic smack-talking, and murder plots in Shakespeare’s plays than American Psycho, except Shakespeare — forgive me, Bret Easton Ellis — is the better writer).

jackiecollins12This doesn’t make Ms. Collins’s oeuvre any less relevant, though. Her books chronicle an irresistibly thrilling fantasy world of Hollywood denizens (all of them portrayed as gorgeous, fit, and never homely) driving Corvettes, going to film premieres, eating at Spago’s, and sleeping with married people. Yes, this sounds like the book equivalent of a bad soap opera. Yes, this has the intellectual nutritional value of a Slim Jim. No, these factors do not diminish my desire to read her books when I just want to spend 3 hours in a breathless daze.

And, guilty pleasures or not, for people who dislike reading, her novels can transform the library-averse into voracious readers. Take myself, for example: I didn’t learn how to read proficiently until I was at least seven or eight years old (I had to take ESL classes as a kid). It was only through books in the Sweet Valley High series — hardly considered vital works in the Western canon — that I developed an affinity for reading more challenging things. But I don’t forget my humble reading roots; in fact, I happily relish in them.

I digress about my literary chrysalis, though. Jackie Collins’s Poor Little Bitch Girl is a more exciting topic.

Set between Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C., the book devotes its chapters to a set of largely scandalous characters. There is Annabelle Maestro, who squashes her complex about being the daughter of two movie stars by becoming a madam for wealthy men. There is Denver Jones, former nerd turned beautiful and brilliant attorney. There is her best friend Carolyn Henderson, who, while having an affair with a married senator in D.C., becomes pregnant with his child. There is Bobby Santangelo Stanislopolous, the low-key billionaire who develops an interest in Denver. They all went to high school together years ago. But the past has a funny (and raunchy) way of showing up unexpectedly…

When Annabelle’s mother is discovered dead in her own bedroom (doesn’t this sound like the central plotline of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye?), it sets off a chain of events interconnecting them all to murder, sex, drugs, and yes, rock ’n roll — albeit in the form of a cocaine-addled deejay named Frankie.

For those who may turn up their noses and ask how this story could possibly be engaging, I reply that it is engaging in the way that bungee jumping or watching Die Hard is engaging —  this book thrills, never mind how inexpensively. When I want to have a bit of excitement without leaving the confines of my living room, I know this Jackie Collins book — all Jackie Collins books — deliver.

-- My Nguyen