Friday, April 3, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

What do you get when you cross Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret with The Catcher in the Rye with Gossip Girls? E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks! Adolescent angst, problems with the way the world works, and an elite boarding school? Genius!

Allow me to just say - I am this girl. No, really. It's like Lockhart was inside my head when she wrote Frankie. I actually did the randomly sitting at the cool kid table to see what would happen thing in middle school! Really! It worked fine, they accepted me and dealt with it, but their conversation was terrifically boring, so I decamped back to my beloved geeks.

And oh - pranks. I know how to pull pranks. And I've always been astounded at how lame most pranks pulled are. Lockhart's reference list for this The Disreputable History includes a text by one Neil Steinburg entitled If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks. I have got to get my hands on that book. She also has her main character, Frankie, reference SantaCon. Ah, glorious.

Furthermore, I know a bit more than I ought about certain tunnels in town, and I also know who has a master key. I'm just saying.

I think most girls know what it's like to be judged on their sweet little faces and figures and placed in a mental box with a bow on top. Generally whenever this is happening (with the exception of an impending speeding ticket, when I use it like mad) I find a very direct and polite way to indicate that I am not sweet or little, I am hell on wheels, and I will run you down, probably figuratively with my intellect, but an eighteen wheeler might be an option too.

Frankie is dealing with this same issue, but it's somewhat complicated by her adorable, rich, old money boyfriend and his adorable crew of friends. To be accepted and fake or to live up to your potential? Don't worry, Frankie chooses the right path.


I love Malcolm Gladwell. Maybe even really. I checked out his website, and he's pretty cute. Blink and The Tipping Point, his previous two books, are my go-to recs for pretty much anyone. He's very easy to read, has a smart but conversational style, and tells stories very, very well. I think he's especially fantastic on any kind of mass transit and a safe bet for "guys who don't read" aka the "undatable." Sorry, boys. But hey, you can replace me with a few hours spent with the scholarly but entertaining Mr. Gladwell, who as I mentioned above, is also quite the looker. In case you're interested.

Outliers is all about things that at first appear genuinely unusual (eg. sports stars, multimillionaires, successful law firms, first generation college goers, etc.) but that are actually not quite as unlikely as they seem. Gladwell's opening example deals with the months in which elite Canadian hockey players are most likely to have been born. Turns out being bigger then everyone else makes you look good when you're six, which gets you onto the advanced team, so you want to be just on the right side of the cutoff - in this case, January 1st. He explains this much better, so if I'm confusing you, go the matresses. In this case, the mattresses can be read as the library or the bookstore or your friend's bookshelf. If you don't recognize the original quote, watch The Godfather. Like now. If nothing else, the movie will make a lot of seeming non sequiturs make sense.

Reading Gladwell also makes a lot of apparently inscrutable things suddenly scrutable (this is a "neglected positive" and will be discussed in the review for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and is really all P.G. Wodehouse's fault). Gladwell's careful and masterful blending of the technical and the human makes his books a joy to read.

5/5 Swallows

P.S. Please don't use "scrutable" in public, it's not a real word, and people will think you're an idiot.

If you liked Outliers, try Gladwell's other books, Levitt's Freakonomics, and Glibert's Stumbling on Happiness.