Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: George & Hilly: The Anatomy of a Relationship by George Gurley

I remember when this book first came out, I thought it was right up my alley! But something put me off. Still, when I found a free copy at a book swap last weekend, it seemed like a no-brainer.

George Gurley is a nightlife reporter in Manhattan. His longtime girlfriend, Hilly, works in fashion. After three years and a massive fight, they figure that couples therapy is in order, and they start to see Dr. Selman.

Basically, George is an overgrown adolescent. He goes out clubbing all night (often until morning) and Hilly oddly ping-pongs beck and forth between being a capable professional business woman, and an infantalizing baby-talking enabler. At around 40, George doesn't bounce back from his binges like he once did, and with 2-day hangovers, he doesn't quite write like he used to either. Between the alcohol (and Hilly's no saint in that arena either), living like they're millionaires (Hilly owns more than a hundred pairs of Manolos and Jimmy Choos), and refusing to act like adults (Hilly thinks she is more mature, but I'm really not sure), they are both hot messes. In some ways I really was curious why they were together, and in other ways I thought they were perfect for each other - perfect train wrecks.

I also was very frustrated with them. They both indulge their every whim and the idea of actually not drinking a $20 bottle of wine every night and that going out to eat every night in places that cost well in excess of $100 for two people, is simply something they can't even conceptualize. While they're getting evicted from apartments and can't get a new one because of their terrible credit scores, I'm supposed to feel sorry for them. Instead, I think grow up and stop acting like babies! You don't need instant gratification of every high-priced, fancy notion, and so no, when you're whining about eating macaroni and cheese, I not only don't feel sorry for you, I don't believe you, because you were just staying in a $800/night room in Rome!

I found their psychiatrist eminently patient and understanding. They don't always find him so, but that's frequently because he calls them on their bullshit and doesn't buy their excuses.

In the end, I'm not suite sure what to think. I am glad they got help, I am glad they also eventually sought help for their financial issues (although they had to be forced into it) and have cut back on the drinking, but I find them pretty reprehensible human beings. Now I am not a person who has to like the protagonists of a book, but I had a very hard time finding any redeeming traits in either of them. I think if I were stuck on a subway car with them, after 15 minutes I'd get off and wait for the next subway, just to get away from them. It's not that I don't like them, I border on actively disliking them, which is bizarre for people I've never met.

That said, I found it a positive portrayal of therapy. The therapy really worked and they did both mature and learn and grow through the whole experience. I'm sure both George and Hilly's portrayals were colored by his negativity and his longing to always be the center of attention (Dr. Selman diagnosed him as an exhibitionist) but I could have done without the name dropping and excess. Although since George taped most everything (a detail oddly left out in the book and only noted on the back cover), I should assume more of this is actual quotations instead of remembered later.

And several editorial errors stood out at me. There were missing words in some sentences: "[You] need to learn how to read or take up the viola again." (8) And there was a conversation where untagged lines of dialogue didn't add up -- there was an odd line out. Either someone said two lines, which were in separate quotations lines and separate paragraphs, or a stranger popped into the room and said something in the middle but no one noticed. I can let one bit of sloppiness like that go, but not 4-5. Still few enough to be overlooked, but enough that I thought about getting my red pen.

Overall, a fast read, fairly entertaining, with a good message about therapy, but you either have to be really intrigued with the crazy people of Manhattan and be eager to watch a train wreck, or just have a very high tolerance for grown-ups behaving like children, or else it likely will turn you off. As it did me.


Christy said...

Oh I don't think I could put up with them for a whole book. Glad you liked some aspects of it.

Henry Kingston said...
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Avocet Steel said...
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