Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lulu in Marrakech

Recently, the New York Times ran a couple of reviews of the new Diane Johnson novel, Lulu in Marrakech. I haven't read the book, but it's title caught my attention because of the name of its title character. (Johnson's novel is described as a social comedy about a clueless young American woman named Lulu.) What also caught my attention was the newspaper's suggestion that the novel's main character has some connection to Louise Brooks and the character she once played, also named Lulu.

The first review, by Michiko Kakutani, noted ". . . the tone of the first two-thirds of Lulu in Marrakech (a title that gratuitously recalls Louise Brooks ’s collection of autobiographical writings, Lulu in Hollywood) is more in the vein of the author’s recent comedies of manners, Le DivorceLe Mariage and L’Affaire.

While the second review, by Erica Wagner, begins, "There are some names you can’t ignore. When you find them attached to a particular fictional character, you can’t assume that blind coincidence prompted the writer’s choice. Call your girl-heroine Jane and there may be echoes of Jane Eyre, but the association is not forced on you. And a Cathy does not need to meet a Heathcliff. But the name Lulu? Lulu is a different story. Lulu has a pedigree. Even if the defiant anti­heroine of Frank Wedekind’s books isn’t at the forefront of your mind as you say the name out loud (your lips will purse, as if you’re about to kiss) there’s an innocent-yet-louche ring to it."

It's interesting that both reviews, published a day apart, both point to the name of Lulu and its cultural resonance. Has anyone read Diane Johnson's new novel?

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