Guys and girls take chick lit on a di­ver­sion

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

Both The Hot Guy and Girl in Be­tween, by au­thors ex­pe­ri­enced in writ­ing for film and tele­vi­sion, could be cat­e­gorised as sim­i­larly themed chick lit. Their pro­tag­o­nists are funny, bawdy, 30-some­thing women ded­i­cated to find­ing ‘‘the one’’. Yet be­tween them, these nov­els prove this form of genre fic­tion is a broad cat­e­gory.

The Hot Guy, by film crit­ics Mel Camp­bell and An­thony Mor­ris, is rom-com 101 and sited firmly in the screw­ball film com­edy tra­di­tion of the 1930s and 40s.

Adam, the epony­mous hot guy of the ti­tle, is an earnest and un­wit­tingly hand­some movie nerd try­ing to raise fi­nance to di­rect his next short film — a work that delves un­pre­ten­tiously into the “dark side”. Pro­vi­sion­ally ti­tled Meta­data, it’s about “the es­sen­tial asym­me­try of the panop­ti­con”.

Adam works at a mul­ti­plex cin­ema with his two side­kicks: Steve, a wannabe ac­tor, and Ren­ton, a film re­viewer for blog BackedUpToi­let. Just three nerds in a kiosk, riff­ing wit­tily on movies and girls, and mak­ing choc tops.

Cate is a self-iden­ti­fied “funny lady” and pub­lic­ity direc­tor for a sports sta­dium, de­spite hat­ing sport.

“Cate’s sense of hu­mour … first dis­rupted her love life at the age of 12”, and now she has been dumped by her uptight boyfriend over a joke. Dejected and lost, she de­briefs with her own side­kicks, Vanessa and Kirsty, while hang­ing out at their kite flyer and drone club.

There’s some nice fast talk in these scenes: swipes at vam­pires, zom­bies, cat videos, a par­tic­u­larly sharp jab at the cur­rent trend for all things “be­spoke” and, of course, plenty of no- holds-barred boy talk. Think Brides­maids. Egged on (and set up) by her friends, Cate picks up Adam at a bar — there’s a lot of al­co­hol­sat­u­rated prose in both of these books — for a no-strings-at­tached one-night-stand: to get back in the sad­dle, so to speak. Trou­ble is, they ac­tu­ally like each other. So far, so genre. But Adam isn’t just any hot guy, he’s The Hot Guy, unas­sum­ing and drop-dead gor­geous. In fact, so gor­geous there’s a Face­book page ded­i­cated to the am­bi­tion of a “night-with-Adam” — given that a night with this guy will al­legedly cure what­ever ails you — set up by Adam-ob­sessed women of the dis­turbingly named League of Icarus.

So when se­rial one-nighter, look­ing-for-the­gal-who’ll-be-there-in-the-morn­ing Adam makes out with se­rial picker-of-wrong-guys Cate, as­sump­tions and vested in­ter­ests abound.

All of this makes for some en­ter­tain­ing and over-the-top set-ups: a far­ci­cal hostage sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing The League, fol­lowed by a road trip to Adam’s home town of Lad­broke — where the statue of the Un­known Soldier is of course mod­elled on gor­geous Adam — for the pre­miere of Meta­data at the town’s in­au­gu­ral film festival.

Characters such as Adam’s re­cal­ci­trant but gratis direc­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy are drawn in brisk and vivid strokes — “griz­zled, ine­bri­ated druid sham­bling” — and some of the best writ­ing is in the three-way schtick on sex and cel­lu­loid be­tween the blokes at work, although it does feel like the au­thors are hav­ing just a bit too much fun com­pet­ing for best bad film ti­tles.

Girl in Be­tween, Anna Daniels’s first novel, was short­listed for last year’s The Australian/ Vo­gel’s Lit­er­ary Award. It’s the story of Lucy, who, at 32, low on love, luck and life, is suf­fer­ing an ex­tended mid-youth cri­sis. She’s chucked in her TV pro­duc­ing job in Mel­bourne and come home to Rock­hamp­ton (aka Rocky, Beef Cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia), mov­ing back in with her par­ents to fin­ish writ­ing her book, Di­a­monds in the Dust, and gen­er­ally sort out her life.

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