Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sad Sack Salad by Jessica Grose

Sad Desk Salad: A Novel. Jessica Grose. Harper Collins Publishers. October 2012. 304 pages - paperback. ISBN #: 9780062188342.

Chick Habit is a sponsored website where a group of women are paid to write what others refer to a "gossip" column, posting comments on contemporary social and cultural items of high interest throughout the entire day.  Their success depends on the number of hits they achieve each day for the advertisers and promoters, and the ceiling rises with time.  Alex Lyons works for this site, known as "Chick Habit."  Alex works from home in a smelly mu mu and leaves the apartment only to get her lunch of the title name of this novel.  Her life is consumed on getting the dirt that will really capture her reader's attention and increase their large audience.  It's one website that is multiplied dozens and dozens of times elsewhere, sometimes under the guise of news and at other times being equivalent to a sleazy paparazzi-haunted newspaper or TV scandal sheet. 

So just when Alex's quota seems unreachable, a "source" hands her a provocative story on a silver platter via email and some quick chat texts with photos. The news is an explosive expose about the behavior of a daughter of a woman who has written a book about perfect parenting.  What follows is not just cute, inane comments about social events or notable people. Some interpret the expose as a violation of civil privacy and some treat it as a necessary statement about those who don't live the talk of perfection.

The responses are even more devastating as one particular writer decides to get even with Alex and begins to post pictures and comments that are hugely embarrassing to Alex.  The writer even threatens to tell a story about Alex's father that would shame her immensely and which even make her wonder how much she did or didn't know about her father. At the same time her relationship with her boyfriend is deteriorating and he challenges her reasons for spending innumerable hours on such a sordid career, which offends her but causes her to question her own career goals.  

She and her friends decide to track down this attacker and find out why this response is so vitriolic.  And, as usual the media are having a frenzied heyday with the whole sordid series of exposures.

Sad Desk Salad is a timely novel about an issue of immense significance in today's media onslaught of "bad" behavior on the part of stars and notable persons.  Where is the line between privacy and public right to knowledge of those who hold themselves up as public models?  How far is "too far?"  Light in tone in just the right spots, serious where such an issue should be, this novel is one that deserves higher attention and discussion.  Although it's a surface treatment, it's the beginning of a necessary conversation.  Nice intro, Jessica Grose!!!

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