I wanted to come up with a witty title for this post but then the title of the book I’m reading is witty in itself, no need to make any attempt and pull up short! The Virginity of Famous Men is the first book I’ve read by Christine Sneed. I didn’t know much about her credentials but I did hear that she was published in The O’Henry Prize Stories and that combined with the title made me quite curious about this collection.
This is a short story collection and apart from being absolutely gorgeous on the inside, it is also filled with the most beautiful stories and gorgeous writing. I usually start with the title story but this time, when I got the book, I opened it, as usual, to glance at the first one and couldn’t stop reading. Not even a little bit. They were so terribly engrossing that I actually had to tear myself away to take notes!
Originally I wanted to review each story but I think its best if you go into this book without knowing much so I’ll just tell you my favourites and why I loved them, okay?
The book opens with a story that makes you feel, if you were a hormonal teenager, like shit about the way you treated your parents. Following a family who are planning a Beach Vacation as a reward for their son’s good grades, it focuses on the mother struggling to come to terms with her son growing up and becoming different from what she wanted. The First Wife is about a woman who was the first wife of a big celebrity, about how it feels to be married to a man that so many women want. I never thought of this aspect in celebrity marriages. I’d forgotten that so many women post in forums and under youtube videos about how sexy the actor is and sometimes we forget that he is someone’s boyfriend / husband!
Five Rooms was the one that broke my heart and made me weep like an idiot. My mum saw me weeping and read the story and it made her emotional too (though she didn’t weep). I’m not going to tell you what this is about but please do read it. Couplehood Jubilee is one after my own heart. About a woman who, upon realising that she isn’t going to get married, wants to find a way to get back all the money she’s spent on others’ weddings, Words That Once Shocked Us is about how dissatisfaction makes us justify rubbish behaviour, Whatshisname…..I don’t think I can pick a favourite because I enjoyed each one of them so much. At this rate I’ll just end up listing the entire contents page! Almost all the stories were four to five star reads if I were to rate them individually and I can’t do that! This book is a package deal. Not just for one or two stories.
Sneed’s writing is absolutely gorgeous. The little details and observations about human behaviour and situation turned this into such a delectable read! It’s strange but these stories made me feel rather contented despite having no contentment in them. It’s all in the writing I say! This is the kind of collection where each time you finish a story you hold the book to your chest, take a deep breath and sigh contentedly. She makes you cry and laugh and chuckle at people’s behaviour, she makes you feel happier in your own life and also makes you feel glad that you aren’t alone in your suffering. This book is like food for your soul and if you like the kind of writing that I do, you’ll cherish this. I don’t think I’ve ever used contentedly so many times in one paragraph.
To sum up, Sneed writes with an eloquence that’s hard to find, almost like an emotional anthropologist. Rather than cultures, she focuses on emotions and situations and it is stunning to read and to see unfold. She seems to be an expert at putting herself in others’ shoes. You will wonder about things in your own life, about people and about their situations. A must read if there ever was one. Forget all the other books on your TBR and go pick this one up. Immediately.
The Virginity of Famous Men, award-winning story writer Christine Sneed’s deeply perceptive collection on the human condition, features protagonists attempting to make peace with the choices–both personal and professional–they have so far made. In “The Prettiest Girls,” a location scout for a Hollywood film studio falls in love with a young Mexican woman who is more in love with the idea of stardom than with this older American man who takes her with him back to California. “Clear Conscience” focuses on the themes of family loyalty, divorce, motherhood, and whether “doing the right thing” is, in fact, always the right thing to do. In “Beach Vacation,” a mother realizes that her popular and coddled teenage son has become someone she has difficulty relating to, let alone loving with the same maternal fervor that once was second nature to her. The title story, “The Virginity of Famous Men,” explores family and fortune.
*I requested a review copy and was very kindly sent one by Bloomsbury, but opinions expressed are completely my own.