Wednesday, November 12, 2014
An Alphabetical Life by Wendy Harris
An Alphabetical Life is Wendy Werris's memoir of how she started a career in books, first in a bookshop, then as a publisher's representative. I'm pretty sure this is also supposed to be about how it's like working in a male-dominated profession, and how she works to overcome various obstacles. Unfortunately, I never really connected with her, or felt that there was a larger story than whatever anecdote she was currently relating.
Even after reading the book, I'm not how being a woman publishing rep between then and now has changed. I don't see any clear changes, and it might as well be as chauvinistic as when Ms Werris first started out. And yes, her surviving that long is a really great thing, but it's really because she decided to conform, not because she made waves and changed the industry or something. So lesson here: if you're in a male-dominated world, act like what they expect, and they'll let you survive.
Plus, Ms Werris comes across as very self-centered. She has siblings, but I didn't see any evidence of her living a life with them until she mentions things like having to borrow money from one of them. Well, actually, this is pretty admirable, if the siblings don't want to be in a book. But then again, she does blame her parents for her screwed up family dynamics (of which, she appears to play a central role), so it doesn't particularly seem as though she's censoring for the sake of her family. In fact, what made me think she was self-centered isn't the lack of family in her book, but the way she treats others and her job. She got fired quite a few times, and each time, I couldn't help but think that she deserved to get fired for acting like a child. And of course, she wanted to get fired at that time. Not very responsible, in my opinion.
The book wasn't all bad though. I have a feeling that if I had the same character as Ms. Werris, I would have enjoyed it very much. She's not a bad writer, because her account of her rape was well-written, and I really felt for her then. I thought she was very brave in the way she handled it.
So overall, the one part of the book that made me feel for the author wasn't related to books. I would say that as an account of a life with books, it doesn't work out.