Title: Note to Self
Author: Alina Simone (website)
Pub. Date: June 4, 2013
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Faber & Faber!!)
Summary: Anna Krestler is adrift. The Internet has draped itself, kudzu-like, over her brain, which makes it even more difficult to confront the question of what to do when she is dismissed from her job as a cubicle serf at a midtown law firm. Despite the exhortations of Leslie, her friend and volunteer life coach, Anna seeks refuge in the back alleys of Craigslist, where she connects with Taj, an adherent of a nebulous movement known as Nowism that occupies the most self-absorbed fringes of the art world.
Art, Anna decides, is what will provide the meaningful life she’s been searching for and knows she deserves. She joins Taj’s “crew” and is drawn into his grand experimental film project. But making art is hard and microwaving pouch foods is easy. Soon enough Anna finds herself distracted by myriad other quests: remembering to ask Leslie “How are you?,” reducing her intake of caloric drinks, and parrying her mother’s insistence that she attend hairdressing school.
But when Anna’s twenty-seven-year-old roommate—a terminal intern named Brie—announces her pregnancy, it forces Anna to confront reality, setting off a chain of events that lead to a horrifying climax of betrayal.
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
The undiscussed surgeries lay like a weapon on the table before them. Her mother knew, despite the jabs about Anna’s weight and the pointed comments about her unemployment, that as someone who wandered the plasticized wilderness somewhere between Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson, she should only go so far.
37-year-old Anna has just found herself out of a job. With a (much younger) roommate in a perpetual state of unpaid internship, Anna’s world revolves around refreshing Gawker and Huffington Post and waiting for e-mails that never arrive. While the rest of her friends are happily settled down with a child or two, Anna gives in to Internet rumors and the latest fads.
After discovering a super underground director and his films, Anna decides being a filmmaker is her calling and promptly throws away $3500 on a video camera. Weeks later, the box still remains unopened and Anna’s funds are rapidly shrinking. She takes to Craigslist and responds to a post. Shortly after she meets up with Taj, a filmmaker in his own right and becomes a member of his crew.
Between ignoring her mother and her friends-turned-life-coach, living with a newly-pregnant roommate, and bills that won’t go away, Anna finds herself thrown into the chaotic world of film festivals.
“Know what people really find comforting?” Taj continued, “Failure. Humiliation. Defeat. That’s what makes people feel better.”
“You think so?” she said.
“Think about it. Nothing brings people together like a good scandal. Nothing makes them happier than to see something fall from a great height.”
I had such high hopes for Note to Self, guys! It sounded like a really fun, quick novel. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it half as much as I had hoped and a good deal lies with the way the blurb set it up.
Hailed as “A witty, keenly observant look at our Internet-obsessed culture”, I was totally on board. Much to my dismay, however, Note to Self was neither witty, nor Internet-related. At all. Oh, sure, Anna talks about refreshing tabs and always checking her e-mail, but I was expecting, you know, a story. Instead, Anna – at times I COMPLETELY forgot Anna was pushing 40, she acted twenty years younger – was completely irresponsible with her extremely limited funds, bought an outrageously expensive camera, and pretended she knew about art.
The entire time I was reading I kept waiting for something to happen, that pivotal moment when the ball got rolling. I was shocked when I realized I was halfway into the book and Anna was still puttering around her apartment! Eventually Anna meets Taj through a Craigslist ad and goes to ‘work’ for him – basically doing menial tasks for his assistant for little or no pay. …and that’s it.
Look. I’m all for character-driven stories with super slow plots or no action. But unlike Note to Self, those stories actually feature interesting – for good or bad reasons – characters. There wasn’t a single character in Note to Self I liked. Anna was more a teenager than a nearly-40-year old woman. Taj was simply a jerk. His film buddies were so interchangeable they melded together to form one entity in my mind.
At the very end of the book, Anna announces she has an Internet addiction and Taj flies her out to a city in order to ‘cure’ her. By this point I had lost all interest whatsoever and Taj’s eventual betrayal did little to shock or surprise me.
It was with a very hearty FINALLY! that I finished this book. Perhaps I just didn’t get it, but Note to Self was a disappointment and let me wanting so much more.